Cardinal at Bird Feeder in Arlington Heights Enjoys Black Oil Sunflower Seed

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A male Northern Cardinal feeds on sunflower seeds at a backyard bird feeder in Arlington Heights. YouTube Tips ⓘ

Male cardinals are territorial, marking out his territory with song. During courtship, the male feeds seed to the female beak-to-beak.

The northern cardinal feeds on seeds, but also feeds on insects and fruit. Safflower seeds, black oil sunflower seeds, and white milo (Sorghum is a genus of about 25 species of flowering plants in the grass family Poaceae are the preferred seeds if available. Cardinals also feed on seeds from weeds. Almost exclusively, cardinal chicks are fed insects.

Cardinal at bird feeder eating black oil sunflower seeds
Cardinal at bird feeder eating black oil sunflower seeds.




The northern cardinal has one of the most recognizable bird song calls heard in all seasons, especially at dawn and dusk. The northern cardinal also has a distinctive alarm call that is a repeated short chirp or metallic chip sound. The alarm call is sounded to warn the female cardinal and nestlings when predators or humans approach the nest. Cardinals rarely let unfamiliar humans get near them.

The alarm chirp from cardinals may even occur when hawks circle overhead, which may cause cardinals to evacuate or abort flight training. The chicks are vulnerable in early days of flight training.

Predators of cardinals’ chicks and eggs in Chicagoland include raptors, such as hawks and bald eagles; some owls; blue jays; crows squirrels; eastern chipmunks; and domestic cats.




According to The Virtual Nature Trail at Penn State New Kensington (Penn State University) on average, northern cardinals live for 3 years in the wild although several individuals have had life spans of 13 to 15 years. The longevity record for a captive northern cardinal is 28 ½ years!

Raptor above, Cardinal below. YouTube Tips ⓘ

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