At UnitedStatesNow, we're committed to delivering accurate, trustworthy information. Our expert-authored content is rigorously fact-checked and sourced from credible authorities. Discover how we uphold the highest standards in providing you with reliable knowledge.
In 1933, the Indiana state legislature designated the cardinal as the official state bird of Indiana. Cardinals do not migrate, so they are year-round residents of the state. They have a large range and a relatively dense population, so in addition to being the state bird of Indiana, cardinals are the state bird for six other U.S. states: West Virginia, Kentucky, Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio and Illinois.
The cardinal, scientifically named Cardinalis cardinalis, is also known as either the redbird or the Northern cardinal. It is a songbird of medium size that belongs to the finch family of birds. Male cardinals are about 8-9 inches (20-23 cm) long and are just a little larger than the females. Cardinals generally weigh 1.48-1.69 ounces (42-48 g) and have wingspans of about 10-12 inches (25-31 cm).
Males and females don’t differ much in size, but their colors dramatically distinguish them from each other. The male cardinal is a brilliant, solid scarlet red, broken only by a bit of black around the base of its reddish-toned bill, which looks like a mask. Even its legs are dark red. Early American settlers named the cardinal because its color reminded them of the cardinals of the Catholic church, who dress in ceremonial bright red robes. The bird's red color is its most distinctive feature, and it allows the state bird of Indiana to be easily spotted by birdwatchers.
By contrast, the female is on the dull side in appearance. A female cardinal ranges in color from a light brownish green to a grayish tan or light brown. The female lacks the distinctive black mask, although part of its face might be a little dark. Females do have red legs and feet, just as the males do.
Although the cardinal is the state bird of Indiana and a few other states, its geographical distribution is actually quite large. Cardinals are found from southern Canada to Maine and Nova Scotia and as far south as the Florida Gulf Coast, Mexico and Central America. For habitat, cardinals are most comfortable around the edges of woods, riverside thickets and swamps but also will live in residential areas and city gardens.
Breeding season is from about March through September, with the pairs being monogamous and often remaining together for several years. Females build the nests and lay one to five eggs. Although the male brings her food, the female alone incubates the eggs, which takes about 12 days.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the state bird of Indiana?
The state bird of Indiana is the Northern Cardinal, also known simply as the cardinal. It was officially designated as the state bird in 1933. The Northern Cardinal is admired for its vibrant red plumage and melodic song, making it a beloved symbol for Indiana residents. This bird is not only popular in Indiana but is also recognized as the state bird in six other states, reflecting its widespread appeal across the United States.
When was the Northern Cardinal chosen as Indiana's state bird?
The Northern Cardinal was chosen as Indiana's state bird in 1933. The selection was made by the Indiana General Assembly, reflecting the bird's popularity and status as a common year-round resident of the state. Its selection underscores the cardinal's significance in Indiana's natural heritage and its role in the state's ecosystem.
Why was the Northern Cardinal selected as the state bird for Indiana?
The Northern Cardinal was selected as Indiana's state bird due to its widespread presence throughout the state and its popularity among residents. Its striking red color and cheerful song make it easily recognizable and a favorite among birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts. The cardinal's year-round residency and the fact that it is easily attracted to bird feeders also contributed to its selection as a state symbol.
Can you find the Northern Cardinal throughout Indiana?
Yes, the Northern Cardinal can be found throughout Indiana. It is a resident bird, meaning it stays in the state throughout the year, including during the winter months. The cardinal is adaptable to various habitats, including woodlands, gardens, wetlands, and shrublands, making it a common sight across Indiana's diverse landscapes.
What are some distinguishing features of the Northern Cardinal?
The Northern Cardinal is known for its distinctive bright red plumage in males and a more subdued tan or brown shade with red accents in females. Both sexes have a prominent crest on their heads and a black mask on their faces, which is more pronounced in males. Cardinals are medium-sized songbirds with strong beaks adapted for eating seeds, which is their primary diet. Their clear, whistled songs are often heard before the birds are seen, adding to their charm.