With its instantly recognizable bright red or reddish tan plumage, jaunty head crest, and distinctive face mask, the northern cardinal is one of the most desirable backyard birds in North America.
Northern Cardinal Distribution:
Northern cardinals are common throughout the eastern United States from Maine to Florida and spanning west to southern Minnesota, Nebraska, Texas, and the east half of Mexico. They also live in northeastern Canada: Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia.
Look for Northern Cardinals in inhabited areas such as backyards, parks, woodlots, and shrubby forest edges. Northern Cardinals nest in dense tangles of shrubs and vines.
Northern Cardinal in the backyard:
These birds are omnivorous. They will eat many different food sources, including insects, seeds, fruit, nuts, sap, berries, cracked corn, and suet. And they can be shy and skittish at feeders and may be easily spooked by larger or more unruly birds such as grackles or jays.
Distinguish between male and female Northern Cardinals:
Male cardinals are brilliant red all over, with a reddish bill and black face immediately around the bill. Females are pale brown overall with warm reddish tinges in the wings, tail, and crest. They have the same black face and red-orange bill.
①Both male and female northern cardinals are adept songsters, and males, in particular, may sing year-round. Females often sing while sitting on the nest, which may communicate the need for more food to their mates. Females also often have more elaborate songs than males. One cardinal may have more than a dozen song variations, and different geographic populations often have quite different songs.
②The male often feeds the female as part of their courtship behavior.