Is there any doubt about the identity of America's best known red bird? Surely it's the cardinal or, as you'll find it in a bird book, the Northern Cardinal. The beautiful bird seen on so many bird feeders takes its name from the cardinals found in the Vatican, whose hats and robes are red. Only the male cardinal — seen right here — is red; females are a tasteful olive-brown with red highlights. Share this show with someone who likes cardinals. Thanks!
Northern Cardinal - Meet The Cardinal
Written by Bob Sundstrom
This is BirdNote.
[Northern Cardinal song]
Even without taking a poll, is there any doubt about the identity of America’s best known red bird? Surely it’s the cardinal or, as you’ll find in a bird book, the Northern Cardinal. [Northern Cardinal song]
The cardinal’s scarlet, crested image adorns Christmas cards, bags of bird seed, and any number of sports team jerseys. It is simply — and being red doesn’t hurt here — one of our best known backyard birds.
So would it surprise you to learn that cardinals are missing from back yards in nearly half of the United States? It’s the half west of the Rockies. Or that only about half of all cardinals are red? Females are olive-brown, with a few red highlights.
It’s also true that the cardinal seen on so many bird feeders takes its name from the cardinals found in the Vatican, whose hats and robes are red. [A bit of Gregorian chant]
And among the cardinal’s near relatives — the cardinal on the bird feeder, that is — two are also very red birds: the Summer Tanager and Scarlet Tanager. But despite their beauty, Tanagers are unlikely to unseat the cardinal as our best known red bird. [Northern Cardinal song]
I’m Mary McCann.
Support for BirdNote comes from American Bird Conservancy and Bringing Back the Birds, a photo book by Owen Deutsch on the importance of protecting birdscapes. Available at amazon.com.
Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. recorded by G.A. Keller.
Musical selection from Kyrie IV Gregorian chant, Benedictine Abbey Choir 1982 Deutschegrammophone.
BirdNote’s theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© 2015 Tune In to Nature.org August 2017 / 2020 / January 2023 Narrator: Mary McCann
[The script reflects recent taxonomic changes that assign the North American tanagers to the same family as the cardinals, Cardinalidae. See, for example, http://creagrus.home.montereybay.com/cardinals_grosbeaks.html]