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    (Click here to return to Creatures)

    Common Name:Northern Cardinal
    Father Cardinal watches us carefully
    Scientific:Cardinalis cardinalis
    Size:7 to 9 inches
    Color:Bright and muted red
    Habitat:Sea level to 6,000 ft

    Back when we used to live in the great white north (New York, Michigan, and Indiana) we loved the quirky Cardinals. Especially gratifying was the fact that the Cardinal did not migrate, but stayed all winter long, contributing their bright red colors to the blacks, grays and whites of the winter season.

    Being fairly territorial in nature we have seen male Cardinals defend their territory fircely from their own reflection in car mirrors and windows - with one male living for years outside our house and spending most of the day flying feet first into our windows (regardless of what we did to discourage him) to attack himself.

    While the Cardinal is a regular sight on the mainland, most people wouldn't think to associate the colorful bird with tropical islands such as Hawai'i. However, the Northern Cardinal was introduced to the islands around 1929. In fact there are three species of Cardinal that have been introduced to the islands: the Red-crested Cardinal, the Yellow-billed Cardinal, and the Northern Cardinal (pictured on this page).

    The Northern Cardinal has a varied diet that ranges from seeds and fruit, to insects and even very small animals. Nests can be found in low to medium brush and trees with the mother usually laying three or four eggs. Both the mother and father feed the chicks with the mother feeding them for the first 10 days after hatching, followed by the father for the second 10 days.

    The Northern Cardinal is very colorful. The male is a very bright red color and has a deep black area around the beak and bright orange to red beaks. The female are more muted with a light red tint with more browns and tans. The female is slightly smaller than the male. Baby birds start out colored in a muted grey until fall when they begin to take on their natural adult colors.

    The Northern Cardinal family you see pictured was found living in the tropical jungle garden behind the Dolphin Bay Hotel in Hilo. With a nest sitting in a Hapu'u Fern the happy family had three eggs. With one egg disappearing - two chicks hatched allowing us to capture these great pictures without disturbing the family too much.

    Mother Cardinal sits on a bananna stalk
    and complains loudly while we
    try to photograph the babies

    One of the baby chicks looks at us

    The two baby chicks sleeping

    Mom most likely enjoys being
    so close to a source of fruit

    A baby chick wakes up and eyes us

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    All images and content, unless otherwise indicated, are © 2004-2021 InstantHawaii / David Cook
    Nene photo in top graphics by Brenda Zaun