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Cardinal Bird Facts

Abhijit Naik
There exist some interesting facts about cardinal birds which make them so popular. For instance, did you know that the male cardinal fights his own reflection in the mirror for hours together to defend his territory against the intruder?
Cardinals, referred to as cardinal birds at times, are passerine birds native to North America and South America. You get to see a great deal of diversity in this family of birds, with the smallest species, the Orange-breasted Bunting measuring approximately 12 cm and weighing around 12 gm, and the largest species, the Black-headed Saltator measuring 25 cm and weighing 85 gm.

Cardinals - Cardinalidae Family

The Cardinalidae family of birds share traits that are derived from a common ancestor. Some of these species have their own subspecies. Given below are the five clades and genera belonging to each of them. (The number corresponding to the name of the genus is the number of species belonging to this group.)
  • The masked clade
    • Genus Periporphyrus (1)
    • Genus Caryothraustes (2)
    • Genus Rhodothraupis (1)
    • Genus Cardinalis (3)
    • Genus Piranga (9)
  • The blue clade
    • Genus Amaurospiza (3)
    • Genus Cyanocompsa (3)
    • Genus Cyanoloxia (1)
    • Genus Passerina (7)
    • Genus Spiza (1)
  • The Ant-tanager clade
    • Genus Habia (5)
    • Genus Chlorothraupis (3)
  • The Chat clade
    • Genus Granatellus (3)
  • The Pheucticus clade,
    • Genus Pheucticus (6)
Other than these, the cardinal family also includes Genus Saltator (16), Genus Porphyrospiza (1) and Genus Parkerthraustes (1).

General Facts about the Species

Cardinals derive their name from the bright red color of their plumage. Having said that, it's worth noting that only males are bright red. Females, on the other hand, have a relatively dull appearance. This is considered an adaptation of the species, which helps them attract the opposite sex for mating.
Cardinals generally gather in big flocks of around 70 to 100 birds. These birds are omnivorous in nature, feeding on seeds and grains as well as a wide variety of insects. You will often find them foraging for these things in your yard.
One of the most popular species of cardinal in North America is the Northern cardinal. It is often referred to as the 'state bird' in the United States, as it is the state bird of as many as seven states of the country, namely North Carolina, West Virginia, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, and Virginia.
Interestingly enough, the cardinal is the only red bird with a crest in the United States. In cardinals, males are assigned the task of defending their territory and they do it very well. 
A male cardinal can fight with its reflection for several hours if he comes across it in a mirror. In folklore, it is widely believed that the female bird sings to send a message across to the male that it needs food.
The bright red plumage of these birds ensures that you don't have trouble spotting them, regardless of whether you happen to be an amateur birdwatching enthusiast or a veteran of the field.