Photographer from Cleveland captures now-viral images of ‘one in a million’ yellow cardinal

SHELBY COUNTY, Ala. — Images of a rare yellow cardinal taken in Alabama are wowing social media users all over the country.

AL.com reports that a resident, Charlie Stephenson, noticed the brilliant yellow bird at her backyard feeder in January and posted about it online. She also shot some video of the beautiful bird.

(Photo used with permission of Jeremy Black)

Stephenson’s friend, photographer Jeremy Black, a Northeast Ohio native, saw her posts and photographed the bird himself in February.

He told AL.com that he waited about five hours to spot it.

“I started out sitting in her backyard hoping that maybe I would see it,” he said. “A lot of cardinals came by and none of them were yellow, so I decided to be a little bit more evasive and hide on her screened-in porch. About two or three hours after I moved to the porch, it finally showed up.”

Auburn University biology professor Geoffrey Hill tells AL.com that the cardinal is an adult  male in the same species as the common red cardinal. But, he said, it has a genetic mutation that causes the feathers to be bright yellow instead.

Hill said that in his 40 years of birdwatching he’s never seen a yellow bird in the wild.

(Photo used with permission of Jeremy Black)

“I would estimate that in any given year, there are two or three yellow cardinals at backyard feeding stations somewhere in U.S. or Canada,” he said. “There are probably a million bird feeding stations in that area so very very roughly, yellow cardinals are a one in a million mutation.”

After Black posted one of his photos on Facebook, The Naturalist’s Notebook Facebook page shared them. That post has been shared over 14,900 times, and the photo has gotten over 35,000 reactions. The photo has even been featured on National Geographic. 

For more on Jeremy Black and his work, click here. 

For Jeremy Black Photography’s Facebook page, click here.