I spent a while this morning typing on my laptop on the deck, and brought the new camera out with me for occasional procrastination. The shady spot at that hour has a nice view of the bird feeder, and I snapped a few shots of these guys feeding (using a telephoto lens):
(I cropped and scaled this, and did the auto-level color correction in GIMP.)
The one on the left is a house sparrow, I believe, and we have dozens of them around. I don't think I've ever seen the one on the right before, though, and have no idea what species it is. I could probably look it up, but posting the photo and waiting for someone to identify it in the comments is probably just as fast...
(Sadly, the hummingbird I saw feeding on one of the Rose of Sharon bushes a few days ago didn't reappear. Maybe next time.)
I'll hazard a guess that it's a juvenile female cardinal
The one on the right is a completely stressed out adult cardinal who has gone bald from the stress of raising babies. All of their energy that goes into feeding babies, leaving little if anything to keep mom and dad barely alive. We see that all the time when they are finishing with their second (or third) clutch of the summer.
Cardinals and Blue Jays molt in the late summer. Some of them lose all the feathers on their head at once, while others lose and replace them more randomly. Many people have different theories for why, but no one seems to know for sure.
Here's a picture of a Blue Jay from my front yard from a few weeks ago. It kind of looks like a small blue vulture because of the lack of feathers on the head.
And here's one from a few days later (it may even be the same one) with the feathers growing back.
Yep, that's a crestless female cardinal. I've got a few balding males around and a lot of youngsters. It's funny how some species can be completely unrecognizable without some of their features. Reminds me of the time my entire high school class couldn't identify a goldfinch in fall plumage.
Ken: nice shot.
We will see cardinals like that for weeks on end with no sign of new feathers coming in.