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10 Fun Facts About Cardinals You Didn’t Know

The Northern Cardinal is a perennial favorite of backyard birders because of its bright red colors, joyful songs and year-round presence. While those in its range might have become accustomed to these prominent birds, the birds should be marveled every day for so many reasons. Here are 10 interesting facts about Northern Cardinals you probably didn’t know.

1. Unlike many other songbirds in North America, both the male and female cardinals can sing. Usually, only a male songbird is capable of singing.

2. On a related note, when a female cardinal sings from the nest, it usually means she’s telling the male she needs more food.

3. The Northern Cardinal is the state bird of seven states, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and West Virginia, which is more than any other bird.

4. It is also the mascot of prominent sports teams and schools, including the St. Louis Cardinals, Arizona Cardinals, University of Louisville and many more.

5. During the courtship process, male Northern Cardinals are known to exhibit affection toward females by feeding her beak-to-beak, like this picture from one of our Facebook fans. The tender display of affection is a sight to behold.

6. The bird is named for the red plumage of the male, which was said to look similar to a Catholic cardinal’s red vestments.

Female Northern Cardinal7. The oldest Northern Cardinal ever recorded was 15 years and 9 months old.

8. During the spring, you might see a male Northern Cardinal attacking a window. It’s actually attacking his reflection in the glass because he will fiercely defend his breeding territory from intruding males.

9. When a male cardinal is attacking his reflection, it’s due to an increase in hormone levels that are so strong, it could cause the cardinal to fight his reflection for several hours.

10. The Northern Cardinal has been introduced farther west in places like Southern California and even Hawaii. Although the small population in California has been present for some time, it is in danger of disappearing due to habitat loss.

Timothy Martinez Jr. is a writer and freelance journalist. His work has been published in The Times-Picayune in New Orleans, Remapping Debate in New York City and other publications. He’s been a bird lover since he was young and currently lives in New Orleans, L.A.


  1. Love my Cardinals. They are a constant delight @ the feeding stations

  2. Very Interesting and useful!

  3. DId you know that a male cardinal will risk his life to protect his mate and babies? I saw this just a few days ago with a cat was on the prowl; the male sat on the ground and made the “broken wing” act. Years ago, I read a touching story about a cardinal pair coming into a feeder. The female was about to be attacked by a hawk, but the male flew in and gave his life for her. They mate for life. Also, they have certain “sidewalks” that they travel by. Another story I read was that a forested area was destroyed, and not having their “sidewalk” to fly by, cardinals didn’t know where to go, and died.

  4. While I knew cardinals mated for life and males were very protective, I never heard those stories. Thanks for sharing.

  5. That’s great. What bird (or person for that matter) wouldn’t want to spend its time in Hawaii!

  6. I was washing windows (tilt-out) during our lovely rain this a.m. and the Cardinals were just singing away — they were enjoying the much-needed rain, too. We have a “Mr. & Mrs.” that regularly visit our feeders right outside the kitchen window — what a way to brighten my chores!!

  7. No, let’s not be introducing Cardinals to Oregon or anywhere else. Haven’t we learned a lesson from badly gone introductions in the past? Yet it still happens with plants in backyard gardens….

  8. We live N/E of Toronto, On. Canada – we have had a pair of cardinals for several years now (year round). This week we looked out at our feeders and saw no less than 4 female & 2 male birds – is this a usual occurence? The males are darting in & out of the trees at each other, so I don’t suppose more than 1 will last through mating season. We’ve never seen this before.

  9. Thanks to you, I finally know why I’ve been RUDELY awoken every morning by a cardinal attacking my window. There is another bird pulling pieces of the window screen off for nest construction. This is actually what sparked my interest in birds. How can I be upset when they’re so cute?! Thanks for the facts!

  10. I’ve read your comments regarding a male attack a window, but we have a female cardinal that is attacking one of our living room windows, and a window in the kitchen. She has been doing this for several weeks now, and she sometimes hits so hard she falls to the ground. She starts very early in the morning and continues until dark. There is a male nearby and I have witnessed them “kissing” in the yard. I have never seen the male hit any window, can you please tell me what is up with her? We’re afraid she is going to hurt herself.

  11. Thank you very much, I appreciate your help!

  12. I love cardinals so much. The.y make me happy when i’m feeling down. I built a nice squirrel proof feeding station a few years back, faithfully kept the feeders full, and the cardinals faithfully keep coming back. numbers will always return for safflower and black oil sunflower. There is something just so spiritual about them it is said that our deceased loved ones come back as cardinals. I believe it.

