ALABASTER, Ala. — Unlike the Redbirds who flock to downtown St. Louis each summer, an extremely rare cardinal has gained nationwide attention — and it's all because of a genetic mutation.
The Birmingham News reported the sighting of a yellow cardinal last week in the town of Alabaster. According to the paper, resident Charlie Stephenson first spotted a yellow cardinal at her backyard feeder in January. The bird, a rarity for both birders and biologists, kept coming back. It liked what it had seen, apparently.
Eventually, Stephenson contacted his friend Jeremy Black, a professional photographer, to try and photograph the bird. And so, the deed was done last week; a five-hour waiting session paid off with two clear shots of the yellow cardinal, as provided to 5 On Your Side.
"Every time we've looked for him, he'll show up at least once a day," said Stephenson to AL.com.
Auburn University biology professor Geoffery Hill told AL.com that the cardinal is an adult male within the same species as the commonly seen red cardinal, but that it carries a genetic mutation which turns its feathers to a bright yellow instead of red.
"There are probably a million bird feeding stations in that area so very roughly, yellow cardinals are a one in a million situation," said Hill to the AL.com. Hill added that he wished to pull DNA from the cardinal to perform further testing on the rarity to pinpoint its genetic mutation.
"My current goal is to try and visit her backyard or neighborhood as frequently as possible and see if I can get that shot with both birds together," said Black.