Bird ID help

Sorry, I couldn’t remember if bird/animal ID questions go in GQ or IMHO. Please move if needed.

We’ve had a bird at our sunflower feeder today that I can’t identify, and I’m usually pretty good at this sort of thing. At first glance it looked very much like a female cardinal, with the orange colored beak and reddish brown coloring, lighter underneath. But it did not have a crest or the black on the face. The tail looked like it had just a little black on the tip, and it might have had some black along the side of the body, but that may have just been a shadow from the wing. Also the tail seemed longer than your average finch.

Checking my Peterson’s Guide, about the closest thing other than a female cardinal would be a female blue grosbeak, but the beak color is wrong, the female grosbeak has two stripes on the wings which I didn’t see, and the grosbeak’s tail is too short.

It’s definitely larger than most finches we get like goldfinches or house finches. And mostly solid colored, no speckles or stripes. Just a big reddish brown finch-looking bird.

Location, NE Kansas, about 40 mi west of Kansas City.

I don’t know what you saw but I’ll point out that many birds are experiencing a season molt right about now and don’t quite look like themselves.

I would suggest a juvenile cardinal, but their beaks tend to be dark, turning orange later.

I would still go with a female cardinal because they have those blatantly orange beaks and their appearance can be variable. Cardinals don’t always sport crests because they go through an annual molt. It’s pretty typical around this time of year. They can look pretty odd when that happens, but the feathers eventually grow in and it may take some time for the tuft to reappear. The mask can also be muted when growing back in from the molt.

That orange beak always gives them away.

If you google images of cardinals and molt, you can see that they have varying appearances at different stages. It ain’t pretty.

Ditto. Brown and cardinalesque with a bright orange cardinal-like beak? It’s almost always a female cardinal. Molting cardinals can look all kinds of shades of odd.

Female cardinal it is then. I didn’t know it was molting season, but yeah they do look weird when molting. We had a male cardinal many years ago missing about half the feathers around its head. It looked like something had been chewing on it. Kinda freaky looking, really.

Yeah, molting birds can look bizarre.

We had to give up our feeders this year due to bears, and I’ve been missing the backyard birds. We’ll try putting the feeders out again in November when the bears start laying low, and then see how it goes.

The cardinals are still around in the trees and bushes between fields, but I’m still going through withdrawal from the summer birds. Well, maybe next year it will be safe to attract them again.