  13. There is a cardinal nest in a bush right outside my window. I’m so excited and can’t wait for the chicks to hatch. I’m keeping the curtains (bedroom) closed until the chicks are gone because I don’t want to disturb the female.
    I can peek out a tiny bit to see if the female is on the nest and if she isn’t I take a couple of quick pictures 🙂

  14. Awesome

  15. wierd

  16. I spotted one during the coldest day in Massacusetts (Dec 2012) and again in August 2013. I never seem to be able to capture a picture of their beauty though.

  17. Our cardinals that live in our backyard are members of our family. I have named ours Irving and Belle and we love seeing them.There is a white butterfly that appears as well. My state is Massachusetts.

  18. I have 4 male cardinals near my feeders or eating from them,is this unusual?

  19. what is the significance of cardinals in CHRISTMAS decorations?

  20. I had cardinals in a tree right outside my BR window. They would fly away when I went to watch them. I put window tint on my windows & found it made it possible to actually stand right at the window & watch my feathered friends. I hung a feeder there & now I can sit right here with in 2 ft of them & watch them & they arent frightened away. It’s great.

  21. cool omg

  22. Wow. I’m sure it’s great to see the cardinals up close.

  23. In my imagination, sometimes I think the cardinal is singing, “Richard, Richard, Geere, Geere, Geere!

  24. Sadly to say, I don’t get to see many. Wish I could, maybe I’ll set up a feeder so they come and visit me.

  25. You should definitely put up a feeder if they’re in your area. Cardinals really brighten up the day!

  26. I get so excited to see mine, especially in the snow winter in the trees in the Pocono mtns of pa

  27. The best part about cardinals is the contrast of their red plumage against the white snow. Simply breathtaking.

  28. We used to have a female Cardinal which would attack our car mirrors, parked in the driveway, every year.

  29. I LOVE CARDINALS <3 Thy are my FAVE birds…

  30. Northern cardinals present in southern California? Oh how I wish it were true. I’ve lived in southern California for 54 years and have never seen one here. I’ve seen desert cardinals in Arizona, but they are different from northern cardinals.

  31. I bought two beautiful ferns for my daughters wedding. Bi hung them on the back patio until the wedding. I went out to see if they needed watering and a bird flew out! The bird had built a nest in the fern. Several days later I realized the birds flying in and out of the nest are cardinals! We are so excited! We have had a feeder out for several years and have seen cardinals in our backyard but never imagined they would build a nest on the patio!! I live in Texas.

  32. I have a little female who build her nest right outside my pool screen in a thyrallis bush. At first she just came for a short time every day, but now looks as tho she may be sitting on eggs. But have not seen a male anywhere near her. She leaves the nest for a short time very early in the a.m. (possibly to feed?), and then returns and sits for the rest of the day. Why no male??? What will happen when the eggs hatch as it’s usually the male who will feed them.

  33. i hate dumb cardnals

  34. i think cardnals are poop

  35. niggs

  36. Cardinals are such beautiful birds. I love to see them from the deck or my windows. They are truly amazing birds. I love waking up to the sound of there song. It is beautiful.

  37. Oh that’s sad…but the bird feeder does absolutely work. I had never even seen a cardinal until I put my bird feeder up. I kind of have the same story as Sharon except I put the bird feeder up before I saw the birds.

  38. A cardinal is very cool but I wonder why a cardinal is our state bird,why can’t it be a blue jay?Also i wonder if you can keep a cardinal for a pet?did you know that when a female cardinal sings it means that she’s telling the male to bring food to the nest…and that’s all i know right now,actually i know one more thing a cardinal is the only RED bird in the eastern North.That’s all i know this time so yeah bye.

  39. A cardinal is SUPER pretty and it has very INTRESTING facts about it….and why is cardinal our state bird why not a blue jay because were panthers not cardinals???!!!…also why is it called a cardinal and not the red bird like so they call the blue jay by its color than its name and did you know that the cardinal is the only RED BIRD in the eastern north amrica with the crest on top of his or her head isent that REALLY COOL and cardinals have mohogs if you look @ there pictures

  40. I also want to say that if you see a cardinal make a wish and it will come true.I always wanted to see a cardinal,could one of you guys tell me if u seen one

  41. I just happen to have some christmas decorations with the beautiful red cardinal picture on them. A co-worker mentioned to me that the bird was associated with death, I wanted to learn more since she wasn’t very clear in what way the cardinal bird was related to death.
    So far I’m happy to learn about the 10 facts I have found here.

