Northern Cardinal


Northern Cardinal
"Red Cardinal" redirects here. For the plant Erythrina herbacea, see Coral Bean.
Northern Cardinal
Male in Ohio, USA
Female lacks the vivid red color
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Cardinalidae
Genus: Cardinalis
Species: C. cardinalis
Binomial name
Cardinalis cardinalis
(Linnaeus, 1758)

The Northern Cardinal or Redbird or Common Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) is a North American bird in the genus Cardinalis. It can be found in southern Canada, through the eastern United States from Maine to Texas and south through Mexico. It is found in woodlands, gardens, shrublands, and swamps.

The Northern Cardinal is a mid-sized songbird with a body length of 21 centimeters. It has a distinctive crest on the head and a mask on the face which is black in the male and gray in the female. The male is a vibrant red, while the female is a dull red-brown shade. The Northern Cardinal is mainly granivorous, but also feeds on insects and fruit. The male behaves territorially, marking out his territory with song. During courtship, the male feeds seed to the female beak-to-beak. A clutch of three to four eggs is laid, and two to four clutches are produced each year. It was once prized as a pet, but its sale as cage birds is now banned in the United States by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.

Contents

Taxonomy

The Northern Cardinal is one of three birds in the genus Cardinalis and is included in the family Cardinalidae, which is made up of passerine birds found in North and South America.

The Northern Cardinal was one of the many species originally described by Linnaeus in his 18th century work, Systema Naturae.[2] It was initially included in the genus Loxia, which now contains only crossbills. In 1838, it was placed in the genus Cardinalis and given the scientific name Cardinalis virginianus, which means "Virginia Cardinal". In 1918, the scientific name was changed to Richmondena cardinalis to honor Charles Wallace Richmond, an American ornithologist.[3] In 1983, the scientific name was changed again to Cardinalis cardinalis and the common name was changed to "Northern Cardinal", to avoid confusion with the seven other species also termed cardinals.[4]

The common name, as well as the scientific name, of the Northern Cardinal refers to the cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church, who wear distinctive red robes and caps.[5] The term "Northern" in the common name refers to its range, as it is the northernmost cardinal species.[5]

Description

The Northern Cardinal is a mid-sized songbird with a body length of 20–23 cm (7.9–9.1 in) and a wingspan of 25–31 cm (9.8–12 in). It weighs about 45 g (1.6 oz). The male is slightly larger than the female.[6] The male is a brilliant crimson red with a black face mask over the eyes, extending to the upper chest. The color is dullest on the back and wings.[7] The female is fawn, with mostly grayish-brown tones and a slight reddish tint on the wings, the crest, and the tail feathers.[8] The face mask of the female is gray to black and is less defined than that of the male. Both sexes possess prominent raised crests and bright coral-colored beaks. The beak is cone-shaped and strong.[7] Young birds, both male and female, show the coloring similar to the adult female until the fall, when they molt and grow adult feathers.[9] They are brown above and red-brown below, with brick-colored crest, forehead, wings, and tail.[4] The legs and feet are a dark pink-brown. The iris of the eye is brown.[4] The plumage color of the males is produced from carotenoid pigments in the diet.[10] Coloration is produced from both red pigments and yellow carotenoid pigments.[11] Northern Cardinal males possess the ability to metabolize carotenoid pigments to create plumage pigmentation of a color different from the ingested pigment. When fed only yellow pigments, males become a pale red color, rather than a yellow.[11]

Distribution and habitat

The Northern Cardinal is abundant across the eastern United States from Maine to Texas and in Canada in the provinces of Ontario, Quebec, and Nova Scotia. Its range extends west to the U.S.-Mexico border and south through Mexico to the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, northern Guatemala, and northern Belize. It was introduced to Bermuda in 1700. It has also been introduced in Hawaii and southern California. Its natural habitat is woodlands, gardens, shrublands, and swamps.[1] This bird is a permanent resident throughout its range, although it may relocate to avoid extreme weather or if food is scarce.[12]

Ecology

Song

The Northern Cardinal is a territorial song bird. The male sings in a loud, clear whistle from the top of a tree or another high location to defend his territory. He will chase off other males entering his territory. He may mistake his image on various reflective surfaces as an invading male, and will fight his reflection relentlessly. The Northern Cardinal learns its songs, and as a result the songs vary regionally. It is able to easily distinguish the sex of another singing Northern Cardinal by its song alone.[13] Mated pairs often travel together.[14]

