Man Spends 500-plus Hours Filming Extremely Rare Yellow Cardinal Who Visits His Backyard

When an extremely rare yellow northern cardinal appeared in his backyard, a Florida bird lover picked up his camera and started filming. Three months and over 500 hours of footage later, a special relationship with the bird had formed.

Jeremiah Vreeland, 39, of Port St. Lucie, told The Epoch Times that he and his neighbor first noticed the yellow cardinal in early April 2021.

“I had seen him briefly, two to three times, hunting red cardinals in our backyard,” Vreeland said. “At the time, I didn’t know how rare yellow cardinals were. Towards the end of April, my neighbor asked me if I had seen the cardinal and explained to me that they are very rare.

(Courtesy of Yellow Cardinal Collection)

Elsewhere in Port Saint Lucie, someone had filmed a yellow cardinal in 2019 and named it Sunny. Convinced that its cardinal must be the same bird, Vreeland kept the name.

He fed Sunny a mixture of wild birds, black sunflower seeds, nuts and berries to make him feel welcome in his garden. In return, Sunny provided Vreeland with hours of gripping footage.

“From April 29 to August 5, I spent every day trying to film Sunny,” he said. “The time spent filming has been filled with special moments that will never leave me.

Epoch Times Photo
(Courtesy of Yellow Cardinal Collection)

“If he walked into my yard, I usually saw him coming; if I didn’t see him, I was listening to cardinal chants, possibly indicating he was around.

Sunny sometimes visited several times a day, sometimes not at all.

Vreeland recalled that sometimes the little bird would just come and grab a snack from the feeder, while other times it would spend up to an hour doing various things: chasing other male cardinals, feeding on the ground with its mate, or just hanging out in the trees.

Epoch Times Photo
(Courtesy of Yellow Cardinal Collection)

Quoting ornithologist Geoffrey Hill of Auburn University in Alabama in a social media post, Vreeland explained that the yellow cardinal’s rare color is due to a genetic mutation. The enzyme that would normally convert the yellow pigments of plants and insects they eat into red feathers is missing.

Only 10 to 12 northern yellow cardinals are thought to be alive at any given time in North America, he added.

As her images of Sunny piled up, Vreeland began sharing photos and videos on social media, including dedicated Facebook and Instagram pages. He was overwhelmed by the “overwhelmingly positive” response.

Epoch Times Photo
(Courtesy of Yellow Cardinal Collection)

Posting his favorite video on October 29, Vreeland explained, “I’m sitting 15 feet away from him, having just dropped off fresh food and water. Nothing between us but air. Sunny puts the peanut down, looks me straight in the eye… does it really look like he’s thanking me for the food?!”

Vreeland knew little about cardinals before filming Sunny, but his feathered friend inspired him to learn from articles and videos between shoots. While observing the best lessons of all, in his own backyard, he discovered that the dominant Sunny seemed to enjoy chasing a particular male target. He named it Red.

He also chose a name for Sunny’s mate, Ada, and believes the couple – Cardinals are usually monogamous – had at least two descendants.

Epoch Times Photo
(Courtesy of Yellow Cardinal Collection)

Vreeland, who claims to be a “borderline novice” in photography, shot his original footage of Sunny in 1080p on two iPhones, a GoPro and a Canon HD camcorder. He used Premiere Pro to edit videos and Lightroom for stills, saying all photos were taken from vid caps.

Sunny has since disappeared as he has not been seen by Vreeland since August 5, 2021. But while the rare yellow cardinal may be gone, he is certainly not forgotten.

The photographer said: “His two alleged descendants still visit our yard.”

Share your stories with us at emg.inspired@epochtimes.com, and keep getting your daily dose of inspiration by signing up for the Bright newsletter at TheEpochTimes.com/newsletter

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