16 Red Birds That Aren’t Cardinals (With Pictures)

Small red birds that arent cardinals

Have you ever looked up at the sky and seen a small red bird and thought it was a Cardinal? It’s easy to make that assumption, but did you know that there are other birds that sport reddish plumage aside from the Cardinal?

If you already knew that there are other small red birds besides Cardinals, then that’s awesome! But if not, and you’re curious about these small red birds, here’s the perfect place for you to learn about them.

This guide will introduce you to 16 small red birds that you might mistake for Cardinals at first glance. If you’re ready to explore the fascinating world of small red birds, continue reading.

16 Small Red Birds (That Aren’t Cardinals)

1. Scarlet Tanager

Red Scarlet Tanager
Scientific Name:Piranga olivacea
Length:6.3–6.7 in (16–17 cm)
Weight:0.8–1.3 oz (23–38 g)
Wingspan:9.8–11.4 in (25–29 cm)
Color Pattern:Bright red-orange with black wings and tail

The Scarlet Tanager, formerly a member of the family Thraupidae, is known for its brilliant plumage, which is a deep red-orange, almost resembling the color of fire.

Male Scarlet Tanagers boast this vibrant red color from head to tail, giving them a spot in the list of birds with red heads, while females are duller yellow-green with darker wings and tail feathers. 

These small red birds can be found in deciduous forests and woodlands throughout eastern North America during the breeding season and migrate to South America during the winter months.

Scarlet Tanagers have a unique and distinct call that is a sharp, metallic chip that can be heard echoing through the forest. 

They are also skilled insect hunters, using their sharp beaks to catch and consume a variety of insects, including caterpillars, beetles, and grasshoppers.

To get a better view of the Scarlet Tanager, you can watch this video:

Close-up Video of a Scarlet Tanager

2. Summer Tanager

Red Summer Tanager
Scientific Name:Piranga rubra
Length:6.7–7.1 in (17–18 cm)
Weight:0.9–1.1 oz (26–31 g)
Wingspan:11–12 in (28–30 cm)
Color Pattern:Bright red with black streaks on wings

The Summer Tanager is a small red bird that is often mistaken for the Northern Cardinal.

Unlike the Cardinal, Summer Tanagers do not have a distinctive crest on the head and a mask on the face. Additionally, Summer Tanagers have a sleeker and less bulky appearance.

Similar to Scarlet Tanagers, only males have vibrant red plumage that ranges from a deep red to a bright orange-red. Due to this, they are also identified as one of the birds with orange chests.

The females, on the other hand, have a yellowish-green to olive-green coloration.

Summer Tanagers are known for their distinctive vocalizations, with a loud and clear “pit-ti-tuck” call note. They can be found in a variety of habitats, including forests, woodlands, and even suburban areas.

During the breeding season, Summer Tanagers build their nests in the forks of trees, and the females lay three to four pale blue to pale green eggs with brown markings.

3. Great Rosefinch 

Great Rosefinch
Scientific Name:Carpodacus rubicilla
Length:7.5–8.3 in (19–21 cm)
Weight:1.4–1.7 oz (40–48.5 g)
Wingspan:8.7–10.6 in (22–26 cm)
Color Pattern:Rose-pink with grayish-brown wings and back

The Great Rosefinch is a small, brightly colored bird found in the regions of Central Asia. They have rose-pink plumage on their head, throat, and breast, while their back and wings are grayish-brown with white and black streaks.

Female Great Rosefinches, however, have duller plumage with more brownish tones and lack the vibrant red coloration of the male.

Moreover, these birds are known for their resilience in extreme environments, thriving in areas with harsh weather conditions such as snow and high winds. 

These small, reddish birds can be found in the mountainous parts of Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, and China. These birds feed primarily on seeds and insects, using their strong beaks to crack open tough seed casings.

4. Red Crossbill 

Red Crossbill
Scientific Name:Loxia curvirostra
Length:5.5–7.5 in (14–19 cm)
Weight:1.4–1.9 oz (40–53 g)
Wingspan:10.6–11.4 in (27–29 cm)
Color Pattern:Brick red with dark wings and tail

The Red Crossbill is a small red bird that is famous for its exceptional bill. Unlike most birds, their bill is curved in such a way that it crosses at the tips, allowing them to easily extract seeds from closed conifer cones.

