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The scientific name of the northern cardinal is cardinalis cardinalis.
The global population of this bird species is about 100 million and they are found living in the forests of North America. Their diet in the north features seeds and insects, for which they can be seen foraging on the ground.
Some of the common names of the Northern Cardinals are redbird, red cardinal, cardinal, or common cardinal. It can be found in various regions of eastern and central United States including Maine, Minnesota, Texas, Belize, west of Great Plains, and others. They are also found in the wildlife of Mexico, South America, and some parts of southeastern Canada. They usually live on trees.
There are 19 different subspecies of the northern cardinals. The males and females are similar birds morphologically. The male northern cardinal birds are vibrant red and have a black masks on their faces and chest. The females are reddish olive. They also have distinctive crests on their head. The young cardinals have pink skin and gray scales. The gray scales are not visible in adult males or females. Neither males nor females have any hint of red color.
The males change their color first and their wings are also red. The color of the wings changes and becomes darker and duller as the bird ages. This bird species has long tails wherein the males have more reddish tails as compared to an adult female bird. They feed on berries, fruits, sunflower seeds, blackberry seeds, and small insects while foraging on the ground. After the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, it was banned to cage these birds in the US.
The northern cardinals are about 8-9.3 in (20.3-23.6 cm) long. Their wings measure up to 12 in (30 cm) and can weigh up to 1.51 oz (43 g). Their breeding season starts in March and ends in September. The predators who prey upon the northern cardinals include falcons, hawks, shrikes, bald eagles, golden eagles, owls, milk snakes, fox squirrels, chipmunks, cats, and others. It is also the state bird of Illinois. They build nests 3-10 in (7.6-25.4 cm) above the ground. Their nest material includes thin twigs, grapevine bark, pine needles, bark strips, and grasses.
The distribution of this bird species can be depicted by the northern cardinal range map. The cardinal range map includes all the regions that are habitats of these birds. The northern cardinals are distributed in the following regions.
These birds are found in the eastern range of eastern North America including southwestern Nova Scotia, southern New Brunswick, southern Quebec, central Quebec, southern Ontario, south Upper Peninsula of Michigan, northern Wisconsin, central Minnesota, and southeast Manitoba.
These birds are also found in South Dakota, west-central Nebraska, western Kansas, eastern Colorado, western Oklahoma, and Texas.
They are rarely found in western countries of the United States but can sometimes be seen in New Mexico, South America, central Arizona, southeast and southwest Arizona, southeastern California, and lower Colorado River.
Other places where these birds nest include Baja California, Colima, Oaxaca, Pacific slope of Mexico, Sonora, central Sinaloa, Tres Marias Island, northeast Jalisco, Atlantic slope of Tamaulipas, Yucatán Peninsula, Cozumel Island, Guatemala, and north Belize.
Many species of North Cardinals like cardinals, superbus, canicaudus, Mexican subspecies, and other species were introduced in various regions.
These regions include California, Los Angeles, and San Diego.
Some species of North Cardinal were introduced on the Hawaiian Islands between 1929 and 1931.
They were also introduced in Bermuda in the 1800s.
They are also found in northern Honduras and Swan Islands.
They have been seen in Washington, British Columbia, and the United Kingdom. But there is no established population of North cardinals in these regions.
They are rarely seen in Montana, east Continental Divide, Missouri River, Utah, and southern Nevada.
The details about the range and habitat of the northern cardinal are given below.
The northern cardinal can live in different habitats. In fact, it is the state bird of seven different states. They can be found in gardens, shrubs, woodlands, wetlands, and parks. They need trees to build nests and forage. They usually search for berries, insects, and sunflower seeds in shrubs.
You can also find them in urban areas that allow bird-friendly landscapes. The northern cardinals are found in eastern and mid regions of the United States like Maine, Texas, Ohio, Washington, and others. They are also found in eastern Mexico and some parts of Canada like Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. Several species of the northern cardinal were introduced in Hawaii Islands, Bermuda, and southern California.
