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What Is Kentucky’s State Bird? How Was It Decided?

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northern cardinal landed on a wood

Each of the 50 states has its own state bird, and Kentucky is no exception. The legislature picked the northern cardinal, sometimes referred to as the Kentucky cardinal, as the state bird almost 100 years ago.

But why did Kentucky name the northern cardinal as its state bird, and how do these birds act? We break it all down for you here.

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What Is Kentucky’s State Bird?

Kentucky’s state bird is the northern cardinal, like many other states. Kentucky is right in the middle of the northern cardinal’s range, and the bird is a year-long resident of the state.

Furthermore, due to their striking colors and beautiful appearance, this is a beloved bird that bird watchers enjoy spotting. This makes them quite popular and likely why Kentucky picked them as its state bird!

male northern cardinal perched

Image Credit: JackBulmer, Pixabay

How Did Kentucky Decide Its State Bird?

There are few states as sure of its state bird as Kentucky. It made the northern cardinal the state bird twice! The first time was on February 26, 1926, and it did it again in 1942.

Today, the image of the northern cardinal is peppered throughout the state due to the University of Louisville having a cardinal as their mascot, along with various high schools.

What Other States Have a Cardinal as Their State Bird?

Kentucky is not the only state that has the northern cardinal as its official state bird. In fact, the northern cardinal is the most common state bird in the United States, with seven different states adopting it: Illinois, Indiana, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, West Virginia, and of course, Kentucky. The northern cardinal is certainly a loved little bird, and Kentucky isn’t the only state to cherish it!

Northern Cardinal Behaviors

The northern cardinal is a small yet territorial songbird with a wide range across North America. They proliferate throughout the central and eastern United States and most of Mexico.

They’re extremely active, and both the male and female cardinal will sing. While courting, the male will feed females beak to beak, and they will lay two to four clutches of eggs each year.

They are territorial during the breeding season, and they’ll go after just about any bird that comes into their range. They’re so territorial, in fact, they’ll often confuse themselves and go after their own reflection to try to drive it off!

male northern cardinal perching

Image Credit: FotoRequest, Shutterstock

How to Attract the Northern Cardinal to Bird Feeders

There are a few different things that you can do to increase the chances of attracting northern cardinals to your yard. The first is to put out their favorite food.

Northern cardinals love safflower, suet, and sunflower seeds, but they’ll also chow down on berries, peanuts, and cracked corn.

Second, put out a birdbath so they have a place to cool off and drink from. Finally, northern cardinals need a place to make a nest, and they love evergreen trees. So, if you’re trying to attract a northern cardinal to your yard, having a few of these trees around is a great way to increase your chances!

Final Thoughts

The northern cardinal is a beloved bird throughout a large portion of the United States, and seven different states have named it their official state bird. It’s a small and beautiful red bird that you can find in Kentucky no matter the season!

Having a few in your yard is a visual treat, but they also sing beautiful songs that are a joy to listen to throughout the year!


Featured Image Credit: JackBulmer, Pixabay

About the Author Robert Sparks

Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.

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