15 Cardinal Bird Facts You Didn’t Know (2022)

Tori Rhodes
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Male cardinals get their red feathers from food

The red feathers of the male cardinal are derived from carotenoid pigments in the food the bird consumes.

Low amounts of carotenoid pigment in a diet results in a yellowish plumage while a diet with high amounts of carotenoids results in a bright red, plumage.

Consequently, a fluctuation in the nutritional value of the food results in a change in color in the plumage.

To maintain a deep red plumage, the male must consume 15-20 percent of his body weight in seeds daily.

Consequently, a female cardinal’s color is usually more subdued, since the female bird requires much less food to maintain plumage coloration.

Cardinals are omnivores

Meaning they eat plants and meat.

If you put food out for Wild Birds in Winter, Cardinals will likely be included, as will Chickadees, Titmice, and Starlings. These four birds may be the only ones you see in cold weather.

All of these species are omnivores, meaning they eat plants AND meat. In summer, Cardinals eat worms, grasshoppers, crickets, and seed. Each of these food groups is full of protein.

In winter, about 80% of their diet is seeds, fruits, berries, and even nuts. They are also known to eat small mice and birds. Even though they are meat eaters, they do not kill their food. They rely on the ground to be filled with a steady supply of prey.

Some cardinals suffer from bird “baldness”

Birds have a regular molt cycle. They grow feathers in certain layers and will eventually shed those feathers once they are not longer growing. A cardinal can have an entirely new set of feathers in a matter of weeks.

Male cardinals can never have too many red feathers. Because birds can’t produce more pigment in their feathers, the males will become more reddish as the bird cycles.

Young cardinals are not purple as they get older, but the more red they get, the less they molt.

Your cardinal bird may also not be a cardinal cardinal. In fact, there are 17 recognized species of cardinal birds. Do a quick Google search for that one!

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Cardinals are non-migratory birds

It’s impressive that, unlike most other wood perching birds, cardinals do not migrate from one place to another. These birds spend their whole lives in the place where they are born. They don’t migrate to other regions in order to escape the cold and brutal winter weather or to find better food supplies.

Their favorite season is spring when cardinals mate and build nests. However, they avoid the summer by staying in the hollow of a tree or in a shrub and a find a cool place under a roof to simmer from the scorching summer sun.

Cardinals were named after the Catholic Bishops

Cardinals are always recognizable by their red body. This is because of their food source.

Cardinals are a seed-eating bird and the pigments in the seeds produced a bright, glossy red in their feathers.

So what is the connection between Cardinals and the Catholic Church? Both were named after the Roman Catholic Church. Specifically the Cardinals are named after the red robes that Catholic bishops wear.

Cardinals are one of the only bird species that can remember their winter home every year. When the cold winter months finally come, Cardinals will begin their flight back home to spend the winter months sleeping in a cozy nest.

Cardinals are also able to return to their home with exceptional accuracy.

As an experiment, scientist took a group of Cardinals and flew them over 100 miles south of their original location. Without any hesitation, the Cardinals flew back to their original backyard.

However, their home wasn’t the same. They had moved their nest and built it in a completely new location. Typically, bird species always stay in the same nesting spot every year to reduce the risk of predation.

The migration ability of Cardinals is seriously remarkable!

If you live in an area with a large population of Cardinals, they will often avoid competing with each other for scarce food.

In fact, Cardinals will often feast together with different species of birds than their own.

Cardinals voluntarily cover themselves with ants

Cardinals are more likely to choose to live in and around anthills. They feed on the ants and also enjoy the protection that the ants give them from predators. While it is not uncommon to see the dark orange birds in anthills, what’s interesting is that the birds also cover themselves with ants!

If you’re having your breakfast on an ant-friendly table and try to go to grab a donut, I’m sure you’ll make a fuss. But for the poor birds, they even give an ant-exempt to the eggs.

The mothers coat the eggs with ants to keep off the predators, especially snakes. The ants are not only used as natural sunscreen; they also serve as bed sheets to trap the eggs from any moisture that might get through and keep them free from parasites.

The Cardinal is a symbol of confidence and balance

Cardinal birds are abundant with varying sizes. Females and males have almost the same size with females slightly smaller than the male.

The size of the bird grows more in winter and less in summer. Bright red feathers make them recognizable and symbolize their confidence.

It is believed that their brilliant red colors represent the fire and passion that every woman desires in a man.

Like many birds, they also wear weight on the back of their head and spend most of the day foraging in the ground for worms, insects and other small prey.

In fact, cardinals can be easily located in the cold season since they usually make their nests on trees with plenty of leaves for protection from the weather.

The cardinals use their sharply pointed beaks to crush seeds and other hard packed foods. This is harmful to humans so if you see a cardinal stealing food from your feeder, switch to a bird feeder that has small openings.

Cardinal birds communicate through singing and sound. Their voice is similar to that of a song bird.

