Who’s this scruffy one with scraggly tuft and sooty beak?

HINT: You went through a stage like this yourself!

At first I was alarmed he might be sick, but the beak was the tip-off. Carl here is a Juvenile Cardinal, midway through molting into mature plumage.

As a nestling he was grayish, protectively colored to mask him from Merlins and Hawks. But soon he’ll need to attract a mate and raise a brood of his own.

So his beak is gradually growing vermillion, and his feathers will be Cardinal scarlet.

Meantime, Carl may look a bit scruffy, but hey, you and I once did too! And he braved a portrait session, and I call that pretty cool, Carl!

Maybe, just maybe, he’ll remember me when he’s a full blown, stunning adult. Meantime, Carl, stay safe, happy foraging, and come spring, may you find the mate of your heart’s desire.

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