Baby Cardinals: Everything You Need to Know

Baby cardinals staying in their nest

If you have yet to meet a baby cardinal, you might be surprised that it differs from its more mature counterparts. From its feathers to its color, it’s got some unique traits that make it stand out.

Furthermore, as with other newborn birds, note that baby cardinals require lots of care and attention to ensure their survival. They even need special feeding methods since they’re still growing and developing.

In this comprehensive article, all you need to know about baby cardinals will be revealed. Questions like “How long do cardinal eggs take to hatch?” and “What to feed a baby cardinal?” will also be answered. Let’s get started!

What Does a Baby Cardinal Look Like?

Three hungry baby cardinals

When first born, baby cardinals are naked, pink-hued, and unable to see. However, it is not unusual for some to have a slight coating of soft gray-colored feathers over their bodies.

Yet, as these cardinal hatchlings move through the first few days of their lives, they undergo notable changes. For one, their first true feathers will sprout quickly, showcasing a mix of buff tan color and subtle red highlights.

By the time these young birds are ready to leave the nest and able to fly, they will be called male and female juvenile cardinals. Their appearance then resembles that of adult female cardinals: pale and petite.

That said, keep in mind that it doesn’t take long for male juveniles to adopt the symbolic bright red plumage their grown-up male peers are known for. Yet, note that it’s their tail feathers that turn red first.

Baby Cardinal Pictures and Videos

Adult cardinals are as recognizable as they are striking but begin their lives looking different. In this section, you will find adorable pictures and videos of baby cardinals to see how this type of bird starts out.

Firstly, the following is a photo of a newly hatched cardinal bird:

A newly hatched cardinal bird

Meanwhile, for a glimpse into the life of a young cardinal bird, watch the following video:

Baby Cardinals FYV

In addition, below is a picture of six-day-old cardinal babies:

Six day old cardinal babies

On top of that, the following is a wonderful image of a male Northern cardinal, showing off its striking red feathers as it feeds its hatchlings:

A male Northern Cardinal showing off its striking red feathers as it feeds its hatchling

On another note, below is an example of what a fledgling cardinal should look like:

Fledgling cardinal appearance

However, if you are curious about what baby cardinals also sound like, here is a short clip of one that chatters a lot:

Chatty baby cardinal

As a bonus, note that male juvenile cardinals look like this:

Male juvenile cardinal appearance

As you can see, it is evident that baby cardinal birds are very different from their mature counterparts in both color and shape. Yet, just give them a few weeks, and they will eventually look like their parents.

How Big Is a Baby Cardinal?

Generally speaking, a baby cardinal bird — shortly after hatching — is relatively tiny, measuring only 3 to 4 inches in height. However, it will rapidly grow and double its size within the first few weeks of life.

Similarly, once the baby bird reaches adulthood, it can attain a maximum height of nine inches. Yet, this is not always the case; some young cardinal birds may only grow up to seven inches tall.

How Much Do Baby Cardinals Weigh?

A lone cardinal in its nest

Once hatched, baby cardinals are very small, featherless, and incredibly light, typically weighing between 0.4 and 0.6 ounces. This delicate weight shows their fragility in the first few days after hatching.

However, remember that since baby cardinals grow quickly, you can expect they will pack on more than a pound before they leave the nest.

Additionally, by the time they reach maturity, these mostly bright red birds should weigh anywhere from 1.19 to 2.29 ounces.

How Many Babies Do Cardinals Have?

During their breeding season, which spans from March to September, Northern cardinals will lay eggs of approximately 1 to 3 broods. Typically, each of these broods can bring about 3 to 15 baby cardinals into the world.

As these baby cardinals are born, they stay in the nest, relying on their parents for nourishment and protection. Overall, this cycle of birth continues until the season ends, but the caretaking persists after that.

How Long Do Baby Cardinals Stay in Their Nest?

Baby cardinals in their nest

Baby cardinal birds remain in the nest for a span of 7 to 13 days before they fledge and begin to explore outside. Yet, even after taking their first steps out of their cardinal nests, note that they won’t stray too far.

In fact, it has been observed that baby birds often return to the nest within a few minutes for food, indicating their continued dependence on their parents.

However, once it enters the juvenile phase, the cardinal will leave its parent’s territory and form its own family group.

How Long Do Baby Cardinals Stay With Their Parents?

After leaving the nest, fledgling cardinals don’t immediately part ways with their parents. Typically, these young birds won’t stay too far from the nest and will remain close to their caretakers for up to 20 days.

Their reliance on their parents gradually lessens as they hone their skills, grow stronger, and become more independent. Yet until then, the father and mother cardinal play a vital role in ensuring their young are well-fed.

