Northern Cardinal

Silhouette CardinalsCardinals

Northern Cardinal

Cardinalis cardinalis
  • ORDER: Passeriformes
  • FAMILY: Cardinalidae
Basic Description

The male Northern Cardinal is perhaps responsible for getting more people to open up a field guide than any other bird. They’re a perfect combination of familiarity, conspicuousness, and style: a shade of red you can’t take your eyes off. Even the brown females sport a sharp crest and warm red accents. Cardinals don’t migrate and they don’t molt into a dull plumage, so they’re still breathtaking in winter’s snowy backyards. In summer, their sweet whistles are one of the first sounds of the morning.

More ID Info
image of range map for Northern CardinalRange map provided by Birds of North AmericaExplore Maps

Find This Bird

The brilliant red of a male Northern Cardinal calls attention to itself when males are around. You can also find cardinals by getting a sense of the warm, red-tinged brown of females – a pattern you can learn to identify in flight. Away from backyards, cardinals are still common but inconspicuous owing to their affinity for dense tangles. Listen for their piercing chip notes to find where they are hiding.

Other Names
  • Cardenal Norteño (Spanish)
  • Cardinal rouge (French)

Backyard Tips

Nearly any bird feeder you put out ought to attract Northern Cardinals (as long as you live within their range), but they particularly seem to use sunflower seeds. Leave undergrowth in your backyard or around the edges, and you may have cardinals nesting on your property. Find out more about what this bird likes to eat and what feeder is best by using the Project FeederWatch Common Feeder Birds bird list.

  • Cool Facts