Northern Cardinal

Kentucky State Bird


Northern cardinal (male)

Northern cardinal (male); photo by Stephen Wolfe on Flickr (use permitted with attribution).

Official State Bird of Kentucky

The northern cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) was designated official state bird of Kentucky in 1926. The northern cardinal is the state bird of 7 states (Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, and West Virginia). All State Birds

Northern Cardinal Facts

One of America's favorite backyard birds, cardinals are distinctive in appearance and song - known for their "cheer cheer cheer," "whit-chew whit-chew" and "purdy purdy purdy" whistles. Male cardinals are a brilliant scarlet red, females a buffy brown with reddish wings - both have a jet-black mask, pronounced crest, and heavy bill.

The cardinal sings nearly year-round, and the male aggressively defends his 4-acre territory (male cardinals have been seen attacking small red objects mistaken as other males).

Northern cardinals breed 2-3 times each season. The female builds the nest and tends the hatchlings for about 10 days while the male brings food. The male then takes over the care of this first brood while the female moves on to a new nest and lays a second clutch of eggs.



Northern cardinal enjoying a bath; photo © James Ownby: My View of Nature (all rights reserved; used by permission).

Northern cardinal taking a bath

Female northern cardinal; photo by Noel Pennington on Flickr (use permitted with attribution).

Female northern cardinal


Birding by Ear: Northern Cardinal Song