I think this was the first bird I was able to identify at a young age. Maybe because there is really nothing like these, at least not here in North America. They do not molt into a bland color for winter, like many finches and other birds. They keep their bright red plumage all winter. They are kind of like the “Cockatoo of the Americas” as its head feathers rise in the same fashion.
Cardinals tend to be ground feeding birds that generally hop around lower branches, although they tend to nest very high in trees.
Cardinals are very protective of their territories in the spring during breeding season and will defend their territory to the end! This is usually the time when they can be found attacking reflections of themselves in hubcaps, windows and metal roofing material.
When they do find a mate in the spring, the courtship is usually focused on the male feeding the female. I love watching the male grab a seed, fly to the female and give it to her.
Cardinals mainly eat seeds, fruit and insects (nestlings mostly get fed insects). Cardinals eat many kinds of birdseed, particularly black oil sunflower seed. They also eat many kinds of insects including beetles, crickets, leafhoppers, cicadas, flies, katydids, centipedes, spiders, and moths.
Female Cardinals are one of the few North American songbirds that sing and often do while sitting on the nest. It is thought she gives the male information about when to bring food to the nest. (Hey Honey, we need some food up here… Don’t go to McBirds either!) A mated pair often shares song phrases; however the female may sing a longer and a slightly more multipart song than the male.
In the winter, cardinals will flock with other birds for safety. It’s not uncommon to see them with sparrows, juncos, titmice and chickadees.