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Nature Journal - The Cardinal Family in Our Yard

Updated: Apr 23, 2023

watercolor female cardinal
Watercolor by M

If you're a bird enthusiast, you may have had the pleasure of observing a family of Northern Cardinals. These birds are a common sight in many parts of North America, and they're easily recognizable thanks to their striking red plumage. In fact, we have a cardinal family living in our holly bushes, and they're always so pleasantly loud. These birds are not afraid of people, and can be seen every day, making them a favorite among backyard birdwatchers. As a bird lover, I'm particularly fond of the female birds with their more gentle red plumage. In this blog post, we'll share five fun facts about Northern Cardinals, as well as some wildlife garden tips for attracting and supporting these beautiful birds in your own backyard.

Fun Facts about Northern Cardinals:

  1. The bright red color of male Northern Cardinals is a result of their diet. The more pigment they consume from food sources like berries and insects, the brighter their feathers become.

  2. Unlike many other bird species, both male and female Northern Cardinals sing. Their songs are complex and melodious, with a variety of whistles and trills.

  3. Northern Cardinals are monogamous and mate for life. They often stay together throughout the year, even during the non-breeding season.

  4. Northern Cardinals are not afraid of humans and can be quite bold around bird feeders. They have even been known to attack their own reflections in windows, mistaking them for rival males.

  5. In addition to their bright red plumage, male Northern Cardinals have a distinctive black "mask" around their eyes. This helps to reduce glare and improve their vision while foraging.

Wildlife Garden Tips for Northern Cardinals:

  1. Provide food: Northern Cardinals love sunflower seeds, safflower seeds, and millet. Offer these foods in a bird feeder to attract them to your garden.

  2. Create shelter: Northern Cardinals prefer to nest in dense shrubs and bushes. Plant native shrubs like dogwood, sumac, and viburnum to provide cover and nesting sites.

  3. Offer water: Like all birds, Northern Cardinals need a reliable source of water. Provide a bird bath or shallow dish of water for them to drink and bathe in.

  4. Avoid pesticides: Pesticides can be harmful to Northern Cardinals and other wildlife. Instead, use natural pest control methods like companion planting and handpicking pests.

  5. Plant native plants: Native plants are essential for supporting local ecosystems. Choose native plants that provide food and shelter for Northern Cardinals, like oak trees, black-eyed susans, and serviceberry bushes.

Useful Reference Links:

  1. Cornell Lab of Ornithology - Northern Cardinal:

  2. National Audubon Society - How to Attract Cardinals:

  3. The Spruce - How to Attract Northern Cardinals to Your Yard:

  4. University of Florida IFAS Extension - Gardening for Birds:

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