Red-crested cardinal

Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Emberizidae
Genus and Species: Paroaria coronata
  • Brilliant red crest atop a pale gray bird with a white neck and breast
  • gray and white bird with a scarlet crest and head
  • bird with red head and crest on a branch
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Red-crested cardinal

A medium-sized bird, the red-crested cardinal resembles North America's Northern cardinal in shape, but is mainly gray with only a brilliant red head, crest and breast. Native to Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, it is also a common sight in Hawaii and Puerto Rico, where it has been introduced.

Physical Description

Unlike Northern cardinals, males and females have similar plumage, with dark gray above on the back of their necks and their stomachs. The head, crest and upper breast are bright red. The red-crested cardinal has a silver-gray bill and dark legs.

Juveniles are similar in size to adults but lack the red feathers; instead, the head, crest and upper breast are brown and the bill is dark.


The birds grow to 7.5 inches (19 centimeters) long.

Native Habitat

The red-crested cardinal is native to Argentina, Bolivia, southern Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. It has also been introduced to Hawaii and Puerto Rico.

Red-crested cardinals live in semi-open areas with shrubs and trees, such as parks, lawns, tropical shrub land and degraded forests.

Food/Eating Habits

In the wild, red-crested cardinals eat fruit, seeds and insects. At the Smithsonian's National Zoo, red-crested cardinals are fed bird food, insects and fruit.

Social Structure

Red-crested cardinals are often found in pairs or small family groups.

Reproduction and Development

The red-crested cardinal will lay two to five eggs. The eggs have a 12 to 13 day incubation period. They breed readily in human care.


Red-crested cardinals live 3 to 6 years in the wild and about 13 years in human care.

The red-crested cardinal is listed as a species of least concern by the IUCN because of its large range and estimated population size.

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