An incredibly rare yellow cardinal has been spotted, expert says it’s ‘one in a million’

A woman from Port St. Lucie, Florida, just had one of the luckiest encounters of her life. That’s because she spotted an incredibly rare bird, a yellow northern cardinal in her backyard, and she even managed to capture several snapshots of the elusive flier!

There is no exact number for how many yellow cardinals are seen every year, but the number is, of course, far from high. Geoff Hill, a professor at Auburn University who describes himself as a “curator of birds”, estimates that the chances of finding a yellow cardinal are “one in a million.”

Yellow cardinal bird.
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Tracy Workman, a woman who teaches art, photography, digital media, drama, and creative writing to home-school students, first saw the rare bird when she came home from the grocery on October 3. The yellow bird flew out in front of her to the neighbor’s backyard, and though the idea of seeing a yellow cardinal seemed crazy to her, she grabbed a camera to see if she could take pictures of it.

However, moments after searching the area, she spotted a smaller yellow bird, a warbler. With that, she assumed that it must have been what she saw earlier since it was extremely unlikely for her to spot an actual yellow cardinal.

“My first thought as the yellow thing fluttered out of the bush by my front door was, ‘Did I just see a yellow cardinal? There’s no way!'” she told CNN.

A rare yellow cardinal spotted in Florida.
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Then, on the morning of October 12, her husband who was sitting on their front porch saw a yellow cardinal snacking on birdseed from the feeder in their yard. Trevor Workman snapped a photo of the bird and sent it to Tracy, who was inside the house at the time.

Tracy wasted no time and immediately grabbed her Canon. But before she could even get the lens cap off her camera, the vibrant bird flew into the neighbor’s bougainvillea. She followed it as carefully as she could, and zoomed all the way in to snap a few photos before the bird flew to the top of a tall tree.

A one-in-a-million yellow cardinal bird.
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Tracy knew that what she captured was something that a lot of people, especially bird enthusiasts and fellow photographers, would be excited about. Hoping to take better photos, she waited a day before sending a message to the local newspaper about her discovery.

She first messaged The Yellow Cardinal Facebook page to report her sighting. Then, she shared the photos of the bird on the Florida Birds and Wildlife Facebook page. Almost immediately, her posts gathered a lot of attention, and it wasn’t long before various news outlets reached out to her to cover her story. Tracy has become a famous name in the bird community, so she was careful not to share the specifics of her residence to keep the peace in her neighborhood.

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She dubbed the rare bird as “Sunny”, explaining that it was “the obvious name for the only yellow cardinal reported in Florida.”

According to Hill, red cardinals are one of the most abundant birds in the southeastern United States. The males are typically red and the females are yellowish red, but the ones that have a vibrant yellow plumage such as the bird in Tracy’s backyard is one of a kind. He says that the bird’s unusual color is likely the outcome of a genetic mutation that hinders it from changing yellow pigments to red ones.

See Sunny in action in the video below from Tracy Workman.