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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Northern Cardinal -- Cardinalis cardinalis

RANGE: Resident from southeastern South Dakota, central Minnesota, northern Wisconsin, and southern Ontario to Massachusetts and Nova Scotia, south to the Gulf Coast and southern Florida. Local in southwestern Texas and New Mexico, southern Arizona, and southeastern California south throughout the Mexican lowlands.

STATUS: Common in most of the eastern range; local in the Southwest.

HABITAT: Inhabits forest edges or brushy forest openings, parks, and residential areas with shrubs and low trees, second-growth woods, and open swamps. In the Southwest, inhabits brushy habitats of washes, riparian and residential areas, and the denser desert thorn-scrub.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Dense forest understory or dense shrub habitat.

NEST: Builds a loose nest in dense shrubbery, small deciduous or coniferous trees, thickets, vines, briar tangles, or mesquite trees, generally less than 10 feet, but may be up to 20 feet, above the ground.

FOOD: Primarily eats vegetable matter gleaned from the ground, including grains, miscellaneous weed seeds, and wild fruits. Also eats smaller amounts of insects.

REFERENCES: Forbush and May 1955, Harrison 1979, Johnsgard 1979, McAtee 1908, Terrill in Farrand 1980.

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