Tuesday, March 25, 2014


This past December (2013), the Nanaimo Wild Bird Store received a report of a male Northern Cardinal near the corner of Metral Drive and Dunbar Road (north end of Nanaimo). Follow-up searches found nothing. Not surprisingly it was assumed that the bird had been misidentified (cardinals are reported fairly regularly to bird alerts and always turn out to be crossbills/house finches etc.). So it was quite the surprise when Colin from the bird store texted me this morning to report that the carcass had been found! I went and checked it out this afternoon, and as you can see from the photo it's definitely a male Northern Cardinal. This bird was found by Sandra Gaspardone on March 23 in the same area as the December report. Whether it died recently or was frozen under the February snow is unclear. If accepted, this would represent a first record for British Columbia and the only Pacific coast record north of Los Angeles (I think?). There is a hypothetical record from the Prince George area in the winter of 1994 when a male was well-described visiting a feeder but not confirmed by photos/local birders. There are multiple records from the Edmonton and Calgary area so this is an expected species for BC, but perhaps not all the way over here! Obviously origin will have to be considered, as cardinals are kept as cage birds in some areas though I'm unsure what the BC situation is. Apparently Washington has had 5 cardinal reports that have all been kept off the state list due to questions of origin. [Photo: Russell Cannings]


  1. Great find. I'm sure the finding in 1994 was legit if the description was correct we rely too much on photographs to believe people sometimes.


  2. Hi Mellie, I agree that the ID was likely correct in the 1994 sighting, however when it comes to state/provincial lists, certain criteria for acceptance is established and this usually means either specimen/photo/video/audio, or multiple observers with good field-notes. So a photo is not absolutely necessary but it's desired, since there are many cases of "well-described" birds turning out to be something totally different once photos emerged. Particularly if a bird is a first for the province, committees tend to tread carefully.

  3. Definitely agree with you there.

    Cheers Russ!

  4. Not the first Northern Cardinal for Nanaimo, strangely enough. In the mid 90's there were multiple sightings of a Northern Cardinal in north Nanaimo, and the bird was photographed. It was later discovered that the bird had been released by a couple who were recently arrived from Ontario, who "missed them". I believe it persisted for at least two years.