Tag Archive for A Field Guide to the Birds of Wesleyan

Wesleyan Bird Highlight: The Northern Cardinal


In 2014, Wesleyan student Oliver James published A Field Guide to the Birds of Wesleyan. Here is an excerpt from the guide about the Northern Cardinal:

Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis caridnalis)

L 8.7” (22 cm)

Year Round

Sporting its conspicuous red crest, the eponymous Northern Cardinal can be found year round on sweatshirts and coffee mugs across campus. In addition to the homecoming football game, the species is also commonly attracted to suburban feeders where it uses its powerful, conical bill specialized to crush seeds. The Northern Cardinal is arguably one of the most recognizable birds in North America. Its brilliant crimson outfit is arresting. Such gaudy attire is usually ascribed to the ostentatious species of the tropics. Sexually dimorphic, the female retains the crest and overall shape of the male but is buffy brown overall. Incongruous with his garb, the male is often reticent and will sing from dense foliage. Look for flashes of crimson in the hedges along fraternity row, the habitat adjacent to the Cross St. athletic fields, and in the yards along Mt. Vernon Street.

Identification: Male unmistakable – has a bright red body and pointed crest and a black face. Female is buffy brown with reddish tinge in the wings, tail and crest. Both sexes have a distinct large, red conical bill.

Voice: Call is a metallic chip. Song is variable, but typically a liquid, whistling purty purty purty followed directly by three lower notes cue cue cue.

These images copyright Oliver James/Wesleyan University Press 2014 and displayed here with permission from author.