The details about the songs and calls of the northern cardinal are given down below.
The female, as well as male northern cardinals, sing songs. The song of male and female northern cardinal is sexually dimorphic. The song differs from each other due to the varied level of hormones in each gender. They are territorial songbirds. It means that they sing a song to defend their territories.
The birds sing in a loud and clear voice. The song lasts for about two to three seconds. The song may sound like a whistle and end in a slow trill. Their song can be described by using syllables like cheer, cheer, cheer or birdie, birdie, birdie or wheet, wheet, wheet.
The male northern cardinal gives a small call to adult females and young birds when the predators approach their nest. The call may sound like a chip sound. The volume and frequency of the song increase with the thread. The northern cardinal pair also sings a song during dusk to locate each other. There are about 16 different calls of the northern cardinals that have been identified by researchers.
Throughout history, there have been various changes in the distribution of the northern cardinal.
The breeding range of the northern cardinal has expanded in the northern limit since the 1800s.
There have been various reasons for this expansion but the three primary factors are encroachment of forests by humans, warm climate, and increased availability of food. The expansion has also taken place in the western United States, Mexico, and northern Central America.
In the early 20th century, northern cardinals were commonly found in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and two counties of south New York. In the '40s and '50s, the northern cardinals moved to New England. They were reported to nest in Massachusetts in 1958, Vermont in 1962, and Maine in 1962.
In the '70s, they occupied 59 counties of New York. By the 2000s, they were found all over the state. The first nest of northern cardinals in Canada was found in 1901 in Pt. Pelee. They were seen in Toronto by the '30s but were not commonly found.
They were first found in Ontario in 1849. Now they are quite common here and have breeding species in southern Ontario and Ottawa Valley. In 1965, the first nest of northern cardinals was found in southern Quebec. The southern Appalachians and St. Lawrence saw expansion in the north and east since the '80s.
There were not many sightings of these birds in the '80s in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick of Maritime Provinces. But by 2010, they were common in various regions including the Bay of Fundy, South Atlantic coasts, and Saint John River valley.
They are not very common in Newfoundland to date. The northern cardinals started expanding in Ohio during the 1830s. They were first sighted in southeast Michigan in 1884. The northern cardinals became common here in 1909. They were rare in Wisconsin in 1903 but expanded during the '80s.
In Iowa, they were first sighted in 1906. From 1916-1970, their number increased by 50% in Missouri after the forest and prairie were converted into a park and residential area.
The northern cardinals came to Minnesota in the 1800s. They expanded to Twin Cities by 1930, Morrison County by 1960, and Lac Qui Parle County by the '60s. They were first sighted in South Dakota in 1877. Today they are spread in the southeast region and breed in Aberdeen and Pierre. They are not very common in the northeast region and west.
They expanded in various west Nebraskakan regions like the Platte River and Niobrara River.
They were first sighted in south-central Arizona during the 1870s. They expanded in the west, northwest, central, and southern half of Arizona.
They were introduced in Los Angeles Country in the '20s. Since then, they have expanded to San Diego and Baja California.
Climate change reshapes the range of the northern cardinal in the following ways:
Global warming has increased the temperature of Earth by three degrees. This affects the breeding of northern cardinal birds. Wildfires, heavy rains, intense heat waves, and rise in sea level affects the habitat and nesting of northern cardinals.
The increase in temperature also forces the birds to use more energy for thermoregulation. The birds also leave their homes when there is a change in the climate of their surroundings.
Pollution also drives birds away from their home.
Some of the climate threats faced by the northern cardinal are listed down below.
Deforestation affects the northern cardinal. Due to the cutting of trees and forests, many birds can be uprooted from their nests. Due to global warming, the temperature rises. It can affect the breeding of northern cardinals. Wildfires, heavy rains, and heat waves may result in habitat loss. Climate change also increases energy consumption for thermoregulation.
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