Pyrrhuloxia

Cardinalis sinuatus
Range Map

The Pyrrhuloxia is sometimes called the “Desert Cardinal”. It ranges over the American Southwest and Northern Mexico. The habitat it seeks is often rugged desert scrub and mesquite thickets. These birds are fiercely territorial when nesting, but wander in groups once the breeding season is over. Their population has been in a slow decline since the mid-sixties, dropping 1.5% per year until in 2014 it fell to 53% of its former numbers. The typical villain in such cases is usually loss of habitat because of human encroachment. I’m sure it has played a role in this sad drama.

Science recognises three subspecies of Pyrrhuloxia:

  • C. s. sinuatus lives in southern Texas and eastern Mexico.
  • C. s. fulvescens lives in Arizona and western Mexico.
  • C. s. peninsulae lives in Mexico’s Baja California.

I’ve enjoyed most of my meetings with Pyrrhuloxias during my explorations in southeastern Arizona. In March 2020, during my first expedition to Texas, I met these subtly exquisite birds in Big Bend National Park.

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