Why Does a Cardinal Raise Its Crest?
A bright red cardinal crest is unmistakable. Find out why cardinals raise their crests and if female cardinals have crests.
Cardinal Crest Behavior
What causes a northern cardinal to raise or lower its crest? asks Birds & Blooms reader Larry Thompson of Irving, Texas.
Birding experts Kenn and Kimberly Kaufman say, “Northern cardinals raise or lower their crests at will. The position of the crest can be a signal to other cardinals, but the meaning of the signal seems to vary. When one male is aggressively driving another one away, it may flatten its crest completely, while the losing bird raises its crest high.”
Cardinal Crests During Courtship
The Kaufmans say, “When males are putting on courtship displays to woo females, they raise their crests in some displays and lower them in others. (Do cardinals mate for life?) Their body language must be clear to other cardinals, but we human observers have to watch the rest of their behavior for more clues.”
Do Female Cardinals Have Crests?
Look for crested heads on both the scarlet red male cardinals and the reddish-tan, less showy females. Juvenile northern cardinals have a thin wispy crest of feathers.
Watch Cardinals at Feeders
Love looking at cardinals? Don’t miss 25 simply stunning cardinal bird pictures.