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.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Northern cardinals breed from March until September

I found a cardinal's nest a few days back. We have seen the parents feeding the chick. However, considering its getting cold, isn't it too late to be bringing up chicks now? Or is this the normal time for cardinals to mate and reproduce?
Northern cardinals breed from March until September. If all goes as planned they usually raise two broods a year, one beginning around March and the second in late May to July. If a nest gets destroyed or if a mate is killed the nesting has to start over and can be delayed.

The female cardinal lays an average of 3 eggs. Incubation begins when the last egg is laid, and is performed solely by the female while the male brings her food. The eggs hatch after two weeks and both parents feed the chicks a diet that consists of mainly insects. The chicks begin leaving the nest 10 days after hatching but the parents continue to feed the chicks for 25 to 56 days.

Young Northern Cardinals have ashy brown feathers and black bills rather than the orange-red of the adults. They change gradually to their adult coloration three to four months after hatching.

Parents teach their young to forage for food and other survival techniques for a couple months. Then they drive them away from their natal territory to form connections with other juveniles for potential breeding the next spring. Young cardinals don’t have a set territory and can move around together freely in search of food and shelter. Older cardinals can join these young flocks for a time but drop out once it leaves their normal range.

These ever changing flocks can consist of about four to twenty birds depending on the area, time of year, weather, and available resources.

Cardinals are often the first to visit a feeder in the morning and the last to stop by and grab a bite at night. You can listen for their “chip, chip, chip” calls to each other just before the sun rise and sets.

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