Where Do Baby Cardinals Sleep at Night?

Two baby cardinals up close

Baby cardinals are known for being diurnal. They will find refuge at night in the nests carefully created by their parents. These perches are located in dense bushes or trees, commonly positioned 3 to 10 feet off the ground.

In terms of construction, a typical baby cardinal’s nest is made of twigs and grasses. The twigs are secured with small strips of bark, while the grasses form a base, which is then covered with finer materials such as leaves.

What Do Baby Cardinals Eat?

Generally, young cardinals have a diet that’s different from adult birds. They primarily rely on insects and various invertebrates for nourishment.

Specifically, baby cardinals are fed by their parents an assortment of beetles, larvae, and caterpillars. This protein-rich diet supports their rapid growth and energy needs.

During my summer research on bird habits, I was particularly drawn to the feeding patterns of this species. One afternoon, I observed a mother bird skillfully feed baby cardinals.

Overall, I’ve concluded that cardinals are fascinating up close, especially when a female or male cardinal begins to feed its young with insects.

As cardinal babies mature and eventually leave their parents, though, they will seek out other sources of nutrition. These include seeds, vegetables, and different types of plant matter.

How Do Cardinals Feed Their Babies?

Cardinal feeding its babies

Cardinal parents are attentive caregivers. In order to nourish their young, they primarily use regurgitated food to ensure their baby cardinals get easily digestible nutrients.

The male cardinal typically plays a supportive role in this process, though. He often brings food to the female, strengthening their bond and ensuring she has enough insects to feed the babies.

Sometimes, he even takes a direct role and feeds the baby cardinals himself, showing the cooperative nature of cardinal parenting.

Watch this video to see how a female and male cardinal bird take turns feeding their young:

Northern Cardinals feeding baby birds FYV

How Rare Is It to See a Baby Cardinal?

Seeing a baby cardinal isn’t particularly rare, but spotting one can be tricky.

First, cardinal babies don’t leave their nest until they’re ready to fledge, often hidden from view. Further, when they hatch, they resemble other baby altricial birds.

This means unless you witness their parents, especially a male cardinal with bright red feathers, feeding them, it is likely that you will overlook their presence.

What Do Cardinal Eggs Look Like?

Cardinal eggs appearance

Cardinal eggs generally display a unique appearance. For instance, their colors range from grayish white to buffy white to a greenish tint. Additionally, they’re delicately speckled with pale gray or brown spots.

In terms of size, the Northern Cardinal is also known for laying small eggs, typically measuring around 0.9 to 1.1 inches in length and 0.6 to 0.8 inches in width.

If you’re fortunate enough to find a baby cardinal nest, you might get a glimpse of these future nestlings before they hatch and learn to fly.

How Many Eggs Do Cardinals Lay?

Regarding reproduction, female cardinals typically lay between 2 and 5 eggs for each brood. This number ensures they stay active in feeding the young birds, assuring a high chance of survival and optimal growth.

How Long Does It Take Cardinal Eggs to Hatch?

Newly hatched cardinal

Once laid, cardinal eggs take about 11 to 13 days to hatch. This period is crucial, as the mother diligently incubates them and ensures that they are kept warm, cozy, and protected.

As the days pass, anticipation grows, and soon enough, the baby cardinals hatch — marking the start of their journey. Both parents then tend to these young birds for a few days before they are able to fend for themselves.

Can Baby Cardinals Fly?

Once baby cardinals leave the nest and embrace their status as fledglings, you may wonder whether they are already capable of flying. However, note that they are not yet able to do so.

Although they have left their haven, fledgling cardinals still need about two more weeks to become proficient fliers.

When Can Baby Cardinals Fly?

Baby cardinals being fed

Typically, after leaving their protective nests, baby cardinals enter a critical period in their cardinal development stages. About 9 to 10 days after they become fledglings, these young birds start showing their capability to fly.

Should You Help a Baby Cardinal?

Finding a baby cardinal can stir one’s desire to help, especially if you hear them chirp in the middle of the night, which these birds are known for.

However, unless the baby bird in question is not displaying feathers and has eyes still closed, it is unlikely in need of assistance.

Ideally, baby cardinals stay in the nest for roughly 7 to 13 days after hatching. So, you may want to wait a bit before putting your hand into their perch to help.

However, if you encounter a cardinal bird that appears to be in distress, left by its parents, or injured, keep it in a secure place and contact an avian wildlife rescuer.

Don’t think about keeping them as pets, though, as these birds that fall under a wide category of birds with red feathers and heads are protected by law and cannot be owned by private individuals.

Did the article help you become captivated by baby cardinal birds? If you have anything to share or have any questions about these small wonders of nature, feel free to leave a comment below!

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