These birds are primarily granivorous, feeding on the seeds of conifer trees, but may also consume buds, flowers, and fruits.

Red Crossbills are distributed across North America and Eurasia. They can be found in coniferous forests, particularly those dominated by spruce, pine, and fir trees.

Male Red Crossbills have a bright red plumage, while females are yellow-green with streaks of yellow on the breast and belly. Juvenile birds have brownish-gray plumage that is streaked with brown.

5. House Finch

House Finch
Scientific Name:Haemorhous mexicanus
Length:5–6 in (12–15 cm)
Weight:0.56–0.95 oz (16–27 g)
Wingspan:8–10 in (20–25 cm)
Color Pattern:Rosy red with brown streaks on the back and wings

The House Finch, also known as the Linnet, is a small, plump, red bird commonly found in North America.

Male House Finches have bright red coloration on their head, breast, and rump, while their back and wings are brown-streaked with black.

Meanwhile, females have a brown color with streaks of white and yellow. This plumage type also identifies them under the category of small brown birds.

House Finches are known for their melodious songs, which are often described as warbles. They can be found in a wide range of habitats, from urban areas to rural fields and forests.

These small, reddish birds are particularly common in areas with human habitation, where they take advantage of food sources such as bird feeders and fruit trees.

6. Hepatic Tanager

Hepatic Tanager
Scientific Name:Piranga flava
Length:3.5–7.9 in (8.9–20 cm)
Weight:0.8–1.7 oz (23–47 g)
Wingspan:8.7–12.6 in (22–32 cm)
Color Pattern:Bright red-orange body with brownish-red wings and tail

The Hepatic Tanager is a small, red songbird species found in parts of western North America, from the southwestern United States down to Central America.

These birds are easily recognizable for their unique reddish-brown plumage, which gives them their common name, “Hepatic,” referring to the color of the liver.

Male Hepatic Tanagers have bright red plumage on their head, throat, and breast, while the rest of their body is rich reddish-brown. In contrast, female Tanagers have a yellow-green body with reddish-brown wings and tails.

These species inhabit open woodlands, riparian areas, and pine-oak forests. They feed on insects, fruits, and seeds and can be seen perching in trees or on the ground while foraging.

The small, reddish Hepatic Tanager has a distinctive and melodious song comprising a series of whistling notes, which can often be heard in its woodland habitat.

7. Flame-colored Tanager 

Flame colored Tanager
Scientific Name:Piranga bidentata
Length:7.1–7.5 in (18–19 cm)
Weight:1.17–1.39 oz (33.3–39.4 g)
Wingspan:7.5–12 in (19–30.48 cm)
Color Pattern:Bright red with black and white wings and tail

The Flame-colored Tanager is a member of the Tanager family and is often admired for its vivid coloration. 

Males have a bright red-orange head, back, and underparts, while the wings and tail are a darker, almost maroon color. Females, on the other hand, are slightly duller in color, with olive-green upperparts and yellow-orange underparts. 

These birds can be found in the forests and woodlands of Mexico, Central America, and northern South America. 

They feed mainly on insects but also consume fruits and nectar. During the breeding season, both male and female Tanagers will defend their territory by singing from a high perch.

Their song is composed of a series of rich and melodious whistles that are often heard in the early morning and late afternoon.

8. Pine Grosbeak 

Pine Grosbeak
Scientific Name:Pinicola enucleator
Length:9–10 in (22.86–25.4 cm)
Weight:1.83–2.75 oz (52–78 g)
Wingspan:12–13 in (30.48–33.02 cm)
Color Pattern:Rosy red with grayish wings and tail

The Pine Grosbeak is a striking red bird that can be found in the coniferous forests of North America. 

These birds are sexually dimorphic, with males being a bright, rosy red and females being a more subdued yellowish-olive with gray-brown wings.

Pine Grosbeaks are known for their beautiful and melodious song, which is often described as flute-like. Their song is an important part of their breeding behavior, as they help to attract mates and establish territories.

During the breeding season, Pine Grosbeaks form monogamous pairs and build their nests on horizontal branches of conifer trees. 

The females lay two to five eggs, which they incubate for about two weeks. Once the chicks hatch, both parents participate in feeding and caring for them until they are ready to fledge.

