West Virginia State Bird
Northern Cardinal (common name)
Cardinalis cardinalis (scientific name)
The northern cardinal is a favorite backyard bird common at bird-feeders year-round. The male's uniform scarlet color is widely admired, especially during the winter, when it makes a striking contrast against the snow. The northern cardinal was adopted as the state bird of Kentucky in 1926, Illinois in 1929, Indiana and Ohio in 1933, North Carolina in 1943, West Virginia in 1949, and Virginia in 1950. Cardinals are hardy seed-eating birds with stout orange bills. The sexes are distinct, the male red with a black face mask, the female light brown with tinges of red on the wings and tail. Both sexes have a pronounced crest.
Cardinals live in woodlands, gardens, shrub lands, and swamps. They forage on the ground, in bushes, and in trees, feeding primarily on seeds and also eating grains, fruit, insects, and snails. The northern cardinal is an admired songbird; both males and females sing loud, beautiful phrases during courtship rituals. The male sings a loud, clear "wa-cheer" from the top of a tree or large shrub to defend his territory. Loud, abrasive "chips" are also used as contact calls and alarms. Northern cardinals nest in dense tangles of shrubs and vines. Both parents feed their chicks a diet of insects, and the chicks begin leaving the nest one or two weeks after hatching. The parents continue to feed the chicks for one or two months after they leave the nest.
ALSO KNOWN AS
Arizona cardinal, common cardinal, red-bird, Virginia nightingale, winter redbird
Cardinals spend most of their time low in bushes and trees or foraging on the ground for seeds. During the breeding season they often forage in pairs, although in fall and winter they may form flocks of a dozen to several dozen birds. Cardinals have many visual displays to signal alarm, including tail-flicks and raising and lowering the crest feathers.
Backyards, parks, woodlots, dense, shrubby forest edges, overgrown fields, hedgerows, marshy thickets, and mesquite stands.
Range: Resident in eastern and central North America. Populations have spread to the west coast as well.
Conservation Status: Least Concern (LC)
Nesting Period: March to September
Size of Clutch: 2-–5 eggs
Incubation Period: 11–13 days
Egg Description: Grayish white eggs with brown speckles
Egg Size: Length 0.9–1.1 in (22–27 mm), Width 0.7–0.8 in (17–20 mm)
Scarlet tanagers, summer tanagers, California towhee, orange-breasted bunting, black-headed saltator, grosbeaks
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