The brilliant red male Northern Cardinal is a splash of color in winter’s drab landscape. He flies from feeder to ground, to birdbath, and back to the feeder while calling a familiar, “chit, chit, chit.” Of all the non-migrating songbirds, the male cardinal stands out the most, with a stark contrast against a snowy background. In addition to his bright red color, the cardinal sports a crested head with a black chin and neck. Even the brown female glows with her red accents and sharp crest. And because they’re year-round residents, their bright red color symbolizes the beauty and warmth of the holiday season.
Being social birds, cardinals travel and feed in flocks of a dozen or more in the winter. They forage for mainly seeds and fruit but supplement with insects. In sharp contrast, cardinals will be in pairs during mating and nesting season. The female will sit on her nest and answer her mate’s call. She is, after all, one of the few female American songbirds that sings. She shares her mate’s calls and adds some that are often longer and somewhat complex.
Cardinals tend to be a little skittish, but with patience and the right approach you can soon make them regular visitors to your backyard feeders. They’re ground feeders by nature so start by putting some safflower or sunflower seed on the ground beneath your platform feeder. Be sure to offer water, especially during the winter. Further entice them by providing dense foliage, such as shrubs, pine trees or similar landscape ornamentals. The foliage offers nesting possibilities as well as protection from predators. With the expansion of backyards and the growing interest in watching and feeding birds throughout the years, the Northern Cardinal has thrived in the urban environment. So, invite the beauty of winter into your backyard and enjoy the beautiful cardinal just outside your window.
Article contributed by customer Carolyn Marshall