South Dakota
Birds and Birding
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Northern Cardinal

Cardinalis cardinalis

Length: 9 inches Wingspan: 11.5 inches Seasonality: Permanent Resident
ID Keys: Male unmistakable, with all red body and crest.  Female also easily identified, with generally gray body with red washes, and distinctive crest.

Northern Cardinal - Cardinalis cardinalisA favorite of many, the Northern Cardinal is the state bird of 7 states. A common bird of the eastern and southeastern U.S., the Northern Cardinal has expanded its range westward and northward in the past few decades, possibly due to availability of sunflower seeds and other items at residential feeders. South Dakota currently lies at the northwestern edge of its range.

Habitat: Wide variety of semi-open habitats with nearby thickets for nesting, including woodland edges and clearings, shelterbelts, parks, and residential areas.

Diet: Wide variety of items, including seeds, buds, flowers, waste grain, fruits and berries, and insects.

Behavior: Primarily feeds on the ground, or while moving through low brush and undergrowth. Will also readily adapt to using feeders. Males can be very aggressive when defending nesting territories.

Nesting: May through August.  The nest of a Northern Cardinal is a cup of grasses, twigs, weeds, strips of bark, and other plant materialo, lined with finer bits of plants.  The female usually lays 3 or 4 eggs, and she alone incubates them, although the male will bring her food during the incubation period.  When the eggs hatch, both parents help to feed them.  The young fledge after about 12 days.

Breeding Map: Breeding bird survey map

Song: Northern Cardinal Song, also Northern Cardinal Call

Migration: Permanent Resident

Similar Species: Pyrrhuloxia of the southwestern U.S. is similar. No similar species in South Dakota.

Bird Feeders: Will attend feeders for sunflower seeds, safflower seeds, and various other seeds.

Conservation Status: Common and widespread, with range expanding over the last century.  The IUCN lists the Northern Cardinal as a species of "Least Concern".

Further Information: 1) USGS Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter, Northern Cardinal

2) Texas Parks and Wildlife - Northern Cardinal

3) Northern Cardinal

Photo Information: May 9th, 2004 -- Outdoor Campus in Sioux Falls -- Terry Sohl

Additional Photos: Click on the image chips or text links below for additional, higher-resolution Northern Cardinal photos.

Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Northern Cardinal - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Northern Cardinal populations have been expanding their range to the north and west, a trend that also seems to be occurring in South Dakota.  Has now been occasionally found as far west as the Black Hills.