SIB “Bird of the Week” – Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinal – Cardinalis cardinalis
Length:  8.75″; Wingspan: 12″; Weight: 1.6 oz.

We know many of our readers may be traveling and busy with family , so we thought when you have time you’d enjoy learning more about one of the favorite backyard visitors throughout eastern North America.  Among other things, the Northern Cardinal is said to symbolize hope, joy, health, rejuvenation and celebration.

Northern Cardinal - Ed Konrad
Northern Cardinal – Ed Konrad

Most people are very familiar with the Northern Cardinal, so today we will leave you with a few interesting facts and several articles you can read

Did you know …

  • Cardinals don’t migrate and they don’t molt into a dull plumage.
  • The Northern Cardinal is one of the few female songbirds that sing and often while sitting on the nest. This may give the male information about when to bring food to the nest. A mated pair shares song phrases, but the female may sing a longer and slightly more complex song than the male.
  • Have you ever seen a Northern Cardinal attacking its reflection in a window or mirror?  Both males and females do this, and most often in spring and early summer when they are obsessed with defending their territory against any intruders.
  • The Northern Cardinal is the state bird of seven states:  Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, and Kentucky.
  • The oldest recorded Northern Cardinal was a female, and was 15 years, 9 months old when she was found in Pennsylvania, although 28.5 years was achieved by a captive bird.
  • A group of cardinals has many collective nouns, including a “college”, “conclave”, “deck”, radiance”, and “Vatican” of cardinals.

Check out these articles:

Northern Cardinals know how to Shake Their Tail Feathers:  Have you seen the song dance of the Northern Cardinal during mating season?  Read more about it in the article.

Built to Sing:  The Syrinx of the Northern Cardinal:  Listen to this 3 minute 30 second video to learn more about the song of the Northern Cardinal and how they make it.

Why so Red, Mr. Cardinal? In this article, read about the theory of why the Northern Cardinal is red and doesn’t molt in the winter like most passerines.

If you would like to learn more about this bird visit:

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Article submitted by:  Nancy Brown
Photographs provided by: Ed Konrad & Charles Moore

This blog post is part of a series SIB will publish on a regular basis to feature birds seen in the area, both migratory and permanent residents.  When possible we will use photographs taken by our members.    Please let us know if you have any special requests of birds you would like to learn more about.

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