U.S. State Bird of Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and West Virginia -
Northern Cardinal

Northern CardinalThe Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) is the state bird of seven states: Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and West Virginia.

An interesting fact is, unlike most North American songbirds, both male and female Cardinals sing.

Also, both male and female birds will fiercely defend their breeding territory, which you may have witnessed as odd behavior. If they see their reflection in a window or mirror (as on a car rearview mirror or a metal bumper) they will attack the object, believing that their reflection is another Cardinal intruding into their territory.

The Northern Cardinal is sometimes called the Winter Redbird because it is most noticeable during the winter when it is the only "redbird" present.

  • American Ornithologists' Union (AOU) Common Name: Northern Cardinal
  • Family: Cardinalidae, Cardinals
  • Scientific name: Cardinalis cardinalis
  • Length: 8.75" (22 cm)
  • Diet: Primarily insects, but also seeds & fruit.
  • Voice: Song a series of high, clear, sharp, mostly slurred whistles woit woit woit woit chew chew chew chew chew or pichew pichew tiw tiw tiw tiw tiw; many variations. Call a high, hard  tik; also a softer, rising twik.
  • Habitat: Woodland edges, thickets, suburban gardens, towns, swamps.
  • Displays: Male and female with outstretched necks and erect crests sway bodies from side to side while singing softly.
  • Number of broods: 2, 3, occasionally 4 broods.
  • Nest: In tree sapling, 1-15' above ground; compact and well lined to flimsy and scarcely lined; of weed stems, pliable twigs, bark strips, grass rootlets, with leaves and paper interwoven, lined with fine grass, hair.
  • Eggs: Averages 3-4 grayish-, bluish-, greenish-white eggs, marked with browns, grays, purples. 1.0" (25 mm).
  • Incubation period: 12-13 days
  • Fledge: 9-10 days after hatching
  • Longevity Record: 15 Years and 9 months (according to USGS Bird Banding Lab)

Male and Female Northern Cardinal Pair Feeding Nestlings

Illinois Birds

In 1928, Illinois school children selected the cardinal as the State Bird of Illinois. The General Assembly made that designation official in 1929.

Indiana Birds

The cardinal was adopted as the State Bird of Indiana by the 1933 General Assembly (Indiana Code 1-2-8).

Kentucky Birds

The Cardinal became the State Bird of Kentucky during the legislative session in 1926 [KY Acts, Chapter 350, Senate Resolution No. 17; recodified in 1942 (KRS 2.080)].

North Carolina Birds

The Cardinal was selected by popular choice as the North Carolina State Bird on March 4, 1943. (Session Laws, 1943. c. 595; G.S. 145-2)

Ohio Birds

The Cardinal was declared as the Ohio State Bird (Ohio Revised Code, General Provisions, Chapter 5 State Insignia: 5.03. Official State Bird).

Virginia Birds

The Northern Cardinal was adopted as the official Virginia State Bird on January 25, 1950.

West Virginia Birds

The cardinal was made the official West Virginia State Bird by House Concurrent Resolution No. 12, adopted by the Legislature on March 7, 1949, authorizing a vote by pupils of public schools and civic organizations.

50 State Birds Page

More information about the Northern Cardinal, its life history, song, identification can be found here.

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