Red cardinal

Red Cardinal — it is a large, long-tailed songbird with a short, very thick beak and a bulbous crest. Red cardinals often sit in a hunched posture with their tail pointing straight down. This bird lives in gardens, backyards and wooded areas of the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Origin of the species and description

Photo: Cardinal Red

Photo: Red Cardinal

Red Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) — North American cardinal bird. He is also known as the northern cardinal. The common name as well as the scientific name of the red cardinal refers to the cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church who wear distinctive red robes and caps. The term “northern” in the common name refers to its range, as it is the northernmost cardinal species. In total, there are 19 subspecies of red cardinals, which mainly differ in color. Their average lifespan is approximately three years, although some have a lifespan of 13 to 15 years.

Video: Cardinal Red

The red cardinal is the official state bird of at least seven eastern states. Extensive in the Southeast, it has been expanding its range northward for decades, and now it brightens winter days with its color and whistling song as far north as southeastern Canada, for example. Feeders stocked with sunflower seeds could help spread it northward. West of the Great Plains, the red cardinal is mostly absent, but it is locally distributed in the desert of the southwest.

Fun fact: Many people are perplexed every spring when a red cardinal attacks its reflection in a window, car mirror or shiny bumper. Both males and females do this, and most often in the spring and early summer when they are obsessed with defending their territory from any kind of intrusion. Birds can fight these intruders for hours without giving up. A few weeks later, when levels of aggressive hormones subside, these attacks should stop (although one female maintained this behavior every day for six months non-stop).

Appearance and features

Photo: What a red cardinal looks like

Photo: What a red cardinal looks like

Red cardinals — songbirds of medium size. Males are bright red, except for the black mask on the face. They are one of the most recognizable birds due to their bright red color. Females are light brown or light greenish brown, with reddish highlights, and do not have a black mask (but parts of their face may be dark).

Both males and females have thick, orange-red, cone-shaped beaks, a long tail, and a distinctive crest of feathers on the top of their heads. Males are slightly larger than females. Males are 22.2 to 23.5 cm long, while females are 20.9 to 21.6 cm long. The average weight of adult red cardinals is 42 to 48 g. The average wing length is 30.5 cm. red cardinals are similar to females, but have a gray rather than an orange-red bill.

Interesting fact: There are 18 subspecies of red cardinals. Most of these subspecies differ in the color of the mask on the females.

Unlike many other songbirds in North America, both male and female red cardinals can sing. As a rule, only male songbirds can sing. They have individual phrases such as a very sharp “chip-chip-chip” or a long hello. They tend to choose very high pitches for singing. The male will use his call to attract a female, while the female red cardinal will sing from her nest, possibly calling her mate as a message for food.

Interesting fact: The oldest red cardinal on record was a female, at 15 years and 9 months old when she was found in Pennsylvania.

Where does the red cardinal live?

Photo Red Cardinal in America

Photo Red cardinal in America

There are an estimated 120 million red cardinals in the world, most of them living in the eastern United States, then in Mexico, and then in southern Canada. In the United States, they can be found from Maine to Texas and south through Mexico, Belize and Guatemala. They also live in parts of Arizona, California, New Mexico and Hawaii.

The range of the red cardinal has increased over the past 50 years, including New York and New England, and continues to increase north and west. Experts believe that this is partly due to the increase in cities, suburbs and people who provide food all year round, making it easier for them to survive in colder climates. Red cardinals tend to live in dense undergrowth, such as forest edges, overgrown fields, hedgerows, wetlands, mesquite and ornamental landscapes.

Thus, red cardinals come from the non-Arctic region. They are found throughout eastern and central North America from southern Canada to parts of Mexico and Central America. They have also been introduced to California, Hawaii and Bermuda. Red cardinals have greatly expanded their range since the early 1800s, taking advantage of milder temperatures, human habitation, and the extra food available in bird feeders.

Red cardinals favor forest edges, hedges, and vegetation around houses. This may be part of the reason for the increase in their numbers since the early 1800s. Red cardinals also benefit from the large number of people who feed them and other seed-eating birds in the backyard.