Male often feeds the female as part of their courtship behavior

Both sexes sing clear, whistled song patterns, which are repeated several times, then varied. Some common phrases are described as "cheeeer-a-dote, cheeer-a-dote-dote-dote," "purdy, purdy, purdy...whoit, whoit, whoit, whoit," "what-cheer, what-cheer... wheet, wheet, wheet, wheet"[12] and cheer, cheer, cheer, what, what, what, what[15] The Northern Cardinal has a distinctive alarm call, a short metallic 'chip' sound. This call often is given when predators approach the nest, in order to give warning to the female and nestlings.[4] In some cases it will also utter a series of chipping notes. The frequency and volume of these notes increases as the threat becomes greater.[4] This chipping noise is also used by a Cardinal pair to locate each other, especially during dusk hours when visibility wanes.

Predators

Northern Cardinals are preyed upon by a wide variety of predators native to North America, including Cooper's hawks, loggerhead shrikes, northern shrikes, eastern gray squirrels, long-eared owls and eastern screech owls. Predators of chicks and eggs include milk snakes, coluber constrictors, blue jays, fox squirrels, and eastern chipmunks.[6]

Diet

The diet of the Northern Cardinal consists mainly (up to 90 percent) of weed, grains, and fruits. It is a ground feeder and finds food while hopping on the ground through trees or shrubbery. It eats beetles, cicadas, grasshoppers, snails, wild fruit and berries, corn (maize) and oats, sunflower seeds, the blossoms and bark of elm trees, and drinks maple sap from holes made by sapsuckers, an example of commensalism.[16] During the summer months, it shows preference for seeds that are easily husked, but is less selective during winter, when food is scarce. Northern Cardinals also will consume insects and feed their young almost exclusively on insects.[17]

Reproduction

Newborn
At one week old
Female feeding a chick

Pairs mate for life, and they stay together year-round. Mated pairs sometimes sing together before nesting. During courtship they may also participate in a bonding behavior where the male collects food and brings it to the female, feeding her beak-to-beak.[12] If the mating is successful, this mate-feeding may continue throughout the period of incubation.

Males sometimes bring nest material to the female, who does most of the building. She crushes twigs with her beak until they are pliable, then turns in the nest to bend the twigs around her body and push them into a cup shape with her feet. The cup has four layers: coarse twigs (and sometimes bits of trash) covered in a leafy mat, then lined with grapevine bark and finally grasses, stems, rootlets, and pine needles. The nest typically takes 3 to 9 days to build; the finished product is 2–3 inches tall, 4 inches across, with an inner diameter of about 3 inches. Cardinals do not usually use their nests more than once. The female builds a cup nest in a well-concealed spot in dense shrub or a low tree one to three meters (three to ten ft) off the ground. The nest is made of thin twigs, bark strips, and grasses, lined with grasses or other plant fibers.[18] Eggs are laid one to six days following the completion of the nest. The eggs are white, with a tint of green, blue or brown, and are marked with lavender, gray, or brown blotches which are thicker around the larger end.[10] The shell is smooth and slightly glossy.[18] Three or four eggs are laid in each clutch. Eggs measure approximately 1 x .75 inches in size.[10] The female generally incubates the eggs, though, rarely, the male will incubate for brief periods of time. Incubation takes 12 to 13 days.[18] Young fledge 10 to 11 days after hatching. Two to three, and even four, broods are raised each year.[18] The male cares for and feeds each brood as the female incubates the next clutch of eggs.[16]

The oldest wild Cardinal banded by researchers lived at least 15 years and 9 months, although 28.5 years was achieved by a captive bird. Annual survival rates for adult Northern Cardinals have been estimated at 60 to 65%;[19] however, as with other passerine birds, the high mortality of juveniles means that the average lifespan is only about a year.

Relationship with humans

Fledgling at a box feeder

The Northern Cardinal is found in residential areas throughout its range. Backyard birders attract it using feeders containing seeds, particularly sunflower seeds and safflower seeds. Although some controversy surrounds bird feeding (see bird feeder for details), an increase in backyard feeding by humans has generally been beneficial to this species. It is listed as a species of Least Concern by the IUCN Red List. It has an estimated global range of 5,800,000 square kilometers (2,239,392.5 sq mi) and a global population estimated to be about 100,000,000 individuals.[1] Populations appear to remain stable and it has not reached the threshold of inclusion as a threatened species, which requires a decline of more than 30 percent in ten years or three generations.[1] It was once prized as a pet due to its bright color and distinctive song.[8] In the United States, this species receives special legal protection under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, which also banned their sale as cage birds.[20] It is also protected by the Convention for the Protection of Migratory Birds in Canada.[21] It is illegal to take, kill, or possess Northern Cardinals, and violation of the law is punishable by a fine of up to 15,000 US dollars and imprisonment of up to six months.[22]

