Cardinalis sinuatuspyrrhuloxia

Geographic Range

Cardinalis sinuatus is distributed in the southwestern United States and in northern Mexico (Tweit and Thompson 1999). In the United States Pyrrhuloxia can be found in Baja California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas (Oberholser 1974), southwestern Kansas, southern Colorado, and western Oklahoma (Tweit and Thompson 1999).


Pyrrhuloxia inhabit arid habitats such as mesquite thickets and desert creek beds (Tveten 1993).

Physical Description

There is a sexual dimorphism in coloration. Male Cardinalis sinuatus are mainly gray with red located on the face, crest, wing, and tail (Scott 1983). The female is grayish brown, and is sometimes mistaken for a female Northern Cardinal, Cardinalis cardinalis (Oberholser 1974). The females have red highlights on the thighs and the wing linings (Tveten 1993). The bill is heavy and hooked in both the male and the female (Tveten 1993). In the male, the bill is orange yellow (Scott 1983), while the female's bill is a duller yellow (Tveten 1993). Both the male and female have the diagnostic tall crest on the head (Tveten 1993). The juvenile Pyrrhuloxia, male or female, resembles the female except the bill is darker (Oberholser 1974). (Oberholser, 1974; Scott, 1983; Tveten, 1993)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes colored or patterned differently
  • Average mass
    32 g
    1.13 oz
  • Average basal metabolic rate
    0.396495 W


The breeding season varies with the environment, but it usually begins around mid-March and ends in mid-August (Baicich and Harrison 1997). The behavior of these birds changes during the breeding season. Territories are established and defended during the breeding season. The males will feed his mate during courtship and incubation (Tveten 1993).

The female builds a small nest of twigs, weeds, and bark either in the mesquite brush or on the ground against the trunk (Bacich and Harrison 1997).

The female lays 2-3 grayish-white eggs with gray and brown speckles (Tveten 1993). The incubation period lasts for about 14 days. Throughout the incubation period, about 14 days, the female is fed by the male (Baicich and Harrison 1997).

The newly hatched young have pale gray downy feathers. The nestlings will not leave the nest for 10 days. During this time both the male and female will tend to the young, providing nutrition and protection (Baicich and Harrison 1997). (Bacich and Harrison, 1997; Tveten, 1993)

  • Average eggs per season
  • Average time to hatching
    14 days



Although Pyrrhuloxia are nonmigratory, they will wander from their territories (Tveten 1993). The birds will forage in flocks of up to one thousand individuals, in the winter (Oberholser 1974).

The call of Cardinalis sinuatus is described as a whistled what-cheer, what-cheer (Scott 1983). The males will call during February to August, however the females rarely sing (Oberholser 1974). The singing usually begins during incubation of the eggs and will end when the nestlings leave the nest (Tweit and Thompson 1999).

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

Pyrrhuloxia forage on the ground for seeds of bristlegrass, doveweed, sandbur, pancium, sorghum, and pigweed (Oberholser 1974). The birds will also eat fruits of cactus and insects including grasshoppers, caterpillars, beetles, stinkbugs, and cicadas (Oberholser 1974).

Conservation Status

Populations of Pyrrhuloxia have declined due to loss of habitat across the Southwestern United States (Tweit and Thompson 1999).


Rebecca Todd (author), Southwestern University, Stephanie Fabritius (editor), Southwestern University.



living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

World Map


living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.

World Map


uses sound to communicate

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

desert or dunes

in deserts low (less than 30 cm per year) and unpredictable rainfall results in landscapes dominated by plants and animals adapted to aridity. Vegetation is typically sparse, though spectacular blooms may occur following rain. Deserts can be cold or warm and daily temperates typically fluctuate. In dune areas vegetation is also sparse and conditions are dry. This is because sand does not hold water well so little is available to plants. In dunes near seas and oceans this is compounded by the influence of salt in the air and soil. Salt limits the ability of plants to take up water through their roots.


animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.


forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


uses touch to communicate


uses sight to communicate


Bacich, P., C. Harrison. 1997. A Guide to the Nests, Eggs and Nestlings of North American Birds. San Diego: Natural World Academic Press.

Oberholser, H. 1974. The Bird Life of Texas. Austin, Texas: University of Texas Press.

Scott, S. 1983. Field Guide to the Birds of North America. Washington D.C.: The National Geographic Society.

Tveten, J. 1993. The Birds of Texas. Fredericksburg, TX: Shearere Publishing.

Tweit, R., C. Thompson. 1999. Pyrrhuloxia: Cardinalis sinuatus. Pp. 1-18 in A Poole, F Gill, eds. The Birds of North America. Philadelphia, PA: Academy of Natural Sciences.