Five Fun Facts about the Kentucky Cardinal

Happy National Bird Day, y'all! Now, that's not much of a holiday, but it does seem like a good time to celebrate Kentucky's state bird, the Cardinal.  

Here are a few fun facts about the Cardinal.

1. Cardinals have a distinctive color.

Everyone knows that the males are red, while the females are a brownish-grey. In a very rare mutation called bilateral gynandromorphism, a bird presents the plumage of both sexes.

2. Their name derives from a clergyman's hat.

Cardinals were so named because the male's red crest resembles the mitre (headdress) of a Catholic Cardinal.

Common Cardinal Grosbeak, by John James Audubon.

3. They are grosbeaks, which means they have large, seed-eating beaks.

Only here in Louisville do they have teeth.

4. The Cardinal became the Kentucky State Bird in 1926.

A Senate resolution was passed on February 26, 1926; the House of Representatives concurred. 

5. A Kentucky Cardinal, published in 1894, was an important story by James Lane Allen, Kentucky's "First Important Novelist."

The Lexington-born, Transylvania-educated James Lane Allen contributed to Harper's Magazine and the Atlantic Monthly. Like many Southern writers of his era, Allen's writing meant to mimic the local vernacular. A Kentucky Cardinal dealt with metaphors of bird species for human traits and referenced great naturalists from Audubon to Thoreau to Transylvania's own Constantine Rafinesque.

Here's to our beautiful state bird!