Every state in the country has its own bird, and some people ask about the North Carolina state bird. The cardinal is an absolutely stunning animal, striking with its red colors. In today’s article, we’ll be taking a look at this beautiful bird and learn exactly where can you spot it and why is the cardinal the state bird of North Carolina.

The Cardinal

The northern cardinal, Cardinalis cardinalis, is the state bird of North Carolina, and it’s one of the most beautiful birds you could hope to find in the wild.

This bird occupies the northeast, east, southeast, south, and the central portion of the United States, usually nesting in open woodlands where it feeds primarily on seeds.

Funnily, it’s a very friendly bird when it comes to people – they’re rarely afraid of us, and they’re going to use your bird feeder if you install one in the backyard. They’re usually attracted to seeds, as they don’t catch insects.


These birds are some of the most recognizable birds in wildlife, with the males being completely red, which makes them very easy to spot. This color is here to draw attention from females, of course.

They’re also not that difficult to spot, given that they can grow up to 9 inches.

So, finding them won’t be a problem as they’re not really keen on hiding, not to mention that they’re going to come to you if you have enough food on hand.

You’ll recognize the male as it’s entirely red, but they have a very clear rise of feathers on the top of their head – it generally looks like a haircut. Their wings can be a little bit darker than the rest of the body.

Males keep their distinct color throughout the entire year, which makes them very easy to spot during the winter, as they’re usually a big red spot against a white surface.

The females are usually a pale brown color, but the tail and the wings have a little bit of pale red. The bill is strikingly red with both males and females.

North Carolina State Bird

Learn more about: Identifying A Red Bird With Black Wings


Their bills are deceptively small, as they’re much stronger than they look. They can easily crush nut shells with ease, which is crucial to their survival during the winter.

During the summer, they’re going to eat blueberries and other similar berries and seeds that don’t need much husking. However, during the winter when these sources of food are scarce, they don’t have a problem cracking nuts open.

More than 90% of their diet consists of weed seeds, grains, and fruits. Cardinals prefer foraging for food on the ground and they rarely feed in the air.

It has been documented that a cardinal eats small snails and insects, but this is rare as they’re not hunters and they find insects difficult to catch.

Interestingly, they are going to feed their young exclusively with insects – not with seeds. Only adult cardinals eat seeds and grains.

Similar to humans using maple syrup – cardinals will drink maple sap from holes in the trees.


Read more about: Do Cardinals Mate For Life?


Cardinals are, believe it or not, territorial. Two males will fight for territory, but that fighting doesn’t occur often and it’s more likely that one male will scare the other one away with their song.

Funnily, it sometimes happens that a cardinal will mistake its own reflection in a glass panel or a mirror for another male, at which point the bird will sing its lungs out to scare the male away.

Even more seriously, it sometimes happens that they start fighting their own reflection without realizing that it’s just a reflection.

As already explained, these animals aren’t afraid of humans and they’ll gladly use bird feeders in back yards, even if there are people close to them. It also happens that they approach people with food.

In the wild, however, they’re usually solitary birds, although there are instances of mated pairs traveling together. Unfortunately for them, they’re at the very bottom of the food chain, as they’re often preyed upon by all birds of prey, snakes, and even domestic cats.

Why Is The Cardinal The State Bird Of North Carolina?

The cardinal was selected as a state bird in 1943, during the NC General Assembly. This choice was initiated by the North Carolina Bird Club, as they wanted the General Assembly to choose a state bird.

During the process, the bird club publicized this campaign and has more than 23 000 votes cast. The cardinal was the clear winner with more than 5 000 votes, while the dove was the runner-up with just under 3400 votes.


Why is the Cardinal the North Carolina state bird?

The cardinal was voted into becoming the NC state bird in 1943, during the General Assembly. It received more than 5000 votes, keeping a steady leading position during the entire process. The voting itself was proposed by the North Carolina Bird Club.

Where can I find the cardinal?

You can find the cardinal in open woodland areas in northeast, south, southeast and central USA, as well as the entire East Coast and southern Canada. You can also attract them to your yard using a bird feeder if you want to - they're not afraid of approaching people.

How do I identify a cardinal?

Male cardinals are completely red, with a little bit of blotched, dark red on their wings. Females are a sort of pale brown with a bit of pale red on the wings and tail. Both males and females have distinctly risen feathers on top of their heads.

To End

The cardinal was voted as the state bird of NC in 1943, with more than 20 species of birds of North Carolina being included in the voting. More than 5000 votes, out of 23 000, were cast in favor of the cardinal.

This is one of the most recognizable birds in the country, being completely red and easy to find in the wild. They also don’t hide and will approach humans with food.

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