A Rare Sighting of an Arizona Cardinal Bird

Updated: Jan. 11, 2024

Despite being a sports team mascot, northern cardinals are rarely spotted in parts of Arizona. See photos of an Arizona cardinal bird.

Do Northern Cardinals Live in Arizona?

northern cardinalCourtesy Noelle Johnson
A northern cardinal sighting in Arizona

A few weeks ago, I was driving through a community on the outskirts of the Phoenix metro area.  The entire community is surrounded by desert and sits at the base of beautiful 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 was hoping for a glimpse of a northern cardinal. I had seen these red birds in Arizona before, but sightings were quite rare, even though they are featured as a local sports mascot. To my delight, there was an Arizona cardinal bird sitting in a mesquite tree.

Meet the pyrrhuloxia: desert cardinal of the Southwest.

Arizona Cardinal Bird Sightings

arizona cardinalCourtesy Noelle Johnson
Northern cardinals are more commonly spotted in eastern states.

Many people may be surprised that northern cardinals are found in Arizona. Their range covers the entire Eastern half of the U.S., most of Mexico and only a tiny slice of southeastern Arizona. Phoenix is located in south central Arizona, so cardinal sightings here are rare. These birds do not migrate and are year-round residents wherever they live.

Head to Hawaii to see a red-crested cardinal.

Arizona Cardinal Bird Basics

Bnbbyc19 Tom MangelsdorfCourtesy Tom Mangelsdorf
A male northern cardinal in Scottsdale, Arizona

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 a mesquite tree. They eat a varied diet. Sunflower seeds are a known favorite of theirs. Berries and insects are also a part of their diet, and they are ground feeders.

Check out the best cardinal bird feeders and birdseed, along with this DIY platform bird feeder you can easily make yourself, too.

The female cardinal is grayish-brown in color with reddish tints on her crest, wings and tail. Male cardinals court females by feeding them. The males can identify females from a distance from their song. The song of cardinals may vary depending on the geographical region.

What does a cardinal song sound like?

They raise three to four broods a year. The female primarily incubates the eggs, although the male has been known to help from time to time. Her mate cares for and helps feeds the newly fledged chicks. Meanwhile the female is busy building a new nest and incubating their next clutch of eggs. Find out if a cardinal will use a bird house.

I am so grateful for the chance to see an Arizona cardinal bird again and the fact that I had my camera with me.

Next, don’t miss more stunning cardinal bird pictures.