FILE PHOTO: A woman in Alabama says she captured a photo of a yellow cardinal, instead of the standard red variety. A biologist said it's a one in a million bird sighting.
Photo: GeorgeB2/Pixabay
Photo: GeorgeB2/Pixabay

Bird watcher spots rare yellow cardinal

Karem Maldonado has nine bird feeders scattered about her yard. Normally, Maldonado doesn’t have time to sit and watch the birds who visit, saying she’s “one of those persons who are always go, go, go,” AL.com reported. But for her 6-year-old granddaughter, the go, go, going got to be too much, so she took a break, sitting down for some quality time with the little girl.

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The break was well-rewarded when the yellow bird flew up for a snack on Feb. 28. 

But it was March 11 when she got the perfect photo of the male cardinal that she has named Mr. Sunshine, and the photos have started going viral, according to WKRG.

When a yellow cardinal was spotted last year, a biology professor at Auburn University said it was very rare to see the bird with the genetic mutation.

Geoffrey Hill, who is a cardinal expert, has never seen one in the wild, calling it a one in a million mutation, AL.com reported.

>>Read: Rare yellow cardinal a ‘one in a million’ gem for birdwatchers in Alabama

Hill attributes the normal bright red of cardinals to the food they eat that contains carotenoids. Cardinals normally eat food that is yellow, and something in their genetic makeup changes yellow to red for their feathers. It is an enzyme called CYP2J19. Hill last year said he would like to genetically test the feathers of a yellow cardinal to see the actual mutation, he told AL.com.

“All animals carry a DNA code, and all animals have mutations. Certain mutations have a dramatic effect on what the organism will look like. This shows that nature is not static. It is a work in progress and is changing,” Hill told WKRG.

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