Cardinals: Christmas' Most Popular Bird

The cheery bright red cardinal is synonymous with Christmas, in fact, the cardinal is Christmas’ most popular bird. There is always a bird ornament which tops our best-sellers list, and many times it’s a cardinal. The male Northern Cardinal is the most recognizable cardinal because of its bright red plumage, and the female features brown feathers with bright accents. The Northern Cardinal can be found all over the United States, but is most commonly found in the Mid West, East Coast, and Southern states, however the Northern Cardinal has been spotted in the South West in states like Arizona. It is so popular that seven eastern states have made it their state bird. Because cardinals are not migratory birds, they stay put in the colder climates when all the leaves are gone, and the backdrop is white snow. 

It’s tie to Christmas is based on its color. Though the Northern Cardinal is a common bird to its habitats, when the leaves are off the barren trees in the winter, the cheery red cardinal stands out. In the winter the cardinal is easily spotted at bird feeders, and prefers sunflower seeds if it could pick, but eat a wide variety of nuts, seeds, grass, and berries. The cardinal’s spectacular red naturally makes it a Christmas bird because of its Christmas color, and artists have made the red cardinal a regular part of the art and symbols of Christmas. 

It is thought that early settlers to North America gave the cardinal its name based on the red vestments of the Roman Catholic bishops and the detailed headgear. Later, spotting a cardinal became a symbol of remembrance of a loved one who had passed on. Many people still hold to that tradition and because the Christmas season usually conjures memories of the people who are gone, the cardinal is a special symbol to remember them by. Many believe that by spotting a cardinal, your loved one is near and the bird is the messenger from them to you.

To many, cardinals represent the presence of faith, hope, and love which is why the cardinal is commonly found on Christmas cards, wrapping paper, prints, and in ornament form. To the Christian faith, Christmas celebrates the birth of Christ, and the red color of the cardinal’s plumage represents the blood of Christ during his death. 

Cardinals are faithful partners and mate for life. Frequently they are spotted together or nearby. They nest in dense shrubs, vines, or low trees. The female builds the nest and the male defends their territory with singing and attacking other threatening males and predators. Male cardinals have been known to attack their own reflection in a window. The female lays from 2-5 eggs, and incubates the eggs, alone, for about 12-13 days. Both adult birds feed the baby birds. Cardinals raise 2-3 broods per year, and rarely more. 

The Christmas cardinal is a mainstay during the holiday season for good reason. Because these gorgeous birds remain during the cold, dark winter months they serve as a symbol of hope and light throughout the season. Within our collection of bird ornaments ten of them are Christmas' most popular bird: the cardinal.

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Written by

Rachael Mitchell

Rachael Mitchell is a freelance writer based in Seattle, Washington, and has over 15 years of writing experience. She’d never be able to pick just one favorite ornament, but narrowed it down to the S’more and Tennis Ball. She always looks forward to s’mores in the summer with friends and family adding gourmet ingredients, and played 4 years of college tennis in the mid-west.

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