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Northern Cardinal

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The Northern Cardinal is a very popular, attractive song bird. Home owners and bird watchers rate this bird at the top of their list of favorite birds.

Cardinals are year round residents, that will frequently visit your bird feeder. Usually, seen in pairs, make sure to have your camera ready.


Northern Cardinal Identification:

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These eight inch birds are easy to spot. You will usually see them in pairs. Both male and female have a black mask on their face, a crested head, and a small, cone-shaped beak.

Male cardinals (above) are a right red. The female (below) is a brownish, or olive color, with a dull red color on her wings and tail.

Cardinals bear two broods a year. The female has her nest in small trees, bushes or shrubs. She lays four eggs, which hatch in 12 days. Hatchlings are fed primarily insects. The babies are in the nest for just 11 days.  

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Northern Cardinal Habitat and Diet:

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Northern Cardinals range across most of the continental U.S. east of the Rocky Mountains. They live near, but not in, woodlands. They frequently take up residence around homes and buildings, living year round in one area. They do not migrate. They are very territorial.

The Cardinal's diet includes:

  • Seeds: sunflower, safflower, cracked corn, and millet. They are one of the few birds that like safflower. You can use safflower to attract them to your bird feeder.

  • Fruit - a wide variety

  • Grains

  • Insects -  this is the primary diet of hatchlings.

  • Breads

Cardinals prefer platform feeders. Their short beaks do not allow them to get seeds from some feeders.

Cardinal pairs protect each other, usually taking turns at the feeder. Often one bird will eat at a feeder, while the other "stands guard" in a nearby tree. If a predator approaches, the bird in the tree sends out a warning.

See Bird Seed Feeding Chart.

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