The northern cardinal is so well loved that it has been named the official bird of no fewer than seven U.S. states. Bright red cardinals are easily identified by even casual bird watchers, and are often seen frequenting backyards and bird feeders. When foraging elsewhere the birds eat insects, seeds, grain, fruit, and sap.
Male and female cardinals differ in colouration. Male cardinals are a brilliant red colour with a black ‘mask-like’ face with extends from the eyes to the throat and a thick red beak. Females and their young have a brown- buff colouring with hints of red on their wings, crest and tail. Cardinals are fairly large birds and measure between 12 – 22 centimetres and weigh between 11 and 85 grams depending on species. They have strong beaks for crushing seeds, long tails and prominent crests. Cardinals tend to sit in a hunched over position with their tails pointing towards the ground.
Cardinals, also called “redbirds,” do not migrate and have traditionally been more common in warmer climes such as the U.S. southeast. However, in recent decades they have expanded their common range north through the United States and even into Canada. This population growth may be due to an increase in winter birdfeeders and to the bird’s ability to adapt to parks and suburban human habitats.
Only males sport the brilliant red plumage for which their species is known. The color is a key to mating success—the brighter the better. Females are an attractive tan/gray.
Cardinals are active songbirds and sing a variety of different melodies.
Males can be aggressive when defending their territory, and they frequently attack other males who intrude. This tendency sometimes leads cardinals to fly into glass windows, when they charge an “intruding bird” that is really their own reflection.
Cardinals are fairly social and join in flocks that may even include birds of other species. During mating season, however, groups dissolve into pairs. Male birds feed their monogamous partners as they incubate clutches of eggs—typically three per season.
Cardinals prefer habitats in open woodlands, shrubbery, forest edges and build their nests in dense, tangled vines and shrubs. They can also be observed in parks and backyards.
Voice: Both the male and female sings, different from most bird species, the cardinals sing all year long. Although, they are secretive birds, it is not uncommon to see them perched on a limb in the opening, when singing.
Nesting: Both male and female care for the nestlings, but the male contributes more food. Four to six pale green eggs with reddish-brown spots, with as many as four broods per year.
Distribution: Found throughout all areas where there are thickets or heavy bush. Expanding farther north every year, this is being accredit to outdoor feeder stations being put out in the winter months. Seen from Nova Scotia to south of the Canadian borders in the central USA, down into Arizona to the southern tip of Florida.
Source: nationalgeographic.com and birds-of-north-america.net