Birds of Seabrook Island

COAST BIRDS
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WORLD BIRDS
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ANECDOTES

  Northern Cardinal
 
 

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Species Acct.
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Cardinalines
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  Order Passeriformes
   Suborder Passeres - Oscines (Song Birds)
      Parvorder Passerida (Superfamily Passeroidea)
         Nine-primaried Oscines
            Family Cardinalidae - Cardinals, Grosbeaks, Buntings

  Passerines are generally smaller than non-passerines. They have a perching foot with three toes directed forward and the one backward with locking tendons to facilitate perching when their tendons are flexed. All passerines scratch by bringing the foot over the wing. Incubation ranges from 11 -21 days. Young hatch blind with little or no down and spend 10-15 days or so in the nest - development is rapid and parents provide care beyond fledging.
Oscines are passerines with complex syringeal musculature used to produce varied vocalizations. 
Passeroids include the Nine-primaried Oscines, pipits, Old World sparrows, and weavers.
Nine-primaried Oscines include New World warblers, icterids (New World blackbirds), emberizines (buntings), tanagers, cardinalines (cardinals), and fringillines (finches).
Cardinalines are small to medium-sized nine-primaried oscines. They have a large conical bill used for cracking seeds and males may be brightly colored. They generally feed on the ground. Many are attracted to feeders in winter. The group includes residents and irruptive species which tend to appear in our area only in severe winters.
Cardinals (Cardinalis) (Wiki) have a marked crest and some bright red in the plumage of males. They are nonmigratory and frequent areas of dense brush or low cover. Their songs are clear whistles that are easy to identify.
   
     
  Northern Cardinal, Cardinalis cardinalis
 
    Cornell     USGS      Wiki     EoL
        YEAR ROUND - Common, breeds / Abundant
            BRUSHY HABITATS, FOREST, EDGE, SUBURBS
MORE PICTURES
 
   Northern Cardinals are our familiar "red-birds" with bright red bodies and a black mask around the red bill. They have a prominent crest and a large, conical seed-cracking red bill. Females are less brightly colored but have a red beak, red crest, a red tail, and some red in the wing. Young have a black bill with some red in the tail and wings.
Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal
   
Northern Cardinal male. Athens, GA
Female. Clemson, SC
       
  RANGE: They Northern Cardinal ranges from central Nova Scotia west around all of the Great Lakes except Lake Superior, to central South Dakota, south through Kansas to Texas, west to central Arizona and south into Mexico, east along the Gulf and Florida, and up the Atlantic coast. The species has been introduced into Hawaii and is common on Oahu. Some cardinals (probably younger birds) may move north or north-east in the fall ("reverse" migration). Winter flocks often contain up to 70 birds although on Seabrook they tend to remain territorial year round.
   They appear to be expanding toward the west and have been introduced elsewhere (Hawaii, etc.).
   They are permanent residents throughout their range.
  BREEDING: Monogamous. 2-4 broods. The cardinal's nest is variable - compact to flimsy. They use stems, twigs, bark strips, grass, rootlets, paper, etc.,, interwoven and lined with fine grass and hair. Females lay 3-4 (2-5) eggs which she incubates (with a little help) for 12-13 days. Young are altricial and fledge after 9-11 days. Both parents feed the young. The male may assume care for a first brood while the female incubates a second clutch.
   They are common cowbird hosts, especially in the central states.
  DIET: They feed on insects, seeds, and fruit. Varied. Young are fed mostly insects. They forage on the ground or in low bushes. They readily come to bird feeders.
  VOICE: Cardinals have a series of loud, sharp whistles including "birdie, birdie, birdie." [Learn to distinguish this from the "chortile, chortile, chortile" of the Carolina Wren.] They also say "it's here" and a variety of other whistled calls. Their call note, a hard "tik" is also heard throughout the day.
 

NOTES:
   Checklists -
      Seabrook (breeds). Kiawah - common year round (breeds). Edisto - resident.
      Coastal - common permanent resident. Hilton Head - common permanent resident. Cape Romain - common year-round, breeds.
         Huntington Beach
- common, year-round.
      Caw Caw - abundant year-round, breeds. ACE - common year-round, breeds.
   Kiawah Island banding - Capn' Sam's spit - 41 (29 recaptures) Jul-Nov 2009; 1 (2 recaptures) Jan- Feb 2010; 4 (15 recaptures) Mar-May 2010;
      23 (13 recaptures) Aug-Nov 2010; 1 (1 recapture) Jan-Mar 2011; 5 (17 recaptures) Apr-May 2011; 38 (55 recaptures) Aug-Nov 2011;
     (1 recapture) Dec 2011; 1 (7 recaptures) Feb-Mar 2012; 23 (39 recpatures) Aug-Sep 2012. Cougar Island - 13 (3 recaptures) Sep-Nov 2009.
CBC: ACE114, 189, 99, 174, 119, 153, 141; Charleston 86, 223, 67, 179, 86, 237, 119;
          St Helena/Fripp x, x, x, x, x, x, 89; Hilton Head 231, 444, 232, 566, 304, 231, 186; Sun City/Okatie 159, 335, 174, 429, 105, 268, 153;
          McClellanville 42, 107, 100, 92, nc, 93, 82; Winyah Bay x, x, 29, 117, 53, 100, 52; Litchfield/Pawley's 149, 430, 177, 160, 97, 291, 270.
SCBBA: Breeding in all areas of the state.
P&G: Very common resident. Egg dates: 11 April - 19 July.
Avendex: 1 record.
Potter: Very common permanent resident. Found in all woodland habitats - favoring margins and residential shrubbery.

    ●  Common. Cardinals are year round residents in brushy habitats including the myrtles on the way to the beach.... They may be our most conspicuous land bird. The species has also been introduced into all of the major islands in the Hawaiian chain so it may follow you on your island vacation!
   
   

"A Bird in the Hand"

   There are several birds that the bander tries to avoid because of their painful bite. Handled properly, it is possible to remove cardinals from nets or traps without getting "nailed" but accidents happen. Their is some mobility in the upper mandible and having them "chew" can be painful (especially if they get the web between your fingers). Actually, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks (another "cardinal") are worse - they really hurt.
   Chickadees and titmice peck and bite - annoying and less than helpful when extracting them from a mist net, but they do less damage. The claws of Red-winged Blackbirds can actually penetrate skin - they are my least favorite bird to handle!. Finally, flickers may yell like they are being killed - not pleasant but the birds themselves are docile. Contrary to expectations, small owls with raptorial claws and beak are very docile when netted and haven't been a problem. Those banders that capture diurnal birds of prey do use leather gloves to avoid problems.
   In general most birds behave well while being handled and banded and these activities may contribute to our knowledge of the species.
       
    Banner - Northern Cardinal. Clemson.
       
       
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