Northern Cardinal

Cardinalis cardinalis

About This Animal

SIZE: 8 inches

RANGE: Eastern North America

HABITAT: Hardwood forests

DIET: Seeds, fruit and insects

ON EXHIBIT:  Cove Forest and Delta Swamp at River Journey 

The Northern Cardinal is one of the most beautiful songbirds found in the United States. The male is a brilliant red with a black face and the female is a brownish red with red markings on the crest, wings and tail. This member of the finch family can be found throughout eastern North America. It is one of the few birds that not only mates for life but stays with its mate all year. The female builds the leaf and twig nest and sits on the pale-green eggs while the male feeds and protects her. Cardinals often occupy one area throughout the year and will defend that area against any other birds. Unlike most birds, both sexes of the cardinal are excellent songbirds. Their song has many variations, often centered around combinations of "whoit, whoit, whoit; what cheer, what cheer, wheat, wheat, wheat, and pret-ty, pret-ty, pret-ty."  

Their population is stable in the wild and they are protected by the Migratory Bird Act.  Northern Cardinals have been a part of the Tennessee Aquarium’s collection for many years and have produced dozens of offspring.