Beauty Of Animal | Northern Cardinal | In the 1800s Cardinals were much-sought-after cage birds highly valued for their color and song. Thousands were trapped in the south in the winter and sent to northern markets, and thousands more were sent to Europe. This trade ceased, fortunately, with the passage of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.
The common and familiar Northern Cardinal is a bird whose range has expanded northward in the last 100 years. Originally a bird of the Southeast, the Northern Cardinal's range expanded north and northwest along the Mississippi River and its tributaries. In 1886 this cardinal was found only occasionally north of the Ohio River. By 1895 it had reached the Great Lakes, and by 1910, it was found in southern Ontario.
Since the 1950s, expansion to the northeast has increased whereas dispersal to the northwest has slowed. The first documented Northern Cardinal nesting in Connecticut was in 1943; it reached Massachusetts in 1958, and has since reached the southern Maritime provinces of Canada. The Cardinal is limited in the West to areas where the annual precipitation is at least 16 inches. Nationally, centers of abundance for this cardinal are along the Mississippi River and along the Colorado and Guadalupe Rivers in Texas. Less-dense populations occur in the valleys of the Ohio, Arkansas, Brazos, and Red rivers.
often sung from a high treetop song post. Females will counter sing, duetting with males—usually after the males have established territories and before nesting begins. Local variations and accents have been noted in cardinal songs.
Typical habitats are thickets and brushy areas, edges and clearings, riparian woodlands, parks, and residential areas. Here the nonmigratory cardinals feed on a variety of foods including seeds, leaf buds, flowers, berries, and fruit. Up to one-third of its summer diet can be insects. Its winter diet is 90 percent vegetable matter, especially large seeds. Winter flocks can be very large, up to 60 or 70 individuals in areas of abundance.
Description: Northern Cardinals are a medium-sized songbird (approximately 8.75 inches in length) with short, rounded wings, a long tail, a heavy conical bill, and a crest. Males are nearly all brilliant red; brownish-gray-tinged scapular and back feathers give the upper parts a less colorful appearance. The coral red bill is surrounded by a mask of black that extends to a dark eye and includes the chin and throat. Legs and feet are dark red.
The female is soft grayish brown on the back with variable areas of red on the tail, crest, and wings. The underparts are a warm pinkish brown. Her coral red bill is also surrounded by darker but not black feathers, so her mask is not as distinct as the male's. Females are slightly smaller than males. The juveniles are like females but more brown in color, with shorter crest and a blackish bill. They molt to adult plumage in fall.
The only other similar all-red birds in North America, the Hepatic and Summer Tanagers (Piranga flava and P. rubra), can be distinguished by their lack of crest and black mask and by their much slimmer bills. The related Pyrrhuloxia (Cardinalis sinuatus) is a similarly shaped bird with a similar song that may also attend feeders in the Southwest. It is a gray bird with a touch of red on its wings, tail, and the top of its crest. The male has red on its face where the cardinal has black and rose on its breast and belly. Both male and female are distinguished by strongly curved yellow parrot-like bills rather than the straighter and longer coral-red bills of the Northern Cardinal.
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