This bright red bird, a little smaller than a robin, is hard to mistake. The male is bright red all over except for black around the beak. It has a crest on its head. The female is a warm brown with reddish tail, but the same crest, black around the beak, and reddish beak.
The cardinal starts up in spring with a loud, up or down glissando song that some interpret as “cheer, cheer, cheer, or “birdy birdy birdy.” It forages mainly on the ground. It nests 1-15 feet off the ground deep inside thickets. It consumes seeds but in breeding season adds in insect food for both adults and young.
What brings it to the SBG?
Food, cover, nesting sites. The Northern Cardinal thrives in open wooded habitat and in places like suburban backyards, so SBG meets these criteria. Food comes from seeds and insects attracted to native plants, and nesting sites are available in the low shrubby growth in and around the gardens.
When can I see it?
Year-round. The Northern Cardinal is a resident species.