The 3 Species of Cardinals in Hawaii (Pictures & Facts)

Cardinals are one of the most beloved birds in North America, known for their bright red plumage and distinctive crest. But did you know that these vibrant birds can also be found in the tropical paradise of Hawaii? That’s right, despite being native to the mainland United States and Canada, cardinals have made their way to the Aloha State and have become a beloved sight for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts alike.

In this article, we will explore the fascinating story of how cardinals ended up in Hawaii, as well as give a few tips for spotting these beautiful birds on your next visit. Continue reading to discover the 3 species of cardinals in Hawaii.

3 Cardinal Species in Hawaii

The three introduced species of “cardinals” found in Hawaii are the Northern Cardinal, Red-crested Cardinal, and Yellow-billed Cardinal. While not native to the islands, these birds have established populations in Hawaii and are now a common sight in many parts of the state.

Highlights about the cardinals in Hawaii:

  • The Northern Cardinal, Red-crested Cardinal, and Yellow-billed Cardinal are introduced species in Hawaii and have established feral populations on the islands.
  • These cardinals are a common sight in Hawaii, and can be found in a variety of habitats including suburban and urban areas, parks and gardens, and fields and shrubby areas.
  • Despite not being native to Hawaii, these cardinals have become an important part of the state’s avifauna and are popular among birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts.

Despite not being native to Hawaii, these cardinals have become an important part of the state’s avifauna and are a popular sight for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts.

1. Northern Cardinals

Northern cardinal on tree branch
Northern cardinal on tree branch

Scientific name: Cardinalis cardinalis

The Northern Cardinal is a species of cardinal that can be found in the United States and Canada. They are known for their bright red plumage and crest on the head. The Northern Cardinal was introduced to the Hawaiian islands in the early 20th century and they can be found on the main islands, although their population is relatively small.

They typically breed during the spring and summer months, building nests in trees or shrubs and laying between 2-4 eggs per clutch. Northern Cardinal are generally non-migratory, so they can be seen throughout the year in Hawaii. They can be found in various habitats such as woodlands, gardens, and wetlands and their diet includes seeds, fruits, and insects.

2. Yellow-billed Cardinals

Yellow-billed cardinal on tree branch
Yellow-billed cardinal on tree branch

Scientific name: Paroaria capitata

The Yellow-billed Cardinal, also known as the Brazilian Cardinal, is a bird native to South America, however, it is not closely related to the true Cardinal family (Cardinalidae). It is a striking bird characterized by its bright red head and yellow beak. They have black upperparts, a partial white collar, white underparts, black chin and throat, and brown-pink legs and feet.

The females are more subdued, with gray plumage and a brown head. These birds population were introduced in Hawaii in the 1960s, where they are successfully established and now they can be found in various places like parking lots, short grassy fields, and shrubby areas across the Hawaiian islands. They can be found feeding on seeds and insects.

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3. Red-crested Cardinals

Red-crested cardinal in grassland
Red-crested cardinal in grassland

Scientific name: Paroaria coronata

The Red-crested Cardinal is a brightly colored bird that is native to South America. They were introduced to Hawaii around 1930, and now are widely found in the state. The males of this species are striking with bright red plumage, a long crest on their head, and a black mask around their eyes, while females are more subdued with reddish-brown plumage.

These cardinals are monogamous and form life-long bonds with their mates. They are not migratory and can be found throughout the year.

They are active and curious birds and are known for their melodious calls. Also, they thrive in different habitats including woodlands, savannas, and wetlands, and feed on seeds, fruit, insects and invertebrates.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why are male cardinal birds red?

Male Northern Cardinals, in particular, are red because of the presence of pigments called carotenoids in their feathers. Carotenoids are pigments that are found in many different types of plants and animals, and they are responsible for the red, orange, and yellow colors in many different types of birds. In cardinals, these pigments are obtained through their diet and deposited in the feathers.

2. Does a Northern Cardinal sings?

Both male and female Northern Cardinals are known to sing, although the males typically sing more frequently and more complex songs than females. Male Northern Cardinals use their songs to defend their territories and attract a mate, while females may use their songs to communicate with their mates or offspring.

3. How did the cardinal bird get its name?

The name “cardinal” comes from the Latin word “cardo” meaning “hinge” which in turn refers to the importance of these birds in their ecosystem, serving as indicator species for the health of the forest.

4. Do the cardinals look different in Hawaii?

Cardinals in Hawaii look similar to Cardinals found in the mainland United States and Canada. However, there may be some slight variations in coloration due to the different environmental conditions of Hawaii compared to the mainland. Also, as they are non-native species, their coloring may not be as vibrant as those found in their natural habitat.

5. Where are the best places to see Cardinals in Hawaii?

Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden and Moanalua Gardens in Oahu, Koke’e State Park and Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge in the island of Kauai and Liliuokalani Gardens in Hilo are the best places to see Cardinals in Hawaii.