Cardinals are one of the most recognized birds in North America. The brilliant red color of the male is truly remarkable. And the female isn’t too bad, either. In this article, we’re taking a look at 13 fun facts about cardinals that you may have never heard of before.
The Skinny: 13 Fun Facts About Cardinals
1. Cardinals have an above-average lifespan compared to other bird species.
Typically, they can live between three to five years in the wild. However, there have been isolated studies showing lifespans of up to 13 years or more.
2. They get their name from the Roman Catholic Church.
When settlers from England came to the new world, they were struck by how beautiful this bird was that they had never witnessed before. It reminded them of the brightly colored red robes of the Roman Catholic Cardinals. And the name has stuck ever since.
These are some of the other monickers the cardinal goes by:
- Virginia nightingale
- Crested red bird
- Cardinal grosbeak
- Virginia red bird
3.Cardinals have a range of over two million square miles.
Originally from the southeastern US and Mexico, they are slowly making their way north. They have also been introduced into other areas such as Bermuda, California, and Hawaii.
4. They are a popular state bird.
As a matter of fact, seven states have adopted the cardinal as their very own. That distinction puts it at number one. Here are those seven states:
- West Virginia
- North Carolina
5. Cardinals have great parental instincts.
The father especially will take significant risks to protect the young in the nest. The males will also staunchly defend their mates from predators and other intruders.
6. Both the female and the male can sing.
Scientists once thought that only male cardinals could chitter out a tune. But recent studies indicate that females can sing on occasion, too.
Observers often describe the singing as a “sweet, sweet, sweet” or a “cheer, cheer, cheer” sound. Males enjoy singing their songs out in the open, while females prefer to sing while tucked away from predators.
7. Cardinals keep their vibrant red color year-round.
Although it is the male that is red, the female compliments him well by maintaining a slight pinkish hue.
The attractiveness of both the male and the female helps maintain the cardinal’s popularity. It is by far the most sought-after bird by artists, photographers, and greeting card makers.
8. The crest has a special purpose.
Especially for the males, if their crest is raised, it means they may be ready to pick a fight. Conversely, if it is down, he’s probably ready to relax with the family for a while. The same generally goes for the female.
9. The cardinal is a symbol of professional and college sports teams throughout the US.
Here is a sampling of the most common ones:
- Arizona Cardinals (National Football League)
- St. Louis Cardinals (Major League Baseball)
- North Central College
- Saginaw Valley State University
- University of Louisville
10. Another one of the fun facts about cardinals is that they aren’t always pretty.
During molting, the cardinal can sometimes lose all of the feathers on its head. This can make for a rather dreadful sight. Don’t worry, though. It will grow back in a few days.
11. Cardinals can sometimes be yellow.
Although it is a rare sight to spot a yellow cardinal, it can happen. The odd color is due to a genetic mutation that blocks the bird’s ability to turn red. It is such a rare occurrence that most people have about a one-in-a-million chance of spotting one in their lifetime.
12. Like any other bird, they are in constant danger.
Young hatchlings are often killed by neighborhood cats. Eggs are sometimes eaten by snakes, squirrels, or other birds.
The adults are not immune to attack, either. They can often be hunted by owls, falcons, and hawks, just to name a few of their common predators.
13. They’re easy to attract if the right food is used.
Cardinals are granivorous, which means that their diet primarily consists of seeds. With that in mind, they can be summoned for dinner with their favorite foods. In particular:
- Sunflower seeds
- Cracked corn
- Shelled peanuts
- Safflower seeds
Cardinals prefer to feast early in the morning or late in the evening. So it is best to check the bird feeders at those times.
Have cardinals in the yard, but don’t have a bird feeder for them? Check out our list of the 5 best bird feeders for cardinals, you might find something that not only looks good in your yard, but also pleases your cardinal neighbors.
Cardinals are everywhere in the United States, but just because something is commonly seen does not mean that it is commonly understood! Do you have a fun fact about cardinals that you want us to include in our list above? Please let us know in the comments below!