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North Carolina Cardinal Facts

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The Wright brothers chose North Carolina to take their first flight, and Babe Ruth hit his first professional home run there in 1914. Mixing with the state's history is its natural beauty in the form of flora and fauna. The beautiful cardinal adds splashes of red color year-round, from the mountains to the beach.


Northern cardinals average 89 to 9 inches in length. Banding research shows they can live up to 15 years. Although they are most common in the Southeastern United States, they can be found from Canada to the Gulf. Males are bright red with black faces. Females are typically tan or light gray but sport the same red crests and black faces, and touches of red on their wings and tails. They are among the few species of North American birds whose males and females sing.

Courtship and Nesting

Cardinals are monogamous during the spring and summer mating seasons. Their courtship involves singing back and forth to each other. They have at least two broods per season, with an average of two to five eggs per clutch.They build they nests in dense foliage, often in forks of small branches between various trees or shrubs, or within the density of vine tangles. Although the male helps the female search for nesting material, she is the builder. On average a nest consists of four layers, takes three to nine days to build and is rarely used more than once.

Fast Facts

Cardinals were named after the bright red robes worn by Roman Catholic cardinals. Since they do not migrate, they cause many admirers reach for a camera at the sight of their vivid redness in the snow. During winter months they stay together in flocks; they begin to pair off in February as mating season approaches. Besides North Carolina, six other states have adopted the cardinal as their official state bird. Since they are protected under the Migratory Bird Act, it is illegal to have them as pets or to kill them.

Fun Facts

In 1943, the cardinal became North Carolina’s state bird after receiving 5,000 votes, the dove coming in second with approximately 3,400. However, a decade earlier North Carolina officially had a different state bird -- for a few days, at least. The North Carolina Federation of Women’s Clubs had passed a resolution that made the Carolina Chickadee the state bird. But since the Chickadee’s nickname is the Tomtit, legislators preferred not to have their home known as the “Tomtit State.”