During courtship, males will carry food to the females and sing for them. The male also uses its bright colors to attract a female.

Cardinals mate for life

Cardinals are among the few birds that mate for life. The male and female are monogamous and remain bonded together for the duration of their lives.

The female cardinal builds the nest and incubates the eggs. She then takes care of the young until they can fly on their own.

The male bird supplements the diet of the female and the young birds feeding them insects most of the time.

Apart from the blue color, there are 13 other types of cardinals. The scarlet Mexican cardinal is native to the desert regions in Mexico and the northern parts of South American countries like Guyana.

The male scarlet cardinal can be identified through being a little smaller in size than the male blue cardinal and having a reddish-brown color instead of blue.

Female cardinals sing to tell the males when they need food

Learning about the cardinals is every bird watcher’s dream. The male is known to be one of the most charismatic and beautiful creatures on earth. The female, on the other hand, is a bird that rarely gets the attention she deserves.

This is the reason I decided to share some of the interesting cardinals facts that are little known or even unknown to many.

Female cardinals are all green birds and are not quite as colorful as the males.

This is why many consider the females to be the drab cardinals, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. according to birder Alan Schorner, for every male there is 1.1 female cardinals.

The female cardinals are actually the ones who get all the attention and the ones that the males are trying to impress.

The reason for this is because female cardinals have the ability to choose which male they would like to mate with.

They are also the ones who build the nests and lay the eggs.

It is said that female cardinals sing to the males to tell when they need to be fed. After all, the male cardinals are notoriously bad at good parenting.

They don’t help at all with nest building or with the raising of chicks.

Cardinals are named as a state bird of seven states

In the U.S. and are protected under U.S. federal law. One of the major reasons why the Cardinal bird is so popular is the broad range of vocalizations that it can make.

Cardinal birds can make calls similar to that of a crickets, frogs, canaries, and even dogs. They have the ability, to imitate human, dog, and cat as well.

They are territorial and have the habit of staying near their own. However, they have a strong sense of kinship, and if one finds itself alone, it will look for other birds and flock. When it does manage to find a flock, it will often show a behavior that looks like it is giving a head salute, fluff up its feathers, and raise its crest.

Cardinals can live up to 15 years

Each year, an estimated sixty million visitors flock to the bird feeding stations of America. They come to get a look at the red bird with the black suit and a beak to match.

Cardinals are the most common red bird in the United States. They are beautiful and striking, with a habit of singing at dawn to welcome the new day.

If you’re lucky enough to call cardinal birds home birds, you may fall in love with them as soon as you see them. Here are fifteen facts about this fascinating bird that you might not know.

During winter they tend to create big flocks

One of the amazing facts about cardinals is that when winter arrives, they tend to form some large flocks. These flocks tend to have close to one thousand cardinals in each one of them and these flocks can travel considerable distances in search of food.

Because of this, it is not terribly rare to see flight patterns of cardinals in the northern United States especially during the winter.

Cardinals are very territorial

The Cardenal’s territorial behavior extends even to humans. They will aggressively attack any intruder that threatens their territory and themselves.

This is one reason that they are the perfect guard bird. They are very aware and territorial and will attack intruders to defend their own territory. Cardenals are also great protectors for children.

If you have a field with cardinals involved, there are usually no raccoons, skunks, or even cats bothering them. They are a great asset to have in a field of young chicks or a goat or cow with newborn. A cardinal will promptly chase off the animal intruders.

Cardinals are under The Migratory Bird Treaty Act

Which means you cannot just have them in your home.

The average length of The Great-Crested Cardinal is 11 inches.

Cardinals eat seeds, berries, fruits, caterpillars, crickets, and spiders. They will also eat grain, cracked corn, and peanuts.

They also eat some vegetables like red-leaf lettuce, pumpkin, and tomatoes.

Cardinals can eat day and night, although they prefer to eat at mid-day.

They will even eat meals hanging upside-down.

A Cardinal cannot see very well, so they use their sense of hearing and smell.

A Cardinal’s color changes depending on the season.

They are gray in the winter.

They turn a rusty brown in the spring and summer.

Their wings are red-orange in the fall.

Their average lifespan is about 5 years.

Cardinals usually travel in pairs.

Cardinals are more active at dawn and dusk.

Cardinals are the second most popular bird for people to own and breed.

They are the official bird of 7 states.

The Red Cardinal was voted as the official bird in 1939 in Rhode Island.

Their scientific name is Cardinalis cardinalis.

There are 19 cardinal subspecies

Even though the American cardinal is a species, it is actually a member of the genus Cardinalis and is also part of the family called Cardinalidae. This is because of the 19 subspecies the cardinal is divided into. 15 of these subspecies are found in North America while four are from the Caribbean. In spite of which subspecies they are classified into, they all look very similar to one another, which is why it’s hard to tell the difference between them.