About The Cardinal

The cardinal or cardinalidae, is a family of birds found in North and South America. They are named for the red plumage of the male of its most common species – the Northern Cardinal. The male northern cardinals are known for their bright, deep red plumage and their black faces. The female northern cardinal are of a more subdued color mostly light brown or dull red with gray brown or reddish tints found on their wings and tail feathers. Both male and female Northern cardinals have bright red beaks and prominent raised crests. Juvenile cardinals, even if male, have the same plumage as female adults until the young males molt and grow their brighter adult male feathers.

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The Cardinal Nesting Preferences

The Northern cardinal builds it nest on dense shrubbery and small trees. The nests are usually placed 1 to 15 feet above ground and are made of twigs, bark strips, leaves, roots, and paper. The nests are lined with vines, grass, and hair. Only the female northern cardinal builds the nest while the male cardinal sticks close by to protect their territory. The female cardinal lays 2 to 5 eggs that are white in color but heavily speckled with light brown to dark brown marks. The female cardinal also incubates the eggs alone while the male cardinal continues to guard the territory and find food feeding himself and the female bird as well.

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Building a Birdhouse For The Cardinal

Northern cardinals are very popular backyard birds. To attract these birds to your backyard the best type of bird feeder to build is the Hopper style feeder. Hopper feeder dimensions are: 9 ½ “ x 11 ½” (floor), 9 ½ “ (height). The feeder should provide solid footing. Recommended feed is sunflower seeds.

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The Cardinal Mating Habits

Cardinals like to “mate feed”. During mate feeding the male cardinal picks up a seed, hops over to the female bird, briefly touches beaks with her before the female takes the food. The ritual of mate feeding continues from the start of courtship till the end of the incubation period. Cardinals remain faithful to their pair for till the end of breeding season.

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The Cardinal Feeding Preferences

The cardinal’s diet consists mostly of seeds, fruit, insects, and small animals like worms and lizards. Due to their beautiful plumage cardinals are among the most popular birds to feed and attract. Since they are non-migratory, cardinals will stay in the same area year round as long as there is adequate shelter and food. For this reason, plenty of people set up birdhouses and feeders for them. The cardinal’s seem to like white prosso millet and safflower seeds but especially like peanuts and sunflower seeds.

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Interesting Cardinal Facts

  • The Northern Cardinal is called the “state bird” in the United States because it holds the records for holding that title in the most number of states – 7. The states include North Carolina, West Virginia, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, and Virginia.
  • The brighter red the plumage of a cardinal is the more reproductive success he has. Brighter red males also have better territories in terms of vegetation than dull ones and usually feed at faster rates.

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