Why Do We Have So Many Northern Cardinals This Winter?


Did you know there are seven birds known as Cardinals?

Six of the species live in South America. I am off to Hawaii soon and I heard they imported Northern Cardinals to Hawaii.  I will not get used to seeing them there. I got this search question on Garden Walk Garden Talk this week. I guess because GWGT has become some kind of cardinal expert for as often as cardinals are searched on it.

Ok I admit, this post on cardinals is pretty transparent pandering. Can you resist looking at these beautiful birds? Backyard birders can’t either judging by how many bird feeders cross America. Cardinals were limited to the southeastern United States originally and our bird feeders likely made them come northward. This would be a great answer to the question since cardinals keep expanding their northward range.


Winter may encourage cardinals to shift their range any given year, but they are non migratory birds. Typical of non migrants, cardinals have short wings. Cardinals were trapped in the South and sold in the North as popular caged birds during the 19th century. People did a lot of dumb things then. People do a lot of dumb things today as well.


Cardinals don’t molt into a dull winter plumage like say goldfinches, so it seems counter intuitive that they survive the predators in their habitat being so colorful. They have some unique ways to ensure an abundance of new generations of cardinals, not to mention ways to avoid the animals that would have them for dinner. See Why are Cardinals Red? to see some of their tricks.

Nature has a lesson to teach us when we import creatures, but it is one we keep ignoring. Just because we want them in certain places, does not mean they belong there.


Have a look at all the cardinals, I just know you want to. Some real cuties in the galleries.

All images between f8-f10, ISO 200 1/400 with exposure compensation +1.

On Garden Walk Garden Talk, see what cardinals are singing about.

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15 Responses to Why Do We Have So Many Northern Cardinals This Winter?

  1. Yes cardinals are one of my fav birds here in central VA. Donna, you by far capture their personalities in you fab images! Hawaii envy. Look forward to warming posts while we freeze at home. Safe travels…Diane

  2. Great post. You are superb on birds and wildlife. I always learn from you and the photography is top notch. Enjoy Maui!!

  3. veronetravis says:

    I enjoyed your pictures and the information. However, the north is not the only place where cardinals seem to be in abundance this year. Here in North Texas, I have seen more than I remember seeing in past winters, even relatively mild winters. I have loved watching them, as their beautiful color is in stark contrast to the grayness of our north Texas winterscape. If you check out my blog, A View from My Camera, you’ll see a couple of cardinal pictures that show what they are up to down here in Texas!


  4. Ironic that you posed this question because just the other day I was thinking how few cardinals I am seeing this winter in our garden. Maybe they are all visiting you.

  5. alesiablogs says:

    Cards in Hawaii ! Imagine that!

  6. My Heartsong says:

    Great shots, of these fine-looking birds.

  7. Hi Donna,

    Great post – and lovely photos as usual. In fact it was your photos of cardinals that first brought me to your GWGT blog a few years ago.

    Growing up in Southern Ontario, I have fond memories of these beautiful birds, especially seeing their bright plumage in the winter. And as vividly-hued as the males are, I actually think the females, with their subtler brown and coral colouring, are even more beautiful. Unfortunately since moving west to the Canadian prairies I don’t get to see cardinals anymore – I suspect the winters are just too cold here.

    Anyway, I visit your blog(s) for numerous reasons, but one for sure is to get my fix of cardie pix!


  8. Bernice says:

    What beautiful pictures!

  9. We always see pictures of cardinals in the snow on Christmas cards, so I thought they were always northern birds.

  10. Lyle Krahn says:

    No shortage of great-looking cardinals on this blog! Have a great time in Hawaii and say hi to the lovely sea turtles for me!

  11. aussiebirder says:

    Wonderful! You have cardinally excelled yourself Donna!

  12. Technically your photos are superb, I think it is the stories that you capture that really draws my attention…Have a great time in the sun.

  13. Mike Powell says:

    I really like Northern Cardinals and their bright colors never fail to cheer me up, especially during the often gray days of winter. The shots of the male cardinals in the snow are especially amazing.

  14. Beautiful Captures – cardinals make me think of my husband’s grandma 🙂 Happy Day!

  15. Indeed a great lesson Donna!

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