The cardinal is sometimes referred to as the 'winter red bird' due to its bright red plumage that stands out during the winter months. It is a year-round resident of North Carolina, and one of the most common birds in the state's gardens, lawns and forests. On average, cardinals measure between 8.9 and 9 inches in length, and research on bands has shown that they can live up to 15 years. Although they are more prevalent in the southeastern United States, cardinals can be found from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.
Males are bright red with black faces, while females are usually tan or light gray with red ridges, black faces and touches of red on their wings and tails. They are one of the few species of North American birds whose males and females both sing. Cardinals live in family groups and fiercely protect their territory from predators and other cardinals. If you come across a cardinal's nest, it is best to keep your distance as they will attack intruders.
Male cardinals also protect their breeding territory from other cardinals if anyone tries to invade it. They also often mistake their reflection in mirrors or glass windows for an intruder and will attack it. The North Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) was selected by popular election as the North Carolina State Bird on March 4, 1943. This decision was made easier thanks to the recommendation of The North Carolina Bird Club, who recognized the bird's value to humans as it eats weed seeds and garden insects. Interestingly, a decade earlier North Carolina had a different state bird for a few days.