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The desert cardinal is a medium-sized song bird the length for both sexes is about 8.3 in (21 cm), while the typical weight is 0.8–1.5 oz (24–43 g). The most obvious differences between the male desert cardinal and the northern cardinal are in their coloring. The desert cardinal is predominantly brownish-gray with a red breast, a red mask, and a yellow, parrot-like bill that is stout and rounded. The females of the two species resemble each other much more closely, but the shapes of their bills are diagnostic. The songs of the two species are identical, though the pyrrhuloxia's is not quite as loud. This cardinal retains the distinctive long, pointed, red crest present in all species.
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