Bird of the Week: Northern Cardinal

Ten Facts About Northern Cardinal

1. Given the name “Cardinal” by colonists who saw the resemblance between the bright red crest of the bird and that of a Catholic’s Cardinal’s red cap.

2. Male Cardinals get their signature red color from the consumption of foods that contain red and yellow carotenoid pigments.

Northern Cardinal eating a Flowering Dogwood berry containing red carotenoid pigments

3. Cardinals are found throughout the eastern United States, in parts of the western United States and down into parts of South America.

4. Male Cardinal sing to defend territory and will aggressively chase off other males who encroach upon it. Their songs vary by region.

5. During the courtship process male Cardinal feed female Cardinal seeds.

Female Cardinal

6. Once established a pair of Cardinal will mate for life and stay together year-round.

7. Female Cardinal build their nest in dense shrubbery – holly trees and blackberry brambles are among favorite nesting spots.

8. The majority of a Cardinal’s diet is seed-based (aka granivorous), their large bill is specifically adapted to crush seed hulls.

Northern Cardinal eating Black Oil Sunflower Seeds

9. Cardinal frequently visits backyards, especially if they have bird feeders, their favorite seed is Black-Oil Sunflower.

10. The Cardinal is the state bird for seven U.S. states (IL, IN, KY, NC, OH, VA, WV), which is more than any other bird. Its popularity would give it a leg up as a Presidential candidate –  as those states are good for a whopping 90 electoral votes.


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