are there cardinal birds in florida

Today, Im beginning a series of posts about the birds that call our backyards home. You know the ones I mean. You see these guys at your birdfeeders or singing from the branches of your shade trees. Maybe you have a vague idea of what they are, but dont know much about them. Or maybe youve been trying to ID them, and havent had any luck so far. Im hoping this series (which will be interspersed here and there between other posts in the months ahead) will help you recognize what you are seeing and learn a bit more about each species. Well be taking them a one or two at a time, starting with some of the most common of all. Even non-birders will likely have noticed these guys and maybe even identified a few of them, already.

Lets start with that most beautiful of songbirds, the northern cardinal. Most people residing in the eastern half of the United States will surely recognize this bird by the bright red color and the jaunty crest, but those in western states are pretty much out of luck where the cardinal is concerned. A look at the range map below will verify that cardinals are year-round residents from the northeastern-most parts of the country through Texas and bits of Arizona. But then their range drops south into Mexico, Guatemala, and Belize.

The first Europeans to settle in North America named the bird for the bright red robes of the ecclesiastical cardinals of the Catholic church, and in truth, that same bright red color is probably what accounts for the popularity of the bird, overall. In addition to being the mascot for many sports teams, the cardinal is the state bird of Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, and West Virginia. It also has the distinction of being featured more often than any other bird on Christmas cards and in winter calendar photos. What could be prettier than a cardinal in snow, after all? Unless its a cardinal in a palm tree, of course. For some of us, thats a better option all the way around.

How to identify a cardinal? This one is SO easy! Its our only red, crested songbird, and if that isnt enough, it has a striking black mask on its face, and a short, sturdy, ORANGE bill, designed for cracking the seeds that make up the bulk of its diet.

The female cardinal is simply a less colorful version of the male, with brownish feathers over most of her body and a slightly smaller mask. Her bill is orange, too, which is the easiest way to tell a female cardinal from an immature cardinal, which have black bills until they molt into their adult feathers.

Immature cardinal, fledged but not a full adult. Note brownish feathers similar to the female, but with a dark beak.

Another immature cardinal, partway through his molt into adult plumage. Beak will remain dark until hes fully adult.

These guys can get downright ratty at this stage, but its a passing thing. See?

Now some statistics and basic info for those who love that sort of thing. Like me.

SIZE: Medium sized songbird, 7-1/2″ TO 9″ WINGSPAN: 12″ HABITAT: Shrubby or OPEN wooded areas and urban yards. Shuns dense woodlands. NESTING: Thick shrubs, vines, and low trees. 2 to 5 white to greenish-white eggs, 2 to 3 broods per year (especially in central Floridas long spring & summer). FEEDING: Adults eat primarily seeds and fruit, with a side helping of various insects now and then. Sunflower and safflower seeds are favorites at feeders. Chicks are primarily fed insects. POPULATION STATUS: Species of Least Concern, doing well throughout its range

Go HERE to listen to various cardinal songs and calls. The loud, cheerful song of the cardinal is one of the first I hear each day, both in the wee hours of morning and in early to late evening. Like many birds, the males are definitely most vocal when claiming territory or wooing a mate. They tend to be much more quiet during the raising of their chicks, largely as a protective measure, I believe, in order to help conceal the location of the nest.

A group of cardinals can be called a college, a conclave, a deck, a radiance, or a Vatican. (A couple of these, especially the last one, refer to the birds red color resembling that of the cardinals of the Catholic church, as mentioned above.)

Having handled many a cardinal back in the day when I cared for orphaned birds at Florida Audubon, I can attest that while its short, stubby beak looks harmless enough, a cardinal can deliver a wicked hard bite, and they hang on like a bulldog! Invariably, theyd grab the tender skin between my forefinger and thumb, and I used to wonder if I was going to have to body slam the bird to get it to let go! *sigh* Looks can be so deceiving. *wink* Thankfully, I never had to do that, and I lived to tell the tale. The cardinals I handled did, too, if they werent already dying before they were brought to me.

