The romantic male cardinal goes beak-to-beak

Colored red for romance the Northern Cardinal so named “cardinal” after the Cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church, who wear distinctive red robes and caps. The term “Northern” innorthern_cardinal_male-275271 the common name refers to its range, as it is the only cardinal found in the Northern Hemisphere.

This beautiful male bird also courts his future mate by feeding her seeds. When the female agrees to become his mate they sing to each other. (Now there is a dating behavior tocopy! -Mother Nature) 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. Mated pairs often travel together. The male Cardinal often feeds the female as part of their mating behavior.


The Northern Cardinal is a territorial song bird. The male sings in a loud, clear whistle from the top of a tree or another high location to defend his territory. He will chase off other males entering his territory. The Northern Cardinal learns its songs, and as a result the songs vary regionally. It is able to easily distinguish the sex of another singing Northern Cardinal by its song alone.


Northern cardinal female with sunflower seed in her mouth.

Both sexes sing a clear, whistled song patterns, which are repeated several times, then varied. Some common phrases are described as purdy, purdy, purdy…whoit, whoit, whoit, whoit and what-cheer, what-cheer… wheet, wheet, wheet, wheet’. The Northern Cardinal has a distinctive alarm call, a short metallic ‘chip’ sound. This call often is given when predators approach the nest, in order to give warning to the female and nestlings.In some cases it will also utter a series of chipping notes. The frequency and volume of these notes increases as the threat becomes greater.

Northern Cardinals become prey for the Cooper’s Hawks, Loggerhead Shrikes, Northern Shrikes, Eastern gray squirrels, Long-eared Owls and Eastern Screech Owls. Predators of chicks and eggs include milk snakes, coluber constrictors, Blue Jays, fox squirrels, red squirrels and eastern chipmunks.

Northern Cardinal are weed seed, grains, insect snail berry and fruits eaters. It eats beetles, cicadas, grasshoppers, snails, wild fruit and berries, corn and oats, sunflower seeds, the blossoms and bark of elm trees, and drinks maple sap from holes made by sapsuckers. It is a ground feeder and finds food while hopping on the ground through trees or shrubbery. During the summer months, it shows preference for seeds that are easily husked, but is less selective during winter, when food is scarce. Northern Cardinals feed their young almost exclusively on insects.

Female becomes an egg producing machine
After mating the female builds a cup nest in a well-concealed spot in dense shrub or a low tree one to three meters (three to ten ft) off the ground. The nest is made of thin twigs, bark strips, and grasses, lined with grasses or other plant fibers. Eggs are laid one to six days following the completion of the nest. The eggs are white, with a tint of green, blue or brown, and are marked with lavender, gray, or brown blotches which are thicker around the larger end. The shell is smooth and slightly glossy. Three or four eggs are laid in each clutch. the female usually incubates the eggs, rarely and for brief periods, the male assist. Two to three, and even four, broods are raised each year. The male cares for and feeds each brood as the female incubates the next clutch of eggs.card-feeding-young2

The oldest wild Cardinal banded by researchers lived at least 15 years and 9 months, although 28.5 years was achieved by a captive bird. The survival rates for adult Northern Cardinals in the wild have been estimated at 60 to 65% with the high mortality of juveniles average lifespan is only about a year.

Humans can do a lot to help this bird flourish by creating nesting habitat and feeders and gardening to attract cardinals and other song birds year around.


Northern Cardinal Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia wiki/NorthernCardinal

Images courtesy of

1. Northern_Cardinal Male

2. Northern_Cardinal_Pair

3. Northern Cardinal Female

Image # 4 courtesy of male cardinal feeding young

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