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What Does A Cardinal Sound Like?

What does a cardinal sound like?

Cardinals are wonderful birds to have in the garden. They brighten bird feeders with striking red and black plumage and a perky crest. Even better, cardinals sing loudly and cheerfully!

Have you ever wondered what a cardinal sounds like? We bet you have! See this article to learn how to recognize the different calls and songs of the Northern Cardinal.


What Does A Cardinal Sound Like?

The Northern Cardinal has one of the more easily recognizable bird songs. In spring and summer, male cardinals love to sing from the top of a house, tall tree, bush, or other prominent perches.

The higher they perch, the further their song carries over the neighborhood. Showcasing their plumage and song helps male cardinals establish a territory and find a mate.

Taking center stage is also welcomed by birders. After all, there’s nothing like starting the day with a beautiful male cardinal singing loud and proud from the front yard!

Northern Cardinal

Male Northern Cardinals sing a loud series of whistled notes. Their song can vary by region but typically starts with a few double-whistled notes and continues with several repeated whistles on the same pitch.

It kind of sounds like “what chew…what chew…what chew…chuchuchuchuchuchuchu.” Another commonly heard song is composed of quickly repeated double-note calls. It sounds like “chewuh, chewuh, chewuh, chewuh, chewuh, chewuh.”

Related: How to attract cardinals?

No matter what song male Northern Cardinals give, they always make clear-toned, pure-sounding whistled notes.

Female Northern Cardinals also sing but much less often than males and are usually quieter. They also mostly sing while sitting on their nest.



Northern Cardinal songs can vary, but they often repeat the same phrases. In addition to “what-cheer” calls, their songs often include repeated, brief whistled notes. These can sound like “whitwhitwhitwhitwhitwhit”, or “tututututututututu”. Cardinals also make phrases like “chuitchuwitchuwitchuwitchuwit.” “Birdie-birdie-birdie-birdie” is a common call as well.

Related: What does it mean when a bird visits you?

This pretty bird is quite vocal, even when it’s not singing. Both sexes of the Northern Cardinal frequently make a loud, sharp chip call, “Chip!. They also make some chittering calls and lower-pitched “tuk” calls. However, the most commonly heard vocalizations are their cheerful songs described above.


Fun Facts About Cardinals And Their Song

  • Northern Cardinals learn to sing from their parents and neighboring cardinals. They learn which vocalizations to sing at a young age.
  • For their first breeding season, young male Northern Cardinals often sing more complex songs than older cardinals. As they age, they sing less complicated, more predictable songs. Young birds are believed to do this so they can have a better chance of finding a mate.
  • Unlike several other songbirds, female cardinals also sing. Even so, they still sing much less often than males and often sing in conjunction with their mates. The female sings mainly during courtship and before nesting.
  • The best way to ensure that Northern Cardinals sing in your backyard is to provide them with good habitat and not use pesticides. A feeder helps, but male Northern Cardinals prefer spots with lots of bushes and shrubs, especially plants that have berries.
  • Cardinals can sing at any time of day, but they sing most often early in the morning and later in the afternoon. Most birds follow this pattern, perhaps so they can tell other birds where their territory is.
  • When male Northern Cardinals sing, they aren’t just trying to attract a mate; they are also telling other male cardinals to stay away. It’s a warning that says, “This is my place, if you come close, I’ll come and fight you!”. This has to do with their territorial behavior.
  • To warn off intruders and predators, cardinals use loud and metallic chip calls.
  • The male Northern Cardinal sings as loud as it can to show that it’s a strong and healthy bird. This works for attracting a mate and keeping rivals at bay.


The Sounds of Cardinals – Frequently Asked Questions

Are cardinals vocal?

Yes, cardinals are very vocal birds. Males sing loud whistled songs, and both sexes make sharp chip calls.

What type of noise does a cardinal make?

The type of noise a cardinal makes includes cheery, loud whistled calls and sharp, penetrating chip notes.

How do you tell if it’s a cardinal?

Cardinals make different sounds, but you can tell it’s a cardinal by the bird’s clear, pure-toned whistled notes.

About the Author

Patrick O'Donnell

Patrick O'Donnell has been focused on all things avian since the age of 7. Since then, he has helped with ornithological field work in the USA and Peru, and has guided many birding tours, especially in Costa Rica. He develops birding apps for BirdingFieldGuides and loves to write about birds, especially in his adopted country of Costa Rica.

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