Songbirds: North Carolina's State Bird-How to Identify the Northern Cardinal
Songbirds of North Carolina
I’ve travelled and lived in many places in the United States, and I’ve hiked the woods from Alaska to California and through the Eastern Coast. However, when I sit on my deck listening to the birds greet the sun; I am always astounded and delighted by the sounds of the beautiful songbirds of North Carolina. They are the loveliest in color and sound, that I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing.
The chirping, chattering, and melodic sounds are both soothing and joyful to the ears. At times the songs were so engaging that I would have to smile and think to myself that there is nothing lovelier than to be a song bird in this moment. My curiosity got the best of me finally, and I purchased a couple of field book guides on birds of the Carolinas.
The Northern Cardinal
As a rule, I don’t play favorites, but I do have a bias and that is toward the beautiful Northern Cardinal, North Carolina’s state bird. With its striking red plumage, it is an easy bird to spot among the winter white, or the season’s barren shrubs. It is eyecatching and breathtaking. One has to stop and acknowledge the wonderful work of the Creator when the Cardinal shows up.
The Cardinal is a ground forager. It eats berries, seeds, and insects. It is a favorite backyard bird who can become quite territorial during the mating season, and can be seen aggressively fighting its own image in the reflection of windows during this time. It can also be found in the woods or parks.
It does not migrate and during the spring and summer months its song can be distinguished by its long piercing note. In fact, according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, there are 16 different ‘sounds’ the Northern Cardinal will make. One is a chirping that sounds very close to the word ‘birdie’.
What I’ve since learned is that the female Northern Cardinal is one of the few female songbirds that actually do sing its own song. I knew I liked that girl for more than her looks. Most females do not sing, and like me, there is a time and place for silence, but sitting atop of a tree gazing at the world is not one of them.
The female will communicate with the male in a longer, more complex song-go figure! She apparently has much to say about when to bring the food and how to build the nest. As a general rule, female birds dress down, in comparison to their counterparts, however, even with her overall brown, the female cardinal adds a reddish tone to her wings, tail and crest, and a sports a bright reddish-orange bill.
Don't mistake a Tanager for a Cardinal
There are a few birds that can look similar to the male Northern Cardinal. These are the Scarlet Tanager, the Summer Tanager and the Vermilion Flycatcher. However, the Northern Cardinal has some distinguishing traits.
First, it is completely red, save for the black mask and throat area. Next, the bill is built differently; it is thick and short. It also has a long tail that is frequently directed downward when perched. And, finally, it has the distinction of the top crest, which stands up when it is agitated, and smooths back down when relaxed.
Take a walk through a park this winter and perhaps you will be fortunate enough to spot the Northern Cardinal in your neck of the woods. It is sure to brighten your day and bring a smile to your face; a brilliant spot of red amidst the barren, brown environment.
Examples of the Northern Cardinal's Song
In the following two video clips from YouTube I've included two examples of the sound that the Northern Cardinal makes. The female Northern Cardinal, in the first clip, is one of the few female songbirds that actually sings. The video is a beautiful view of her singing while nesting.
In the second video, the male Northern Cardinal is heard singing his repertoire of songs.
I hope you enjoy these video clips and are inspired to do some bird watching of your own.
Female Northern Cardinal Singing
Male Northern Cardinal's Song Variances
Northern Cardinal Presents
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