The Northern Cardinal was selected as the state bird of North Carolina in 1943. This bird is also the state bird for six other states in the U.S., including Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia. It is found throughout the southern U.S. as well as many of the eastern states, occurring in large numbers throughout much of its range.
Bright red plumage and a jet-black mask make it easy to spot the state bird of North Carolina, though only the males have bodies that are actually red. The females are less colorful, with feathers of a medium-brown color and reddish spots on the wings and tail. Both males and females have a vibrant orange, cone-shaped beak.
Cardinals live just about anywhere they can find shelter. They are typically found perched in trees, on top of fences or in bushes of all sizes. They don’t mind living in backyards but are equally at home in forested areas, fields or swamps. The state bird of North Carolina seeks its food on the ground and often visits backyards to eat at bird feeders or search the grass for food.
Many people work to attract cardinals because they have several distinctive songs that they sing almost all year long. They begin singing at first light, and continue until dusk. A chorus of these birds singing their different songs is both appealing and relaxing to some, and can be particularly pleasant at those times of the year when other songbirds have migrated to warmer climates.
The female cardinal is capable of raising more than one family each year, but whether or not she does depends on the local climate. It is not unusual for cardinals in the warm southern states to lay two clutches of eggs each year, and in some cases she may produce three. The female stays with her eggs until they hatch, then cares for the young for about a week and a half while the male works to feed them all. She will then leave her young to begin another nest, and the male will stay behind with the first family until they can care for themselves.
The nests cardinals build are not particularly sturdy or impressive, and may be found in a wide variety of locations. The female usually builds them in bushes or in trees, using whatever materials are easy for her to gather, especially sticks and grass. Males will vigorously defend their territory and chase out anything they perceive as rivals, helping to ensure that the state bird of North Carolina will continue to thrive for a long time to come.