You’ve heard of cardinals because they are mascots for a lot of sports teams, but maybe you don’t know much about them. Are they always red? Where do they live? This lesson will teach you lots of interesting facts about cardinals’ habitat, diet, and life cycle.

What Are Cardinals?

A male and female cardinal.

A cardinal is a special kind of bird called a songbird. A songbird has its own musical call or song. In most species of songbirds, only the males sing, but cardinals are special because both the male and female cardinal sing. Cardinals are pretty small, usually 8 or 9 inches. This is less than one foot! Did you know that male and female cardinals look completely different from each other? Males are bright red, and females are grayish brown. The cardinal you usually see as a mascot looks most like a male cardinal.

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Where Do Cardinals Live?


Cardinals live in North America and Central America. They make nests for their families in shrubs and small trees. Cardinals do not migrate, or move, in the different seasons, so they stay in their homes all year round. They used to be found only in the southeastern United States, but are now found all over the United States and even as far north as Canada. Some scientists think this is because people are now leaving their bird feeders out all winter and they can get food from them. Scientists also think that cardinals may now be able to live in parks and human backyards.

What Do Cardinals Eat?

Cardinals are omnivores. This means that they eat both plants and animals. Cardinals like to eat seeds, fruit, buds, and insects. People like to have cardinals in their yard, so cardinals can often be found eating birdseed out of bird feeders.

How Do Cardinals Grow?

These cardinal chicks are only 3 days old!

Cardinals lay eggs, and females usually lay around 3 eggs in their nests. Baby cardinals are called chicks. The chicks hatch 11 to 13 days after the eggs are laid, which is less than 2 weeks! Both the mom and dad cardinal feed and take care of the chicks. Cardinals can usually be found in flocks, or groups, with other cardinals and sometimes even other kinds of birds! However, during mating season, cardinals are only found in pairs. Cardinals in the wild can live to be as old as 15 years old.

Fun Facts About Cardinals

  • Cardinals are a really popular state bird! They are the state bird of seven U.S. states: Illinois, Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio, Indiana, Virginia, and West Virginia.
  • Cardinals can make more than 25 sounds!
  • Cardinals are sometimes known as ‘redbirds.’
  • The brighter red a male cardinal is, the more likely he is to attract a mate! Female cardinals love bright red male cardinals.

Lesson Summary

Cardinals are songbirds that can make more than 25 sounds. The male, who is bright red, and the female, who is grayish brown, both take care of baby cardinals called chicks. Cardinals are omnivores that eat insects, buds, and fruit, and live in Central America and North America.