Pyrrhuloxia (Cardinalis sinuatus) 8.5 inches long

Pyrrhuloxia, USFWS photo by Gary KramerThe Pyrrhuloxia is a crested cardinal-like bird that is a year-round resident in southeast Arizona. A seed-eater, it feeds mainly on weedy plants and grasses supplemented by grasshoppers, caterpillars and weevils. It benefits Arizona's cotton fields by eating large numbers of cotton worms and weevils. It also favors mesquite thickets and is able to crack the tough mesquite seed pods with its powerful beak.

The upper parts of the bird's body are grayish brown with a dark ring around the beak. The breast patch on the underside is a rosy red. Its bill is somewhat like a parrot's and is yellow or orange. The female is similarly colored but paler and she lacks the red breast patch. Pyrrhuloxia nests in thorny trees or shrubs in lower elevations from Arizona to West Texas. It also may be found in northern Mexico and Baja California. The name of this bird comes from Greek and Latin and means "bullfinch with a crooked bill." It would be nice if it were easier to spell. It is sometimes called a gray cardinal but that hardly does justice to this attractive bird.

USFWS photo above by Gary Kramer

Female Pyrrhuloxia at feeder