  42. Yes indeed I just wanted to know about Cardinals

  43. Wow was this ever helpful to me!!!!!

  44. Ya i have!!!!

  45. I guess they call it a cardinal just ’cause…

  46. We have had many cardinals feeding at our feeders this winter until this past week. They have gone. Did they migrate further south?

  47. Hi. The story is awsome

  48. I have to do a report on a type of bird and i’m the only one doing it and i’m doing it because I LOVE CARDINALS.

  49. why would u say that i mean i know u said jk but still

  50. OMG john relax.

  51. Currently I have a three egg nest on my patio that was made in hanging glass vases with rocks in the bottom. This is the third year in a row that cardinals have put it to use for their nesting purposes. It is nearly five feet from the back entrance to the house and they have successfully hatched there the past two years and are into day 5 of this year’s incubation period. I have numerous pictures of the eggs and fledglings and a couple that capture the male and female we named Candy due to the color of her beak that looks like candy corn. I have pics to post, but have yet to find an appropriate site where they might be enjoyed.

  52. Last year we had a three egg Cardinal nest in a Hoya plant hanging on our back porch. I was excited at the prospect of seeing them hatch, but before that could happen I actually watched 2 Blue Jays alternate flying straight to the nest and one by one pick up an egg in its beak and fly off with it while the mother Cardinal was gone. I couldn’t get out there quick enough to scare those nasty birds away before they stole those eggs; that’s how fast and deliberate they were. I was heartbroken and didn’t see the Cardinals again after that.

    This year we have a three bird Cardinal nest in a Spider Plant hanging just outside our dining room window. I’ve been watching the pair since they first started scouting out a suitable nesting sight from the variety of hanging plants I have outside. I saw a Blue Jay on my back fence yesterday too close for comfort so I’ve been keeping an eye out for those nasty Jays every time I see the mama bird leave the nest for short periods throughout the day. I don’t want her efforts to raise a family being ruined once again by those murderous little demon Jays if I can help it.

    I watched the mama bird singing from the nest twice today, but I never saw the mate come by the nest at all. I haven’t seen him at all since the eggs appeared. By the way, I have no bird feeders in my yard at all.

  53. what evs

  54. very helpful i saw a cardinal fly into my window and 💣💥

  55. i farted

  56. greatness

  57. I have never seen a cardinal bird because they can’t be found in Kenya but from the description, I love them.

  58. We have seen the male and female together all summer now I only see the female cardinal by her self I don’t know what happened to the male
    Cardinal did he die?

  59. I hate birds

  60. bruh all yall gay just chill fam.

  61. and birds hate you

  62. Thanks to the acts that are issued to protect these beautiful song birds. Because of the laws their population is stable now still in some areas they are gradually decreasing. Cardinals attract to bird friendly gardens and sun flower seeds. Let’s share some space and time in our garden and in our life.

  63. hello i am doing a report about cardnails!!!!!!!! they are soooooooooo cool

  64. they are soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo coooooool arnt they

  65. i like turtles

  66. stop saying stuff like that guys and girls and howdy

  67. I loved the cardinals facts

  68. so touching ! …. I have them in my backyard.Every morning I see them from my window. It is bitter cold outside, and no food for them… I buy bird seeds and feed them, but still I wish I can help all the birds to stay warm and fed.

  69. cut out a silhouette of a hawk and tape to window or buy hawk decals from Amazon, That will keep your backyard friends from injury.

  70. Did You Know That The Cardinal Is Fat!!!!!!!!!!

  71. TRUE

  72. Ive been looking for info online but couldnt find anything. I noticed my red bird friends always right before dark like to come outside my window and do the small chirps(not the songs)..It happens every night right before it gets dark. Any idea why they do this?

  73. We saw a red bird call for his mate everyday for a year is this a common practice among red birds?

  74. lol!!!!!!!!!

  75. I used this for a project lol

  76. Wat do u guys mean. I love cardinals. i see them in my backyard all the time . i usually see the female birds.

  77. No they usually call only during mating season which is in the spring. thats kinda strange. Hmmm ill check in my book of cardinals and tell you about it.

  78. Ok soooo i looked in the book and it said that the action was same as moaning. Kind of like wat we do when we are like moaning for the loss of a close family member. that cardinal was probably moaning bicause he lost his mate.LOLLLLL!!!!

