Cardinals are striking songbirds most known for their vibrant red coloration. Their common name comes from the cardinals of the Roman Catholic church, who are known to wear bright red robes and hats.
Scientific & Common Names
Kingdom - Animalia
Phylum - Chordata
Class - Aves
Order – Passeriformes
Family – Cardinalidae
Genus - Cardinalis
Species – C. cardinalis
Common Name – Cardinal, Northern Cardinal, Redbird, Common Cardinal
Male cardinals are red all over, with more drab tones on the back. They have a black face mask around the eyes, and an orange-red beak. The female is mostly brown in coloration, with red accents on the wings, head, beak and tail. Both males and females feature a distinctive crest of raised feathers on top of the head.
Cardinals produce up to three or sometimes even four broods a year, each containing up to five eggs. The eggs hatch after being incubated by the mother for just under two weeks, and the male and female both participate in feeding. After between nine and 11 days, the young birds will leave the next to live on their own.
Cardinals do not migrate, and since they do not molt their feathers they are easily identified in colder climates due to their striking red coloration against snowy landscapes. They prefer to fly low to the ground between bushes or short trees. They frequently travel in pairs, and will sometimes hop along the ground in search of food, which consists of seeds, berries and small insects.
Cardinals produce a number of distinctive calls, including a very unique metallic “chip” tone that they make when warding off predators or defending their nest.
Cardinals are very popular among birdwatchers and are frequent visitors of birdfeeders within their range. They prefer sunflower seeds, and their range has greatly expanded in the last hundred years, likely assisted by humans using backyard birdfeeders.
The popularity of the northern cardinal has led to its status as the official state bird of seven U.S. states, more than any other bird: Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, and West Virginia.
Cardinals are very widespread and quite common in their range, which includes much of eastern North America. There are three species in the genus Cardinalis, including the pyrhhuloxia (or desert cardinal), the northern cardinal, and the vermillion cardinal. Each of these species are listed as Least Concern.