The Northern Cardinal, or simply cardinal, is one of the most popular birds in Canada and the US. Known for its vibrant plumage and lovable song, this bird is one of the most welcomed guests at backyards. However, cardinals display an exciting behavior when the male and the female approach each other in a passionate fashion and lock their beaks together in what appears to be a sentimental kiss. So, do cardinals kiss?
The short answer is no, cardinals look like they are kissing but that’s not actually what they are doing. During mating season, cardinals approach each other, and the male locks beak with the female. The male picks the seeds and then feeds them to the females in what is known as courtship feeding.
However, this behavior isn’t related to love and affection. A male bird brings the food to the female to show her that he can be a good mate. These birds feed mainly on seeds, and they’re of the earliest guests to your backyard bird feeder, especially if you keep a fresh supply of black oil sunflower seeds and sunflower hearts all day long.
Cardinals engage in what is known as mate feeding right before the breeding season. This happens in the springtime when the birds are looking for mates, and this is when you’ll probably notice all the kissing and affection.
However, there’s a scientific explanation for this behavior, and we’ll explore it fully in this article.
Do Cardinals Kiss?
Author Note: Females lose most of their energy during the reproduction process through laying the eggs, taking care of them, and protecting the young chicks later on. It’s incredibly convenient if the female bird chooses a mate that can bring her the food when she can’t fly around.
During the courtship period, the male bird will show the female bird that he is ready to feed her, so she can have all her energy focused on reproduction. Although this act might not be related to affection, it’s an act of reliability and dependability. Through this behavior, the female gets reassured that her feeding needs will be met when she is busy taking care of the offspring.
The male approaches the female with extra seeds in his mouth and starts to feed her to show her that she can depend on him. During the incubation period, he will be able to feed her and even provide for the baby chicks when they hatch. This courtship feeding ritual fascinates birdwatchers and scientists and is essential for the survival of the species.
Misconceptions About the Cardinals Kiss
Cardinals are predominately monogamous and will mate for life, so humans used to believe that a cardinals’ kiss is the renewal of the loyalty vows between the male and the female. Every year before the breeding season, the male bird will carry on this courtship ritual by feeding the female to provide her with the needed assurance that she will have access to food when she can’t fly.
Birdwatchers used to misinterpret this behavior because they saw the male bird feeding the same female every year. However, this behavior is part of the male’s job in the reproduction process since most of the effort is carried out by the female before and after laying the eggs.
Scientists proved that if a male cardinal is feeding a new female, then this is probably the first time for him to mate, or his previous mate is no longer available. For this reason, cardinals are loyal to their partners, but not for life. In some cases, the female and the male choose to mate with other members of the species while still maintaining a bond with their previous partners.
This is one of the common mistakes that people make when they try to interpret the behavior of other creatures like cardinals. Cardinals’ main purpose is to mate to preserve their kind and produce the biggest number of healthy offspring that make it to adulthood, so they can mate and produce more members. The human’s conceptions of fidelity and love don’t apply to them.
However, since this behavior takes place around springtime, and very close to Valentine’s day, humans have always associated their kiss with their interpretation of love. In addition to the famous kissing ritual, the male also has an exceptional song that attracts birdwatchers. This song warns other males of his territory, so they will go to seek mating partners somewhere else.
What Attracts A Female Cardinal to a Male Cardinal?
Courtship rituals are common in the Animal Kingdom, and male cardinals do their best to show that they’re ready for mating and that they will make the perfect partners. The kissing or feeding ritual is only one of several ways that a male cardinal will use to attract a specific female.
Females are attracted to males with the most vigorous songs. These love songs show that the male is strong and therefore able to protect the nest, the eggs, and the nesting female. This is why male cardinals will go above and beyond to show the potential mates that they’re strong and ready to defend their territories when the time is right.
Female birds are usually also attracted to birds with bright plumage. The brighter the plumage, the healthier the male, which indicates that he is well-fed.
Author Note: When the female is looking for a mate, she wants to make sure that she and her chicks will have access to food until the birds can leave the nest. This is why a male cardinal with bright plumage is more likely to attract a female cardinal since it shows that he has access to food even when there’s competition.
A female cardinal also has a song, but it’s usually softer and more exquisite than the male’s song. Her tunes are usually more complex and longer because they lure males to mate with her. Female cardinals also have more interesting plumage, with different shades of bright red and tanned feathers that make them more appealing.
How Can You Attract Mating Cardinals?
If you’re fascinated by the cardinals’ kissing or want to watch them for a little longer, you can do a few things to attract a mating pair to your yard.
Cardinals will become regular visitors to your backyard if you have a continuous supply of fresh seeds. These birds prefer to feed on black oil sunflower seeds and safflower seeds, but you can also buy a mix that offers both types to make sure that all their nutrition needs are met.
Cardinals are usually the first visitors to visit your bird feeder in the dawn and the last birds to leave at dusk, so you need to check your feeder and make sure that there’s enough food for them to stick nearby.
Make sure that your feeder has a perching area that allows birds to face their food, or use a tube feeder with a perching tray. This will give the cardinals more room to feed comfortably.
Setting up a birdbath in your backyard will make it a popular spot among cardinals and other songbirds. Birds usually prefer having a water source near their nesting space, so they will definitely look for a nearby nest if you keep a birdbath in the shade.
The cool water will be essential for the birds to drink and bathe, especially when the temperature rises. Birds also use the water to preen their feathers for regular maintenance. Make sure that the bath is regularly filled with cool clean water, and keep it away from direct sunlight.
Cardinals will definitely consider nesting in your backyard if you can provide a sheltered area where they can build their nest. These birds prefer to nest near to the ground, so they will look for an area with some overgrowth and abundant camouflage to build their nest and protect their eggs.
Make sure that the shrubs are adequately cut and that there’s a spot where the birds can hide away from predators. This is especially important when watching cardinals in the winter.
Keep an Eye On Your Backyard
Author Note: Your backyard can be an attractive spot to other animals and birds that cardinals might not be comfortable around. If you see that there’s a hawk that roams your backyard for food, it might be a good idea to take your bird feeder down for a while until the hawk has moved away.
Squirrels, owls, and even pet cats and dogs can feed on cardinals, so you must make sure that your backyard is a safe sanctuary; otherwise, these beautiful birds will fly to find another home. Small mammals like rodents can also feed on their eggs, so you need to clean your backyard regularly to make sure that these colorful majestic birds are always safe.
Cardinals are beautiful birds that show interesting behavior during the springtime. Although the males and females appear to be engaging in a love ritual by kissing each other, the truth is that this mate feeding behavior is essential for the survival of the species.
Male cardinals carry the food in their mouths and feed the female birds to prove that they’re reliable mates and that the female will be well-fed when she is busy taking care of the nest and the eggs. Nevertheless, people still feel fascinated watching these lovely birds as their behavior signifies the strong bonding that leads to a high possibility of survival.
We hope you enjoyed this article whether cardinals kiss.
Fly high friends!