Birds come in a variety of colors. Some are bright and flashy, while others are more subdued. But there’s something about a red bird that always catches our eye. Usually, this color is present in cardinals. But does it mean are all red birds cardinals?
No, not all red birds are cardinals. Several other birds have red plumage, such as summer tanagers, red avadavat, crimson sunbird, red-winged blackbirds, etc.
And these birds often fool people by making them consider these birds cardinals when they aren’t. But we don’t want you to make such a mistake. And thus, we have come with this comprehensive guide on cardinals and their look-alikes. Hence, let’s read.
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Red-Colored Birds: A Brief Guide To Red Colored Birds.
Our world is full of different red-colored birds. Some of the most popular include the Cardinal, the scarlet tanager, and the red-winged blackbird. Each of these birds has its own unique appearance and behavior. Let’s explore them.
Cardinals are probably the best-known red bird. They are a type of songbirds found in North and South America. Cardinals are fairly large birds, with males measuring around 21 cm long and females slightly smaller at 19 cm.
They have bright red plumage on their body, wings, and tail. The males also have a black face mask that extends from their beak to their eyes.
Cardinals are very territorial birds and often fight with other males to defend their territory. They eat insects, seeds, and fruits.
02. Scarlet Tanagers:
Scarlet tanagers are another type of red bird found in North America. These birds get their name for their little bright plumage.
Females and males have similar appearances, but males are typically larger than females.
Scarlet tanagers are small birds, measuring around 15 cm long on average. Usually, they eat insects, which they catch by flying through the trees and bushes.
03. Red-Winged Blackbirds:
Red-winged blackbirds are probably the most commonly seen red bird in North America. These birds get their name from the male’s bright red and black wings.
The female red-winged blackbird has brighter plumage, with brown and black wings.
Both sexes of this bird are around 20 cm long on average. Red-winged blackbirds are found near wetlands and marshes, eating insects, amphibians, and reptiles.
04. Red Avadavat:
Red Avadavat, aka red munia or strawberry finch, is a cute bird found in the open grasslands of tropical Asia. This bird is immensely famous as a caged bird.
Usually, the male bird features a red color on most upper sections of its body. Besides, it has a round black tail and a red bill. Red avadavat comes with white spots on its red body and wings.
Speaking of their diet, they usually eat grass seeds, but they feed on insects during food scarcity.
05. Crimson Sunbird:
The crimson sunbird is a tiny bird species derived from the sunbird family. These birdies tend to be only 11 cm long and feature down-curved bills, crimson or yellow breasts, and maroon or olive-green backs.
These birds reside in tropical southern Asia, mainly feeding on nectar. Sometimes they also consume insects.
Anyway, aside from the ones mentioned above, there are several other red-colored birds globally, including the vermilion flycatcher, the red-billed tropicbird, and the red crossbill.
We have just described a few and indeed some famous red-colored birds in the above section. Now let’s talk about what birds look like cardinals in the upcoming section of this article.
Birds That Look Like Cardinals: Are They Identical?
Cardinals are immensely popular in North America for their beautiful plumage and other behavioral traits. While most people are familiar with the northern Cardinal, some classify other birds in the cardinal group.
But we don’t want you to commit such a mistake and thus, have come up with this comprehensive guide of cardinals-look-alike birds. So, let’s give it a thorough read.
01. Red-Winged Blackbird:
One of the most common birds often mistaken with a cardinal is the red-winged blackbird.
These birds are actually quite similar in appearance to cardinals, with their black body and red wing markings.
However, red-winged blackbirds are significantly smaller than cardinals, with a wingspan of only about 10 inches.
02. Rose-Breasted Grosbeak:
Another bird that shares many similarities with the Cardinal is the rose-breasted grosbeak. Like cardinals, these birds have red breasts and black bodies.
They also have a similar wingspan to cardinals, measuring between 12 and 16 inches.
Anyway, one of the most noticeable differences between these two birds is the size of their beaks. Grosbeaks have much larger beaks than cardinals, which helps them crack larger seeds.
03. Red Crossbill:
One of the less common birds that looks like a cardinal is the red crossbill. These birds are actually quite rare, and they are very seldom seen outside of North America.
Red crossbills get their name from their distinctive beak. These birds are slightly smaller than cardinals, with only 10 to 12 inches wingspan.
04. Painted Bunting:
Painted bunting also looks similar to cardinals. These birds are colorful, with bright blue plumage on their back and wings.
They also have redbreasts, just like cardinals. Painted buntings are slightly smaller than cardinals, measuring only about 9 inches in length.
05. Black-faced Grosbeak:
Another bird that resembles cardinals is the black-faced grosbeak. These birds are also quite similar in appearance to the rose-breasted grosbeak, with their black body and redbreast.
However, black-faced grosbeaks have a black stripe running down their face, which distinguishes them from other types of grosbeaks. These birds are slightly larger than cardinals, measuring between 12 and 16 inches in length.
Pyrrhuloxia, aka desert cardinal, is also similar to cardinals in appearance. But they are different in color.
