The Cardinals of D.C.

Did you know that most cardinals stay within a couple of miles of where they are born? That means that the cardinals in D.C. are likely to be true D.C. natives, unlike the more transient nature of the people who live here.

©Miki Jourdan

Cardinals are wildly popular birds – one of the first birds that children learn to recognize and the mascot of many sports teams. Seven states have made the cardinal their state bird, including Virginia and West Virginia.

©Victoria Pickering

In flight

It’s a real treat to get to see a cardinal in flight.

©Miki Jourdan
©Miki Jourdan
©Miki Jourdan
©Miki Jourdan
©Miki Jourdan
©Miki Jourdan

Using their beaks

©Miki Jourdan
©Miki Jourdan
Cardinal with cicada. ©Angela N.

Baby cardinals

©Rob Klug
©Rob Klug
©Rob Klug
©Rob Klug
©Rob Klug
©Rob Klug

Tracking cardinals

The Smithsonian bands and tracks birds that land in the nets by the bird conservation area, to understand more about the factors that might help preserve declining bird populations. Here, a female cardinal is being banded – a process that takes only seconds before the bird is released.

©Victoria Pickering
©Victoria Pickering

Female cardinals

While the males have that outlandish red color (mainly due to an enzyme that reacts to the fruit they eat), the females have a quiet beauty.

©Victoria Pickering
©Angela N.
©Angela N.
©Angela N.
©Angela N.

Cardinal variants

The cardinals in this area are Northern Cardinals, found throughout the eastern half of the U.S. There are also red-crested cardinals, native to South America, that can be seen at the National Zoo.

©Angela N.
©Angela N.

Cardinals get their name from their red plumage resembling the robes of Roman Catholic cardinals. A group of cardinals can sometimes be called a college, a conclave, or a Vatican.


Join the Conversation

4 Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing so many beautiful images of one of my very favorite birds. They used to visit me on my balcony railing.

  2. So lovely … and educational! As a native Virginian, I’ve long loved Cardinals and appreciated the beauty they bring to their surroundings. But I also learned a number of things from your fine narrative. Thanks.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *