Michael Palin presents the northern cardinal, from New York's Central Park.
Michael Palin presents the northern cardinal from a New York's Central Park. Northern Cardinals are finch-like birds and make British robins look positively anaemic. They are common residents in the south and east of North America where they live in woods, parks and gardens. Your first sighting of these vermilion birds with their black masks and outrageous crests comes as a shock. They seem too tropically colourful to brave the dull North American winter.
Only the male Cardinals are bright red. Females are browner with flashes of red on their wings and red bills. Both sexes obtain their red colours from seeds and other foods which contain carotenoid pigments.
Their familiarity and eye-catching colours have endeared cardinals to North Americans. No fewer than seven states, including Kentucky, Illinois and Ohio have adopted cardinals as their state bird and it's also the mascot.