Why are red cardinals red?

This video from the USA is called HD Northern cardinals feeding baby birds.

From the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in the USA:

Why So Red, Mr. Cardinal?

Many bright birds seem to disappear in winter, either flying south or molting into brown shades and melting into the foliage. But the scarlet hues of male Northern Cardinals seem to burn even more brightly as the snow piles up. Why? Our NestWatch team takes a look at this common question and suggests it’s all to do with successful breeding. Read the article.

Inspired? Check out NestWatch to find out how to safely monitor nests and help scientists.

Red-crested cardinals: here.

Northern Cardinal Trivia: here.

With its instantly recognizable bright red or reddish tan plumage and jaunty head crest, the northern cardinal is one of the most desirable backyard birds in North America. It is also a popular state bird, sports mascot, winter holiday symbol and more: here.

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26 thoughts on “Why are red cardinals red?

  1. After last month’s NestWatch eNews article on Northern Cardinals, called “The Redder the Better,” was shared on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Round Robin blog, we enjoyed hearing feedback from many readers new to NestWatch. Here are some of their questions that you might be wondering, too.

    “Do cardinals mate for life?” No, new pairs form during the breeding season, although some cardinals remain paired on the breeding territory all year. Pairs do get “divorced” within and between breeding seasons.
    “We’re all taught at an early age that bright coloring can also trick a predator into thinking something may be poisonous. Could that also be the case with cardinals?” Cardinals are not known to be poisonous, and most predators will readily take a cardinal if they can catch one. Scientific evidence points to the evolution of bright colors among birds primarily as a signal of mate quality.
    “Someone told me that cardinals will take over other birds’ nests and raise any eggs present as their own. Is this true?” Male cardinals occasionally feed nestlings or fledglings of other species, although not because they have taken over another bird’s nest. This may happen because another chick is begging nearby, and the birds might get confused. Another thing that happens quite often is that a Brown-headed Cowbird will lay one or more of its eggs in the cardinal’s nest. The cardinal cannot tell the difference and ends up raising the cowbird. In fact, cowbirds make no nests of their own and rely entirely on other species to raise their young. Many bird species, not just cardinals, are duped by the cowbird.


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