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The Beautiful Northern Cardinals and Why We All Love Them

A Male Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) perches on a small limb.
Texas Cardinal
A male Northern cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) perches on a small limb.
Red and Radiant

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Few birds are as recognizable and well-loved as the Northern Cardinal. The males are unmistakable, with their bright red feathers and black mask. Even female cardinals stand out in a crowd, with red accents on brown. Whether you are an amateur backyard bird watcher or a seasoned ornithologist, chances are you love watching the beautiful Northern Cardinal.

In this blog post, I will share with you 8 amazing facts about this bright red beauty. I will also tell you how you can attract Cardinals to your backyard.

Northern Cardinals are a favorite at bird feeders because of the vivid color and inspirational melodies they bring to our lives. But what if I told you that it might be in your very nature to love and adore these beautiful birds and that you can’t help yourself? Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? Check out these facts before you think that I’m totally off my rocker.

A Northern cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) sits on a small twig in South Texas.
South Texas Cardinal

Fact 1. Cardinals are typically the first bird to visit backyard feeders in the morning and the last to visit in the evenings. While ornithologists are not entirely sure why this is the case, they believe it may be related to lower competition with other backyard birds at the feeders. Males also appear less conspicuous in low light conditions providing them with some security from natural predators.

Fact 2. Unlike many other songbirds, Northern Cardinals are mostly a non-migratory species. Because of this, the Northern Cardinal is a favored guest at backyard feeders in all seasons. The diet of Northern Cardinals consists mainly of seeds and nuts, allowing them to forage for food year-round.

Fact 3. Only a few female North American songbirds sing, but the female Northern Cardinal does, and often while sitting on the nest. This may indicate when to bring dinner home. A mated pair shares song phrases, but the female may sing a longer and slightly more complex song than the male.

Fact 4. The Northern Cardinal’s name dates to the time of the United States founding colonists, stemming from the similarity of the males’ vibrant red plumage to the red biretta and vestments of distinguishable Catholic cardinals. Color is a key to mating success—the brighter the better.

Fact 5. Northern cardinals are monogamous, and pairs stay together year-round. During courtship, affection is expressed by the males feeding the females seeds in a method known as “beak to beak”. If you choose to use your imagination, you could certainly say that the birds look like they are kissing! Awwww!!

Fact 6. Did you know that the Northern Cardinal is the official state bird of 7 eastern states: Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, and West Virginia? It is also a popular sports mascot and winter holiday symbol.

Fact 7. After a brood of eggs has been laid in the nest, the female mainly performs the incubation. During this time, the male spends his energy defending the nesting territory from intruders and bringing food to his female.

Fact 8. Although this isn’t a fact about the Cardinal, it does help explain why everybody loves these bright red birds. Did you know that the color red captures your attention and is the color of extremes? Red is associated with passion, desire, energy, and determination. Red is a color that gains attention, and it can also imply danger in the natural world. It is also one of the most visible colors, second only to yellow (which explains why it is used on fire engines and stop signs to trigger alertness). Red is one of the top two favorite colors of all people. A striking, bold, and captivating hue, red is perhaps the most dominant of all colors. So, just seeing a Cardinal can make you feel many different emotions without you even knowing it. See, I am not crazy.

Luckily for you, the Cardinals are not particularly hard to please. With a few simple steps, your yard could soon become a haven for these beloved birds. Safflower seeds, black oil sunflower seeds, and white milo are among Northern Cardinal’s favorite seeds. In addition, Cardinals enjoy eating crushed peanuts, cracked corn, and berries. During the winter, suet is another great choice. Platform feeders and bird feeders with built-in trays that provide enough space to perch are usually preferred. Cardinals are larger birds, so they require more space when visiting your feeder.

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Until next time,


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댓글 2개

David Cutts
David Cutts
2020년 9월 09일

I'll never look at a female cardinal the same. Mine are skittish too. Any bit of movement and they are gone. Thanks for commenting Fay. I really appreciate it!


Fay Stout
Fay Stout
2020년 9월 09일

Beautiful photos of those photogenic cardinals! I do love cardinals and always get excited when I see them in my garden, but they seem to be a bit skittish and will not hang around if they see me. The female cardinal got an interesting nickname from one of my daughters when she was a little girl. She called her "Potato Bird" and I guess to her, she sort of looked similar to a potato in color. Now that's CrAzY! And imagine my surprise when I learned about a cardinal raising a cowbird when I "captured" (in pixels, of course), a male cardinal feeding an unknown baby bird in my little garden! That's a whole nother subject!

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