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Honolulu "Cardinal", December 2012

On arrival in Honolulu, we were greeted by a Paroaria coronata, locally known as a "Brazilian Cardinal" and more widely known as a "Red-Crested Cardinal." It's not a cardinal at all, despite the similar red crest. It's a tanager.

Songbirds aren't easy to group into families. Biologists tried to group birds with similar features (like beak shape), but those features can change. Darwin correctly guessed that all Galapagos finches came from a common ancestor even though many of them had evolved new shapes including some very un-finch-like beaks. Much later it was learned that that ancestral "finch", despite its finchy shape, should have been classified as a tanager.

Back to our "cardinal": Paroaria was long known not to be a real Cardinal, but was until recently thought to belong with the New World sparrows.

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