5 Cool Facts About the Beloved Northern Cardinal

The northern cardinal is one of the most recognizable birds on the continent. . Carla_Davis/ MNN Flickr Group

One of the most identifiable birds on the North American continent is the northern cardinal. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology writes, "The male Northern Cardinal is perhaps responsible for getting more people to open up a field guide than any other bird. They’re a perfect combination of familiarity, conspicuousness, and style: a shade of red you can’t take your eyes off." Here are five facts about this much-loved species.

1. Though the males are bright red year-round, cardinals can be hard to spot. They prefer to hang out in dense shrubs, and then tangled branches block the view of their feathers. Still, you can know if a cardinal is near by listening for their metallic, piercing chip notes of their song.

2. Cardinals are very territorial and males will defend their zone from intruders -- or even reflections. This is why you may have experienced a male cardinal attacking a window or mirror. The males, and even sometimes females during breeding season, will attack what they think is an intruder, but really it's their own reflection. Wild Birds Unlimited writes, "A simple solution to this problem is to cover the window with screens or rub the window with a bar of soap to decrease the reflection. Wild Birds Unlimited also sells a 48 inch by 6 inch static-cling decal called Cardinal Alert which is made to be placed across a window just above the lower edge."

3. The cardinal is such a beloved bird that it has been named the state bird of seven states, including Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and West Virginia. It is also the mascot for countless sports teams.

4. The range of northern cardinals has been shifting during the 20th century. National Geographic writes, "Cardinals, also called 'redbirds,' do not migrate and have traditionally been more common in warmer climes such as the U.S. southeast. However, in recent decades they have expanded their common range north through the United States and even into Canada. This population growth may be due to an increase in winter birdfeeders and to the bird's ability to adapt to parks and suburban human habitats."

5. Feeders are an easy way to attract cardinals to your yard. The species favors sunflower seeds, so use them if you want to increase your chances of having a vividly red visitor to your yard.