Ten Common Birds Of The GTA

DeRango Productions

Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)

Family: Cardinalidae

The Northern Cardinal is simply amazing to find at your bird feeder! And it’s almost impossible to miss the Adult male Northern Cardinal as he sports a wonderful vivid red coloring. Not only does he have a gorgeous red color to him, but he also sports a pretty unique Mohawk too. Just like the Blue Jay has that distinctive blue color, the Cardinal has a distinguishing red color – and is another one of my all time favorites. Cardinals are noted for their loud, clear whistled songs, often sung from a high tree top song post. Females will counter sing, almost like they are having a duet with the males. This usually happens after the males have established territories, and before nesting begins. If there was a way to distinguish what birds have that stand out prowess, and unmatched beauty, you could compare what Major League Baseball Teams use as their mascot and representing logo's.  You could only count three of them, and the St Louis Cardinals is one of them!

Keys To Identification


8 - 9 inches. (21 - 23 centimeters) in length (fully grown), and weigh about 46 grams (1.6  ounces). They have a wingspan of about 10 - 12 inches (25 - 31 Centimeters).


The Northern Cardinal is a fairly large crested songbird with a vivid red body and head.  The Male Cardinals are Red all over, with a reddish bill and black face. It is almost impossible to miss this beautiful red bid by your feeders.

Females are not Red like the males, they are a pale brownish color, and they have a some red on their wings, tail, and crests. The females share the red bill like the males.

Juveniles resemble their mothers even if they are male, they are a bit more brown, and have a black bill that will eventually develop into the beautiful red color

Sounds Like:



Sounds like this birds wants you to cheer up - "cheer-cheer-cheer-cheer" 


Northern Cardinals are non migratory birds; they are year round residents throughout their range. They seem to be most active during the day time, and you will probably notice them in the early morning, and evening hours. You can notice that they have a very strong beak; this is used to help them dig for insects in the bushes and bite into tasty seeds, grains and fruits. When these beautiful birds become agitated they will raise their distinctive crest or Mohawk as I like to call it.  When they are resting, their crests are lowered and barely visible. When its nap time, the Mohawk gets slicked back! Northern Cardinals will hop around your lawn, through low branches and forage around the ground in search of a snack. As a songbird, the Female Northern Cardinal will sing when she is sitting on the nest, giving the male a sign of where she is and if food is needed. If Red means stop, then intruders should beware, the Male Cardinal can be very aggressive and protective when it comes to his family, don’t take his warning lightly as he will attack.


Northern Cardinals prefer brushy woodlands, stream-side thickets, swamps, orchards, suburban gardens and parks too. I have seen a Northern Cardinal by my feeder on more than one occasion in my north of Toronto backyard. They like to nest in dense thickets, evergreens and privet hedges.


The Northern Cardinal looks like its diet is only comprised of a chemically enhancing red berry. But truthfully that isn’t the case. The Cardinals diet consists of mostly seeds, fruits and insects, worms, and even small lizards in some areas. The Cardinal is a popular bird to feed, and it seems that to attract this wonderful red bird to your feeder you should load up with prosso millet and safflower seeds, but their favorite is peanuts and simply sunflower seeds – I guess everyone enjoys the taste of sunflower seeds.

Similar birds:

Realistically there is no bird like the Northern Cardinal; it simply is in a class of its own. But there will always be similarities. Take the Pyrrhuloxias for example; its name makes it sound like it’s some kind of prehistoric dinosaur. But they share a similar body structure, and clearly lack the beautiful red finish. They have a stronger resemblance to the female Cardinal not so much the male in terms of color. Then you could compare the Scarlet Tanager for having a red body finish, but the Tanagers have jet black wings instead of being entirely red. Below you can see pictures of a Pyrrhuloxias on the left, and a Scarlet Tanager on the right.


Range: (the geographical area where this species can be found)


The Northern Cardinal is a year round resident songbird from southeastern United States of America, to the south skirts of Ontario and surrounding areas. It doesn’t mind the winter, and will be common in your backyard in Toronto.

Interesting Facts:

Not only is the Northern Cardinal a perennial favorite among people, it’s also the State bird of seven states. West Virginia, Virginia, Ohio, North Carolina, Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois. Not only is it very popular in all of these states but it is also the home of the St. Lois Cardinals Baseball Team. There is only three baseball teams in the history of the MLB that have a bird as their mascot, The Toronto Blue Jays, The St Lois Cardinals, and The Baltimore Orioles. Two of which I have chosen for my top ten!


Video Courtesy of James Knott, 2009

Another wonderful video by James Knott. Here you can take a closer look at how beautiful the Northern Cardinal really is! Sometimes with a video it helps bring out the natural beauty of these birds! I always find that a visual presentation grasps my attention much more - hope this helps.



"Northern Cardinal." Song Bird Garden. Web. 11 Nov 2009. <http://www.songbirdgarden.com/store/prodimages/NorthernCardinal.jpg>.

"Northern Cardinal Male Large." Voyd And Off. Web. 11 Nov 2009. <http://www.voydanoff.net/albums/crane-creek-birds/Northern_Cardinal2.jpg>.

"Pyrrhuloxia Male" Bna Birds. Web. 10 Nov 2009. <http://bna.birds.cornell.edu/bna/species/391/galleries/photos/GV_Pyrrhuloxia-_male/image_column>.

"Scarlet Tanager." Own By Photography. Web. 10 Nov 2009. <http://www.ownbyphotography.com/Scarlet-Tanager.jpg>.

"Northern Cardinal Range Map." All About Birds. Web. 13 Nov 2009. <http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/PHOTO/LARGE/card_card_AllAm_map_1_1_1.gif>.

"Toronto Blue Jays." Throwbackguy. Web. 11 Nov 2009. <http://www.throwbackguy.com/images/toronto%20logo.png>.  

"St Lois Cardinals." Veteran Presence. Web. 14 Nov 2009. <http://www.veteranpresence.com/2007MLB/Cards.gif>. 

"Baltimore Orioles." Veteran Presence. Web. 11 Nov 2009. <http://youcanplaygolf.com/images/baltimore-orioles-crest.jpg>.  

"Northern Cardinal Mini HD Documentary." Knott, James. Youtube. Web. 11 Nov 2009. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1IjXevlSfL8>. 

"Wikipedia Northern Cardinal." Wikipedia. Web. 11 Nov 2009. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northern_Cardinal>.  

Ransom, Jay Ellias. Complete Filed Guide To North American Wildlife. Eastern Edition. New York: Harper and Row, 1981. 42, 193-194. Print.


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