Last Updated on January 30, 2022 by Guillermina
Have you seen a bluebird that looks like a cardinal? Put your birdwatching skills to the test and use our guide!
The slender and elegant profile of the cardinal is only accentuated by its bright red plumage. However, you may have noticed birds that look exactly like the cardinal but in a bright blue color. What bird is this?
Through this article, we will help you find out what that bird you saw was and how to identify it out in the wild. Read on to learn more and update your birdwatching skills with us!
The red cardinal is also known as a northern cardinal. It is probably the most well-known cardinal in the American continent and the world. The acknowledgment of this bird is so well known that people simply call the species “cardinal,” without knowing there is a whole family of cardinal birds out there.
Do Blue Cardinals Exist?
It is easy to assume that just because you saw a bluebird that looks like a cardinal, those blue cardinals actually do exist. It might even come as a shock since red cardinals are a common sight.
Before we dive into that possibility, it’s good to understand what a cardinal is. This is the family of Cardinalidae birds native to the American continent. Under this family are three other distinct groups: cardinals, grosbeaks, and buntings.
The cardinal group consists of medium to large songbirds with large beaks. The females of this group typically display sexual dimorphism, meaning that they do not have the same bright colors as compared to their adult male counterparts.
What Other Colors Of Cardinals Are There?
The red cardinal is a common color, and red can even be found on other cardinals, like the Vermilion cardinal. However, there is a whole host of colorful cardinals out in the wild.
The red plumage can even manifest on other parts of the body. Examples of this phenomenon are the red-crested cardinal, the red-cowled cardinal, and the red-capped cardinal.
There are brown cardinals, but they are likely to be females whose plumages follow the sexual dimorphism rule. There is also the Pyrrhuloxia or the desert cardinal, which is typically found in the southwest of the United States and the north of Mexico.
The yellow cardinal is found in South America, particularly in the countries of Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Argentina. However, it’s a much rarer find and is considered an endangered species, unlike most cardinals. It’s actually in the family Thraupidae but definitely has some visual similarities to common cardinals.
Another rare cardinal, the white cardinal is a hard one to spot in the United States. It has some red or crimson plumage decorating the tuft of hair on top of its head and has some red streaks on the wings.
So, given the wide range of colors that cardinals come in, does the blue cardinal bird exist?
No, blue cardinals don’t exist! There is a possibility that you are just mistaking another bird for the common red cardinal.
Blue Bird That Looks Like A Cardinal
So what is this bluebird that looks like a cardinal, you might ask yourself one birdwatching afternoon. It takes a keen eye to differentiate all these beautiful birds from each other.
Here are some of the bluebirds that you might be confusing with a cardinal.
The blue jay is also a common sight in the skies of the American continent, Reaching from Southern Canada all the way to Western Mexico.
They have a very similar profile to the red cardinal, from their size to the length of their tail. However, they hail from the family Corvidae, meaning they have a closer relation to crows.
It gets even tougher because both male and female blue jays are brightly colored and don’t follow the rule of sexual dimorphism, so you won’t be able to make the distinction if you see a family of blue jays and their nest hanging around.
It’s a no-brainer why you would mistake the blue grosbeak for a mysterious cardinal. Both birds are part of the Cardinalidae family, and thus have some similarities in form factor. It’s all in the family!
The blue grosbeak has a stocky build and a gorgeous blue plumage all over its body, except for its wings. They share the same brown, cream, and red pattern for the wings as the young males and females of the species.
The indigo bunting is also part of the Cardinalidae family. The breeding male has a bright blue, almost cyan or turquoise plumage all over its body. However, the wings and the tail are tipped a deep black. What’s interesting is that the blue color covering their heads seems to always be a deeper shade, giving a beautiful gradient effect for the lighter blue hue traveling to the wings.
Similarly, you could also have seen their relative called the Lazuli bunting, so named after the lapis lazuli gemstone. They also feature bright blue plumage, however, their chest is white and rust. They also have white streaks on their wings. They are found on the West Coast.
The steller’s jay looks similar to the blue jay that was dipped into a greyish black solution, as the darker plumage covers their head and upper belly. They have a distinct tuft that also sets them apart from the regular blue jay, making them easy to distinguish in the wild.
The tree swallow is significantly more petite than the previously discussed birds, but it could remind people of cardinals from afar. For the males, only their head and upper wings are colored blue, and the middle to the tips of the wings are colored black. The rest of their belly is white.
The next time you see a bird that suspiciously looks like a cardinal, remember that cardinals typically come feathered in a warm palette of colors like red, orange, and yellow.
Do you have any birdwatching tips that can help newcomers? How did you learn to differentiate birds on your trips? Let us know your tricks and hacks in the comments below!
What birds look like cardinals?
You can expect that birds under the group Cardinalidae would have similarities with cardinals.
This includes the wider range of cardinal birds, grosbeaks, and buntings.