Now you know where the red cardinal is found. Let’s see what this bird eats.

What does the red cardinal eat?

Photo: Cardinal red bird

Photo: Red cardinal bird

Red cardinals are omnivores. The typical diet of a red cardinal consists mainly of seeds, grains, and fruits. Their diet is also supplemented with insects, which are the main food source for their chicks. Some of their favorite insects include beetles, butterflies, centipedes, cicadas, crickets, flies, katydids, moths, and spiders.

During the winter months, they rely heavily on seeds supplied in feeders, with oiled sunflower seeds and safflower seeds being their favorites. Other products they like — these are dogwood, wild grapes, buckwheat, herbs, sedges, mulberries, blueberries, blackberries, sumac, tulip tree and corn. Blueberry, mulberry and blackberry plants are great planting options as they provide both a source of food and shelter due to their thickets.

To maintain their appearance, they consume grapes or dogwood berries. During the digestion process, the pigments from the fruit enter the bloodstream, enter the feather follicles and crystallize. If the red cardinal cannot find the berries, its hue will gradually begin to fade.

Fun fact: Cardinal reds get their vibrant colors from pigments found in berries and other plant materials in their diet .

One of the most important things you need to attract red cardinals is a bird feeder. Unlike many other birds, cardinals cannot quickly change their direction, so bird feeders must be large enough for them to land easily. They want to feel secure while eating, so it is best to place the feeder about 1.5-1.8m above the ground and next to trees or shrubs. Red cardinals are also terrestrial feeders and will appreciate food left under the bird feeder. Some of the best bird feeder styles include bird feeders with a large open seating area.

The red cardinals use the baths for both drinking and bathing. Due to the size of most cardinals, it is best to have a birdbath 5 to 8 cm deep at the deepest point. In winter, it is best to do a hot bird bath or immerse the heater in a regular bird bath. Bathing water for birds of any type should be changed several times a week. If the source of water is not displayed, the red cardinals will have to leave and find it elsewhere, for example, in a local pond, stream or river.

Character and lifestyle features

Photo: Red cardinal in winter

Photo: Red cardinal in winter

Red cardinals are not migratory, they are year-round residents throughout their range. They are active during the day, especially in the morning and evening hours. In winter, most cardinals flock and live together. During the breeding season, they are quite territorial.

Red cardinals prefer a secluded place where they feel safe. The type of areas that provide excellent coverage, — dense vines, trees and shrubs. There are many types of trees and shrubs that red cardinals gravitate towards for nesting purposes. Planting shrubs such as grapevine, honeysuckle, dogwood, and juniper can be the perfect cover for their nests. In winter, evergreen trees and shrubs provide safe and ample shelter for these non-migratory birds.

Red cardinals do not use birdhouses for nesting. Instead, the male and female will seek out a densely covered nest a week or two before the female starts building one. The actual location tends to be where the nest is wedged into a fork of small branches in a shrub, seedling, or tangle. The nest is always hidden in dense foliage. The most common trees and shrubs that red cardinals choose include dogwood, honeysuckle, pine, hawthorn, vines, spruce, hemlock, blackberries, rose bushes, elms, elderberries, and sugar maple.

Interesting fact: Female red cardinals are responsible for building nests. They usually build nests from twigs, needles, grass, and other plant material.

Once a location is chosen, the male usually brings nesting materials to the female. These materials include strips of bark, rough thin twigs, vines, grasses, leaves, pine needles, plant fibres, roots and stems. The female crushes the twigs with her beak until they become flexible, and then pushes them with her paws, creating a cup shape.

Each nest has four layers of rough twigs that are covered with a leaf mat, lined with vine bark, and then finished with pine needles, herbs, stems, and roots. Each nest takes up to 10 days. Cardinal Reds will only use their nesting site once, so it is important that there are always plenty of trees, shrubs, and materials nearby.

Social Structure and Reproduction

Photo: Male and female Red Cardinal

Photo: Male and female red cardinal

In the southern regions, red cardinals are known to breed three broods during one season. In the middle states, they rarely breed more than one. Red Cardinals — exceptional parents. The male shares the duties of a parent with his wife, feeding and care remains with the mother during and after incubation. His paternal instincts help him protect his mother and children until they leave the nest.

