Red-crested Cardinal

Cardinal fans, beware. This is not a cardinal.

By: Jerry Poindexter
Updated October 11, 2018

The red-crested cardinal (Paroaria coronata) is a songbird that does not actually belong to the cardinal family. It is a member of the tanager species instead. It is a medium-sized bird, measuring between 7 to 7¾ inches in length. Its body shape is similar to the Northern cardinal. The red-crested cardinal obviously gets its name from the bright red head and crest. The species is native to South America but has been seen in Puerto Rico and Hawaii feeding on seeds, berries, and insects.

The reference for the pattern and painting notes is from study skins provided by the School of Life Sciences at Arizona State University in Tempe.

Eye: 6 (light brown)
Wing chord: 98 (from the wrist to the tip of the longest primary)
Head width at the ear coverts: 25


  • Tip of the bill to the front of the eye: 21
  • Exposed culmen: 15
  • Gape: 17; Width: 11; Bottom: 11
  • Nares: 10; Width: 9; Height: 9
  • Malar: 15
  • Tarsus: 34; Width: 1.5; Height: 3
  • Hallux: 12 (plus 10 for nail)
  • Middle: 17 (plus 7)
  • Inner: 13 (plus 6)
  • Outer: 11 (plus 5)
Tail length (visible): 60

Materials List

  • Liquitex Paints:

    • White gesso

    • Titanium white

    • Cadmium red light

    • Raw umber

    • Burnt umber

    • Payne’s gray

    • Ivory black

  • Jo Sonja Paints:

    • Nimbus gray

    • Napthol red light

  • M. Graham Paint:

    • Yellow ochre

  • Brushes:

    • #3/0 and #6 round or filbert

Paint Swatches

After sealing your carving with a 50/50 mix of lacquer and lacquer sealer and allowing it to dry thoroughly, you can apply white gesso.

  1. PN01: 1 part nimbus gray; 3 parts titanium white; touch of Payne’s gray

    PN02: 1 part nimbus gray; 3 parts titanium white; touch of Payne’s gray; touch of ivory black

    PN03: 1 part nimbus gray; 3 parts titanium white; touch of Payne’s gray; touch of ivory black

    PN04: 1 part nimbus gray; 2 parts ivory black; 3 parts titanium white; touch of Payne’s gray

    PN05: Equal parts raw umber and burnt umber

    PN06: 1 part titanium white; touch of raw umber; touch of yellow ochre

Painting Demonstration

  1. Head, throat, red feathers on the breast
    Apply cadmium red light for the base color. Once this dries, apply a wash of napthol red light to accent the red crest, around the ear coverts, the throat, and the red breast feathers.

  2. Bill
    For the upper and lower mandibles, use 1 part titanium white with a touch of raw umber and a touch of yellow ochre. When this dries, apply a thin wash of nimbus gray to the upper mandible. Let it dry, then apply a thin wash of water and matte varnish to the entire bill.

  3. The white side of the neck, breast, the whole underside from the breast to the under-tail coverts
    Apply a base color of 1 part nimbus gray, 3 parts titanium white, and a touch of Payne’s gray. (If you make a lot of this color, save some for the outer edges of the tertials and the secondary, greater, and median coverts.)

  4. Under-tail feathers and upper-tail coverts
    Apply a mixture of 1 part nimbus gray, 3 parts titanium white, with a touch of Payne’s gray, and a touch of ivory black.

  5. Mantle; greater, median and lesser coverts; tarsus and toes
    Slightly dampen the mantle with water to prevent any hard paint lines and apply 1 part nimbus gray and 3 parts titanium white, 1 part ivory black, with a touch of burnt umber.

  6. Upper-tail feathers, tertials, secondaries, and about half the length of the primary feathers from the base toward the ends
    Mix 1 part nimbus gray, 2 parts ivory black, 3 parts titanium white, and a touch of Payne’s gray. Apply this to the primary coverts and lower half of the median coverts. Use this color to paint the thin dark collar that disappears behind the ear coverts.

  7. End of the primary feathers
    Apply equal parts of raw umber and burnt umber, blending into the dark areas of the primary feathers.

  8. Feet
    Apply 1 part nimbus gray, 2 parts ivory black, and 3 parts titanium white, with a touch of Payne’s gray.


Jerry Poindexter is a carving judge and the author of Songbirds I and II (measured drawings, containing 50 patterns). You can reach Jerry via e-mail at icarve@cet.com.



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