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State Bird of Ohio – Northern Cardinal

Birds of Virginia - Northern Cardinal

Ohio state bird is a medium-sized crimson red songbird called Northern Cardinal, which is also known as the redbird, common cardinal, red cardinal, or just cardinal.

Ohio itself is a state in the Midwestern United States that places somewhere at the bottom of the list in terms of area and at the top of the list in terms of population when compared to the other 50 states.

It is the 34th largest state by area, being 44,825 square miles large, and 7th most populated, with almost 12 million inhabitants. Ohio’s eastern part is hilly whereas the western part is flatter. It has hot and humid summers and cool to cold winters.



Northern Cardinal became the Ohio state bird in 1933. The bird was chosen as the official state bird by the Ohio General Assembly due to it being widespread across the state.

However, this was not always the case. In the late 1600s, almost all of Ohio was covered with forests and Northern Cardinals were rare. As the settlers chopped down the thick woodlands, making it into a more suitable habitat for the cardinals, the birds began to move in and populate the area.

By the late 1800s, they could be found across the state and were so common that people trapped some of them and kept them as pets.


Facts about The Ohio State Bird

  • Northern Cardinal happens to be a state bird for 7 states: Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and West Virginia
  • Northern Cardinals tend to be the first birds to visit bird feeders in the morning and the last visitors in the evening. Ornithologists believe that this is because the low light offers some security from predators. After all, the bright plumage of the birds can’t be seen as well and then there’s less competition with other birds.
  • The Northern Cardinal got its name thanks to its crimson-red feathers. It was named after Catholic cardinals because they wear bright red clothing.
  • Northern Cardinals mostly eat seeds. You can easily attract one to your garden by putting sunflower seeds, safflower seeds, or cracked corn in your bird feeder!
  • During the breeding and nesting season, male Northern Cardinals become very territorial and will attack anything and anyone they perceive as a threat, including their own reflection.
  • Northern Cardinals symbolize love, loyalty, life, hope, and restoration and are most commonly associated with the winter season.



This medium-sized songbird measures around 8.2-9.3 inches in length, weighs between 1.2-2.3 oz, and has a wingspan of 9.8-12.2 inches.

Northern Cardinal’s main characteristics are its bright red plumage, a black mask on its face, its coral-colored bill, long tail, and a raised tuft of feathers on its head.

Northern Cardinal

Female Northern Cardinal is slightly smaller and more modest than their male counterpart. They are brownish-orange or olive-colored with red accents in their plumage, mostly on their crest, wings, and tail. Young birds resemble the female, but they can be distinguished by their grayish-black bills.

Northern Cardinal inhabits most parts of the United States east of the Rocky Mountains from southern Canada to Mexico and Central America.

They prefer to live in places that offer dense foliage to hide their nests in, such as edges of the woods, hedges, suburban gardens, thickets, swamps, city parks, streamside thickets, and shrubs in general. You can also meet them in the desert in the southwestern United States.

Northern Cardinal’s nest is a cup 2-3 inches tall, 4 inches wide with an inside diameter of 3 inches. It is made from coarse twigs and leaves, lined with soft bark, and finally bolstered with fine plant material, such as fine grass, pine needles, and hair.

The female builds the nest 1-15 feet above the ground in a well-hidden area in dense shrubs, vines, or low trees and lays 2-5 eggs. The eggs are about an inch long and wide, are grayish, greenish-white, or pale blue in color, and are speckled with pale gray to brown blotches.



The Ohio State bird – Northern Cardinal communicates via vocalization and physical displays, such as tail flicks and lifting and lowering their crest. They have many different songs from region to region because they learn their songs.

Both the male and female sing and the songs themselves typically sound like high-pitched alarms, consisting of metallic whistles that usually end in a slow trill and last about 2-3 seconds. Common phrases include whoit-whoit-whoit, whacheer, cheer-cheer-cheer and purty-purty-purty.

You can hear Northern Cardinals call when they’re trying to chase intruders from their territory, warn others that predators are near, during courtship and when approaching the nest with food. Their calls are a single or a series of short high-pitched metallic chips.



Northern Cardinals are mostly herbivores. They prefer to eat grain, fruit, berries, buds, and different seeds, especially those that are easily husked but also eat insects.

Cardinals forage on or near the ground and sing, preen, and survey the area from a high branch. When one of them is agitated, it lifts its crest but lowers it back down when it’s resting and calm.

The breeding season lasts from March until September. During this time, the Northern Cardinals are easily agitated and become aggressive, attacking anything they perceive as a threat, including their own reflection, and usually fly around in pairs.

northern cardinal

When a predator comes near the nest, they will give a short alarm call and dive toward it to scare them away. During the fall and winter, however, cardinals flock together and can even be seen foraging together with birds from other species. While foraging, young birds give way to adults and females typically give way to males.

These Ohio State birds are serially monogamous. They stay together for one breeding season and then find a new mate, although some mate for life. To attract a female’s attention, the male will hop around her and flutter his wings, tail and wings partly spread out. The male will try to gain the female’s favor by offering her various seeds, worms, and insects.

The female chooses the nesting site, the male follows along on the search. The male Northern Cardinal gathers the materials and the female builds the nest.

Northern Cardinals are not migratory, they stay put year-round.


Frequently Asked Questions

What is the state flower of Ohio?

The state flower of Ohio is a Large-Flowered Trillium. These flowers were chosen as state symbols in 1986.

What is Ohio state animal?

Ohio state animal is the White-Tailed Deer, chosen in 1988. These deers are state animals of nine other states, including South Carolina, Nebraska, and Georgia.

What insect is the Ohio state symbol?

Ohio state insect is the ladybug. The ladybug was chosen as a state symbol back in 1975.

About the Author

Heleen Roos

Heleen has loved the outdoors and nature since childhood and has always been fascinated with birds, leading her to research more about them. She has accumulated a lot of knowledge about their behaviors and habits through birdwatching tours and her own explorations. Her goal is to share the most interesting and useful facts about them.

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