Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)



Male northern cardinals are almost completely red; they even have a reddish beak! Females are more of a brown color, but they still have hints of red. All northern cardinals have a crest on top of their head. Northern cardinals are typically between 20 cm (7.9 in) and 23.5 cm (9.3 in) long from head to tail. Adults can weigh anywhere from 33.6-65 grams (1.19-2.3 ounces). However, the average weight is 44.8 g (1.58 oz). The wingspan of the northern cardinal is between 25-31 cm (9.8-12 in). The females are usually a bit smaller than the males. The eggs are usually about 1 inch long. Thanks to these features, northern cardinals are among the most easily recognized species in the northeast.

The northern cardinal can be found anywhere in the Lake Champlain Basin. It also lives all over the eastern and southern part of the United States. You can find it as far north as Ontario, Quebec, and Nova Scotia or as far south as Mexico and Belize. Northern cardinals also live in Hawaii, New Mexico, Arizona, and southern California. They do not migrate so you can find them in these places year-round. They like to nest around humans, so you can find them in backyards and in the edge of woods or forests.
Predators and Prey

Some predators of the northern cardinal are owls, snakes, hawks, raccoons, and foxes. The northern cardinal eats things like crickets, katydids, grasshoppers, beetles, and many types of seeds, nuts, and fruit.
Native or Invasive

The northern cardinal is mostly a native species, but they are not native to places like Hawaii. They were brought there in the 1920s and 1930s because the residents wanted cardinals to be there permanently. Now the northern cardinal moves native birds out of their habitats and disperses invasive plant seeds.
Form vs. Function

There are many reasons why the northern cardinal is built like it is. The females are a brownish color so they are less conspicuous to predators while building their nest. The feet and legs have adapted so the cardinal can perch on tree branches. The reason the male is so bright is so it can attract females. The northern cardinal’s beak is strong with sharp edges so it can crack open the toughest of seeds. These reasons and more are why a northern cardinal is able to stay alive so long.
Interesting Facts

There are many interesting facts about the northern cardinal. One is that it can live up to fifteen years in the wild. It is also the state bird of Ohio, Kentucky, North Carolina, Indiana, Virginia, West Virginia, and Illinois. A third fact is a group of cardinals can be called names like “college”, “conclave”, “radiance”, “Vatican”, and “deck”.

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