Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)

Photograph of the Northern Cardinal

TPWD ©

Description
Male northern cardinals are bright red medium sized birds with head crests, black bibs and masks and cone-shaped reddish bills. Females are light brown with reddish wings.
Life History
Bright red with a pointed head crest and black bib, male cardinals are always a welcome sight at bird feeders. Cardinals are year-round residents in the eastern two-thirds of Texas. They prefer thick underbrush for nesting. Cardinals have been expanding their range northward.

Both male and female cardinals sing almost year-round. Common calls include "cheer cheer cheer", "whit-chew whit-chew whit-chew" and "purty purty purty". Cardinals eat seeds, fruit, and insects, and are easily attracted to bird feeders, especially those containing sunflower seeds.

Male cardinals vigorously defend their territory. They have been known to attack their reflections in mirrors, windows and chrome. Sometimes they will even attack small red objects they mistake for other males. Females usually sing after males establish territory but before nesting starts. A cardinal's nest consists of a tightly woven cup of roots, stems and twigs lined with fine grass and hair.

Cardinals are colorful, tolerant of people, have pleasant calls, and are easily attracted to bird feeders. That has made them a favorite of backyard birdwatchers all over the eastern half of the U.S. Cardinals may form winter flocks of 60-70 birds. Their bright plumage brings color to our yards during the winter when many other species have flown south.
Distribution
Northern cardinals are found throughout the eastern half of the U.S. and most of Mexico. They have recently been expanding their ranges north and southwest.
Other
Legend has it the brightly-colored male inspired the name for this bird, reminding people of cardinals in the Catholic Church who wore bright, red robes. Seven states have chosen the cardinal as their state bird: Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and West Virginia.

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