top of page

The Northern Cardinal

A Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) perches on a stick.
Crested Cardinal

The Northern Cardinal

(Cardinalis cardinalis)


With their brilliant red plumage, northern cardinals are easy to see and recognize, and even the more subdued females have lovely red highlights in their fawn-colored feathers. Because these birds do not typically migrate, they can be welcome guests in yards throughout the year. Cardinals are often stunning decorations in otherwise bare winter trees and bushes since these birds keep their brilliant color year-round. Both male and female cardinals sing varied songs, adding a beautiful voice to their beautiful appearance, and giving birders one more reason to want to attract cardinals.

Northern cardinals are very popular songbirds and are common throughout central and eastern North America, and south from Florida and Mexico down to Belize and Guatemala. They don't migrate and live year-round in woodland edges, streamside thickets, wetlands, shrublands, gardens, and vegetation near houses in suburban and urban areas. The Northern cardinal was once prized as a pet, but its sale as a caged bird was banned in the United States by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.

A female Northern Cardinal  (Cardinalis cardinalis) perched on a stump
Lady Cardinal


The adult male is a brilliant crimson-red color with a black face mask over the eyes, extending to the upper chest. The color becomes duller and darker on the back and wings. The female is fawn-colored, with mostly grayish-brown tones and a slight reddish tint on the wings, crest, and tail feathers. The face mask of the female is gray to black and is less defined than that of the male. Both sexes possess prominent raised crests and bright coral-colored beaks. The beak is cone-shaped and strong. Young birds, both male and females show coloring similar to the adult female until the fall when they molt and grow adult feathers. They are brown above and red-brown below, with brick-colored crest, forehead, wings, and tail. The legs and feet are dark pink-brown. The iris of the eye is brown.



The northern cardinal's strong, thick bill is perfect for large seeds, and black oil sunflower seeds and safflower seeds are two of their favorites. Other foods cardinals prefer include cracked corn, peanut pieces, fresh berries, apple chunks, and small pieces, crumbles, or shreds of suet.

Water: Northern cardinals readily visit bird baths for bathing and drinking, and because they are larger songbirds, slightly deeper baths (two-three inches at the deepest point) can be suitable. Adding a dripper or mister to the bath will help attract cardinals' attention to this welcome water source.


Platform feeders and large hopper feeders are good choices.

By meeting all the northern cardinal's needs for the best food, freshest water, and most secure shelter, you can attract these lovely red birds to your yard and enjoy their company all year round.

If you like this post, please forward it to your friends and family.


*Mayntz, M. (2023, January 19). How to Attract Cardinals. The Spruce. Retrieved August 3, 2023, from https://www.thespruce.com/how-to-attract-cardinals-386245

22 views0 comments
bottom of page