Northern Cardinal

Unlike members of most avian species, both male and female Northern cardinals sing. Pairs make a habit of counter-singing, where one begins vocalizing, and then the other replies.


Arch Baker
Northern Cardinal, male
Steven Burki
Northern Cardinal, female
CC Vermillion
Northern Cardinal, male with nestlings
Northern Cardinal, fledgling


Northern CardinalCC Vermillion
CC Vermillion Northern cardinal, male with nestlings

Scientific Name: Cardinalis cardinalis.
Family: Cardinal.
Length: 9 inches.
Wingspan: 12 inches.
Distinctive Markings: Male is bright red with a black face. Also has a prominent crest and pink or orange bill. Female is fawn colored with red accents.
Nest: Three to four whitish-gray eggs with brown speckles are laid in a nest of twigs and grasses hidden in a dense tree or shrub.
Voice: More than 24 different songs. Most common is “What cheer! What cheer! What cheer!” The call is a high-pitched “chip!”
Habitat:  Anyplace with dense low cover: backyards, parks, forest, swamps, even deserts.
Diet: Seeds and insects.
Backyard Favorites: Sunflower seeds and cracked corn.

Bird Song & Range Map

Listen to the Northern cardinal’s song and learn where to spot them!

Bird songs provided by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Northern Cardinal Bird SpeciesRange maps provided by Kaufman Field Guides, the official field guide of Birds & Blooms.

Jill Staake
Jill lives in Tampa, Florida, and writes about gardening, butterflies, outdoor projects and birding. When she's not gardening, you'll find her reading, traveling and happily digging her toes into the sand on the beach.