Meet the stunning Northern cardinal bird! These charismatic creatures are a sight to behold with their vibrant red feathers and enchanting songs. With an average size of 9 inches and a 12 inch wingspan, cardinals are a popular member of the finch family. Both male and female cardinals sport long tails and crested heads, making them easily recognizable. Their striking red color is often associated with Christmas decorations, adding a cheerful touch to snowy scenes. It’s no wonder why these birds are affectionately called redbirds – they’re simply irresistible!
One can easily spot a male cardinal due to its striking bright red feathers and black face mask. Additionally, it possesses a noticeable spiked crest and a bill that ranges in color from pink to orange. As for the female cardinal, it may require a bit more scrutiny to identify her unique features.
According to Shawn Parson, male and female cardinals have different appearances, with the males being more colorful than their mates. Typically, if a person sees a male cardinal, there is a high possibility that the female cardinal is present nearby, particularly during breeding season. Female cardinals are not as striking in color as their male counterparts, with a fawn hue and red highlights. Nonetheless, they are still highly appreciated and admired. Another interesting fact about cardinals is that they can be found in a wide range of locations.
The Northern Cardinal is a common sight in the East, Midwest, and Southwest regions of the United States. Unlike migratory birds, these feathered creatures can be observed all year round, making them a joy for residents in the eastern half of the country. These birds can be found in a variety of habitats such as backyards, parks, forests, swamps, and even deserts with dense low cover. They have adapted well to urban areas, and populations have expanded northward from their historical range. Regional variations are observed within the species, particularly in the Southwest and Mexico. Interestingly, scientists believe that cardinals found in the Sonoran Desert could be a distinct species from those found in other southwestern deserts, despite their close proximity to northern cardinals. Cardinals in the Sonoran Desert are typically larger, have longer crests, and the males have a paler red coloration. Additionally, they produce slightly different songs.
The official field guide of Birds & Blooms, Kaufman Field Guides, offers range maps for interested individuals. Interestingly, both male and female cardinals are capable of singing.
One of the interesting facts about northern cardinal birds is that females also sing, which sets them apart from most other species where only males do the singing. During nesting time, a pair of cardinals might share song phrases to communicate and reinforce their bond. Males are known to sing for nine months out of the year, taking a break only during the winter months. With over 24 different songs, the most common one is “What cheer! What cheer! What cheer!”, and another has a repetitive “pew, pew, pew” sound. Their high-pitched call is like a “chip!”. Additionally, you can often see them eating seeds from bird feeders.
If you’re looking to attract cardinals to your backyard, consider installing a tube feeder. These birds can recognize the shape of the feeder and their presence may even attract other species. To entice them further, offer black oil sunflower or safflower seeds. Cardinals are not picky eaters and will enjoy foraging on the ground or on a platform feeder. Keep in mind that cardinals are early nesters, so providing a safe space for them to build their nests is important.
In the world of birds, cardinals are known to have a strong attachment to their home range. This behavior provides them with an advantage in nesting, as they start as early as February. When it comes to the location of their first nests in early spring, cardinals prefer evergreens for protection. With a long breeding season, cardinals can have multiple broods each year, guaranteeing the survival of some offspring. However, their generalist approach to nest location makes them vulnerable to predation.
A pair of cardinals can build a nest within three to nine days, with the female doing most of the work. The nest is typically made of twigs and grasses, and the female lays three to four eggs that are whitish-gray with brown speckles. Compared to other birds, cardinal nests are quite low, only 4 to 8 feet off the ground. During the breeding season, male cardinals stay near the nest to protect their young.
Baby cardinals are quite demanding, requiring up to eight feeds an hour during the first few days after hatching. Although around 20% of mated pairs separate each year, most couples stay together for several breeding seasons. During the winter months, they tend to feed separately and are less attentive to each other.
To provide the ideal habitat for cardinals, it’s best to plant dense shrubs. This will encourage their presence and help ensure the survival of their offspring.
In order to provide a suitable habitat for cardinals throughout the year, it is essential to have thick cover such as hedgerows, shrubby stands, overgrown fields, and forest edges. Planting a combination of small, dense trees and shrubs is highly recommended to ensure that cardinals have a safe haven during winter months. Some ideal cover trees and plants to include in your habitat are box elder, eastern red cedar, nannyberry, and shrub roses. It is also beneficial to add wild grapevine as cardinals utilize its bark for nesting material. Additionally, one may wonder why male cardinal birds are red.
The striking red color of male cardinals is believed to aid in attracting mates, and it is influenced by their diet. These birds obtain carotenoid pigments from consuming red fruits, and a diet rich in such berries during molting can result in brighter red feathers. Research suggests that males with more vibrant plumage tend to have better territories, offer greater parental care, and exhibit higher nesting success rates. Interestingly, there are also cardinal birds that come in rare colors besides red.
Meet this striking male cardinal with leucism, which makes it mostly white instead of red. Interestingly, cardinals can also appear yellow due to rare genetic variations called xanthochroism. Keep your eyes peeled for white cardinals and other leucistic birds as well. If you’re in the southwest, you may come across the pyrrhuloxia, often referred to as the desert cardinal. Alternatively, in Hawaii, South America, and Puerto Rico, you might spot the red-crested cardinal. But have you ever wondered how the cardinal bird got its name?
Sheila Babin shared that the name of the cardinal bird has an interesting history. While it may not be commonly known today, during the 1600s and 1700s, it referred to the red attire worn by Catholic cardinals. As for the question of owning pet cardinals, the answer remains unclear.
According to Charles Rogers, it is illegal to keep wild birds like cardinals as pets. Interestingly, there was a time when owning a cardinal as a pet was permitted. However, this changed with the introduction of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 which prohibited keeping wild birds as pets. It is believed that the northern cardinals were popular pets because of their beautiful color and melodious songs. These days, cardinals are often used as mascots for sports teams.
The Arizona Cardinals football team and the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team are both named after the fierce and territorial nature of the cardinal bird, which makes it a fitting mascot for athletic teams. Their fighting spirit is well-represented by this bright red bird, which is known for defending its territory.