Are Cardinals Rare? Here Is a
State-By-State Comparison

The famous, ‘Winter Red Bird’ may not be as rare as you may think! Read on to find out in which states can you spot cardinals.

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David A. Swanson

May 30, 2021

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What’s This Post About?

Cardinals are the gorgeous red birds that frequently visit the wooded areas and the residential backyards in most states throughout the US.

The male and female songbirds can be easily spotted in open areas like football fields and parks during the winter season. Some football teams have even been named after the cardinals.

No. From the Southeast, all the way to the Midwest of the United States, cardinals are one the most commonly visible birds, especially in colder climates. They are even considered as ‘The Bird of the State’ in most states.

a red cardinal bird

Are Cardinal Migratory Birds?

Cardinals have been named the state bird of 7 states including Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Cardinals are not migratory birds. During winters, they have been known to travel, although never quite so far. Cardinals usually reside and travel within different states of the US.

They may sometimes travel southwards to Florida but remain mostly within the north and southeastern districts.

Further along this post, we will explore the likelihood of finding cardinals across different states of the United States.

Although, cardinals may also be found in parts of Nova Scotia in Canada, as well as New Mexico.


You can use any type of feed to attract cardinals to your backyard, as long as the cardinals live in that area. However, they seem to prefer sunflower seeds the most. Add some of those, and lure them into your lawn.

cardinal bird perching on red holly berries

Comparison of Cardinals Across Different States

The Northeast

Cardinals are most concentrated around the skies in this particular region. They can be spotted in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island.

In the north, though particularly rare, they can be seen around Maine as well.

The Southeast

In the Southeast, cardinals are present mostly in Florida. Cardinals are frequently seen to be traveling north and south throughout the eastern half of the United States.

Though Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina contain a few populations of the species as well.

The Midwest

In the Midwest, cardinals seem to be increasing in abundance as we move south. Being rare in North Dakota, they have been known to primarily reside in the southeastern regions of South Dakota.

In Nebraska and Kansas, cardinals can be found in the eastern halves. They are also present in Michigan and Wisconsin.

The most concentrated populations of cardinals are present in Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio.

a male cardinal bird

Fun Fact

Cardinals ger their red color from the pigments in berries and other fruits that they consume in their diet.

The Southwest

In the southwest, one area of interest concerning cardinals is Arizona. While Texas and Oklahoma are also known to house these beautiful scarlet creatures, Arizona still seems to contain the largest population of cardinals in the Midwest.

Dividing Arizona into central, Southern and Southeastern, cardinals can be seen in Prescott, Phoenix and Tuscan respectively.

In the northwestern panhandle however, cardinals seem to be particularly rare.

A Rare Subspecies of Cardinals

The various but one-of-a-kind cardinals.

A particularly unique form of Cardinals can be located somewhere around the desert regions of Arizona. These subspecies are a brighter red than the generic Northern Cardinals.

They also have taller crests and a larger bill, with fewer black patches around the face.

There are about 19 of these subspecies present across the United States. Two of these are also present in Texas while one other form resides in parts of Florida.

a cardinal bird in arizona state

Understanding The Cardinal Habitat

Cardinals are not ones to be shy around humans. They generally prefer to live around populated areas in parks, forests, backyards, woodlands and fields.

To attract Cardinals to your backyard, you could make use of feeders. If you’re looking for an appropriate feeder for attracting cardinals to your backyard, you can explore the Perky Pet C00322 Red Cardinal Bird Feeder.

Perky Pet C00322 Red Cardinal Bird Feeder

The circular perch and mesh surface provides a large feeding area for cardinals.

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Cardinals are fond of trees, vines, shrubs and hedges as nesting sites. They have their own choice of preferred trees that they choose to settle into. These are:

  • Pines
  • Hemlock
  • Spruce
  • Red cedar
  • Sugar maples
  • Elms
  • Boxelder
  • Hawthorn
  • Dogwood
  • Rose bushes
  • Honeysuckle

Fun Fact

Male cardinals mate with only one female per breeding season. For the rest of the year, they do not stray far from each other.

cardinal birds on branches perched

Protecting the Habitat

It is important to note that no matter where it is that you may reside, cardinals living in your area will be typically obsessive with regards to the protection of their living space.

Male and female cardinals protect their nests fiercely; they have even been found to attack their reflections in mirrors and windows. Try not to be too alarmed if you ever come across such a situation.

Keep in mind that although cardinals are not too picky when it comes to their habitat, it is extremely important to respect the privacy of their living space.

Although cardinals are not threatened or endangered species, they run the risk of falling prey to many predators in most parts of the US. These can be house pets or other animals present in forested areas.

Apart from this, overuse of insecticides and window collisions have been two other common reasons for their shorter life spans.

To protect the cardinals, you can start by protecting the places they visit frequently, such as your lawns and backyards. Use insecticides sparingly and keep house pets away from backyard feeders.

You can also use translucent windows in public areas to prevent cardinals from fighting their reflection resulting in their demise.


If you are ever birdwatching and come across a cardinal nest, watch from a distance. Moving too closely towards the nest will cause the birds to abandon their abode.

Keep Reading!

Cardinals are non-migratory birds. Due to this, they can be seen across almost every state in the United States. These beautiful scarlet songbirds are a visual feast throughout the winters.

They have been known to travel up north, even though they are primarily fond of warmer climates, only because people set out food more often during the harsh winters than they do in the summers.

It is therefore of utmost importance to remember that as long as we continue to refill our feeders, and birdbaths, and protect their habitat, cardinals will forever dot our blue skies with their beautiful bright red plumage.

Are you just as big a fan of hummingbirds as cardinals? If so, I would recommend you read our blog on whether hummingbirds can walk or not.

Can Hummingbirds Walk? It's Very Rare, and This is Why!

Can hummingbirds walk? Here is a list of facts and information that will let you know why walking is rare for hummingbirds.

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By David A. Swanson

Bird Watching USA

My name is David and I'm the the founder of Bird Watching USA! I started Bird Watching with My father-in-law many years ago, and I've become an addict to watching these beautiful creatures. I've learnt so much over about bird watching over the years that I want to share with the world everything I know about them!

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David A. Swanson Picture

David A. Swanson

Bird Watching USA

My name is David and I'm the the founder of Bird Watching USA! I started Bird Watching with My father-in-law many years ago, and I've become an addict to watching these beautiful creatures. I've learnt so much over about bird watching over the years that I want to share with the world everything I know about them!



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