The pyrrhuloxia or desert cardinal, is a magnificent bird. Unlike its cousin, the northern cardinal, the male is not bright red all over, but it does retain much of the distinctive reds, and especially the crest. It’s strange that this bird is nicknamed the desert cardinal, though, since both species readily live in the desert.
It is, however, one of the oddest named birds there is. “Pyrrhuloxia” is actually a combination of the genus names pyrrhula and loxiz, and could be loosely interpreted as meaning flame-colored and crooked. It is as good as a description as any.
I caught up with this particular pyrrhuloxia south of Tucson in southern Arizona, right in the bird’s northern range. It is spring, and breeding season, and the males are looking their best. They have to, of course, to attract a female.
This is still a very common bird in the desert southwest, although human encroachment on the desert has caused a decline in their numbers, since we are taking away their habitat. They are a delightful bird to watch and listen to, so hopefully, their numbers can rebound.