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Albino, White & Leucistic Cardinals

cardinal albino

Do you know what the difference is between albino cardinals and white cardinals? Most people don’t.

Cardinals are beautiful birds, and there is something extra special about seeing an albino, white or leucistic cardinal. 

These birds are very rare, and they can be hard to find. If you’re lucky enough to see one of these amazing creatures, here are some tips on how to identify them.

In this blog post, we will discuss the differences between these three types of cardinals. 

We will also talk about how to spot them in the wild. So, if you want to learn more about these beautiful birds, keep reading!


Are There Really White Cardinals?

White cardinals are not a separate species. They are actually leucistic, which means they have a reduced pigmentation. This can happen to any bird, but it is most common in red birds since they have more pigment to lose. 

White cardinals are not albino, which is a complete lack of pigment. Albino birds typically have pink eyes, but white cardinals have black eyes like other cardinals.

Although they are not as common as red or yellow cardinals, white ones can be found in many parts of North America. If you’re lucky enough to see one, enjoy the rare beauty of this special bird. 

Albino Cardinals

Albino cardinals are a striking sight. Their bright white feathers contrast sharply with the red plumage of their non-albino counterparts. In fact, albino cardinals are so rare that many birders consider them to be a real prize.

While the exact cause of albinism is not known, it is thought to be caused by a mutation in the gene that controls melanin production. 

This mutation results in a complete lack of melanin pigment in the feathers, skin, and eyes. As a result, albino cardinals are highly vulnerable to predators and the elements.

They have little to no natural camouflage and their pink eyes lack the protective pigmentation that helps to filter out harmful UV rays. 

For these reasons, albino cardinals have a very short lifespan. In fact, most don’t make it through their first year.

Despite their challenges, albino cardinals are truly a sight to behold. And for those lucky enough to see one, they are sure to leave a lasting impression. 

How can you tell if a cardinal is a complete or partial albino?

A cardinal is a complete albino if it has no pigment in its feathers at all. A cardinal is a partial albino if it has some pigment in its feathers, but not enough to give the bird a normal color.

For example, a cardinal with white feathers but black eyes would be a partial albino. A cardinal that is a partial albino will have some red feathers.

Does an albino cardinal’s lack of color affect its survival?

Yes, albino cardinals’ lack of color does affect its survival. The main difference between an albino cardinal and a regular cardinal is that an albino will have very poor vision because it lacks the pigment needed to see color.

This can make it more difficult for them to survive in the wild since they may not be able to identify predators or food sources as well as other cardinals. 

Cause of albino cardinals’ white coloration

The cause of albino cardinals’ white coloration is a genetic mutation that affects the production of melanin, which is responsible for the bird’s normal coloring.

This mutation causes the cells that produce melanin to die, resulting in the characteristic white feathers. 

While albinism does not affect a bird’s health, it can make them more susceptible to predators since they are easier to see against a snowy background.

Albino cardinals’ appearance

The appearance of an albino cardinal is quite distinct from that of a normal cardinal.

Albinism is a condition in which there is a partial or complete lack of pigmentation in the skin, hair, and eyes.

As a result, albino cardinals typically have white or pale yellow plumage, pinkish-white skin, and red eyes. 

This striking appearance makes them quite easy to spot in the wild. In addition to their distinctive coloration, albino cardinals also tend to be smaller than their non-albino counterparts. 

While the exact cause of albinism is not fully understood, it is believed to be the result of a genetic mutation. Albino cardinals are relatively rare, and their striking appearance makes them a favorite among birdwatchers.

Are white cardinals excessively showy like the red ones?

No, white cardinals are not excessively showy like the red ones. In fact, they are much more difficult to see because they blend in so well with their surroundings.

This is because their coloration provides excellent camouflage against the snow.

How many white cardinals are there?

There are an estimated 330 million white cardinals in the world. These birds are found in a variety of habitats, including woodland, gardens, and scrubland.

White cardinals are usually monogamous, and the male birds are responsible for building the nest and incubating the eggs. Females then take over care of the chicks once they hatch.

What do the albino cardinals eat?

Albino cardinals in general eat seeds, fruits, and insects. Albino cardinals presumably eat the same things as other cardinals, but they may be more vulnerable to predators because they are easier to see.

They are omnivorous and eat a variety of seeds, berries, and insects. They usually forage on the ground, but they can also fly to catch insects in the air.

You will also enjoy reading: Best Birdhouse For Cardinals

What Are The Different Types Of Albino Cardinals?

