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Yellow cardinal?


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I just joined today so hello all! :)

Unfortunately, i did not get a picture because it happened so fast but,  i think i spotted a yellow cardinal. I'm in upstate NY and I fleetingly saw an all yellow bird. By ALL yellow I mean,  it's underside and it's back, tail feathers, everything was yellow! It was bright canary yellow & the size of a cardinal. I've tried researching on Google (of course) and all I came up with was goldfinches or warblers.  But the size is what had me stumped because this was definitely  bigger than a goldfinch or a warbler! Could I have possibly seen one of these rarities?? Are they in or around upstate NY? Whatever it was, it was absolutely gorgeous! 

I sure hope he comes back so I CAN snap a picture (or several!) 

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Welcome to WhatBird! Were you able to observe the size and shape of the bill? And did your bird have a crest? How long was the tail? and How did it perch - tall and upright or more horizontal? What behavior did you observe?

And yes, if you can get a picture that would be great; but if you see it again try to check the bill and tail, and also color of the legs and feet. 

Orioles are another group of birds that can be yellow and are closer to Cardinal size. Tanagers too...

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Hello and welcome!

There actually are yellow Northern Cardinals - they have a rare genetic mutation called xanthochroism.

Other, more common, yellow birds that are about the size of a cardinal include female Orchard and Baltimore Orioles.

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Female orioles and tanagers don't match the description given. Female Scarlet Tanager, Orchard Oriole - yes they have mostly yellow bodies and heads, but the wings and tail are much darker. The only one that matches the description is female Summer Tanager, which would be quite rare in upstate New York, though not totally out of the question.

Edited by AlexHenry
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27 minutes ago, AlexHenry said:

Female orioles and tanagers don't match the description given. Female Scarlet Tanager, Orchard Oriole - yes they have mostly yellow bodies and heads, but the wings and tail are much darker. The only one that matches the description is female Summer Tanager, which would be quite rare in upstate New York, though not totally out of the question.

The description isn't very specific and doesn't match yellow Northern Cardinal completely either. We don't know how experienced or knowledgeable the poster is, and we do know that size especially but also field marks can easily be misjudged or overlooked. I don't see the justification for assuming an extreme rarity over more common options with the information we have so far. Hopefully Glorebell will be back with more information.

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1 hour ago, Aveschapines said:

The description isn't very specific and doesn't match yellow Northern Cardinal completely either. We don't know how experienced or knowledgeable the poster is, and we do know that size especially but also field marks can easily be misjudged or overlooked. I don't see the justification for assuming an extreme rarity over more common options with the information we have so far. Hopefully Glorebell will be back with more information.

Summer Tanager is not an extreme rarity in upstate New York. More of a mid-tier rarity / expected spring overshoot migrant. Rare but probably occurs pretty regularly in New York.

My justification for suggesting Summer Tanager over Scarlet Tanager or Orchard Oriole is that is a much closer match to the description that was given. 

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5 minutes ago, AlexHenry said:

Summer Tanager is not an extreme rarity in upstate New York. More of a mid-tier rarity / expected spring overshoot migrant. Rare but probably occurs pretty regularly in New York.

My justification for suggesting Summer Tanager over Scarlet Tanager or Orchard Oriole is that is a much closer match to the description that was given. 

I meant the yellow Cardinal as you suggested in your earlier post. I don't know much about US Tanagers and Orioles and their status so I have no opinions about them.

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Thank you all for your suggestions and comments. Sorry I haven't returned sooner but life got in the way,  lol 

To answer the questions, the bird was the size of a typical cardinal. It happened so fast I didn't have a chance to see if it had the typical black mask,a crest,  or, the color of the feet. All I noticed was the stunning yellow and the size.  I've seen Orioles and it was definitely not one. However,  I've never seen an orchard oriole as someone mentioned. Nor have I ever seen any tanningers either for any sort of comparison. Admittedly, I am NOT an expert on birds by any means. I simply wanted to know if the yellow cardinal actually exists and could it be possible in upstate NY. I'm about 50+/- miles north of Binghamton. Sadly,  I haven't seen it again either but I'm still watching and waiting. Thank you to everyone who responded.  🙂

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  • 1 month later...

Hi, I am also new to this forum! I live in central New York (finger lakes region), and I believe I may have just seen two yellow cardinals in my front yard sunflower patch. I got a short video of them, but it was from a distance. I have a still from the video (unfortunately a little pixelated from the zoom). You can still see the very cardinally looking beak and the distinctive black marking around the eye. If I can have permission to post the image here (couldn’t quite figure out how to in this post) is there anyone who can verify the species of this bird for me (that is, if the image is of high enough quality to allow for identification). 

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