Who doesn’t know the male Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) with his scarlet plumage, hoopoe and black mask? When the Club was founded in 1988, the Northern Cardinal was well established in our region. It was therefore the ideal emblematic bird to represent the COBM.

The Cardinal frequents the edge of the woods, parks, gardens and wooded areas of our cities. An assiduous visitor to the feeders, he colours our winters with his presence and his flute-like song in mid-winter.

Couple of Northern Cardinals. Photo credit Suzanne Pellerin.

 

Outside the breeding season, the Northern Cardinal can be seen in small groups, but as soon as it has delimited its territory, it no longer tolerates others of its species. It begins nesting in the last week of April. The female, with buff-pink plumage, lays 3 to 4 eggs per clutch (2 to 4 broods per year). Both parents feed the chicks with insects. The young leave the nest after about ten days and it is at this time that the male takes responsibility for the young to allow the female to nest again. Since the last clutch leaves the nest as late as the end of October, this long nesting season has contributed to the northward expansion of the Northern Cardinal’s range.

The first records in Quebec date back to the 1860’s, but it was not until a century later that the Northern Cardinal was recognized as having expanded its East American range into southern Quebec. The abandonment of farms and the multiplication of urban gardens created a favourable environment for it. The Northern Cardinal’s population increased in the 1970’s with the multiplication of feeders. The food being made more accessible allows it to survive our harsh winters. The Second Atlas of Breeding Birds of Southern Québec (2010-2014) reveals that the range of the Northern Cardinal continues to expand, that it is now well established in the St. Lawrence Lowlands and southern Appalachians, and that its numbers have tripled since 1995 .