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What Is the State Bird of Illinois?

The state bird of Illinois is the Northern Cardinal, a vibrant red songbird that symbolizes beauty and warmth amidst the state's diverse landscapes. Its melodic chirps echo through Illinois' seasons, enchanting residents and visitors alike. Discover how this feathered emblem captures the spirit of Illinois and why it continues to inspire pride in the Prairie State. What does the cardinal mean to you?
Christina Edwards
Christina Edwards

The state bird of Illinois is the northern cardinal, or Cardinalis cardinalis, which was adopted in the late 1920s. This is also the state bird of several other states in the eastern United States, since it is so abundant. It can be found in many different types of habitats, including residential back yards. The adult males of this species are very recognizable, due to their bright red coloring.

In 1928, a women's club decided that the state bird of Illinois needed to be chosen. To accomplish this task, they enlisted the help of schoolchildren. Each school in the state was given a list of birds to choose from, and the cardinal won with almost 40,000 votes. Other birds on the list included the blue bird, meadowlark, quail, and oriole. During the summer of 1929, however, Illinois officially adopted the cardinal as its state bird.

Illinois was the first state to adopt the cardinal as its official state bird. Six other states, however, have the same state bird. These states are Ohio, Indiana, North Carolina, Kentucky, Virginia, and West Virginia.

A map of the US.
A map of the US.

Besides it brilliant coloring, the cardinal was also chosen because it is very abundant there. In fact, it is present in much of the eastern half of the united States. It can also be found in the southeastern parts of Canada, as well as the eastern parts of Mexico. The cardinal was also introduced to parts of California and Hawaii.

Cardinals can often be found in dense forests. While they seem to prefer dense woodlands, they can also be found in swamps and parks as well. Many individuals may also see them in their back yards. The state bird of Illinois has been known to frequent residents' bird feeders, specially those containing sunflower seeds.

The most noticeable aspect of the state bird of Illinois is its color. Male cardinals are bright crimson in color. They also have a very noticeable crest, or tuft, of feathers on top of their heads. A black area surrounds their eyes are red bill. Females are a little less flashy, with brownish gray feathers. Typically, just their wings, tails, crests, and bills are red.

In many areas, the state bird of Illinois can be seen year round, even in the winter. They do not migrate, like some other birds, and they are often even more noticeable against a background of white snow. In fact, they may even be seen in large groups during the cold months.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the state bird of Illinois?

The state bird of Illinois is the Northern Cardinal, also known simply as the cardinal. It was designated as the state bird in 1929 due to its widespread presence and popularity among residents. The Northern Cardinal is admired for its vibrant red plumage and melodic song, making it a beloved symbol of Illinois.

When was the Northern Cardinal chosen as Illinois' state bird?

The Northern Cardinal was chosen as the state bird of Illinois in 1929. The selection was made by Illinois schoolchildren in a state-wide vote, reflecting the bird's popularity and the educational value of involving young citizens in state symbols.

Why was the Northern Cardinal selected as the state bird for Illinois?

The Northern Cardinal was selected as Illinois' state bird because of its year-round presence in the state, its striking red color, and its pleasant song. Its ability to thrive in both rural and urban areas of Illinois also contributed to its selection, symbolizing the adaptability and resilience of the state's natural environment.

Where can you typically find the Northern Cardinal in Illinois?

The Northern Cardinal can be found throughout Illinois, inhabiting woodlands, gardens, shrublands, and wetlands. They are also commonly seen in backyards and at bird feeders in urban and suburban areas. Their adaptability to different habitats makes them one of the most easily observed birds in the state.

What are some distinguishing features of the Northern Cardinal?

The Northern Cardinal is easily recognizable by its bright red plumage, which is especially vivid in males, while females have a more subdued tan or brown color with red accents. Both sexes have a distinctive crest on their head, a black mask on their face, and a strong, conical beak that is well-suited for cracking seeds, which is their primary food source.

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Discussion Comments


@shell4life – It is because they are extremely territorial. If you will take notice, this attack on reflections only happens in the spring, when they are trying to find mates.

I have lots of trees and bird feeders in my front yard, and I have been observing various birds from my living room window for years. I was astonished one day in March when a cardinal flew up to the storm door and started attacking it. I had the front door open, and the reflective glass was the only thing between me and the bird.

At first, I thought it was trying to get to me, but then I realized that it was trying to drive off what it thought was another bird encroaching on its territory. I have even seen cardinals pecking at their reflections in water, but they quickly give this up, because when the water ripples, the reflection dissipates.


@OeKc05 – No, cardinals do not migrate. I live in Alabama, and they are here year round. My cousin lives in Illinois, and she says that she sees them there during the snowy winter, too.

One funny thing I have noticed about cardinals is that they will peck violently at their own reflection. I have had to shoo a few of them away from my car's rearview mirror in the carport, but as soon as I'm gone, they return and start attacking themselves again!

Does anyone know why they do this? I didn't think that they were a violent bird, and I'm surprised that they would react to the image of themselves like this!


The Illinois state bird really gets around. I live in Mississippi, and I see cardinals all the time here. I have noticed that I see the majority of them in winter, and that makes me wonder if they migrate here for the warm weather.

Our winters have an average high temperature in the fifties, and we rarely have even a light dusting of snow. I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of the birds we have actually came from somewhere else, where they will return when our scorching summer heat becomes too much for their little northern bodies to handle.

Does anyone know if cardinals migrate, or do I just not notice that they are here in the summer, too? I see them under my trees, pecking for food, nearly every day in the colder months.


Has anyone else ever heard the myth about cardinals and what seeing one means? I have always heard that if you see a redbird, it means that you are about to get a visit from someone that you haven't seen in a long time. Sometimes, it has turned out to be true, but I don't really believe it, because I see a lot of cardinals in my yard, and I rarely get visitors.

I greatly prefer the male cardinal to the female. He is so bright, and he brings vibrant color to an otherwise dull landscape in winter.

When you see a male cardinal next to a female, she seems downright dull. It seems wrong that the man gets to wear the pretty feathers, while the female is stuck with a toned-down coat of brownish red!

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