Northern Cardinal

North Carolina State Bird


Northern cardinal pair

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

Northern Cardinal

North Carolina designated the northern cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) as official state bird in 1943. 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 buff 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 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.

North Carolina


Northern cardinal (male); photo by Stephen Wolfe on Flickr (use permitted with attribution).

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

Female northern cardinal; photo by Noel Pennington on Flickr (use permitted with attribution).

Female northern cardinal

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

Northern cardinal (male)


Birding by Ear: Northern Cardinal Song