7 Fascinating Cardinal Bird Facts

Cardinals are one of the most popular backyard birds. Learn fascinating cardinal bird facts, including about their coloring, nesting habits and more.

cardinal meaning and symbolismCourtesy Ava Huffman

Cardinals Are Year-Round Birds

Cardinals are not migratory, so lucky residents of the eastern half of the U.S. get to enjoy these birds all year. Check out proven ways to attract and identify northern cardinals.

Female Cardinals Sing

One fascinating cardinal bird fact—mostly male birds do the singing, but female cardinals will sing back and forth with a potential suitor. What does a cardinal’s call sound like?

male and female cardinal at feederCourtesy Sharon Cuartero

Attract Cardinals With Their Feeder Favorites

Hang up a tube feeder to attract cardinals almost immediately. They seem to recognize the shape of the feeder, and their presence attracts other birds. Serve  sunflower and safflower seeds. Psst—here’s more tips on the best cardinal bird feeders and birdseed,

Look for Cardinals of Another Color

Rare genetic variations called xanthochroism can cause male cardinals to be yellow instead of the familiar red. Check out 15 photos of white cardinals and leucistic birds.

Cardinals Are Early Nesters

Cardinals generally stay in the same area, which helps get a jump-start on nesting, with some laying eggs by February. This long breeding season allows for multiple broods each year and ensures the survival of offspring. Do cardinals mate for life?

northern cardinal in snowCourtesy Anne Duvall

The Redder, the Better

Another interesting cardinal bird fact is that the male’s bold red coloration is thought to help attract mates. The brightness is related to diet, and studies indicate that the showier males tend to hold better territories, provide extra parental care and show higher nesting success. You won’t want to miss these simply stunning bird photos of cardinals.

Different Species?

Some scientists suggest that cardinals in the Sonoran Desert might actually be a different species from those found elsewhere in the United States, despite their proximity to northern cardinals in other southwestern deserts. Cardinals in the Sonoran Desert are somewhat larger, with longer crests, and the males are a paler red color. They also have slightly different songs. There is also another bird species, the pyrrhuloxia, that is commonly known as the desert cardinal. Discover 9 birds that look like cardinals.

Popular Videos

Ken Keffer
Professional naturalist and award-winning environmental educator and author Ken Keffer has penned seven books connecting kids and the outdoors. Ken is currently on the Outdoor Writers Association of America Board of Directors. Ken was born and raised in Wyoming. He's done a little bit of everything, from monitoring small mammals in Grand Teton National Park to researching flying squirrels in southeast Alaska. Ken enjoys birding, floating on lazy rivers, fly fishing, and walking his dog.