How Long do Cardinals Live?

Due to the sometimes harshness of nature, the average Cardinal lives about 2.5 to 3 years. However, when there is a sustainable food source, no predators, and adequate living conditions the Cardinal can live as long as 28 years.

The Cardinal is a very populous bird. In fact so much so that 7 of the 51 United States hold the Cardinal as their official state bird. Many are drawn to the distinct looks of the Cardinal. Even for me personally, when I started bird watching I immediately was like “I want to study and learn about the Cardinal”. In this article I’ll share with you all that I’ve learned researching the lifespan of the various Cardinal varieties.

Cardinal Lifecycle – Birth to Adulthood

cardinal lifecycle stages

The lifecycle of almost all birds features an incubation period, hatching, spreading their wings/learning to fly, the juvenile period and lastly adult hood/maturity. Below is a list of each step and at what time range each occurs:

  1. Incubation: 11 to 13 days
  2. Hatching: 7 to 13 days
  3. Learning to fly: 20 days
  4. Juvenile: 1 year
  5. Adulthood: 1+ years

Life Span of the Cardinal

Although many people consider there to be 4 Cardinal varieties there is truly only 3 species that belong to the genus Cardinalis. The Vermillion Cardinal, Northern Cardinal, and the Desert Cardinal. The unofficial Cardinal is called the Red Crested Cardinal, let’s dig in a little bit and go over the lifespan of each variety.

Vermillion Cardinal Life Span

This particular variety is known to live in Colombia and Venezuela. The Vermillion Cardinal has an average life span of 2 to 3 years. The main cause of fatality is collision, predators, parasites and disease.

Northern Cardinal Life Span

The Northern Cardinal known for its bold red coloration lives for 3 years on average but in a safe environment they can live as long as 20 plus years. Just like many of the other Cardinals this bird is threatened mostly by predators and disease. Notable about this species is their migration patterns. Since they don’t migrate at all, it has been possible to observe and study these bird closely to accurately monitor their lifespan.

Desert Cardinal Life Span

Living in the harsh conditions that desert life brings about, the Desert Cardinal has different challenges than the other bird on this list. They are often times challenged to remain hydrated in their dry habitat. Although, they do live the longest  at around 8 years due to living in more remote areas out of the way of people and some predators.

Red Crested Cardinal Life Span

Last but not least is the faux  Cardinal the Red Crested. Just like the other varieties this Cardinal lives an average of about 3 years in the wild. The main causes of fatality are predators and disease.

How to Help Cardinals Live Longer?

Earlier to spoke about how the Cardinal is often killed by disease, lack of food, dehydration, predators, and collisions. Even though some of these factors are out of our control and are a part of the circle of life, as bird lovers there are things we can do to pitch in and save a Cardinal or two. Have you thought to…

Provide Shelter

Hang a Birdhouse

cardinal lifespan food

Help save a Cardinal and future generations by providing shelter! How you might ask? Hang a birdhouse. Hanging a birdhouse in your yard helps tremendously. Bird will have a much easier time setting up a safe and stable home in a human built birdhouse. Although, Cardinals are fairly good nest builders, the elements like wind and rain have a much harder time ruining a wooden birdhouse vs one held together by mud and straw.

Plant Tall Trees

If you’re more of a naturalist you might not want to hang a prefabbed birdhouse in your yard. There is nothing wrong with that, if you still want to lend a hand how about planting a tall tree species. Tall dense foliage trees make for the best possible Cardinal homes. They are up and out of the way of many predators and provide lots of leaves to hide and build nests in.

Provide Meals

One of the major Cardinal killers is starvation, especially in colder regions like the Eastern United States. One way to help Cardinals out is by hanging a bird feeder. When many of the natural food sources freeze over a bird house can be a lifeline to Cardinals searching for their next meal. Just make sure to keep the feeder clean, overtime a neglected bird feeder can be a breeding ground for disease and parasites. If you aren’t careful you could end up wiping more birds out than you’ll saving.

Provide a Water Source

Dehydration is serious killer to the Desert Cardinal. If you have the room for it, adding a bird bath to your backyard could be a literal lifesaver for birds in search of water. Another perk to having a birdbath is that they often times attract birds in all climates making your yard a hotspot for birdwatching!

Keep your House Cat in the House

house cat eating cardinal

A severely overlooked way to save a Cardinal or two, or three, or four is keeping your house cat in the house! So many times pet cats bring birds inside the house to play with their lifeless bodies. Seriously!? Can’t they be content with their feather toys, Purina cat chow, and litter box? House cats although not natural predators to the Cardinal oftentimes are the main culprit for claiming needless causalities.

In Conclusion

To wrap things up, the Cardinal usually lives about 3 years in the wild. However, with perfect conditions its been proven they can live almost 30 years! Even though it might seem insignificant YOU can actually help Cardinals live a little longer by providing shelter, food, water, and keep one less killer off the streets.

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