An Arizona Cardinal

A few weeks ago, I was driving through a community that is located on the outskirts of the Phoenix metro

A few weeks ago, I was driving through a community that is located on the outskirts of the Phoenix metro area.  The entire community is surrounded by desert and sits at the base of beautiful desert, mountains.

As I was driving, I saw a flash of red out of the corner of my eye.  So, I stopped, reversed and grabbed my camera.  You see, I had been hoping for a glimpse of a Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis).  I had seen them here before, but sightings were quite rare.

To my delight, there he was sitting in a Mesquite tree.

Many people may be surprised that Northern Cardinals are found in Arizona.  Their range covers the entire Eastern half of the US, most of Mexico and only a tiny slice of Southeastern Arizona.  Phoenix is located in South Central Arizona, so Cardinal sightings here are rare.  It is interesting to note that Cardinals have been introduced into Southern California and Hawaii.  They do not migrate and are year round residents wherever they live.

Cardinals are songbirds that make their home in thickets of all sorts, whether in the desert or in woodlands.  You can see that this bird likes the thicket-like branching of the Mesquite tree above.    The ‘song’ of cardinals can vary depending on the region because they ‘learn’ their songs.  They eat a varied diet – sunflower seeds are a known favorite of theirs along with other grains. Fruit and insects are also a part of their diet and they are ground feeders.

The female cardinal is grayish-brown in color with reddish tints on her crest, wings and tail.  Males court females by feeding them.    Males can identify females from a distance from their ‘song’

They produce 3 – 4 broods a year.  The female primarily incubates the eggs, although the male has been known to help from time to time.  The male cares for and feeds the chicks while the female is incubating their next clutch of eggs.

I was so grateful for the chance to see one of these beautiful birds again AND the fact that I had my camera with me.

How about you?  Where have you seen Cardinals?

Read more about this beautiful bird on Birds & Blooms website.

Noelle Johnson
Noelle Johnson is a horticulturist and certified arborist who lives and gardens in the desert Southwest. When she is not writing or helping other people with their gardens, you can find her growing fruits and vegetables, and planting flowering shrubs and maybe a cactus or two.