The Northern Cardinal is a member of the cardinal family of birds in North America. The bird's name comes from the red-robed Roman Catholic Cardinals. Its crested head is also said to resemble a bishop's mitre. Cardinals have been also referred to as "Redbirds" and "Virginia nightingales". Cardinals were once popular cage birds for their bright color and rich, varied songs.
These birds are mid-sized songbirds at 21-23 cm (8.3 to 9 inches
long) and weigh about 45 grams (1.6 oz). Males are bright, crimson
red with black faces and coral to red beaks. Females are a fawn
color, with mostly grayish-brown tones & slight reddish tint in
their wings and tail feathers, also with a bright coral-colored
beak. Both possess prominent raised crests and strong beaks. Young
birds, both male and female, show the coloring of the adult female
until the fall, when they will molt and grow their adult feathers.
Cardinals are abundant across the eastern United States from Maine to Texas and in Canada in the provinces of Ontario, Quebec, and Nova Scotia. Their range extends west to the U.S.-Mexico border and south through Mexico to the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, northern Guatemala, and northern Belize. They were introduced to Bermuda in 1700. They have also been introduced in Hawaii, and Southern California. Their natural habitats are woodlands, suburbs, gardens, swamps and thickets.
These birds are permanent residents throughout their range, although they may relocate to avoid extreme weather or if food is scarce.
Mated pairs sometimes sing together before nesting. During courtship
they may also participate in a bonding behavior where the male
collects food and brings it to the female, feeding her beak-to-beak.
If the mating is successful, this mate-feeding may continue
throughout the period of incubation.
The female builds a cup nest in a well-concealed spot in dense shrub or a low tree. Both feed the young. Young fledged cardinals resemble adult females in coloring. The male will grow in bright red feathers as he matures and is eventually chased away by his sire.
In the US, the Northern Cardinal is the state bird of North
Carolina, West Virginia, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, and
Virginia. It is the state bird of more states than any other
species. Nationwide, this species receives special legal
protections under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, which
also banned their sale as cage birds. In America, the bird is
often associated with the Christmas season, appearing on many
cards and decorations, due to it being one of the few brightly
colored birds seen in the winter months.
The St. Louis Cardinals of Major League Baseball have a mascot, Fredbird, who is an anthropomorphized Northern Cardinal. The major-league team directly lends its name to three of its minor league affiliates—the Springfield Cardinals, Palm Beach Cardinals, and Johnson City Cardinals. A fourth affiliate, the Memphis Redbirds, takes its name from a decades-old alternate nickname for the major-league team. The major-league team had yet another "Cardinals" affiliate, the New Jersey Cardinals, but this team changed its nickname when it moved to State College, Pennsylvania after the 2005 season.
The bird is also the namesake of the Arizona Cardinals of the NFL.
This Northern Cardinal Page is Copyright The Animal Web Guide © 2004 - 2009 Chuck Ayoub