Northern Cardinal – State bird

Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)

Description: Found across the Eastern United States and Mexico, the Northern Cardinal is a beloved mid-sized songbird with a distinctive red crest and short, thick red bill. Northern Cardinals are fairly social and often join in flocks that may even include birds of other species.

North Carolina
West Virginia

Year Designated: Illinois: 1928, Indiana: 1933, Kentucky: 1942, North Carolina: 1943, Ohio: 1933, Virginia: 1950, West Virginia: 1949


Key Facts

Life Span3 to 15 Years
FlightFlying Bird

Conservation Status

Least Concern

Conservation Status Least Concern




Weight42-48 g
Wing Span25-31 cm
Length21-23 cm

Taxonomic Serial Number                          179124

Compared to the Average State Bird

How the Northern Cardinal measures up:

  • Wing span5 cm and 14% smaller than the average state bird’s wingspan (36 cm).
  • Weight37 g and 44% lighter than the average state bird’s weight (85 g)
  • Length4 cm and 15% shorter than the average state bird’s length (27 cm)

Scientific Classification

AnimaliaChordataAvesPasseriformesCardinalidaeCardinalis cardinalis


Appearance Description

AppearanceBoth sexes have distinctive crests and masks.
Male AppearanceThe male crest is bright red, while the mask is black. Bright crimson red color overall.
Female AppearanceThe Female crest is a tan orange color, while th crest is gray. Pale brown color overall with warm reddish tinges in the wings.



DietAs a ground feeder, it typically eats seeds, grains, fruit, occasionally small insects like beetles, cicadas, grasshoppers, and snails.
Communication StylesClear, whistled song patterns, repeated several times. Males generally sing from exposed perches.
Migratory BehaviorNon-migratory

Range of Habitation



Dense shrubby areas such as forests, overgrown fields, and marshy thickets. They are also common in suburban gardens.


full grown:falcons, all accipiter hawks, shrikes, and some owl species including long-eared and eastern screech owls. 
hatchling: milk snakes, coluber constrictors, blue jays, eastern gray squirrels, fox squirrels, eastern chipmunks and the house cat.

Mating and Breeding

Breeding Overview

Breeding BehaviorMonogamous, pairs mate for life.
Breeding SeasonMarch-September
NestingBoth sexes participate in nest location scouting. The nests, primarily constructed by the female, are usually wedged in between a fork of small branches in a small tree or shrub. The nest dimensions are typically 2-3 inches tall, 4 inches across, with an inner diameter of about 3 inches. Materials of choice include dogwood, honeysuckle, hawthorn, grape, redcedar, spruce and pines, just to name a few.
Nesting and IncubationThe incubation period is 12-13 days. Fledgling occurs after 10-11 days. Up to four broods are raised each year, which the male cares for as the female incubates.


ColorA smooth, glossy pearl with a tint of green, or brown. Marked with blotches, concentrated at the ends, which can be gray or brown.
Clutch Size3 to 4 egg(s)
Egg Laying MonthsMarch-September

Chick description

Naked except for sparse tufts of grayish down, eyes closed, clumsy.


Birding Facts

Interesting FactThe male Northern Cardinal fiercely defends its territory from other males. When a male sees its reflection in glass surfaces, it frequently will spend hours fighting its reflection.
Best Season to ObserveAutumnSpringSummerWinter
Observation TipsThe Northern Cardinal can be best spotted in areas with water located near thick shrubbery.
Other NamesCommon Cardinal, Redbird


Really helpful! I LOVE this website! The cardinal is one of my favorite birds, I’m so glad I found this!


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