In the United States, the Northern Cardinal is the mascot of a number of athletic teams. In professional sports, it is the mascot of the St. Louis Cardinals of Major League Baseball's National League and the Arizona Cardinals of the National Football League. In college athletics, it is the mascot of many schools, including the University of Louisville, the State University of New York at Plattsburgh, Ball State University, Illinois State University, Lamar University, the Catholic University of America, Wesleyan University, Wheeling Jesuit University, Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, North Idaho College and Saint John Fisher College. It is also the state bird of seven states, more than any other species: North Carolina, West Virginia, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, and Virginia. It was also a candidate to become the state bird of Delaware, but lost to the Blue Hen of Delaware.

References

  1. ^ a b c d "Species factsheet: Cardinalis cardinalis". BirdLife International. http://www.iucnredlist.org/apps/redlist/details/150308/0. Retrieved 2007-11-06. 
  2. ^ (Latin) Linnaeus, C (1758). Systema naturae per regna tria naturae, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis. Tomus I. Editio decima, reformata.. Holmiae. (Laurentii Salvii).. pp. 824. http://dz1.gdz-cms.de/index.php?id=img&no_cache=1&IDDOC=265100. 
  3. ^ Bailey, Florence Merriam (1921). Handbook of Birds of the Western United States. Houghton Mifflin. pp. 500. http://books.google.com/?id=6w0LAAAAIAAJ&dq=. 
  4. ^ a b c d e Ritchison, Gary (1997). Northern Cardinal. Stackpole Books. pp. 2. ISBN 0811731006. http://books.google.com/?id=mwY9HFMWkbsC&dq=. 
  5. ^ a b Holloway, Joel Ellis (2003). Dictionary of Birds of the United States: Scientific and Common Names. Timber Press. pp. 59. ISBN 0881926000. http://books.google.com/?id=41knpiVqnKYC&pg=PA59&dq=Cathartes+aura+subject:%22Nature+/+Birds+%26+Birdwatching%22. 
  6. ^ a b Dewey, T.; J. Crane and K. Kirschbaum (2002). "Cardinalis cardinalis". University of Michigan Museum of Zoology. http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Cardinalis_cardinalis.html. Retrieved 2007-08-24. 
  7. ^ a b "Northern cardinal Cardinalis cardinalis". United States Geological Survey. http://www.mbr-pwrc.usgs.gov/id/framlst/i5930id.html. Retrieved 2007-11-08. 
  8. ^ a b Wright, Mabel Osgood (1907). Birdcraft: A Field Book of Two Hundred Song, Game, and Water Birds. Macmillan. pp. 161. http://books.google.com/?id=OIg6AAAAMAAJ&pg=PA161&dq=Cardinalis+cardinalis. 
  9. ^ Cornell Lab of Ornithology. "Cardinalis cardinalis". Cornell University. http://www.birds.cornell.edu/AllAboutBirds/BirdGuide/Northern_Cardinal.html. Retrieved 2007-08-24. 
  10. ^ a b c Krinsky, Norman I; Mayne, Susan T. & Sies, Helmut (2004). Carotenoids In Health And Disease. CRC Press. pp. 258. ISBN 0824754166. http://books.google.com/?id=J1UiAgqXnSMC&pg=PA258&dq. 
  11. ^ a b McGraw, Kevin J; Hill, Geoffrey E.; Stradi, Riccardo & Parker, Robert S (2001). "The Influence of Carotenoid Acquisition and Utilization on the Maintenance of Species-Typical Plumage Pigmentation in Male American Goldfinches (Carduelis tristis) and Northern Cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis)" (abstract). Physiological and Biochemical Zoology (the University of Chicago Press) 74 (6): 843–852. doi:10.1086/323797. PMID 11731975. http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/abs/10.1086/323797. Retrieved 2007-11-06. 
  12. ^ a b c Elliott, Lang; Read, Marie (1998). Common Birds and Their Songs. Houghton Mifflin Field Guides. pp. 28. ISBN 0395912385. http://books.google.com/?id=YRvG6LkpuzAC&dq=. 
  13. ^ Snowdon, Charles T; Hausberger, Martine (1997). Social Influences on Vocal Development. Cambridge University Press. pp. 119. ISBN 0521495261. http://books.google.com/?id=U7h3s79HcrAC&dq. 
  14. ^ Robison, B C; Tveten, John L (1990). Birds of Houston. University of Texas Press. pp. 59. ISBN 0892633034. http://books.google.com/?id=wGWYYi5Z4pAC&dq=Cardinalis+cardinalis. 
  15. ^ Halkins, S. L.. "All About Birds: Northern Cardinal". http://www.birds.cornell.edu/AllAboutBirds/BirdGuide/Northern_Cardinal.html. Retrieved 2009-02-23. 
  16. ^ a b Terres, J. K. (1980). The Audubon Society Encyclopedia of North American Birds. New York, NY: Knopf. pp. 293. ISBN 0394466519. 
  17. ^ Cardinalis cardinalis: Information Animal Diversity
  18. ^ a b c d Harrison, Hal H. (1979). A Field Guide to Western Birds' Nests. Houghton Mifflin Field. pp. 228. ISBN 0618164375. http://books.google.com/?id=uSSl_f83LFEC&dq=. 
  19. ^ Halkin, S., S. Linville. (1999). Northern cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis). Pp. 1-32 in A. Poole, F. Gill, eds. The Birds of North America, Vol. 440. Philadelphia, PA: The Birds of North America.
  20. ^ "Birds Protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act". US Fish & Wildlife Service. Archived from the original on 2007-10-10. http://web.archive.org/web/20071010020817/http://www.fws.gov/migratorybirds/intrnltr/mbta/mbtandx.html. Retrieved 2007-10-14. 
  21. ^ "Game and Wild Birds: Preservation". US Code Collection. Cornell Law School. http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/search/display.html?terms=Mexico%20+%20bird&url=/uscode/html/uscode16/usc_sec_16_00000701----000-notes.html. Retrieved 2007-10-29. 
  22. ^ "Migratory Bird Treaty Act". US Code Collection. Cornell Law School. http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/html/uscode16/usc_sup_01_16_10_7_20_II.html. Retrieved 2007-10-14. 