These birds come in a combination of gray and red colors.
07. Scarlet Tanager:
At first glance, scarlet tanagers also look like cardinals. These migratory birds come with redheads, bodies, and black wings.
But what sets these birdies apart from cardinals is that they don’t have any crowns like cardinals. Plus, they aren’t as big as cardinals, though.
08. Vermilion Flycatcher:
Vermilion flycatchers share some similarities with cardinals. As such, they have the same black eye mask and black wings as cardinals.
But unlike cardinals, they come with a red throat instead of black. Besides, they boast a comparatively smaller crest than northern cardinals.
Phainopepla looks quite similar to dark gray cardinals.
But these birds come with comparatively slimmer beaks and bodies than northern cardinals. Plus, they don’t have any red-colored plumage like the cardinals.
10. Cedar Waxwing:
Some people assume cedar waxwing as cardinals due to their similar crest and black mask. But these birds are distinctly different from cardinals in colors. Their colors range widely.
Besides, they boast comparatively thicker and shorter bill and tail than northern cardinals.
11. Tufted Titmouse:
Tufted titmice also can trick people into thinking that they are cardinals, and their crest is the main reason for that.
But unlike cardinals, they feature larger heads and black eyes that will help you differentiate these birdies from cardinals.
Now you know what birds look like, cardinals; you can start to look for them in your own backyard or out in the woods. After noticing any birds, you can follow the differences we have shared to identify each bird correctly.
How To Identify Cardinals From Red Birds: Learn To Distinguish.
Although you can find many look-alikes of cardinals, you can differentiate this bird from other birds by following the criteria mentioned below. So, let’s read.
Cardinal’s vibrant red color is unmatched and one of the identification criteria that is gonna help you differentiate this bird from other birds.
But alongside the red color, you should also check whether the bird has black color around its beak or not.
If it doesn’t help you, here are a few more things to look at in a cardinal to identify the bird correctly.
FYI, the Cardinal’s prime color is red, which tends to be the brightest around the bird’s ears, breasts, and cheeks. So, you can check those areas cautiously.
Also, look for the bird’s bill, whether it’s solid red or not. Cardinals have a red bill and pinkish-brown feet. So, if you find these colors in a bird, you can rest assured that it’s a cardinal.
Size is another factor that helps you determine whether it’s a cardinal or not. Although you can’t measure the exact size of a flying bird from a far distance, you can still make a guess.
That said, we recommend checking the bird’s bill and crest. Cardinals tend to have a shorter bill than other birds.
On the contrary, their crest is comparatively larger. So, if you find these facts match with your observing bird, bingo! It’s a cardinal.
Cardinals’ behavior is distinct from other birds, and its behavior will help you separate cardinals from other birdies. Now, let’s explore their behavioral patterns.
Cardinals prefer perching on vegetation, bushes, and branches. They tend to conduct a short flight from one branch to another in search of food.
Besides, cardinals stay in pairs; they opt for raising their offspring together and fight together against predators.
Last but not least, these tiny birds are self-maintaining, so you will often spot them bathing in water, even in winter.
These are some of their behavioral patterns that will help you identify cardinals, among other birds.
You can’t always spot cardinals and explore their physical attributes, especially when hiding amidst dense forest. So, in this case, you need to rely on their vocal sounds to identify these birds.
That said, now let’s talk about how you can identify these adorable birdies based on their calls.
Both male and female cardinals produce a loud, metallic chip. They yield these calls to protect their nests, fend off predators, and communicate with other cardinals in the flock.
Besides, they also opt for singing, which sounds more like down-slurred or two-parted whistles.
Their songs last for about two to three seconds. While listening to their songs, you will hear something like cheer, cheer, or, what, cheer, cheer, cheer. Sometimes, it may also sound like birdie, birdie, birdie, though.
What these birds eat can also help you with identification. FYI, northern cardinals eat seeds and berries. Some cardinals also feed on insects like beetles, grasshoppers, and cicadas.
So, next time you spot birds eating such food, there is a high chance for that bird to be a cardinal.
1. Are All Cardinals Red?
No, all cardinals aren’t red. You can find various colored cardinals in the woods, including yellow, white, and golden or brown cardinals apart from the red-colored ones.
2. What Bird Looks Like A Female Cardinal?
Pyrrhuloxias, phainopeplas, scarlet tanagers, and vermilion flycatchers look similar to cardinals. But among these birds, Pyrrhuloxias resemble female cardinals the most.
3. Is There Any Red Bird That Isn’t Cardinal?
Summer tanagers are red birds but aren’t cardinals. They don’t have a black face mask, nor do they come with a short orange beak and a long tail like cardinals.
So, these are all about whether all red birds fall into the cardinal bird group or not. All the information we shared is gathered from reliable sources that can help you facilitate your birding journey.
We hope you will find the information valuable and appreciate our effort. If you do, we will be glad to have you as our followers on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. That’s all for this content; we will catch you on the next one.
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