In 1758 the Cardinal was one of the many species originally described by Carl Linnaeus, a Swedish botanist, physician, and zoologist, who laid the foundations for the modern scheme of binomial nomenclature, in the genus Loxia cardinalis. Loxia is derived the Greek loxos which means crosswise. Based on appearance, Linnaeus thought the Cardinal was related to the Red Crossbill.
However taxonomists found the two species were not closely related. Subsequently in 1838, it was changed to the genus Cardinalis and given the scientific name Cardinalis virginianus, which means "Virginia Cardinal" because there were a lot of Cardinals in Virginia. Then in 1918, the scientific name was changed to Richmondena cardinalis to honor Charles Wallace Richmond, an American ornithologist. But in 1983 that was changed again, to Cardinalis cardinalis and the common name was also changed to "Northern Cardinal.”
There are actually several bird species in the world with the name Cardinal. The term "Northern" in the common name refers to its range, as it is the only cardinal found in the Northern Hemisphere.
And the “Cardinal” name was derived from the vivid red plumage of the male, which resembles the robes of the Cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church.
Whatever the name, Cardinals are beautiful birds that are a favorite to watch at mid-Michigan feeders.