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Song Birds: Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinals, or Cardinalis cardinalis, is one of the most popular birds in North America. This recognition is very well deserved. The bright red feathers of the males and the brownish red color of females create a striking image in snowy settings. Their feathers are not the only special thing about them though, their songs are equally as striking.

Anyone who has spent time in the Midwest is sure to recognize the pulsing and sharp sound of these birds. The song consists of short and pulsating whistles that lasts a couple of seconds. It was widely thought that only the male birds sang, but this has been disproven by accounts of female cardinals singing back in times of mating. These call and response songs fill the air on early days and help those of us who are not early risers get up to face the day. The birds are not singing for us though, they are signing for their genetic future. Cardinal songs serve two main purposes, claiming mating area and attracting mates. These birds are very good singers, and this is proven by their expanding range. This expanding range can be contributed to the love that humans have for these birds and our habit of putting out food for birds. This has greatly improved the survivability of these birds and their ability to care for their young. Their closest living evolutionary relative is the Pyrrhuloxia (pictured to the left of the cardinal).

Here is a short video of the Cardinal’s song


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