The Northern Cardinal

Posted on March 7th, 2010 by admin in Bird Article, North American Birds

{northen cardinal

The Northern Cardinal (hereafter, cardinal), named for the male’s red plumage, is found throughout eastern and central North America from southern Canada into parts of Mexico and Central America. It has taken advantage of moderate temperatures, human habitation, and provisioning at Bird Feeders to expand its range northward since the early 1800s and has been introduced to California, Hawaii, and Bermuda. A year-round resident, the cardinal is a common visitor to bird feeders in winter, and it has been chosen as state bird in 7 U.S. states.

The cardinal is strongly sexually dichromatic—the male brilliant red and the female primarily grayish tan. It is an omnivorous passerine with a diet consisting mainly of seeds, fruits and insects. Plumage color results from ingestion and deposition of carotenoid pigments obtained from the diet during molt and may signal mate quality. New research has shown that brighter males have higher reproductive success and territories with greater vegetation density, and that plumage brightness in both the male (breast color) and female (color of underwing-coverts) is positively correlated with parental care (feeding nestlings).

Northern Cardinal Pre-Dawn in Total Darkness

Both male and female sing. Female song from the nest appears to provide the male with information about whether to bring food to the nest. Local song dialects are apparent: Mates and neighbors share most or all of their song repertoires, and repertoires diverge increasingly with increased distance.



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