It's winter, the birds are at your feeders and you notice that the Cardinal males do not seem as bright as you remember ( many wives feel this way about their husbands ). Climate change, illness, or could it be the food you are putting out? Actually, none of the aforementioned, but rather they really are not as colorful as spring and summer. Cardinals molt, replace their feathers, and the new feathers have a light grey color on the tips. As time goes by the feathers wear down and the grey ends are lost revealing the normal bright color we come to expect.

Example Pic 1 - Example Pic 2
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