Cardinal Call: What Does A Cardinal Bird Sound Like?

November 16, 2022 // 9 minute read

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Have you ever wondered what a cardinal call sounded like? Do their bird calls have particular meanings? Continue reading below to find out everything you need to know about cardinal bird sounds and their calls.

Cardinal calls come from both male and female birds in the form of songs. The song usually lasts 2-3 seconds and consists of stringing together two-parted whistles or clear down-slurred whistles. As an example, they make syllabic noises that sound like birdie, birdie, birdie, or cheer, cheer, cheer.

There are a number of interesting facts about cardinal songs and how they are used for communication during nesting time. These songs have major significance regarding feeding, mating, and other important aspects of a cardinal’s life.

To learn about cardinal calls and their significance, please stick with us a little while longer to learn more.

Sounds & Significance Of The Northern Cardinal

cardinal call
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Image by Jack Bulmer from Pixabay

If you spent any time around Northern cardinals, you already know that both the female and male species love to sing! The female sings beautifully. 

But are they really singing because they love to create beautiful music? Or do their singing and bird calls have a special significance?

According to allaboutbirds.org, “Scientists have described at least 16 different calls for the Northern cardinal, but the one that you’ll hear most commonly is a loud, metallic chip.”

Northern cardinals make their calls for various reasons including:

  • Warning intruders to stay out of their territory
  • Warn other cardinals one predators are near
  • Females make cardinal calls as they approach their nest
  • Male and female cardinals make calls while delivering food to their nest
  • Both sexes make calls during nesting when they have to get up and leave the nest
  • Cardinals make softer calls when either the male or female is feeding the other bird

The most interesting thing of all is Northern cardinal calls and repetitive whistling have varying meanings. And this is an important form of communication for these birds because their calls provide warnings, messages, and other significant things that other cardinals need to know about while sharing the same territory.

Northern Cardinals Songs: The Varying Meanings Behind Their Music

First of all, you may not realize that the male species of most birds are typically the only once to sing. It’s very rare for female birds to sing in other species, yet the female Northern cardinals are complex creatures that also sing beautiful songs.

In fact, the cardinal bird songs are typically associated with mating and courtship. Their calls, on the other hand, typically act as alarms or warnings to birds or animals encroaching on their territory or other members of their flock.

Related article: Best Cardinal Bird Feeders

Coordinating Behavior: An Important Aspect Of Cardinal Songs

One of the main reasons both male and female cardinals sing is to coordinate their behavior throughout their life. 

As an example, when male cardinals leave the nest in search of food, they will often sing a song to let the female cardinal and her offspring know that a delicious meal is on the way.

On the other hand, the male cardinal will also sing a particular song whenever he is returning to the nest. In some cases, the male cardinal will have food to give to the female cardinal to feed their young. 

In other cases, the male cardinal will just return from a journey outside the nest and it may have nothing to do with feeding, but he is letting the other cardinals know that he’s on the way back and that everything is safe and sound.

Territory Formation: Another Reason For Cardinal Songs

When male and female cardinals become mating partners, they will choose a particular territory to raise their young. This is better known as territory formation and it’s an important part of the cardinal mating ritual.

You’ll hear male or female cardinals singing back and forth to each other during the territory formation process. This is a simple way for both cardinals to communicate with one another as they build their nest and develop their territory to raise their young hatchlings in the future.

Cardinal Mating Call: Hear Beautiful Cardinal Songs During Courtship And Mating Rituals

a cardinal and another bird on the ground feeding
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Image by meganzopf from Pixabay

Cardinals love to talk to each other and sing while mating. This is an important part of the courtship ritual and it’s known to help strengthen the bond between the male and female members of the species as they accept one another as partners.

In many instances, one bird will sing a phrase to the other cardinal. The other cardinal will then respond, often copying the exact song and singing it back to the first cardinal. This can go on for some time as the birds sing back and forth to one another repeating the same song over and over again.

After some time passes, the first bird will eventually change the song and begin singing the other cardinal a brand-new song. As you can imagine, the second cardinal will repeat the new song and sing it back to the first cardinal. 

More than likely, the male will initiate the singing of songs during the mating ritual, but female cardinals aren’t afraid to initiate the ritual as well.

Related article: What Colors Attract Cardinals?

Courting Versus Rivalry: Are These Songs Any Different?

It may seem odd on the surface, but the antiphonal singing that takes place between rival males living in separate territories and a courting pair of Cardinals is indistinguishable from one another.

Why? It’s a form of communicating, plain and simple.

On the one hand, the courting birds are singing to each other in an effort to communicate with one another, while joining together as a mated pair looking to strengthen their bond.

On the other hand…

When rival males sing to one another, this is typically happening over a property dispute. The pair will sing to each other in an effort to solve or settle the disputed property in question. Maybe the two birds are fighting over a particular territory and they sing back and forth to one another in an effort to settle their dispute and determine the victor.

cardinal sitting on a tree branch
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Image by George from Pixabay

Attracting Mom And Dad’s Attention: Young Birds Calls & Sounds

Young birds, including baby cardinals, will make specific sounds and calls in their early years in an effort to attract their parent’s attention. It makes sense because these newborns and younglings cannot fend for themselves. 

They need their parents’ help in order to survive. They may be hungry for insects, flies, beetles, or food from bird feeders. And the best way to let mom and dad know when they need help is to make specific calls and other sounds to grab their attention. 

Begging calls are made for a number of different reasons and include varying sounds. These calls are, “made by young birds, these plaintive calls are designed to draw attention and may include small peeps, whines, rasps, wheezes, and chirps. Begging calls are not usually loud, but can be heard clearly in the vicinity of a nest.”

The begging calls do not end once a young bird leaves the nest. On the contrary, juvenile bards will continue making these calls after leaving the nest when they are still dependent on care from their parents. They need to get their attention somehow, so begging and making small yet clear sounds is a frequent and effective way to let them know when a young bird needs assistance.

In fact, the young birds do not stop making begging bird sounds. Frequently, they will also flutter their wings and make other motions in an effort to get their parent’s attention. This is very effective, which is why juvenile cardinals and other young birds continue to make these sounds, motions, and flutters whenever it’s necessary.

The Final Countdown On Cardinal Calls

You’ll be excited to know that cardinals love to sing and call one another all throughout the day. In fact, it’s known that male cardinals sing 200 times per hour. Their songs have different meanings depending on the situation that the cardinal finds itself in.

To reiterate the meaning and influence of cardinal songs and calls, please read the following summary. It includes:

  • Northern Cardinals calls have great significance. In some instances, they act as warnings, while in other cases they signify mating, and nesting, and share important territorial information amongst the nesting couples.
  • Northern Cardinals songs are a way to communicate coordinating behavior and territory formation information amongst cardinals in the same vicinity of one another.
  • A cardinal mating call is a form of courtship between male and female cardinals. The birds sing the same calls back and forth to one another to enhance their bond and strengthen their relationship before starting a family together.
  • Young birds including baby and juvenile cardinals will initiate begging calls. These calls are designed to let mom and dad know that the youngsters need the help and assistance of their parents. These calls continue for a time even after juvenile cardinals leave the nest.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone to learn that male and female cardinals regularly sing songs and make noises to communicate with one another. Male cardinals love to sing and use their songs to communicate throughout the day.

Do you have further information about cardinal calls, mating songs, and other forms of cardinal communication? Feel free to leave a comment below and share your valuable information so we can add it to this valuable resource.

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