9. Vermilion Flycatcher 

Vermilion Flycatcher
Scientific Name:Pyrocephalus rubinus
Length:5.1–5.5 in (13–14 cm)
Weight:0.39–0.49 oz (11–14 g)
Wingspan:9.4–9.8 in (24–25 cm)
Color Pattern:Bright red with black wings and tail

The Vermilion Flycatcher is a small red bird belonging to the Tyrant Flycatcher family and can be found throughout southern North and South America.

Males exhibit vivid red crowns, chests, and underparts with black to brownish wings and tails, while females lack the bright red coloration and can be difficult to distinguish from Say’s Phoebe

Vermilion Flycatchers’ territorial song is a variable “pit pit pit pidddrrrreeedrr,” which plays an important role in establishing territory. 

During one of my studies about the behavior of Vermilion Flycatchers, what captured my interest the most about these little red birds was that their females lay their eggs in another individual’s nest but of their own species.

This practice is called brood parasitism, and it is said that they do this to free themselves from their parental obligations.

The breeding season of these birds takes place from March through June, during which two broods of two or three eggs are laid. After hatching, both males and females feed the chicks, which fledge after about 15 days.

10. Cedar Waxwing 

Red Cedar Waxwing
Scientific Name:Bombycilla cedrorum
Length:6–7 in (15–18 cm)
Weight:1.6–2.5 oz (45–70 g)
Wingspan:8.7–11 in (22–28 cm)
Color Pattern:Soft brownish-gray with red tips on the wings and a yellow band on the tail

The Cedar Waxwing is a bird with a soft, lustrous appearance featuring a blend of brown, gray, and lemon-yellow tones. They also have a black mask and red wax-like droplets on their wing feathers. 

They are also famous for their crests, earning them a spot in our list of birds with crests in North America.

These birds’ name is derived from these unique waxy tips found on some of their secondary feathers. Although the exact function of these tips is unclear, they may play a role in attracting potential mates. 

Cedar Waxwings are among the few birds in North America that have specialized in consuming fruits. The bird can subsist solely on fruit for a considerable length of time. 

However, though feeding on fruits can generally be healthy, this can sometimes lead to these birds’ demise.

In a report I encountered, several groups of Cedar Waxwings collapsed after crashing into windows and fences on different occasions between 2005 and 2007.

It was found out that these birds had feasted on the fermented berries of Brazilian pepper trees, leaving them drunk or intoxicated, prior to these incidents.

11. Red-breasted Sapsucker

Red breasted Sapsucker
Scientific Name:Sphyrapicus ruber
Length:7.9–8.7 in (20–22 cm)
Weight:1.9–2.2 oz (53.1–63.5 g)
Wingspan:14.6–16 in (37–40.6 cm)
Color Pattern:Bright red head with black and white body

The Red-breasted Sapsucker is a member of the Sphyrapicus genus, which was first introduced in 1858. 

These birds have a striking appearance, with a red head and upper chest, a black back and wings with bars, and a white belly and rump. A prominent white wing patch completes their distinctive plumage.

You may check the difference in the physical appearance between male and female Red-breasted Sapsuckers here, along with other woodpecker species.

Red-breasted Sapsuckers have a variety of calls and drumming sounds, including chatter, squeals, and screams, which they use to establish territories and attract mates.

These birds breed in forested areas that include pine, hemlock, Douglas-fir, fir, and spruce trees, primarily in the Pacific Coast Ranges of western Washington and Oregon.

Although they typically prefer coniferous forests, these small, reddish birds can also be found in other types of woodland habitats.

12. Scarlet Robin 

Scarlet Robin
Scientific Name:Petroica boodang
Length:4.72–5.31 in (12–13.5 cm)
Weight:0.42–0.49 oz (12–14 g)
Wingspan:8–9 in (20–23 cm)
Color Pattern:Scarlet red with black and white head and wings

The Scarlet Robin is a common red-breasted bird found in Australia and its surrounding islands. Their physical appearance varies between the sexes. 

Males feature black heads, backs, and tails, black and white wings, brilliant red breasts, and white foreheads, bellies, and rump. Meanwhile, females have brown plumage with a paler red breast and buff-colored belly. 

These birds feed on insects and spiders and change their hunting habits depending on the season. They usually hunt on the ground during the winter but catch prey from bark and foliage during the spring and summer. 

Scarlet Robins are monogamous. Male and female Scarlet Robins choose the nesting site together, but only the females build the nest, which takes four to ten days.

