Are these cardinals ill?
Female Cardinal with Mites (2008)
No, they aren't ill. I took these photos of the cardinals with mites this past summer. I had a whole bunch of them coming by. I worried at first, but then asked our local Wild Bird Center about it, and they assured me that it's not unusual. Sometimes, an infestation occurs and it spreads through the birds by their nests or in other ways. It isn't harmful at all. They told me by the fall, when the weather cooled off, the mites would die and the feathers would grow right back. That definitely happened, because they all look well and feathery! I was relieved to learn that it wasn't deadly and that the feathers would regrow; they said there's nothing to prevent it, it just happens in nature sometimes.
Male Cardinal with Mites (2008)
The main problem for these types of birds with the tuft of feathers on top of their heads (including BlueJays) is that they cannot pick off or otherwise shrug off the mites on the head, face and neck area and they are basically helpless to do anything. I have photos of several different cardinals but they aren't very pretty, and they include feathers off parts of the entire body. When I took these photos, I didn't think I'd ever post them because they certainly aren't appealing to the eye.
It's a sunny day here and I am on my way out the door to see what's out there in the garden centers...if anything:) Maybe I'll get lucky. I'll definitely post about it if I do.