About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Are Cardinals Yoopers?: Michigan Upper Peninsula Residents

We are opening up our house in Northern Michigan and I was wondering why I don’t see as many cardinals up there. Our house in Lansing has lots of cardinals.

Even though the Northern Cardinal has northern attached to its name, it’s really a southern bird. However scientists have noted that their breeding range has been expanding up and out west gradually from the 1800s. This could be due to the milder winters or greater food availability (bird feeding stations). The increase of distribution range of the cardinal is also associated with man changing the landscape. Cardinals prefer the edges of forests and suburban areas, both types of habitat associated with increasing land development.

First recorded in south east Michigan in 1884, the cardinal was more frequently spotted in the early 1900’s across the lower and middle parts of the state. By 1960s they were colonizing further north and in the early 1990’s they were making their way to the Upper Peninsula. They’re still not as common up north as they are further south but just give them time.

Northern Cardinal Cardinalis cardinalis
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 black and the bill orange.

Backyard bird enthusiasts almost always want to attract the bright red Northern Cardinal. To landscape for cardinals plant evergreens, berry bushes, and fruit trees as part of the habitat. Cardinals nest from 4 to 8 feet off the ground in evergreens and dense shrubs and use fruit trees to provide food and shelter.

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.
In winter cardinals generally flock together but by spring they pair up for nesting season. They are famous for their display of courtship feeding. The male picks up a bit of food and takes it over and places it on the female’s bill. Also as spring approaches you may hear the male sing several different songs to attract a mate and establish and defend his territory.

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