Northern Cardinal

Illinois State Bird


Northern cardinal

Northern cardinal; photo by Jen Goellnitz on Flickr (noncommercial use permitted with attribution / no derivative works).

Official State Bird of Illinois

Illinois schoolchildren selected the cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) as the State Bird of Illinois, made official in 1929 by the Illinois General Assembly. One of America's favorite backyard birds, cardinals are distinctive in appearance and song - known for their "cheer cheer cheer," "whit-chew whit-chew" and "purty purty purty" whistles.

Male cardinals are a brilliant scarlet red, females a buffy brown with reddish wings - both have a jet -black mask, pronounced crest, and heavy bill. The cardinal sings nearly year-round, and the male aggressively defends his 4-acre territory (male cardinals have been seen attacking small red objects mistaken as other males).

Northern cardinal facts

Northern cardinals breed 2-3 times each season.

The female builds the nest and tends the hatchlings for about 10 days while the male brings food. The male then takes over the care of this first brood while the female moves on to a new nest and lays a second clutch of eggs.

The cardinal is the state bird of 7 states: Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, and West Virginia.  List all state birds



Female northern cardinal; photo © Brian Jorg / CritterZoneAnimal - Wildlife - Nature Stock Photography (all rights reserved; used by permission).

Female northern cardinal

Northern cardinal pair; photo by Ilona L on Flickr (noncommercial use permitted with attribution / share alike).

Northern cardinal pair

Northern cardinal (male); photo by ehpien on Flickr (noncommercial use permitted with attributioin / no derivative works).

Northern cardinal (male)

Northern cardinal enjoying a bath; photo © James Ownby: My View of Nature (all rights reserved; used by permission).

Northern cardinal taking a bath


Birding by Ear: Northern Cardinal Song