The Northern Cardinal

Written by on June 20, 2012 in Common Backyard Birds with 2 Comments

Northern Male Cardinal, courtesy Stephen A. Wolfe

Seeing bright red birds, especially against the setting of snow, is one of those sights that we all enjoy. The Northern Cardinal is a sub-species of these red birds that are found only in North America, from Canada through Mexico. Typically they are found on the mid-to-Eastern side of the continent.

Cardinals belong to the Passeriformes order, which are perching birds. They are also a member of the songbirds. We hear their beautiful songs throughout the spring and summer, but mostly in spring during courting season.

Both species sing multiple songs, all learned from their parents and other local cardinals. This makes the songs regionally different. The birds sing to each in courtship and to keep connected to each other through out the year. Males are very territorial so they will also sing from the tops of trees or polls to warn other Cardinals away.

These birds have a charming way of raising their young. The female typically builds the nest then lays 3-4 eggs. She incubates them for 12 – 13 days. Then the male takes over and feeds the young while the female prepares the next nest. This will happen approximately 3 times during the spring and has been known to happen even a 4th time.

During courtship, the male Cardinal will often feed the female beak-to-beak. Yes, we can translate to “kissing.” Another charming behavior that endears these birds to our hearts.

As we all know, Northern Cardinals tend to stick around all year. They do migrate though when the weather is particularly cold or the food is scarce. Especially in winter, you can encourage them to stick around with bird feeders.

The Northern Cardinal, with the male’s familiar bright red coloring, is one of the favorite song birds we enjoy in our backyard. Take a little extra time this year and appreciate the Northern Cardinal.


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  1. Common Backyard Birds | October 17, 2012
  1. Mandee Sears says:

    Northern Cardinals are so beautiful! I love the fact that they share the parenting duties. Too cute!

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