Winter Color Icon

Cardinals do not migrate so you can spot them year-round. However, some find it easier to spot them in winter because of their color.

Red is an iconic color of Christmas and the Great Northern Cardinal is an iconic winter bird in many areas of the United States making this red bird the subject of Color Week 49 … we love a bird that uses COLOR to stand out!

I have seen the Great Northern Cardinal in winter during a birding tour, they do stand out even on a sunny day in Texas. The bright warm red used in this watercolor bird portrait is Cadmium Scarlet, shadows are Quinacrodone Coral with Ultramarine and Jane’s Gray. We know these colors from posts earlier in the year.

These cardinals live year around mainly in the Eastern half of the United States

So how do these birds stay so bright red. The brightest coloration comes from naturally occurring ‘carotenoids’ in their diet, this helps to create yellow, orange and red coloration. In cardinals,  the carotenoid results in pigmentation on the surface of the feathers, not within the deeper layers. The cardinals with the best color feed on fruits and berries with carotenoids among other things and the best and favorite are those bright red `Dogwood Berries’.

In January 2021 I started ‘Color Week’, a personal goal to weekly explore a color history or curiosity.

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