13. Red Avadavat 

Red Avadavat
Scientific Name:Amandava amandava
Length:3.54–3.94 in (9–10 cm)
Weight:0.25–0.26 oz (7–7.5 g)
Wingspan:4.7–5.5 in (12–14 cm)
Color Pattern:Reddish-brown with white spots

The Red Avadavat, also known as the Red Munia or Strawberry Finch, is a small bird that belongs to the family Estrildidae

They are commonly found in tropical Asia’s open fields and grasslands and are favored as pet birds because of their vibrant coloring. 

These birds can be easily distinguished by their red rump and white spots on their body and wing feathers.

Red Avadavats are often seen flying in small flocks with rapid wing beats and descending into grass clumps, where they blend in and are difficult to observe.

During the breeding season, pairs stay together. They produce a distinctive low, single-note “pseep” call while in flight and sing a series of low notes. 

They primarily feed on grass seeds but will also eat insects, such as termites, when they are available.

14. Crimson Chat 

Crimson Chat
Scientific Name:Epthianura tricolor
Length:3.9–5.1 in (10–13 cm)
Weight:0.35–0.39 oz (10–11 g)
Wingspan:7.9–9.1 in (20–23 cm)
Color Pattern:Bright red with black wings, black mask around the eye, and white throat

The Crimson Chat is a small bird with a curved bill and three distinct colors. Adult males have a dark brown upper body, a red crown, breast and rump, a black eye mask, and a white throat.

Adult females and juveniles are much paler, with a brown upper body, white throat, and pinkish belly.

Unlike most small birds, Crimson Chats walk rather than hop and are often seen on the ground. They are found in arid regions dominated by open shrublands, dunes, plains, or grasslands.

Crimson Chats are winter visitors to northern Australia and summer visitors to southern Australia.

They mainly feed on insects, usually on or near the ground, but can also take nectar or insects from the flowers of shrubs and trees due to their brush-tipped tongue.

15. Scarlet Myzomela

Scarlet Myzomela
Scientific Name:Myzomela sanguinolenta
Length:3.5–4.3 in (9–11 cm)
Weight:0.18–0.21 oz (5–6 g)
Wingspan:4.3–4.7 in (11–12 cm)
Color Pattern:Bright red with black wings and tail

The Scarlet Myzomela is the smallest honeyeater that is native to Australia. They inhabit the majority of the eastern coast, spanning from Cape York to Victoria.

These birds also display sexual dimorphism, with the male having bright red coloration on the face, back, and breast. 

In contrast, females are uniformly pale brown-gray with only a slight red on their faces, making it difficult to distinguish from other plain honeyeater species such as the Brown Honeyeater and Dusky Honeyeater.

Additionally, these little red birds are known for their vocalizations and have a diverse range of calls, including a tinkling sound.

Scarlet Myzomelas are omnivorous and feed on nectar and insects, flying to catch their prey in the canopy. Breeding occurs from winter to summer, with activity beginning in July or August and ending in January.

16. Red-crowned Ant-Tanager

Red crowned Ant Tanager
Scientific Name:Habia rubica
Length:6.7–7.5 in (17–19 cm)
Weight:0.81–1.52 oz (23–43 g)
Wingspan:8.7–9.4 in (22–24 cm)
Color Pattern:Reddish-brown with bright red throat and breast

The Red-crowned Ant Tanager is a small passerine bird native to tropical America. They are known for their timid yet noisy nature. Their distinct call includes a rattling sound followed by a melodic “pee-pee-pee.”

Male Red-crowned Ant Tanagers typically have a dull reddish-brown color with a brighter red throat and breast. When agitated, they raise their black-bordered scarlet crown stripe.

On the other hand, females are yellowish-brown, have a yellow throat, and have a yellow-buff crown stripe.

These birds are usually seen in pairs or family groups and mostly feed on arthropods, though they also consume berries. 

They are known to follow army ant columns in Central America and Trinidad. These birds may be a key part of understory mixed-species feeding flocks in the lowland forests of southeastern Brazil.

Females construct shallow cup nests, typically near a stream and in a sapling or tree fern. They lay two to three white eggs with brown blotches, which are incubated for around 13 to 14 days until hatching.

Did you find it easy to tell the difference between these small red birds and Cardinals? Leave your thoughts about small reddish birds in the comments below! You may also ask any questions that came to your mind with any of these scarlet-colored birds.

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