Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) - wiki
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[Photo] A male Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) perched on a tree branch. Photo taken with a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ50 in Johnston County, North Carolina, USA. Date 12:06PM 23JAN07. Author Ken Thomas (www.kenthomas.us)
The Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) is a member of the cardinal family of birds in North America. The bird's name comes from the red-robed Roman Catholic Cardinals. Its crested head is also said to resemble a bishop's mitre. Cardinals have been also referred to as "Redbirds" and "Virginia nightingales". Cardinals were once popular cage birds for their bright color and rich, varied songs.
These birds are mid-sized songbirds at 21-23 cm (8.3 to 9 inches long) and weigh about 45 grams (1.6 oz). Males are bright, crimson red with black faces and coral to red beaks. Females are a fawn color, with mostly grayish-brown tones & slight reddish tint in their wings and tail feathers, also with a bright coral-colored beak. Both possess prominent raised crests and strong beaks. Young birds, both male and female, show the coloring of the adult female until the fall, when they will molt and grow their adult feathers.
Cardinals are abundant across the eastern United States from Maine to Texas and in Canada in the provinces of Ontario, Quebec, and Nova Scotia. Their range extends west to the U.S.-Mexico border and south through Mexico to the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, northern Guatemala, and northern Belize. They were introduced to Bermuda in 1700. They have also been introduced in Hawaii, and Southern California. Their natural habitats are woodlands, suburbs, gardens, swamps and thickets.
These birds are permanent residents throughout their range, although they may relocate to avoid extreme weather or if food is scarce.
Behavior and ecology
Cardinals are a territorial song bird. The male sings in a loud, clear whistle from a tree top or other high location to defend his territory. He will chase off other males entering his territory.
Cardinals learn their songs, and as a result the songs vary regionally. Cardinals are able to easily distinguish the gender of a singing cardinal by its song alone. Interestingly, however, male cardinals can learn songs from female cardinals, and vice versa, suggesting that differences in song between the sexes may be due to hormonal differences.
Cardinals have a distinctive alarm call, a short metallic 'chip' sound. In some cases they will also utter a series of chipping notes. It is often easy to locate Cardinals by their alarm call, since they will make it readily when humans walk nearby.
Northern Cardinals' diet consists mainly (up to 90 percent) of weed seeds, grains, and fruits. During the summer months, they show preference for seeds that are easily husked, but are less selective during winter, when food is scarce. Northern Cardinals also will consume insects, and feed their young almost exclusively on insects.
Mated pairs sometimes sing together before nesting. During courtship they may also participate in a bonding behavior where the male collects food and brings it to the female, feeding her beak-to-beak. If the mating is successful, this mate-feeding may continue throughout the period of incubation.
The female builds a cup nest in a well-concealed spot in dense shrub or a low tree. Both feed the young. Young fledged cardinals resemble adult females in coloring. The male will grow in bright red feathers as he matures and is eventually chased away by his sire.
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