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • northern cardinal — Cardinal Car di*nal, n. [F. carinal, It. cardinale, LL. cardinalis (ecclesi[ae] Roman[ae]). See {Cardinal}, a.] 1. (R. C. Ch.) One of the ecclesiastical princes who constitute the pope s council, or the sacred college. [1913 Webster] The clerics… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • northern cardinal — Cardinal Car di*nal, n. [F. carinal, It. cardinale, LL. cardinalis (ecclesi[ae] Roman[ae]). See {Cardinal}, a.] 1. (R. C. Ch.) One of the ecclesiastical princes who constitute the pope s council, or the sacred college. [1913 Webster] The clerics… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • northern cardinal — paprastasis kardinolas statusas T sritis zoologija | vardynas atitikmenys: lot. Cardinalis cardinalis angl. northern cardinal vok. Roter Kardinal, m; Rotkardinal, m rus. виргинский кардинал, m; красный кардинал, m pranc. cardinal rouge, m ryšiai …   Paukščių pavadinimų žodynas

  • northern cardinal — /nɔθən ˈkadənəl/ (say nawdhuhn kahduhnuhl) noun → cardinal (def. 4) …   Australian English dictionary

  • Cardinal Rouge — Cardinal rouge …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Cardinal — Car di*nal, n. [F. carinal, It. cardinale, LL. cardinalis (ecclesi[ae] Roman[ae]). See {Cardinal}, a.] 1. (R. C. Ch.) One of the ecclesiastical princes who constitute the pope s council, or the sacred college. [1913 Webster] The clerics of the… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Cardinal bird — Cardinal Car di*nal, n. [F. carinal, It. cardinale, LL. cardinalis (ecclesi[ae] Roman[ae]). See {Cardinal}, a.] 1. (R. C. Ch.) One of the ecclesiastical princes who constitute the pope s council, or the sacred college. [1913 Webster] The clerics… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Cardinal flower — Cardinal Car di*nal, n. [F. carinal, It. cardinale, LL. cardinalis (ecclesi[ae] Roman[ae]). See {Cardinal}, a.] 1. (R. C. Ch.) One of the ecclesiastical princes who constitute the pope s council, or the sacred college. [1913 Webster] The clerics… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

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  • Cardinal red — Cardinal Car di*nal, n. [F. carinal, It. cardinale, LL. cardinalis (ecclesi[ae] Roman[ae]). See {Cardinal}, a.] 1. (R. C. Ch.) One of the ecclesiastical princes who constitute the pope s council, or the sacred college. [1913 Webster] The clerics… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English


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