The Northern Cardinal is a mid-sized songbird with a length of 20 to 23.5 cm (7.9 to 9.3 in) and a wingspan of 25 to 31 cm (9.8 to 12 in). The adult averages 44,8 g but the male is larger than the female. The adult male is a brilliant crimson red color with a black face mask over the eyes, extending to the upper chest. The color becomes duller and darker on the back and wings. The female is fawn, with mostly grayish-brown tones and a slight reddish tint on the wings, crest, and tail feathers. The face mask of the female is gray to black and less defined. The beak is cone shaped and strong.

Habitat and Distribution

Northern Cardinals are numerous across the eastern United States from Maine to Texas and in Canada in the provinces of Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Its range extends west to the U.S.-Mexico border and south through Mexico to the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, northern Guatemala, and northern Belize. It is found in woodlands, gardens, shrublands, and swamps.


Their diet consists mainly of weed seeds, grains and fruits. The bird is a ground feeder and finds food while hopping on the groung, trees or shrubbery. It also eats beetles, cicadas, snails.


The female Northern Cardinal builds a cup nest in a well-concealed spot in dense shrub or a low tree one to three meters off the ground. Eggs are laid one to six days following the completion of the nest. The eggs are white, with a tint of green, blue or brown, and are marked with lavender, gray, or brown blotches which are thicker around the larger end. Incubation takes 12 to 13 days and fledging 10 to 11 days after hatching.

Calls and Songs

Both sexes sing cheeeer-a-dote, cheeer-a-dote-dote-dote, purdy, purdy, purdy...whoit, whoit, whoit, what-cheer, what-cheer... wheet, wheet, wheet, wheet and cheer, cheer, cheer, what, what, what, what songs. They also give an alarm call, which is a short metallic 'chip' sound.