Sunday, March 28, 2021

Species Spotlight: the Northern Cardinal

male cardinalThe Northern cardinal is a fairly large, long-tailed songbird with a short, very thick bill and a prominent crest. Male cardinals are brilliant red all over, with a reddish bill and black face immediately around the bill. Females are pale brown overall with warm reddish tinges in the wings, tail, and crest. They have the same black face and red-orange bill.

The male cardinal will fiercely defend its breeding territory from other males. When a male sees its reflection in glass surfaces, it frequently will spend hours fighting the imaginary intruder.

Photo of male Northern cardinal by John Mack/DEC

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Information attributed to NYSDEC is taken from press releases and news announcements from New York State's Department of Environmental Conservation.

3 Responses

  1. Phil Fitzpatrick says:

    Well, that is a disappointment.

  2. Boreas says:

    Male Cardinals DEFINITELY don’t like rivals! When VWs used to have chrome hubcaps, I remember one fighting his reflection for hours. Another one on a large Pacific Coast truck mirror I had on a Cherokee.

    Yet, at the feeders, they are often the most docile of the feeders present – often waiting until twilight to feed unmolested.

    Great ambassadors of the animal kingdom!

  3. seymour preston jr says:

    Sitting inside the other day I had a brilliant red bird fly up to the window right next to me as if on the window pane, fluttering there for a minute or so. From your comment that a male cardinal will fight its image in glass, I suspect that’s what my bird was doing! It had a black mask all the way around the beak and has to have been a male cardinal – but I could not make out a crest. Could it have pulled in its crest, perhaps in fighting mode? I thought alternatively a scarlet tanager, but they don’t have the mask. A mystery! Thank you for your consideration.

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