The Birds of the Outer Banks: Cardinals

The Northern Cardinal is 8 to 9 inches long. The male Northern Cardinal is bright red in color. The female bird is brown in color with a red bill. Northern Cardinals are a frequent sight in backyards. Northern Cardinals are very territorial during the spring months. The rest of the year they are not territorial. Northern Cardinals build more than one nest during breeding season. The female Northern Cardinal is the main builder of the nest. She lays 3 or 4 eggs in the nest. Both sexes take turns keeping the eggs warm. After the first set of young cardinals is born, the male Northern Cardinal does most of the feeding while the female builds the second nest. Northern Cardinals eat seeds, insects, and fruit. They will eat the seeds out of a birdfeeder. Northern Cardinals are year round residents of the Outer Banks.

The Rose-Breasted Grosbeak is between 7 and 8 inches long. The male is black and white in color with a red patch in the center of the chest of the bird. The female is brown and white in color with no red patch. Rose-Breasted Grosbeaks like to live in the forest. When migrating, the male Grosbeak is the first one to arrive at the migration sight. Female Grosbeaks arrive several days later. Both the male and female Grosbeak helps build the nest. The female Rose-Breasted Grosbeak lays between 3 and 5 eggs in the nest. Both sexes help keep the eggs warm. For food, this species eats insects, seeds, and fruit. The large beak of the bird helps to crack the shell of the nut. Rose-Breasted Grosbeaks will come to birdfeeders. Rose-Breasted Grosbeaks are a rare sight along the Outer Banks.

The Indigo Bunting is 5 ½ inches long. The male Indigo Bunting is bright blue in color. The female is light brown in color. In this species, only the male Indigo Bunting is usually seen. Indigo Buntings like to live at the edge of the forest. Male Indigo Buntings can be heard singing to attract the female bird. Indigo Buntings of the most of their flying at night, often in groups of 5 to 10 birds. The female Indigo Bunting builds the nest. She lays between 3 and 4 eggs in the nest. Only the female bird keeps the eggs warm. Indigo Buntings primarily eat insects, seeds, and fruit. Indigo Buntings are seen around the Outer Banks March to May and also during August to October.


The Painted Bunting is 5 ½ inches long. The male Painted Bunting is extremely colorful. The back of the bird is green, the head of the bird is a blue color, and the chest and belly of the bird is an orange color. The female bird has a dark green back and a light green underside. Painted Buntings can be seen living in backyards, forest edges, and brushy roads. Painted Buntings build their nests in tangled masses of vines. The female Painted Bunting lays 3 to 5 eggs in the nest. The female bird has the job of incubating the eggs. For food, Painted Buntings eat seeds and insects. Painted Buntings are not often seen around the Outer Banks.

The Dickcissel is 6 inches long. It is mostly a plain brown colored bird. It does have patches of yellow around the face. Dickcissels like to live in open fields with lots of hay and weeds. The Dickcissel builds its' nest in patches of alfalfa. The female bird lays 4 or 5 eggs in the nest. For food, the Dickcissel eats insects and seeds.

The Birds of the Outer Banks: Cardinals

The Birds of the Outer Banks: Cardinals

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  • Adam Floyd