Northern CardinalCardinalis cardinalis

adult male
Glenn Bartley/VIREO
adult female
Rick and Nora Bowers/VIREO
adult female
Rolf Nussbaumer/VIREO
adult male
Glenn Bartley/VIREO
adult male
Rolf Nussbaumer/VIREO
Northern Cardinal



8-9" (20-23 cm). Male bright red with crest, black face, stout red bill. Female buff-brown tinged with red on crest, wings, and tail.


Rich what-cheer, cheer, cheer; purty-purty-purty-purty or sweet-sweet-sweet-sweet. Also a metallic chip.


calls & song of courting pair
songs #5
songs #3
songs #1
tink calls (alarm)
songs #4
encounter calls
songs #2
pair song duet (female sings first)
calls & song with churr


Woodland edges, thickets, brushy swamps, and gardens.


Resident in eastern United States and southern Canada (locally) south to Gulf Coast, and from southern California, Arizona, and southern Texas southward.


This species, named after the red robes worn by Roman Catholic cardinals, has extended its range northward into southern Canada in recent decades. Cardinals are aggressive birds that occupy territories year-round. Both sexes are accomplished songsters and may be heard at any time of year, rather than just in the spring when most other birds are singing. Seeds form a main part of the diet, although insects are eaten in the breeding season. These birds often come to feeders in winter.


3 or 4 pale green eggs, spotted with red-brown, in a deep cup of twigs, leaves, and plant fibers concealed in a thicket.

Similar Species

adult male

Hepatic Tanager

7-8" (18-20 cm). Male is a subdued orange-brick color, darker than Summer Tanager. Both sexes have dark bill and ear patch.

adult male, breeding

Scarlet Tanager

7 1/2" (19 cm). In breeding plumage, male brilliant scarlet with black wings and tail. In nonbreeding plumage, female and male olive green; male has black wings.

adult male, Eastern

Summer Tanager

7-8" (18-20 cm). Male solid rose-red with pale bill. Female pale olive green above, dull yellow below. Male Northern Cardinal has black face, conical red bill, and crest. See Hepatic Tanager.

adult male


7 1/2-8 1/2" (19-22 cm). Male gray with rose-red breast, crest, wings, and tail. Female similar but paler, and lacks red on the breast. Stubby, parrot-like, yellow bill.


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