In issue 23, we explored why birds sing and spoke about the impressive song of the cardinal, one of the most iconic bird species found in North America. It’s so iconic in fact, this much-loved bird has been named the official bird of seven U.S states. (Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, and West Virginia), and is the most widely used state bird in all of America. They are known as passerine birds, because they have three toes pointing forward and one pointing back, meaning they can be seen perching on branches, decorating the trees of many gardens.
Perhaps one of the reasons they are so loved is that they are easy to identify. Their vivid colour and crest atop their head give them plenty of character. Cardinals are rather territorial and sing to any males on their patch to ward them off. They may be the brightest in colour, but not the brightest in intellect; they often get confused and can be seen singing threatening tunes to their own reflection, relentlessly. Although cardinal songs sound much the same to us, they do differ slightly. Their musical abilities are in fact a learned behaviour, and so, similar to humans having accents, the cardinal’s song varies regionally.
In many species of bird, it’s usual for just the male to show off singing, but while females don’t share the male’s vibrant plumage, they do share an incredible vocal ability. The songs typically last around 2 to 3 seconds and they have up to 16 different call sequences to convey a variety of meaning. The one that is most common though, is one
If you want a live performance, offering sunflower seeds in your garden is a brilliant way to attract the cardinal – and as they don’t migrate, they are around all year long!