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Manu Minute: The Cardinal Cousins

We've got not one, but two cardinals for you today.

And guess what, they're not even real cardinals.

Despite their names, the red-crested cardinal and the yellow-billed cardinal are actually tanagers, just like our old friend, the saffron finch.

The descriptors in their name are quite accurate, however, and they hold the key to distinguishing these two birds from one another.

Here's another helpful hint for identification. The red-crested cardinal is found on all of the main Hawaiian islands except the Big Island, whereas the yellow-billed cardinal is found only on the Big Island.

Both birds are native to South America. In Hawaiʻi, they prefer lower elevation areas, which they can inhabit without worry due to their resistance to avian malaria.

Here's the call of a red-crested cardinal.

Spectrogram video of the song of a red-crested cardinal

And here's the call of a yellow-billed cardinal.

Spectrogram video of the song of a yellow-billed cardinal

Can you tell the difference?

Audio credit: Doug Pratt/Macaulay Library at the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology (ML5004)
Audio credit: Natxo Areta/Macaulay Library at the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology (ML216460)

Patrick Hart is the host of HPR's Manu Minute. He runs the Listening Observatory for Hawaiian Ecosystems (LOHE) Lab at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo.
Ann Tanimoto-Johnson is the Lab Manager & Research Technician in the Hart Lab/Listening Observatory for Hawaiian Ecosystems (LOHE) Bioacoustics Lab. She researches the ecology, bioacoustics, and conservation of our native Hawaiian forests, birds, and bats.
Savannah Harriman-Pote is a producer for The Conversation and Manu Minute. Contact her at talkback@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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