The Deep South Region


The Northern Cardinal
(Cardinalis cardinalis)
male and female cardinals
range of the northern cardinal
The Northern Cardinal is the official Bird of the Deep South Region.  Despite its name, the Northern Cardinal is a bird that originated in the Southeast.  In the last one hundred years, it has expanded it's territory north and northwest of the Mississippi River.  The Northern in its name refers to it being a bird of the northern hemisphere.

The common and familiar Northern Cardinal is a bird whose range has expanded northward in the last 100 years.  Originally a bird of the Southeast, the Northern Cardinal’s range expanded north and northwest along the Mississippi River and its tributaries. 

Cardinals are noted for their loud, clear whistled songs, often sung from a high treetop song post.  Females will counter sing, duetting with males - usually after the males have established territories and before nesting begins.  Local variations and accents have been noted in cardinal songs. 

Typical habitats are thickets and brushy areas, edges and clearings, riparian woodlands, parks, and residential areas.  Here the nonmigratory cardinals feed on a variety of foods including seeds, leaf buds, flowers, berries, and fruit.  Up to one-third of its summer diet can be insects.  Its winter diet is 90 percent vegetable matter, especially large seeds.  Winter flocks can be very large, up to 60 to 70 individuals in areas of abundance. 

Northern Cardinals are a medium-sized songbird (approximately 8.75 inches in length) with short, rounded wings, a long tail, a heavy conical bill, and a crest.  Males are nearly all brilliant red; brownish-gray-tinged scapular and back feathers give the upper parts a less colorful appearance.  The coral red bill is surrounded by a mask of black that extends to a dark eye and includes the chin and throat.  Legs and feet are dark red.

The female is soft grayish brown on the back with variable areas of red on the tail, crest, and wings.  The underparts are a warm pinkish brown.  Her coral red bill is also surrounded by darker but not black feathers, so her mask is not as distinct as the male’s.  Females are slightly smaller than males.
Juveniles are like females but more brown in color, with shorter crest and a blackish bill.  They molt to adult plumage in fall. Print a copy to distribute in your clubs PDF

Cardinal Bird Feeders

    The Cardinal may be the most popular bird to feed and attract, especially in the eastern part of the United States.  Male Cardinals are known by their brilliant  red feathers and majestic crested heads.  Female Cardinals, while also beautiful, sport a more subtle dull reddish color. 

Cardinals are a non-migratory bird and will stay in an area as long as food and adequate shelter are available throughout the year.  Cardinals are very eager to dine at most any available feeder but prefer a steady stationary feeder over a hanging bird feeder.  Pole-mounted gazebo feeders tend to be more accommodating to Cardinals and are usually more successful in attracting them.  Cardinals also prefer bird feeders that are about 5 - 6 feet above ground. 

They will visit your feeder starting early in the morning and they’ll keep returning to it well into the evening.  Since Cardinals dine early in the morning and late in the evening, they have plenty of time for singing all day long while the other birds are taking their turns at your bird feeder. 

Unlike many birds, both the males and the females are very vocal and will sing all year long.  Sunflower seeds are a favorite food for Cardinals.  They will usually sift through the entire mixture of seeds to get to every sunflower seed before starting in on the other seeds.  They also enjoy white proso millet and safflower seeds when they can’t get sunflower seeds.
Print a copy to distribute in your clubs PDF

Dollie Harper
Bird Chairman