This beautiful photo of a Northern Cardinal was taken by Ellie Conover, Saratoga Springs, New York.

We don’t have Cardinals in Northern California. The range of this colorful bird is Southern Quebec to the Gulf States, northeast US south through Florida, southwest United States, and Mexico to Belize. The Northern Cardinal is also found in the Hawaiian Islands. Habitat loss in southeastern California, at the edge of the cardinal’s range, may cause the disappearance of the cardinal population there.

If you like birds and birdwatching you might enjoy becoming a member of Project FeederWatch. The gift of a Project FeederWatch membership for a bird loving friend or family member is rewarding and educational. Memberships are only $15.00.

Give the Gift of FeederWatch

Are you looking for a gift for a friend or family member who loves birds? If so, consider sending the gift of FeederWatch. Signing a friend up for Project FeederWatch makes a great gift. In addition to a winter of backyard bird education, the recipient will receive the full FeederWatch research kit including the FeederWatch calendar, the Common Feeder Birds poster, and the FeederWatcher’s Handbook. Your gift recipient will also receive a one-year subscription to BirdScope, the newsletter of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, or BirdWatch Canada, the newsletter of Bird Studies Canada. When you give the gift of FeederWatch, we will send the recipient a note along with the research kit indicating that the kit has been sent as a gift by you.

Hurry for delivery by Christmas

It takes about three weeks for kits to arrive in the mail. In order for the gift recipient to receive the FeederWatch research kit by Christmas, you must order by Monday, November 29.

To order in the US:

Go to our online store and follow the instructions for giving a gift, or call during the day toll free at 1-866-989-2473.

To order in Canada:

Go to Bird Studies Canada’s online store and select the type of membership you would like. Be sure to click on “Yes I plan on participating in Project FeederWatch” and make a kit selection. Please indicate who the gift is for on the check out page and be sure to add a note in the comment section to personalize your gift. Or call toll free at 1-888-448-2473.

Cool Facts

  • Only a few female North American songbirds sing, but the female Northern Cardinal does, and often while sitting on the nest. This may give the male information about when to bring food to the nest. A mated pair shares song phrases, but the female may sing a longer and slightly more complex song than the male.
  • Many people are perplexed each spring by the sight of a cardinal attacking its reflection in a window, car mirror, or shiny bumper. Both males and females do this, and most often in spring and early summer when they are obsessed with defending their territory against any intruders. Birds may spend hours fighting these intruders without giving up. A few weeks later, as levels of aggressive hormones subside, these attacks should end (though one female kept up this behavior every day or so for six months without stopping).
  • The male cardinal fiercely defends its breeding territory from other males. When a male sees its reflection in glass surfaces, it frequently will spend hours fighting the imaginary intruder.
  • A perennial favorite among people, the Northern Cardinal is the state bird of seven states.
  • The oldest recorded Northern Cardinal was 15 years 9 months old.

Northern Cardinals eat mainly seeds and fruit, supplementing these with insects (and feeding nestlings mostly insects). Common fruits and seeds include dogwood, wild grape, buckwheat, grasses, sedges, mulberry, hackberry, blackberry, sumac, tulip-tree, and corn. Cardinals eat many kinds of birdseed, particularly black oil sunflower seed. They also eat beetles, crickets, katydids, leafhoppers, cicadas, flies, centipedes, spiders, butterflies, and moths.

 The first introduction of Northern Cardinal to Hawaii took place in 1929, when one of a pair escaped from a cage in Honolulu and its mate was subsequently liberated. This pair was supposedly observed later across the island in Waialua but we suspect other individuals were involved. Between 1929 and 1931 HBAF, the Hui Manu, and other groups released 300-350 additional cardinals from San Francisco on Kaua’i, O’ahu, and Hawai’i Island, from which they apparently spread naturally to colonize all other Southeastern Islands by the 1940-1960s. They are found throughout disturbed lowland forests and gardens, and (less commonly) in native forests up to 2300 m elevation, being most common in dry, open, lowland forests with grassy or shrubby understories.