| GENERAL DESCRIPTION:
Length, 8 3/4 inches. Male, red, female, partly red, giving an appearance
of being faded. Bill, stout; wings, short and rounded; tail, longer than
wing, slightly rounded; head with conspicuous crest.
| OTHER NAMES:
Cardinal Grosbeak; Redbird; Crested Redbird; Virginia Redbird; Virginia
Nightingale; Virginia Cardinal; Kentucky Cardinal; Cardinal.
| ADULT MALE:
Front portion of forehead, front part of cheek
region, chin, and throat, black, forming a conspicuous cap entirely surrounding
the bill; rest of head, vermilion-red, duller on crown (including crest);
under parts, pure vermilion-red becoming slightly paler posteriorly, the
flanks slightly tinged with grayish; hindneck, back, shoulders, rump, and
upper tail-coverts, dull vermilion-red; wings and tail, dull red; bill,
red-orange; iris, deep brown.
| ADULT FEMALE:
Wings and tail, much as in the male, but the red duller;
red of head and body replaced above by plain grayish olive or buffy grayish,
the crest partly dull red, below by pale fulvous or buffy (nearly white
on abdomen), the chest often tinged or mixed with red; head, dull grayish,
sometimes nearly white on throat.
Located in thickets of brambles or grapevines or low saplings;
a carelessly constructed, loosely put together affair of small twigs, strips
of bark, weed stems, grass, lined with fine rootlets, and horse-hair.
2 to 4, white, bluish, or greenish white marked with shades
of chestnut, purple, and brown, usually scattered over entire surface.
Eastern United States; north, regularly and breeding to southeastern New
York, lower districts of eastern Pennsylvania, western Pennsylvania, northeastern
Ohio, northern Indiana, southern Iowa, etc., casually or irregularly to
Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, Nova Scotia, southern Ontario, southern
Michigan, southern Wisconsin, and Minnesota; west to edge of Great Plains,
casually to eastern Colorado; south to Georgia, Alabama, and upland region
of Gulf States; Bermudas (introduced and naturalized).
The flash of red that comes to view and disappears in other trees
is generally the Cardinal. There are other red birds, but none that frequent
the stately Southern elms and other large roadside trees as does this most
All through the Southern plantation country this is the bird that typifies
everything that is elegant and chivalric not only to the colored cot ton
pickers and plantation laborers, but to the country gentlemen. Novels have
been written in which the Virginia Cardinal and the Kentucky Cardinal and
the Carolina Cardinal have given a tone of aristocratic elegance to the
plots. The bird is indeed a fine specimen of bird character, whether found
on a Southern plantation, or at its northeastern limit in Central Park,
New York city, or at its western limit in the dingy chaparral of southern
The bird is ever cheerful and active and industrious. The young are cared
for eagerly by the male while the female is sitting on a second lay
ins' of eggs. Nothing daunts the male in his care of the young that he leads
out upon the lawns and berry fields. The search for food, the scent of danger,
and the warnings given to the heedless young are common observations made
by people who are attracted to them.
The attention the male gives his mate is very noticeable. He is never fearful
to fly about looking after the nest or leading her to some favored food
or singing to her from far up in the tallest tree while she is busy at her
toilet down by the brook in the valley. And frequently she will answer in
a lower note that
brings from him a quick response. There is a remarkable charm in the Cardinal
that brings words of enthusiasm from all who have lived in the country with
him and have watched his gracious ways.
His call is a rich and rounded clce-cue that penetrates the grove and often
brings an answering cue-cue from another bird far away. The rapid hip-ip-ip-ip-ip-ip-ip,
uttered without any loss of power at the end, rings out clear from the tops
of the trees and seems to rouse the echoes. Then there is the long drawn
out c-eec, and the cheer, cheer, cheer that makes one feel a joy
in having such a bird in the neighborhood.
Ridgway has listed about a dozen varieties of the Cardinal but they are
mostly in Mexico.
Only the Florida (Cardinalis cardinalis floridanus) and Arizona (Cardinalis
cardinalis szlperbzls) and the Gray-tailed (Cardinalis cardinalis canicaudus)
occupy small areas adjacent to the great areas of the true Cardinalis east
of Texas and south of the Hudson and the Great Lakes.
The Gray-tailed Cardinal is but one of the Mexican varieties that extends
up into Texas. But wherever found the Cardinal is a rare sight.
Many persons have become much interested in all birds by being first interested
in the Cardinal.
It has been claimed that the Cardinal pulls sprouting grain, but no evidence
of damage to either grain or other crops is afforded by the examination
of more than 500 stomachs. On the other hand, the evidence is ample that
he does much good.
The Redbird is known to feed on the Rocky Mountain locust,
periodical cicada, and Colorado potato beetle. It is a great enemy also
to the rose chafer, cotton worm, plum or cherry scale, and other scale insects,
and attacks many other important insect pests, including the zebra caterpillar
of the cabbage, the cucumber beetles, billbugs, locust flea-beetle, corn-ear
cotton cutworm, southern fig-eater, codling moth, and boll weevil. In addition,
it consumes a great many seeds of injurious weeds. Thus its food habits
entitle the bird to our esteem, as its brilliant coat and spirited song
compel our admiration.
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