The Northern Cardinal is easily recognized by its vibrant red color. The brighter the male, the more plentiful the food is in its territory and the better its chance of bearing offspring.
As she sits on the nest, the female Northern Cardinal sings, perhaps communicating to the male Northern Cardinal about the need for more food for the hatchlings or about possible dangers lurking nearby.
The Northern Cardinal is also featured in our article on the Top 15 Photogenic Feeder Birds.
Appearance of the Northern Cardinal
The Northern Cardinal is easily recognized by its vibrant red color. The brighter the male, the more plentiful the food is in its territory and the better its chance of bearing offspring. Along with a bright red body, tail and bill, the male Northern Cardinal has a distinctive black “mask” on its face.
The female Northern Cardinal, on the other hand, is a plain grayish-tan, although there is some red in her head, wings, breast, and tail feathers. Even though the female also has a “face mask,” it tends to be more grayish to black in color.
The Northern Cardinal can reach a length of 8-9 inches and weight of 1 ½ to 1 ⅔ ounces.
The male Northern Cardinal, a formidable foe when defending its territory, will fight both real competing males and imaginary ones it sees in window reflections! Some ultra-defensive Northern Cardinals have also been known to attack side view mirrors on car doors when it sees a "competing male" in its reflection!
Geography of the Northern Cardinal
The Northern Cardinal is found throughout eastern North America, from southeastern Canada southward through the United States down to Mexico and northern parts of Central America.
The Northern Cardinal prefer to spend the winter in their habitat and do not migrate southward like other bird species.
Local Environments of the Northern Cardinal
The Northern Cardinal prefers suburban areas and forest edges where it can nest in gardens, thickets and shrubbery. This bird is often found in close proximity to houses where bird feeders are present.
The Northern Cardinal is a frequent visitor to bird feeders and is very visible in the winter, especially with the bright red coloring of the male Northern Cardinal against the white of the snow.
During the winter, the Northern Cardinal prefers to gather in flocks, something it will not do during the breeding season.
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- Food Preferences