Do Northern Cardinals Mate for Life?

We asked our birding experts: Do northern cardinals mate for life? Find out how cardinals keep their bond through the seasons.

“Do cardinals mate for life? I always see a pair together at the feeders,” asks Bridget Stoede of Spooner, Wisconsin.

The best answer would be to say that, frequently, northern cardinals do mate for life—almost as often as humans do! Some pairs of cardinals do stay together all year long in their nesting territory. In other cases, the birds leave the territory and join a winter flock, but the same pair is likely to go back to the same nesting area the following spring.

cardinals sharing seedsCourtesy Anne Sipe
Do cardinals mate for life? For many pairs, the answer is yes.

During courtship, northern cardinals go beak-to-beak as the male feeds the female. Don’t miss 7 sweet photos that show how birds flirt and attract mates.

Some bird pairs stick together for several years or even as long as they both live. This happens more often with larger species, such as bald eagles and swans, and birds that don’t migrate, such as northern cardinals. Psst—here are some of the other types of birds that mate for life.

Male and female cardinals communicate through song. This is what a cardinal’s call sounds like.

Some cardinal pairs do break up and look for new mates, sometimes even during the nesting season. And if one member of the pair dies, the survivor will quickly look for a new mate.

Check out 6 proven ways to attract more cardinals.

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Kenn and Kimberly Kaufman
Kenn and Kimberly are the official Birds & Blooms bird experts. They are the duo behind the Kaufman Field Guide series. They speak and lead bird trips all over the world. When they're not traveling, they enjoy watching birds and other wildlife in their Northwest Ohio backyard.