Order: PASSERIFORMES Family: Cardinals and Grosbeaks (Cardinalidae)
Northern cardinals are medium-sized songbirds (8-9 in). The adult male is bright red with a black face and red bill. The adult female is buff-brown with a red tinge to the crest, wings and tail. Like the male, the face is darker and the bill orange. The babies look similar to the female with a dark bill.
Backyard bird enthusiasts almost always want to attract the bright red Northern Cardinal. The red color of the Cardinal’s feathers is the result of pigments called carotenoids. The amount of the pigment ingested, and then deposited in the feathers as they molt, influences the quality and depth of their coloration.
To landscape for cardinals plant evergreens, berry bushes, and fruit trees as part of the habitat. Cardinals will eat beetles, cicadas, grasshoppers, and snails, but prefer wild fruit and berries, sunflower seeds, safflower, and nuts. They will feed on the ground or perch at hopper feeders, platform or tray feeders, and some tube feeders. Cardinals are often the first to visit a feeder in the morning and the last to stop by and grab a bite at night.
Behavior: The cardinal has expanded its range greatly since the days of John James Audubon. Originally a southern bird, the Northern Cardinal began expanding its range into northern states around the 1900’s. After nesting season Cardinals stop defending territories and begin to flock together. During the early days of there expansion they would migrate back south during the winter. But in time they became a year round resident in Michigan and winter is a great time to watch cardinals.