The 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