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Bird watching can be tons of fun, and the Northern Cardinal is one of the best choices to watch because it’s easy to find anywhere in the eastern United States and its bright-red color makes it easy to identify. If you would like to learn more about these birds, keep reading as we provide several interesting and fun Northern Cardinal facts.
While no one is sure why, many Cardinals only visit feeders early in the morning and late at night. Some believe that it’s due to less competition at the feeder during these times, while others think that the low-light conditions help dampen the bright colors of the Cardinal to protect them from predators.
The original colonists who arrived in the United States named the birds after the Catholic Cardinal, who wore similar bright-red colors.
The Northern Cardinal primarily eat seeds, so you can often see them at bird feeders, especially ones with sunflower seeds. These birds also enjoy safflower seeds, shelled peanuts, and cracked corn.
The male Cardinal will express his love for the female by feeding her seeds beak to beak. To the casual observer, this action makes it look like the two birds are kissing.
While most Cardinals have bright-red feathers, a few lack the red pigment, resulting in a bright-yellow or -orange Cardinal. However, these birds are rare.
Unfortunately, Cardinals in the wild usually only live about 3 years due to the many dangers that they face each day. Birds of prey often hunt Cardinals, and they are also susceptible to various diseases. Accidents and starvation can also reduce the population and shorten their lifespan.
Many sports teams use the Northern Cardinal as a mascot, including the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team and the Arizona Cardinals football team. It’s also the mascot for the University of Louisville, Lamar University, Concordia University, and many others.
The Northern Cardinals tend to behave territorially during the spring and summer, especially when breeding. However, once the temperature drops, they become much more friendly and congregate in flocks to work together to find food and stay warm.
The hormone levels of male Cardinals increase during the breeding season, and they become extremely territorial. They will attack any intruders, including humans that they feel are getting too close for comfort during this time. Many people have even observed them attacking themselves when they notice their reflection in a window or mirror.
When a Northern Cardinal is close by, you will hear it say “birdie-birdie-birdie” or “cheer-cheer-cheer.” These calls are easy to recognize once you hear them, so you will always know when one is nearby.
There are two other kinds of cardinals besides the Northern Cardinal. One is the Vermilion Cardinal and the other is the Pyrrhuloxia. Both types reside in southern climates.
The Northern Cardinal prefers to team up to form a community to survive the winter instead of migrating south like many other birds. It’s usually easier to find food because they primarily eat seeds and nuts instead of fruits, grains, or insects.
Once the Northern Cardinal finds a mate, they stay together year-round and may stay together even longer if both birds remain healthy.
After the female lays her eggs, she incubates them until they hatch, while the male stays vigilant about defending his territory from intruders. When the coast is clear, he will look for food to feed his family.
The female tends to sing frequently in the nest, and Cardinals in general tend to have elaborate songs, with some birds singing as many as two dozen different melodies. Their vocal patterns also vary slightly depending on the region where they live.
Molting is a process that many birds go through to replenish their damaged feathers, and Cardinals do it every year. When molting, the birds can lose some or all of their feathers and may appear sick. However, the feathers will grow back soon, and everything will return to normal.
A female Northern Cardinal has a brown body with red highlights on the wings, tail, and cap.
Cardinals are attractive birds that are easy to find in the eastern United States. They will visit feeders without coaxing if you put them in well-sheltered spots and if they contain plenty of black sunflower seeds, which are their favorite. If you see both male and female Cardinals on your property, there’s a good chance that you will see them year after year. Add a birdbath, and remove any reflective surfaces to create a more comfortable environment.
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Featured Image Credit: TheBirdBird, Pixabay
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Ed Malaker is a veteran writer who contributes to a wide range of blogs covering information on computer programming, pets, birding, tools, fitness, guitars, and optics. Outside of writing, Ed is often found working in the garden or performing DIY projects in the house. Ed is also a musician, spending his time composing music for independent films or helping people repair their guitars.
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