The Northern Cardinal is one of the most familiar and easily recognizable birds in North America! And it’s easy to see why! Cardinals have an incredible combination of being easy to see in your backyard and breathtaking plumage. In my opinion, the Northern Cardinal can be credited with drawing more people into the hobby of bird feeding and birding than any other species. But these fascinating birds have much more to their story than pretty feathers! From sports teams to state birds to being dedicated parents and partners, cardinals have some interesting facts.
Facts about Cardinals
- Cardinals are typically the first bird to visit feeders in the morning and the last to visit in the evenings.While ornithologists aren’t entirely sure why this is the case, they believe it may be related to lower competition with other birds at the feeders during dawn and dusk. Males may also appear more inconspicuous in low light conditions providing them some security from natural predators.
- The Northern Cardinal’s name dates back to the time of the United States founding colonists, stemming from the similarity of the males’ vibrant red plumage to the red biretta and vestments of distinguishable Catholic cardinals.
- Northern Cardinals are classified as granivorous animals because they live on a diet consisting of mostly seeds. Their short, stout, cone-shaped beaks are specially designed to crack open the hulls on seeds and shells on nuts.
- Due to their love of seeds, you can easily attract cardinals to your feeders by using either sunflower seeds (their favorite!), safflower seeds, cracked corn, or shelled peanuts.
- During courtship, affection is expressed by the males feeding their females seeds in a method known as “beak to beak.” If you choose to let your imagination run wild, you could certainly say that the birds look like they are kissing!
- Occasionally, a lack of the typical red pigment in the plumage occurs and is replaced by vibrant yellow or orangish pigments, which results in a yellow cardinal. The appearance of vibrant yellow Northern Cardinals is typically caused by a genetic plumage variation called xanthochroism.
- It’s incredibly rare to see a yellow cardinal, but when it happens, it becomes a national news story for bird lovers!
- The average lifespan of a Northern Cardinal is approximately three years due to the hazards they face, which include predators, disease, accidents, and starvation.
- But the oldest recorded wild Northern Cardinal lived to be 15 years and 9 months. This female was banded as a young bird and tracked in Pennsylvania.
- The Northern Cardinal is a popular mascot for many sports teams! They represent two professional teams; the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team and the Arizona Cardinals NFL team.
- Unfortunately, the cardinal is often portrayed incorrectly on logos, such as displaying a yellow beak or legs.
- In the winter months, Northern Cardinals forego their territorial ways and congregate together to form flocks. A group looking for food collectively is more successful than a single cardinal or pair. These flocks can be called a college, conclave, deck, radiance, or Vatican of cardinals.
These are some interesting facts about Cardinal birds.