The Kentucky State Bird: Everything You Need to Know About the Northern Cardinal


Kentucky is a state in the southeastern region of the United States. It is known for its rolling hills, horse country, bourbon distilleries and bluegrass music. One thing that many people don’t know about Kentucky is its official state bird.

The State Bird of Kentucky

The official state bird of Kentucky is the Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis), also known as the redbird or common cardinal. This beautiful bird was chosen to represent Kentucky on March 26th, 1926 because it can be found throughout the entire state year-round.

Description and Characteristics

The Northern Cardinal is a medium-sized songbird that measures around 8-9 inches long with a wingspan of approximately 10-12 inches. Males are easily recognizable by their bright red plumage on their heads, backs and tails while females have more muted brownish-red feathers with hints of red. Both sexes have distinctive black masks around their eyes which help to reduce glare when they are feeding.

These birds prefer habitats such as woodlands, swamps and gardens where there are plenty of bushes and shrubs for them to hide in. They feed on seeds, fruits, insects and occasionally small reptiles or mammals.

Northern Cardinals are monogamous birds that mate for life. During breeding season males will sing loud songs from high perches to attract females while flaunting their vibrant colors at her. After mating male cardinals will continue singing to defend their territories against other males who may try to move in on their turf.

Cultural Significance

In some cultures cardinals are seen as messengers from heaven due to their striking appearance and vivid coloration leading some people believe seeing one means someone who has passed away might be trying to communicate with them from beyond the grave.

For Kentuckians however, this colorful bird represents more than just its natural beauty. It is a symbol of the state’s pride and resilience, representing the values that are important to Kentucky such as loyalty, courage and passion.


In conclusion, The Northern Cardinal is not only an iconic bird beloved by many but also an integral part of Kentucky’s history and culture. It continues to be celebrated in various forms throughout the state including on license plates, postcards and even Christmas ornaments making this little redbird an endearing part of Kentuckian’s daily life.