With its flamboyant color and tendency to sing from high open perches, you'd think that the male cardinal would be a "sitting duck" for predator hawks, but in fact the redder the male, the more successful he is in defending his territory and finding a mate. His redness is an indication of good health. The oldest recorded cardinals were over 15 years old, which may also be attributed to the fact that as non-migratory birds they do not have to endure the stress of annual migration.
Females are pale brown overall with warm reddish tinges in the wings, tail, and crest. They have the same black face and red-orange bill. The female’s muted colors provide her and her nest with a protective camouflage that the male lacks. Look for nests in live trees, shrubs, or vine tangles, in open woodlands, dry shrubby areas, disturbed tangles, suburbs, backyards, and even deserts.
The female Northern Cardinal is one of the few North American female songbirds that sing, and often while sitting on the nest, which may give the male information about when to bring food. A mated pair shares song phrases, but the female may sing a longer and slightly more complex song than the male.
The Cardinal's short, very thick bill indicates that it eats mainly seeds and fruit, although they supplement their diet with insects, which is the preferred food to feed their young as well. Common fruits and seeds include grasses, sedges, blackberry, and corn, which is why we are likely to see them at the edges of corn fields. They also eat beetles, crickets, katydids, leafhoppers, cicadas, flies, centipedes, spiders, butterflies, and moths. For backyard feeding, Cardinals eat many kinds of birdseed, particularly black oil sunflower seed.
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Sources: Cornell Ornithology Lab, All About Birds