Cardinal Red

Male Northern Cardinal bathing

The brilliantly colored Northern Cardinal must be about the easiest songbird to identify. This pair was attracted to a backyard feeder near the Dragoon Mountains in Southeast Arizona, where I stayed recently. The feeder was situated next to a large brushy shrub and that seemed a perfect arrangement for the cautious birds. They also enjoyed a puddling bubbler at the base of a tree, bathing and splashing despite the chilly morning air. 

The cone shaped beak is a clue that Cardinals eat seeds, the sturdy bill can crack the hardest shells.  Cardinals also eat berries, fruit, leaf buds and insects. They appreciate sunflower seeds at feeders.

Both male and female sing a pure, clear noted song any time of year. In Arizona, Cardinals live mostly in riparian regions, but a friend has reported seeing them in the South Mountain area near a golf course. 

The males’ red feathers are cheery, and I found the females’ olive coloring really gorgeous. Note the coloring on the bills, female’s orangey-red, male mostly red while juveniles have grey or black bills. 

Northern Cardinals may raise several broods in a season, starting in late March. They nest in brushy shrubs and trees, just 5-10 feet up. The 3-4 eggs are incubated about two weeks and just 10 days after hatching the young fledge. 

Female Northern Cardinal waits her turn at the feeder
Perky topknot and lovely coloring

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