how long do cardinals live

how long do cardinals live

how long do cardinals live

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Northern cardinal

The northern cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) is a bird in the genus Cardinalis; it is also known colloquially as the redbird, common cardinal, red cardinal, or just cardinal (which was its name prior to 1985). It can be found in southeastern Canada, through the eastern United States from Maine to Minnesota to Texas, New Mexico, southern Arizona, southern California, and south through Mexico, Belize, and Guatemala. It is also an introduced species in a few locations such as Bermuda and Hawaii. Its habitat includes woodlands, gardens, shrublands, and wetlands.

The northern cardinal is a mid-sized songbird with a body length of 21–23 cm (8.3–9.1 in). It has a distinctive crest on the head and a mask on the face which is black in the male and gray in the female. The male is a vibrant red, while the female is a reddish olive color. The northern cardinal is mainly granivorous, but also feeds on insects and fruit.

The male behaves territorially, marking out his territory with song. During courtship, the male feeds seed to the female beak-to-beak. A clutch of three to four eggs is laid, and two to four clutches are produced each year. It was once prized as a pet, but its sale as a cage bird was banned in the United States by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.


With their gorgeous red plumage, it’s easy to see why cardinals are a favorite sight for many nature lovers- but how long do cardinals live and what is the average cardinal lifespan like? The Northern Cardinal was mostly a Southern U.S. bird back in the 1880s. However, these days, their habitat has now increased to the north and Midwest, particularly along the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers. Throughout the years, they have become one of the most popular birds that visit backyard feeders.

how long do cardinals live
how long do cardinals live

Cardinals can be pretty shy, however, so catching a glimpse of one standing still can be rare. Want to learn more about this beautiful wild bird? If you’ve ever wanted to learn about how long do cardinals live and other fun facts, then read on!

Cardinals live for 3 years in the wild on average. However, there have been cases of them living anywhere between 13-15 years in captivity. The oldest Northern Cardinal found was a female that was 15 years and 9 months old when she was discovered in Pennsylvania.

Let’s take a look at the lifespans of other cardinal species to compare:

  • The Vermilion cardinal is a kind of cardinal found in Colombia and Venezuela. These cardinals have a lifespan of two to three years.
  • A desert cardinal can be found in the deserts of the United States and Mexico. This species has a lifespan of eight years.
  • Red crested cardinals live for three to six years in the wild. They may live in captivity for 13-15 years. They may be found in Argentina, Bolivia, southern Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay, among other places.

The average lifespan for cardinals is highly dependent on their species as well as the areas that they choose to inhabit. Living in warmer climates means that they have more available food resources and less harsh weather to deal with.

Now that we know how long cardinals live, let’s explore the stages of their life cycle!

The Average Cardinal Life Cycle

The cardinal’s life cycle is quite similar to many other bird species. Let’s explore the small differences in detail.


Male cardinals will have fiercely claimed their territory by early spring and will court and mate with a chosen female. The breeding seasons are timed to coincide with the number of insects available. The female will then begin to build her nest with small twigs, bark, and leaves. It takes between 3 and 9 days to create a nest.

What Is the Lifespan of a Red Cardinal?

Red Cardinals, also known as Northern Cardinals or simply as cardinals, can live long lives in the wild. Although the average lifespan is 3 years, there are also plenty of these red-crested birds that make it to double digits.

It is not unheard of that a cardinal makes it to 12-15 years. That is a very long life compared to other bird species.

how long do cardinals live
how long do cardinals live

Female cardinals incubate their eggs for 11-13 days. Once the have hatched, the nestlings are taken care of by their parents for 7-13 days, until they are ready to leave the nest.

Fledglings that have dared beyond the nest are looked after by the male cardinal. He teaches them how to forage for food as they hop along on the ground.

About 20 days

Around day 20 the fledglings should have learned to fly. At this young age, they tend to stay close to their parents and join the rest of the flock when fall comes.

Juvenile cardinals keep their light gray and brown feathers for the first year of their life. It is not until their second fall season that they gain bright red feathers after molting.

Female cardinals are ready for breeding season the very next spring. They are ready to continue the lineage as soon as they have found a suitable mate.

What Influences the Lifespan of Cardinal Birds?

Cardinals have the potential to live relatively long lives compared to other birds. However, their age is not just a matter of good genes.

There are many factors that influence how old a cardinal can become. Below a quick summary of what partially determines the age of a Northern Cardinal.

Availability of Food

As any living being, cardinals need food to stay alive. Experts have attributed the population growth to more households placing cardinal winter bird feeders outside. This provides them with a valuable food source when their usual diet is scarce in the cold winter.

Availability of Shelter

Since cardinals are small birds, they need other ways to defend themselves. This is one of the reasons why cardinals prefer to thorny bushes for resting and building nests. Another factor allowing for population growth is their adaptability to sheltering in suburban gardens and green parks.

Seeing cardinal birds in the wild is a real treat. They have an incredibly beautiful, bright red color that can be seen from a distance. They are active and playful birds who love to hop around on branches, playing with twigs or other objects that have caught their attention. The big question is how long do cardinals live? There’s a lot of conflicting information out there on the internet and the answer is surprisingly hard to pin down… but don’t worry we did our research and came up with the accurate answer.

3 years

How long do cardinals live? In the wild, the average lifespan of the Northern Cardinals is 3 years. However, some are known to live on for 13-15 years in the wild. In captivity, these birds have a much longer lifespan, with the record set at 28 years.

Stay with us till the end of this article, and we’ll tell you everything you need to know about the lifespan of cardinals. We will include the factors that affect their mortality and discuss how you can play your small part in helping these birds live longer.

Fun Fact: The main reason behind the stable population growth of the cardinals is that female cardinals mate every year, even after their first mate dies. They also raise 1-2 broods in a single year.

What can you do to protect cardinals?

Cardinals frequently visit bird feeders. Keep bird feeders and nesting boxes clean to avoid parasitic and fungal diseases.

Cardinals, in order to protect themselves from predators, need to build nests in higher altitudes. This increases how long they live. How can a person help to protect cardinals? A yard should have lots of tall trees. Pet cats are a great threat to cardinals. If there are any backyard bird feeders, it is best to keep any cats indoors. Wild cats can also be a problem, so keep bird feeders in areas where wild cats cannot reach them.

The winter season affects the survival of cardinals. Finding food during the winter season might not be easy for these birds. Leave a good amount of food in a bird feeder during the winter season. Dehydration is also a problem for cardinals. Place a birdbath in your yard because this will help cardinals stay hydrated. These minor efforts will make a huge difference and will help protect this bird species.


According to this article by Penn State University, cardinals are monogamous birds and will typically mate for life. Both the female and male will work together during mating season to build their nest together, which takes about 8-9 days.

how long do cardinals live
how long do cardinals live


Cardinals are open nested birds and will build their nests out of twigs, pieces of grass, and other plant materials. They prefer building their nests in bushes, dense shrubbery, or low branches that are typically less than 10 feet from the ground.


Like most birds cardinals do not use the same nest twice and will build a new nest each year, but may use pieces of old nests to build their new nests.

Thank you for staying with this post “how long do cardinals live” until the end.

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