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Feather mites are always a possibility, but IMHO unlikely. Most cardinals molt their head feathers onesie-twosie in late summer, and you never notice. But some individuals have an uncommon gene that causes all the head feathers to molt at about the same time, resulting in the naked skin you see. Banders handling bald cardinals don't typically report the presence of mites, so I doubt parasites are a frequent cause, but banding does show that the same individuals are affected each year. I have seen bald cardinals both sexes, though it does seem more common in males--perhaps an observer effect? You may also see bluejays with bald heads, for the same reason.

FWIW, I'm seeing a fair number of adult hummingbirds now in major crown molt, sometimes with most of the forehead in pinfeathers. It's not just Ruby-throats, either, as I saw the same thing in several western species while banding at the Sedona hummingbird festival two weeks ago. I've never seen a bald hummer, though.

Lanny Chambers
St. Louis, MO
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> On Aug 15, 2015, at 11:33, Ronda <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> 
> One is regarding the occasional "bald" cardinal this time of year.  Are they always males?  If it is a molting, why don't they all do it?  And if it is a parasite, why is it so short-lived?

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