  79. Wat do u guys mean. I love cardinals. i see them in my backyard all the time

  80. Saw 3 gorgeous cardinals in the tree outside my window . 2 females one male. Suddenly one female climbed on top of the other female and made humping motions????. Is this typical behavior for these birds?

  81. Two weeks ago I saw cardinal activity in the thick vegetation of a corkscrew willow right outside our kitchen sink window. I thought it was being attracted to a red and orange glass sun catcher hanging in that window. So I took the sun catcher down. The activity and song stopped until three days ago when I saw a female constructing a nest. She is now sitting on the nest almost all of the time. Isn’t August 8th very late for cardinals to be nesting??

  82. i know what is a cardinal bird is a bird that can fly

  83. We had a pair of cardinals all summer & the past few days we have only seen the female she just sits in the tree and chirps. I found out why today, I found the Male dead behind our deck box. Anyone know anything we can do?

  84. Thank you Soy, Very Cool.

  85. I think this is all a lie because this is maybe a site that is like wikipedia where anyone can edit and put things that are not true. Not hating but I really think so. Please don’t block or report me because I am just saying my opinion like god my mom my dad told me to. It is just like being honest like what I am doing right now so I am going to leave like I said I a not hating on this site I Just think it if I am wrong I apologize but this is my honest opinion so I am really sorry if I am wrong. 🙁

  86. Stop saying soy i is annoying like you 🙂

  87. It is annoying like you

  88. GOOD JOB MY FRIEND!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  89. love em

  90. chickennnnnnnn wings

  91. I lived in northern NJ for years and always had a single red cardinal in the yard during the nice weather. This is my third winter in the Catskills and I again have a single red cardinal that is here daily, even in this horrific snow storm. Any ideas on why there is only one? I do feed the birds black oil sunflower seeds (which they all love) year-round but I’m curious as to why we always have swarms of yellow and gold finches, woodpeckers and blue jays, but only one red cardinal ever.

  92. ya i must say their my favorite bird

  93. cardinal is my last name.

  94. Are there Gay male Cardinals????

  95. I have now a family of Cardinals in my back yard. The female pecks at our 15 window French door. As to say thank you for feeding us. Last spring they were traviling with two of their young birds. Since then the yourger birds have not been back. Probably having their own families.
    My mother was telling me a story about a male Cardinal that when a certain time of year would lite on her out streach hand and eat seed that she purchased for him. I have to admit I was very sceptical about the story. But I just so happened to be there washing dishes that I had used. And there he was eating out of her hand. I was blown away. Now they are blowing me away every day for over a year.

  96. These little bad boys just be whippin’ and flyin all over ,
    These birds are red like the Irish,

    I like these birds because I have some red hair too,

    These little bad boys don’t eat there young un-like another rare bird, the blue jay.

    In regards to the people of California should have more cardinals , they need to get those numbers up, for they won’t be apart of the smartest men of the worlds club.

    Bye everyone, don’t let the blue birds bite.

  97. Traveling , typo

  98. Travelling typo

    H e double hockey sticks,

    Your not from California are you?

  99. Dear Susan ,

    ” is it possible that your doing something to keep the cardinals away from you yard?”

  100. I love cardinals i love boys

  101. ! NO! It is Illegal under the Bird Migration Act of 1808 (?). Testing my memory here but regardless, it is Illegal to keep one as “a pet”.

  102. Cardinals are great

  103. My husband found a BBY he’s pretty good size r u in San Antonio area if u r interested in the BBY let me know at 2108014581 ty

  104. I saw two male cardinals chasing each other for hours in and around my yard.. there is a mating pair that frequents my bird feeder daily so I am assuming the male was defending against an intruder. Boy was the intruder male persistent..he didn’t want to leave…

  105. cardinals are the best birds

  106. micah is trash

  107. cardinal live in snow

  108. This is very helpful

  109. ikr they are SOOO TASSTYY!

  110. Cardinals do not mate for life they mate for the season then mate again for the next season – there have also been incidents of cardinals have two mates and feeding to females and babies during mating season, perhaps when there is more females to males in an area – nature is wonderful to continue the species isn’t it?

  111. I know this might be a strange question , but can cardinals be gay . I ask because a few moths ago I notice two female constantly together . Then one after sometime I notice 3 together always coming to my seed . I noticed the one would get the seed fly back and give to each one . So I thought maybe just the mom raising her young . I would think that now it is to September they would have separated . Not sure if something happened to one of the three , but now I am seeing just two females together , coming in together , and flying off together

  112. Does anybody have or sell red cardinals on the northern of California?

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