Northern Cardinal

Cardinalis cardinalis




Cardinals & Piranga Tanagers (Cardinalidae)

Code 4


Code 6



Egg Color:

Green, blue or gray with purple and brown marks.

Number of Eggs:

3 - 4

Incubation Days:

12 - 13

Egg Incubator:


Nest Location:

Nest is 0 to 15 feet above ground.

Nest Material:

Twigs, weeds,grass,bark strips, and leaves, lined with hair and grass.





Northern Cardinal: Familiar heavy-billed, crested songbird. Male is solid red with a black mask and chin. Female is brownish gray with red wings and tail washed with gray, and smaller crest. Juvenile resembler female but has smaller crest and dark bill. Forages on the ground, in trees and bushes. Feeds on seeds, grains, fruits, insects and snails; frequent feeder visitor. Hops instead of walking on the ground. Alternates rapid wing beats with wings pulled to sides.

Range and Habitat

Northern Cardinal: Native to the Nearctic region. Found throughout eastern and central North America from southern Canada into parts of Mexico and Central America. Introduced to California, Hawaii and Bermuda. Habitats include edges of woods, hedgerows, lowlands, suburban areas, swamps, streamside thickets, and vegetation around houses.

Breeding and Nesting

Northern Cardinal: Typically, these birds are monogamous. They breed from March to September. One to five white to greenish eggs are laid in a nest made of twigs, weeds, grass, bark strips and leaves, lined with hair and grass. The nest is built in a low tree or bush, usually less than five feet above the ground. Incubation ranges from 12 to 13 days and is mostly carried out by the female.

Foraging and Feeding

Northern Cardinal: These cardinals are opportunistic feeders. They forage in trees, on bushes and on the ground in open areas where wild seeds are available, including fields, meadows and forest leaf litter. They also eat insects, fruits and snails. They commonly peel grapes in their bill to remove the pulp and seed and discard the skin.

Readily Eats

Safflower, Apple Slices, Suet, Millet, Peanut Kernels, Fruit


Northern Cardinal: Sings a variety of gurgling and clear whistled melodies, with more than twenty-five different songs. Best-known phrases include "whoit cheer, whoit cheer, cheer-cheer-cheer", "cheer, whoit-whoit-whoit-whoit", "wheat-wheat-wheat-wheat", and "bir-dy,bir-dy,bir-dy,bir-dy." Female sings duets with male during courtship. Call is an abrasive metallic "chip" or "pik."

Similar Species

Northern Cardinal: Pyrrhuloxia has a yellow bill, and gray upperparts. Summer Tanager lacks crest. Scarlet Tanager has black wings.

The area of the face just below the bill.
Tufts of feathers on the head of the bird.
Parts of a Standing bird X
Head Feathers and Markings X
Parts of a Flying bird X