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Five Fun Facts About Northern Cardinals

A northern cardinal sitting on a branch.
Photo by Bruce Hallman/USFWS.

If you see a bright red bird fiercely singing near you, don’t be alarmed, for it is a male northern cardinal (Cardinals cardinals) signaling there are nearby predators. Northern cardinals are territorial songbirds who give “alarm calls” when predators are near their nest.

Here are five additional fun facts about northern cardinal birds:

  • Northern cardinals have an average lifespan of at least three years. However, there have been reports of cardinals growing as old as 15 years.
  • Male northern cardinals are radiant red all over with a black face while female northern cardinals are pale brown with warm reddish tint in the wings, tail feathers and crest.
  • Northern cardinals breed between March and September. They usually raise two broods a year, one beginning in March and the second in late May to July. There are 3 eggs per season. 
  • Northern cardinals are not migratory birds. They usually live within miles of where they were raised. 
  • Female northern cardinals sing, unlike a few North American songbirds, mainly to call on their mate. Female cardinals may sing a longer and slightly more complex song than the male. 

Want to learn more about northern cardinals and other local wildlife? Visit one of the Forest Preserves’ six nature centers to talk to a naturalist!