Birds of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
Northern Cardinal - Cardinalis cardinalis
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General Comments The Northern Cardinal, the Official State Bird of North Carolina, needs no introduction. It occurs over nearly all of the eastern half of the United States, plus in the Southwest. It is common to abundant across the entire state at all seasons, and it is essentially non-migratory, though birds move locally to form flocks up to 20 birds or more, on occasions, in winter. It is an avid feeder visitor, and the male Cardinal seen against a snowy background is always a winter highlight. They breed in a wide array of habitats with some moderate shrubby/understory cover -- most forests and woodlands, wooded borders, residential areas, and sparingly into younger clearcuts and regenerating forests. In winter, when many hardwood forests are devoid or scarce of cover, Cardinals move to thickets, wooded edges, densely weedy fields, etc., but also remain in wooded residential areas and in other forests with evergreen shrub cover.
Breeding Status Breeder
NC BRC List Definitive
State Status
U.S. Status
State Rank S5
Global Rank G5
Coastal Plain Permanent resident, essentially non-migratory. Very common throughout, though slightly less numerous on some coastal islands. Peak counts:
Piedmont Permanent resident, essentially non-migratory. Very common throughout. Peak counts: 1,001, Chapel Hill spring count, 12 May 2002.
Mountains Permanent resident, essentially non-migratory. Common to very common in the lower elevations, to about 3,000 feet; fairly common to uncommon to about 4,000 feet, and rarely much higher. Slightly less numerous at middle and higher elevations in winter. Peak counts:
Finding Tips None needed.
Attribution LeGrand[2012-11-06], LeGrand[2011-12-18], LeGrand[2011-10-08]
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
Click on county for list of all known species.
NC Breeding Season Map
Map depicts assumed breeding season abundance for the species.