There are six different types of albino cardinals. They are the Red-crested cardinal, Rose-breasted grosbeak, Black-headed grosbeak, Northern Cardinal, Blue Grosbeak, and Painted Bunting.

Each of these types has its own unique coloring and markings. Let’s discuss them in detail. 

Absolute albino

cardinal albino

Absolute albino cardinals are a mutation of the Northern Cardinal that results in a completely white bird.

These birds are very rare and it is estimated that there are only about 25 of them in the wild. 

They have difficulty surviving in the wild because they can’t camouflage themselves against their snowy surroundings and they are easily seen by predators. For this reason, most absolute albino cardinals are kept in captivity.

Fully leucistic

cardinal white

Fully leucistic cardinals are a mutation of the normal red cardinal. They are completely white, except for the black tips on their wings and tails.

Fully leucistic cardinals are fairly rare, and because they lack any red pigment, they can be harder to spot in the wild than their red counterparts. However, they are beautiful birds, and well worth seeking out if you get the chance.

Partially leucistic


Partially leucistic cardinals, also known as pied cardinals, are a beautiful variation of the common red cardinal.

These birds get their name from their mostly white plumage, with just a few patches of red feathers.

Partially leucistic cardinals are not albino. They have some pigment and can see normally. Their lack of color is due to a genetic mutation that affects the distribution of pigment in their feathers.

This mutation is harmless and does not affect the bird’s health in any way.

Dilute plumage

Dilute plumage cardinal
Image by: photocontest.smithsonianmag.com

Dilute plumage cardinals are a genetic mutation that causes a bird to have paler feathers than a normal cardinal. They are mostly found in the eastern United States.

Dilute plumage cardinals are not considered to be a separate species, and they are not considered to be endangered. However, they are quite rare, and most bird enthusiasts consider them to be quite beautiful.

Leucistic cardinals

Leucistic cardinals are a mutation of the red cardinal. They were discovered in South Carolina in the 1950s.

Eucistic cardinals are white with red eyes. They have all of the same features as a regular cardinal, but their white coloring makes them very easy to spot.

Eucistic cardinals are not albino birds and have normal pigmentation in their skin, feathers, and eyes. 

Leucistic cardinals’ appearance

Leucistic cardinals are white with some red pigment around the eyes and on the wings. They are otherwise identical to normal cardinals in appearance.

Fully leucistic cardinals

Fully leucistic cardinals are white with patches of red on their heads, chests, and wings. They are a result of a genetic mutation that causes the loss of all melanin pigment in the feathers. As a result, they have very little coloration and are nearly impossible to find in the wild.

Fully leucistic cardinals are sometimes mistaken for albino cardinals, but albino cardinals have some pigment and will have small amounts of red coloring on their plumage.

Leucistic cardinals are also different from partial leucistics, which have some normal pigmentation and just lack typical cardinal coloring.

Cause of leucistic cardinals’ white coloration

The white coloration in leucistic cardinals is caused by a lack of pigmentation in the feathers.

This can be the result of either a genetic mutation or albinism. Either way, the bird will have a harder time surviving in the wild because it’s not as camouflaged as its brown counterparts.

The difference between albino and leucistic cardinals

The main difference between Albino cardinals and leucistice cardinals is Albino cardinals have white feathers and red eyes, while leucistic cardinals have pale feathers and dark eyes.

Albinism is a genetic condition that results in a lack of melanin, while leucism is a genetic condition that results in a reduced amount of melanin.

Leucism is often confused with albinism, but they are actually two different things. Albinism affects the whole bird, while leucism only affects certain parts of the bird.

Are white cardinals male or female? 

Male white cardinals are more brightly colored than the females, which is why they’re sometimes called “snowbirds”.

The males have a black mask and a bright red crest, while the females are mostly pale gray or white with a touch of red on their heads.

You will also enjoy reading: How To Attract Cardinals To Your Yard? 

Where Do White Cardinals Live?

White Cardinals live in North America, mostly in the eastern half of the United States. They like to live in open areas, near tall trees that offer plenty of food and shelter.

White Cardinals can be found in a variety of habitats, including woodlands, gardens, and parks. They typically live in pairs or small groups, and during the winter they may join flocks of other birds.

Final words about of white cardinal types, cause, and appearance

Overall, the white cardinal is a beautiful bird that has many different types. The cause of their coloration can be due to genes or disease.

No matter what the reason is, they are still breathtaking to see. If you happen to see one, take a moment to appreciate it because not everyone gets that chance.

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