The northern cardinal can live up to fifteen years in the wild, and with a potential of 3 clutches of 3 to 5 chicks a year, COULD raise 60 chicks over that timespan! (GO, Cardinals!) Studies show that males that have brighter red plumage feed at higher rates and may, as a result, do better reproductively than males that arent quite as vividly colored. (Hey, every lady likes a sharp-dressed man, you know. Just sayin . . . )

On that note, I think Ill wrap this one up. Hope youve enjoyed learning a bit about one of our most common and beloved backyard birds. The next up in this series will likely be the Tufted Titmouse. Unless its the Bluejay. Or the woeful-sounding mourning doves. Ill narrow it down soon. But next weeks post will feature another bird often seen along the St. Johns River. Hint: Its TALL. And one of those birds thats beautiful in the air, but maybe a bit less so on the ground.

2. Scarlet Tanager (Piranga olivacea)

The male Scarlet Tanager is unmistakable in breeding plumage. Only the wings and tail are black, the rest of them being nearly completely red. The males’ non-breeding plumage is yellow-olive with black wings. Females resemble non-breeding males, but they have lighter-colored wings.

are there cardinal birds in florida

This species lives in forests, woodlands, parks, and yards.

They migrate, spending the summer months in Canada and the eastern United States. They travel south to spend the winter in Central America as well as northern and western South America.

In Florida, you’ll be able to see Scarlet Tanagers during the migration periods in the fall and spring.

Their primary food source is insects, but they also consume fruit and flower buds.

5. House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus)

Florida is home to the small red House Finch bird. Males’ bodies are gray-brown, with crimson covering their rump, chest, throat, and head. The underside is whitish with brown streaks, while the upperside is brown with dark streaks. The bill is horn-colored.

Some male individuals are paler, looking more orange than red. The females have brown upperparts with dark brown streaks. Their undersides are whitish and dark streaks are present.

are there cardinal birds in florida

They inhabit open forests, chaparral, deserts, savannas, semi-arid grasslands, and urban and suburban areas.

Originally, only the western United States, southwestern Canada, and Mexico experienced House Finch populations. Since their introduction, they have spread widely to Hawaii, the Southeast of Canada, and the eastern United States.

They are found in the far north of Florida.

While most of the year they stay within their range, some northern birds migrate south.

Their primary food sources are fruit, buds, seeds, and occasionally insects.

3. Summer Tanager (Piranga rubra)

Male Summer Tanagers are large, gorgeous birds with red all over their bodies. Females can be completely yellow to orange in color. Both sexes have pale beaks and darker wings.

During the summer, this species can be found in northern Mexico and the southern United States. They migrate to north and western South America, southern Mexico, and Central America during the winter.

are there cardinal birds in florida

In Florida, they can be spotted all year round, but during the spring and fall migration, they are most common. They mate in the summer in the state’s upper regions.

They primarily live in open, riparian woodlands and forests during the summer. They are also visible in yards, parks, orchards, and the edges of beaches. They visit parks, yards, forests, open woods, and forest edges in the winter.

Their diet consists almost entirely of insects, with a particular emphasis on wasps and bees. They also eat fruit, spiders, and other kinds of insects as supplements.


What does a Florida cardinal look like?

Male cardinals are brilliant red all over, with a reddish bill and black face immediately around the bill. Females are pale brown overall with warm reddish tinges in the wings, tail, and crest. They have the same black face and red-orange bill.

How common are Cardinals in Florida?

The northern cardinal is one of the 10 most common birds seen in Florida yards. The brown thrasher is one of the 10 most common birds found in Florida yards. The mourning dove is one of the 10 most common birds seen in Florida yards.

How do you attract Cardinals in Florida?

Natural fruits that attract these birds include blueberry bushes, mulberry trees, and other dark-colored berries. Bird seeds that have been known to attract Cardinals include black oil sunflower, cracked corn, suet, Nyjer® seed, mealworms, peanuts, safflower, striped sunflower, and sunflower hearts and chips.

Do Cardinals fly to Florida?

In winter cardinals stand out against the evergreens or leafless trees and in the summer their whistles are one of the sweet sounds of morning. These birds don’t migrate so you can enjoy their presence year-round in your landscape.