Illinois State Bird - Cardinal



(Cardinalis cardinalis)
Adopted in 1929.

The northern cardinal is also the state bird for six other states. These are Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, and West Virginia.

In 1928, the Macomb branch of the National Federation of Professional Women's Clubs urged that Illinois schoolchildren select a State Bird. The idea was approved by the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, and schoolchildren chose the Cardinal from a list of five birds conspicuous in Illinois.

Thus, Illinois became the first of seven states to choose the cardinal as its state bird. The cardinal was made the official bird of Illinois in 1929 after receiving 39,226 votes. Schoolchildren selected this bird over the bluebird, meadowlark, quail and oriole. The cardinal is also the state bird for Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and West Virginia.

The cardinal was named by early American settlers, after Catholic cardinals who dress in bright red robes. These birds are strongly territorial and have a loud, whistling song.

Their distinctive color (scarlet for males, buffy brown and red for females), pronounced crest, heavy bill, and easily recognizable song make cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis) some of the most readily identified birds in the state.

Today this bird is a common year-round resident throughout the state. This has not always been the case. Since about 1900 the cardinal has greatly increased in abundance in northern Illinois. Around the turn of the century it was considered a rare visitor to the Chicago area; now it is quite common in that area. Urbanization and the increased use of bird feeders may have allowed the cardinals to expand their range northward.

Cardinals build their nests in bushes. Their nests are usually about 1.5 meters (4 to 5 ft.) above the ground. The eggs are laid between the middle of April and the middle of August. Cardinals usually lay several clutches of eggs each season. Each clutch consists of between two and five whitish eggs with dark streaks and spots on them.

Cardinals usually feed on the ground or in low bushes. They eat a wide variety of insects, grains, wild fruits, and seeds. They are common birds around bird feeders.

Kingdom Animalia -- animals
   Phylum Chordata -- chordates
      Subphylum Vertebrata -- vertebrates
         Class Aves -- birds
            Order Passeriformes -- perching birds
               Family Fringillidae -- buntings, finches, grosbeaks, old world finches, sparrows
                  Genus Cardinalis Bonaparte, 1838 -- cardinals
                     Species Cardinalis cardinalis (Linnaeus, 1758) -- Cardenal rojo, northern cardinal