Young red cardinals often follow their parents on the ground for several days after they leave the nest. They stay very close to their parents until they can forage for food on their own. While the male takes care of his family, his bright red color often changes to a dull shade of brown.

Mating periods of red cardinals — March, May, June and July. Masonry size — 2 to 5 eggs. The length of the egg is from 2.2 to 2.7 cm, width — from 1.7 to 2 cm, and weight – 4.5 grams. The eggs are smooth and glossy white with a greenish, blue or brown tinge, with grey, brown or reddish flecks. The incubation period is 11 to 13 days. Cubs are born naked except for sparse tufts of grayish down, their eyes are closed, and they are clumsy.

Life stages of young red cardinals:

  • calf &# 8212; from 0 to 3 days. His eyes haven’t opened yet, there may be tufts down his body. Not ready to leave the nest;
  • chick — from 4 to 13 days. Its eyes are open, and its wing feathers may resemble tubes because they have yet to break through their protective shells. He is also still not ready to leave the nest;
  • young — 14 days and older. This bird is completely feathered. Her wings and tail may be short, and she may not have mastered flight yet, but she can walk, jump, and flutter. She has left the nest, although her parents may be there to help and protect if necessary.

Natural enemies of red cardinals

Photo: What a red cardinal looks like

Photo: What the red cardinal looks like

Adult red cardinals can be eaten by domestic cats, domestic dogs, Cooper’s hawks, northern shrikes, eastern gray squirrels, long-eared owl. Chicks and eggs are vulnerable to predation by snakes, birds and small mammals. Predators of chicks and eggs include milk snakes, black snakes, blue jays, red squirrels, and eastern chipmunks. Cow troupials are also able to steal eggs from the nest, sometimes they eat them.

When faced with a predator near their nest, male and female red cardinals will give an alarm signal, which is a short, shrill note, and fly to the predator in trying to scare him off. But they do not aggressively crowd with predators.

Thus, known predators of red cardinals are:

  • domestic cats (Felis silvestris);
  • domestic dogs (Canis lupusiliaris);
  • Cooper’s hawks ( Accipiter cooperii);
  • Shrike (Lanius ludovicianus);
  • Northern Shrike (Lanius excubitor);
  • Caroline Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis);
  • long-eared owls (Asio otus);
  • eastern owls (Otus Asio);
  • milk snakes (Lampropeltis triangulum elapsoides);
  • black snake (Coluber constrictor);
  • grey climbing snake (Pantherophis obsoletus);
  • blue jay (Cyanocitta cristata);
  • fox squirrel (Sciurus niger);
  • Red squirrels (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus);
  • Oriental chipmunks (Tamias striatus);
  • Brown-headed cow troupial (Molothrus ater).

Population and species status

Photo: Cardinal Red

Photo: Red Cardinal

Red cardinals appear to have increased in number and geographic range over the last 200 years. These are likely the results of habitat expansion due to human activity. There are about 100,000,000 individuals worldwide. Since red cardinals eat a large amount of seeds and fruits, they can disperse the seeds of some plants. They can also influence the composition of the plant community through the consumption of seeds.

Red cardinals provide food for their predators. They also occasionally raise chicks of brown bighead cows that parasitize their nests, helping local populations of brown-headed cow bugs. Red cardinals also contain many internal and external parasites. Red cardinals affect humans by dispersing seeds and eating insect pests such as weevils, hacksaws, and caterpillars. They are also attractive visitors to backyard bird feeders. There are no known adverse effects of red cardinals on humans.

Red cardinals were once prized as pets because of their bright color and distinctive sound. In the United States, red cardinals receive special legal protection under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, which also prohibits their sale as caged birds. It is also protected by the Canadian Migratory Bird Convention.

Red Cardinal — a songbird with a raised crest on its head and an orange-red cone-shaped beak. Cardinals are year-round residents within their range. These birds are not often found in forests. They prefer meadow landscapes with thickets and shrubs in which they can hide and nest.

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