A cardinal is a type of bird that is found in North and South America. There are lots of types of cardinals. The type of cardinal that most people think of when they think of the bird cardinal is the Northern Cardinal.
The Northern Cardinal
The male Northern Cardinal has bright red feathers. The cardinal got its name from these bright red feathers as it is named after the Cardinal that is the Catholic leader. The Catholic cardinal wears bright red clothing.
What does it look like?
The Northern Cardinal is found in North America. The males have bright red feathers, a black face, and coral or red beaks. The females are tan and may have slightly red wings or tail feathers. They both have strong beaks, long tails, and raised crests. They grow to 7 to 9 inches tall.
Male Northern Cardinal Source: USGS
A pair of Northern Cardinals will nest together. They will both feed the baby cardinals. The male is territorial and will sing a loud song that is meant to warn other male cardinals to stay away. The female cardinal will build the nest typically in a low tree branch or a bush.
The male cardinal is very defensive of its territory and will fight off other males. It is even known to start a fight with its own reflection!
How do they communicate?
It is thought that the cardinal uses songs to communicate. The female and male will sing back and forth to each other. The typical song of the Northern Cardinal starts with a series of loud, clear whistles. Cardinals will sing sharp "chips" as an alarm song as well.
Baby Northern Cardinals will all be tan like their mom. The males will get their red feathers as they grow into adults. The babies are born from white eggs with brown spots. The female will lay between one and five eggs with a typical clutch having three eggs. The babies are helpless when born and the mom and dad birds both collect food to feed them.
Cardinals like to forage for food at dawn and dusk. They eat insects, fruit, and seeds.
The Northern Cardinal is a popular bird in the United States. It is the most popular state bird as it is the official state bird of seven of the US states including North Carolina, West Virginia, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, and Virginia. The cardinal is also the team mascot for some universities (i.e. Louisville and Stanford) and professional sports teams.
Fun Facts About Cardinals
The Northern Cardinal is protected under the Migratory Bird Act. You can't have one as a pet and it is illegal to take or kill one.
Some people think the Catholic Cardinal got its name from the bird, but it was the other way around.
Male cardinals may sometimes sing up to 200 songs in an hour. Sometimes the male and female will sing duets.
They get their red feathers from carotenoids in their food.
Cardinals are one of the most popular birds for people who put out bird feeders. It is thought that the birds are now able to survive in some snowy areas due to bird feeders.
Mother Cardinal feeding her baby Source: Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain)