Bird Watcher's General Store

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Cardinal Feathers

Dear Bird Folks:

Recently I’ve noticed that the red feathers on the male cardinals look even brighter than usual. I have lots of red berries in my yard. Could eating all those red berries be causing the male cardinals’ feathers to look so red?
David, Brewster


Nope, Dave,

It isn’t the food, whether it be red berries, beets or cherry Twizzlers, that is causing your cardinals to look so red. All male cardinals look good this time of year, even the ones who haven’t been chowing on your red berries. Cardinals have just finished molting, so their red cardinal color looks better in the fall than any other time of the year.

Many songbirds molt twice a year, but cardinals only molt once in the fall. As the season wears on, cardinals slowly look a bit shabby, but now is when they look their best. However, cardinals must take good care of their new outfit, as they only get a new one once a year. Which is still one more than I’ve had in the past five years.