Northern Cardinal
(Cardinalis cardinalis)


Picture of bird
© Tony Battiste
For additional photos and vocalizations, visit Dendroica. (Link opens in a new window.)

Primarily a species of the eastern and southern United States, the Northern Cardinal reaches Canada mainly in Ontario's Carolinian region but has expanded to eastern Ontario, southern Quebec and parts of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Results from the Breeding Bird Survey and breeding bird atlas projects demonstrate that Northern Cardinal has greatly increased in abundance and breeding range relative to the 1970s. These increases are likely the result of warmer winters and increased food supply from bird feeders (McLaren 2007).


Main designations for the species
DesignationStatusDateSubspecies, population
IUCN (Global)Least concern2018 
Wild Species (Canada)Secure2015 

Population status

Geographic area or populationPopulation change relative to ~1970ReliabilityStatus in relation to goal
CanadaLarge IncreaseHighAt an Acceptable Level

Population estimate

Geographic area or populationPopulation estimate
Canada500,000 - 5,000,000 adults

Distribution maps


Migration strategy, occurrence


Responsibility for conservation

Geographic areaResponsibility based on % of global population
CanadaVery Low

General nesting period in Canada

Nesting period starts between late April and mid-May and ends in mid-July, depending on the region. Before or after this period, the probability of an active nest is lower.

Conservation and management

The Northern Cardinal has benefited from changes brought to the landscape since the settlement period in North America. With the conversion of forests to agriculture and suburban areas, nesting habitat has increased and bird feeding operations may have helped birds overwinter in areas that would otherwise have not been suitable (Halkin and Linville 1999, Bliss 2015). Less severe winter weather has also allowed for range expansion (Bliss 2015). Despite its obvious success, the Northern Cardinal is a frequent host of Brown-headed Cowbird parasitism; nesting success is generally low (Halkin and Linville 1999).


Bird conservation region strategies

Environment and Climate Change Canada and partners have developed Bird Conservation Region Strategies in each of Canada’s Bird Conservation Regions (BCRs). In these strategies, selected species are identified as priorities for one or more of the following reasons:

  • conservation concerns (i.e., species vulnerable due to population size, distribution, population trend, abundance, or threats)
  • stewardship responsibilities (i.e., species that typify the regional avifauna or have a large proportion of their range or population in the sub-region)
  • management concerns (i.e., species that require ongoing management because of their socio-economic importance as game species, or because of their impacts on other species or habitats)
  • other concerns (i.e., species deemed a priority by regional experts for other reasons than those listed above or because they are listed as species at risk or concern at the provincial level)

Select any of the sub-regions below to view the BCR strategy for additional details.

BCRs, marine biogeographic units, and sub-regions in which the species is listed as a priority
RegionSub-region and priority type