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.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

How did the Northern Cardinal get its name?

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. Based on appearance, Linnaeus thought the Cardinal was related to the Red Crossbill and gave it the genus Loxia cardinalis. Loxia is derived from the Greek loxos which means crosswise..
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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.
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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.”
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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.
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Whatever the name, Cardinals are beautiful birds that are a favorite to watch at mid-Michigan feeders.