Sonoran Desert Naturalist >>> Field Guide >>> Riparian and Water Birds >>> Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinal

Cardinalis cardinalis

Cardinalis cardinalis male photo © by Robert Shantz

This male cardinal was photographed at Cochise Stronghold, Arizona. May 12, 2003. The image is copyrighted by Robert Shantz

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Northern Cardinals are familiar birds across North America. In the Sonoran Desert they are mostly absent from the hottest, driest desert locations. But in the mountain foothills and along wooded canyons they are common and conspicuous birds. So it's not unreasonable that our pro football team is named the Arizona Cardinals.

During the winter months cardinals feed mostly on seeds and fruit. The orange berries of Desert Hackberry (Celtis ehrenbergiana), for example, are heavily used. They are not adverse to plucking seeds from cattle dung. In summer they depend heavily on insect prey, especially for their developing young.

Cardinalis cardinalis female photo © by Robert Shantz

This female cardinal was photographed by Robert Shantz.

Year-round Resident - Spring/Summer Breeder

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Copyright Michael J. Plagens, 1999-2010