Cardhuloxia Redux: Photos of Known Hybrids

Further research into possible Northern Cardinal X Pyrrhuloxia hybrids revealed that the Handbook of Avian Hybrids of the World (McCarthy 2006, Oxford Univ. Press) makes mention of two birds of this cross present at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson in August 2004. David Herr, having seen the recent “Cardhuloxia” article in’s online journal, and having just visited the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, sent us the following pictures of various Cardinalis currently residing in the museum’s aviary. Note that none look "right" for either Northern Cardinal or Pyrrhuloxia.

The museum’s staff informed Herr that their bird enclosure contains ONLY hybrid N. Cardinal X Pyrrhuloxia. I was able to confirm this with the bird-keepers at the museum. The first hybrids were hatched around 2004, when only one adult N. Cardinal and one adult Pyrrhuloxia were in the enclosure. Since then no pure birds have been added and the original pair are now deceased. What remains are birds that are first-generation (F1) or later hybrids. These photos seem to show birds with bills that are rather similar in both color and shape to that of the Cardhuloxia; this bill similarity combined with the intermediate plumage of the Cardhuloxia would seem to strongly indicate that the bird photographed in Baja California Sur in March 2009 is, indeed, a Northern Cardinal X Pyrrhuloxia. Plans are in the making for further photography of the birds at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, with publication at some future date of a peer-reviewed article. Given observations such as those mentioned by Rich Hoyer, it is quite possible that hybrids between these two species are not as exceedingly rare as previously thought.




The three birds in the images above are known Northern Cardinal x Pyrrhuloxia hybrids. They were photographed at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, where they reside in captivity. They show some of the potential variability in this cross (especially as the original hybrids now breed with each other). The bill of the bird in the top picture greatly resembles the bill of the Cardhuloxia from Baja California Sur. Additionally, note that all of these birds have reddish-orange or red bills, which was the case with the B.C.S. bird. Photos taken by David Herr.


Thanks for the interesting report, Steve! I didn’t realize that the hybrids at the museum had been able to breed among themselves. Although it’s well known that many bird hybrids are partially fertile, I think this the first report of fertility in these particular hybrids. It will be a fact worth noting in the next edition of Handbook of Avian Hybrids. Also, I’ll include a URL for this page so that people can see what the hybrids are like. A lot of unusual hybrids turn up in facilities like the museum, where many different kinds of birds are kept in the same aviary. Please let me know if you hear of other interesting information about this cross.

Thanks again,

Gene McCarthy


By the way, here are URLs for other pictures of these hybrids:


Shoot, so that’s that one spuposes.


I think the one thing it fails to mention are the dog brdees that are more like wolves. Huskys, Malamutes and even sometimes Border Collies have a wild instinct where they feel the need to travel large distance searching and marking territory, collies to a much lesser extent than the other 2. I think an owner of any dog breed that looks wolfish needs to honor their wild instinct to keep the dog truly happy. Take em camping, and on long wild walks as much as poss.


I have them in my back yard in N. Phoenix. The pyrrhuloxia chased away the male cardinal from the area, but the female stayed. Then the hybrids started showing up.

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