Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)

Northern Cardinal

[order] PASSERIFORMES | [family] Cardinalidae | [latin] Cardinalis cardinalis | [UK] Northern Cardinal | [FR] Cardinal rouge | [DE] Rotkardinal | [ES] Cardenal norteno | [NL] Rode Kardinaal


Genus Species subspecies Breeding Range Breeding Range 2 Non Breeding Range
Cardinalis cardinalis NA, MA e, s, sw USA, Mexico
Cardinalis cardinalis affinis
Cardinalis cardinalis canicaudus
Cardinalis cardinalis cardinalis
Cardinalis cardinalis carneus
Cardinalis cardinalis clintoni
Cardinalis cardinalis coccineus
Cardinalis cardinalis flammiger
Cardinalis cardinalis floridanus
Cardinalis cardinalis igneus
Cardinalis cardinalis littoralis
Cardinalis cardinalis magnirostris
Cardinalis cardinalis mariae
Cardinalis cardinalis phillipsi
Cardinalis cardinalis saturatus
Cardinalis cardinalis seftoni
Cardinalis cardinalis sinaloensis
Cardinalis cardinalis superbus
Cardinalis cardinalis townsendi
Cardinalis cardinalis yucatanicus

Physical charateristics

Male: An all-red bird with a pointed crest and a black patch at the base of its heavy, triangular red bill. Female:
Buff-brown, with some red on the wings and tail. The crest, dark face, and heavy red bill are distinctive. Immature: Similar to the female, but with a blackish bill.

Listen to the sound of Northern Cardinal

[audio: Cardinal.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 25 cm wingspan max.: 31 cm
size min.: 21 cm size max.: 23 cm
incubation min.: 11 days incubation max.: 13 days
fledging min.: 7 days fledging max.: 13 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 2  
      eggs max.: 5  


North America, Middle America : East, South, Southwest USA, Mexico


Woodland edges, thickets, suburban gardens, towns, desert washes.
Found in a wide variety of brushy or semi-open habitats in the East, from forest clearings and swamps to city parks, almost anywhere there are some dense bushes for nesting. In the Southwest, more local; occurs in tall brush, streamside thickets, groves
of mesquites in desert.


Male sings to defend nesting territory, actively attacking intruding males (and attacking his own reflection in windows and mirrors). In courtship, male and female raise heads high, sway back and forth while singing softly; male often feeds female early i
n breeding season. Female sings mainly in spring before start of nesting.
Nest: Usually well hidden in dense shrubs, vines, or low trees, placed 3-10′ above ground, sometimes higher. Nest (built by female) is open cu
p made of twigs, weeds, grass, bark strips, leaves, rootlets, lined with fine grass or hair.
Eggs: 3-4, sometimes 2-5. Whitish to pale bluish or greenish white, marked with brown, purple, and gray. Incubation is almost always by female alone, 12-13 days.
Young: Both parents feed nestlings. Young leave nest about 9-11 days after hatching. Male may feed fledglings while female begins next nesting attempt. 2-3 broods per year, rarely 4.

Feeding habits

Mostly seeds, insects, berries.
Diet is quite varied. Feeds on many insects, including beetles, true bugs, grasshoppers, caterpillars, ants, flies, and many others, also spiders, centipedes, and snails. Most of diet is vegetable matter, including seeds of weeds and grasses, waste grain
, leaf buds, flowers, and many berries and wild fruits. Young are fed mostly insects.
Behavior: Forages mostly while hopping on ground or in low bushes, sometimes higher in trees. Readily comes to bird feeders, where it favors sunflower seeds.


This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be stable, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Northern Cardinal status Least Concern


Southern Quebec and Ontario to Gulf States; southwestern United States, Mexico to Belize. Migration: Permanent resident throughout its range.

Distribution map

Northern Cardinal distribution range map

1 Comment

Add a Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *