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Cardinal on Dogwood Notecard



Cardinal on Dogwood (Cardinalis cardinalis)

These birds are named for the cardinals of the Roman Catholic church with their bright red robes. With vivid red plumage and clear whistled songs, the cardinal is a backyard favorite. Cardinals add cheer to our winter landscape with their color as they often remain on their breeding territory year-round. Cardinals are residents in the eastern half of the U.S. and are currently expanding their range northward and into the southwest. They inhabit forests, shrublands, parks, suburbs and backyards. Cardinals usually build their nests in dense thickets. Their primary diet is fruits, seeds and insects. Cardinals are common visitors at winter feeding stations.

Cardinals not only mate for life, they remain together for the whole year. The adult male is red overall with a black face and chin. His red crest can be raised and lowered at will. Females are grey-brown with a reddish tinge to her crest, wings and tail. Males are strongly territorial. Females build the nest alone with the male in close proximity exuberant in song. Both sexes have red bills and sing clear, slurred, whistled phrases that are repeated several times. Each individual has a vocabulary of several phrase types which it combines into different songs. One common song pattern resembles purdy, purdy, purdy…whoit, whoit, whoit.? Another one sounds like what-cheer, what-cheer…wheet, wheet, wheet, wheet.? The alternating songs heard in the spring are as likely to be from a courting pair as from rival males proclaiming territory.

Cardinals remind us to add color to our lives!

artwork by John Sill © 2004

text by Steve Sierigk