How Long Do Cardinals Live




How Long Do Cardinals Live 1

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Have you ever wondered how long cardinals actually live? Well, it turns out that their lifespan can vary depending on various factors. In the wild, cardinals typically have an average lifespan of about 3 years. However, if they’re lucky enough to be in captivity, they can live up to an impressive 13-15 years. Northern Cardinals have even managed to expand their habitat from the Southern US all the way to the north and Midwest. These popular birds are often seen visiting backyard feeders, bringing a splash of vibrant red to your yard. Interestingly, different species of cardinals have different lifespans, ranging from 2-3 years for the Vermilion cardinal to 8 years for the desert cardinal. The red crested cardinal, on the other hand, can live for 3-6 years in the wild and an astonishing 13-15 years in captivity. Just like other bird species, cardinals go through a life cycle that includes courtship, laying eggs, raising hatchlings, and reaching adulthood. Their lifespan can be impacted by factors such as the presence of predators, health issues, and the availability of food. So next time you spot a cardinal in your backyard, take a moment to appreciate the potential journey of its life.

Factors Affecting Cardinal Lifespan


Predators can have a significant impact on the lifespan of cardinals. These beautiful birds fall prey to a variety of predators, including birds of prey, such as hawks and owls, and even domestic cats. The threat of predation is a constant danger for cardinals in the wild, and it can significantly reduce their average lifespan.


Just like any other living creature, cardinals are susceptible to various illnesses and diseases. Avian diseases, such as avian pox or avian influenza, can pose a serious threat to their health and survival. In addition, the spread of parasites, such as fleas or mites, can also contribute to their vulnerability to sickness. When cardinals fall ill, their immune systems weaken, making them more prone to predation and further compromising their lifespan.

Food Accessibility

Access to food is crucial for the survival and wellbeing of cardinals. These birds primarily feed on seeds, fruits, and insects. If their natural food sources become scarce or inaccessible, it can have a significant impact on their lifespan. Factors such as habitat destruction, climate change, and competition from other bird species can all affect the availability and accessibility of food for cardinals.

Average Lifespan of Cardinals in the Wild

Cardinals’ Lifespan in the Wild

On average, cardinals have a lifespan of around 3 years in the wild. This relatively short lifespan can be attributed to the various factors mentioned above, including predation, sickness, and food accessibility. However, it’s important to note that these are just averages, and individual cardinals may live shorter or longer lives based on their unique circumstances.

Lifespan of Cardinals in Captivity

Cardinals’ Lifespan in Captivity

In contrast to their relatively short lifespan in the wild, cardinals can thrive and live significantly longer when kept in captivity. It is not uncommon for cardinals in captivity to live up to 13-15 years. The controlled environment of captivity provides protection from predators and ensures a consistent and high-quality food supply, which contributes to their increased lifespan. Additionally, veterinary care and regular monitoring further enhance the chances of their survival and overall well-being.

Variations in Lifespan Among Cardinal Species

Vermilion Cardinal

Among the different species of cardinals, the Vermilion Cardinal has one of the shortest lifespans. In the wild, these bold red birds typically live for 2-3 years. Their vulnerability to predators and the availability of food sources contribute to their relatively shorter lifespan compared to other cardinal species.

Desert Cardinal

The Desert Cardinal, found in the southwestern United States and Mexico, has a significantly longer lifespan than the Vermilion Cardinal. These desert dwellers can live for up to 8 years in the wild. Their adaptation to arid environments and their ability to find food and water sources in harsh conditions contribute to their increased lifespan.

Red Crested Cardinal

The Red Crested Cardinal, known for its striking red plumage and distinctive crest, has varying lifespans depending on their habitat. In the wild, their lifespan ranges from 3-6 years. However, when kept in captivity, these birds can live an impressive 13-15 years, similar to their Northern Cardinal counterparts. The increased lifespan in captivity can be attributed to the factors discussed earlier, such as protection from predators, consistent food supply, and access to veterinary care.

Northern Cardinals’ Expansion

Northward and Midwest Expansion

The Northern Cardinal, one of the most iconic and beloved bird species in North America, has undergone a significant expansion of its habitat. Historically confined to the southern United States, the Northern Cardinal has expanded its range northward and into the Midwest. This expansion can be attributed to several factors, including climate change and the availability of suitable habitats in previously unoccupied regions. The ability of these birds to adapt to new environments has contributed to their increased population and overall lifespan.

Cardinals as Popular Birds

Visitors to Backyard Feeders

Cardinals are extremely popular birds, and their vibrant red plumage and beautiful song make them a favorite among birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts. These enchanting creatures are often frequent visitors to backyard feeders, attracting attention and admiration from people of all ages. Offering a diverse array of birdseed, fruits, and fresh water in well-maintained feeders can help attract cardinals and contribute to their overall health and wellbeing. The availability of backyard feeders plays a crucial role in providing cardinals with a consistent and reliable source of food, further enhancing their chances of survival and increasing their lifespan.

Life Cycle of Cardinals


The life cycle of cardinals follows a similar pattern to other bird species. It begins with courtship, where male cardinals showcase their vibrant plumage and melodious songs to attract a mate. Courtship displays typically involve fluffing of feathers, hopping, and short flights, creating a beautiful spectacle of colors and sounds.

Laying Eggs

Once a pair has bonded, the female cardinal will select a suitable nesting site, typically within shrubs or dense vegetation. She will then lay a clutch of eggs, usually numbering 2-5, and incubate them for approximately 12-14 days. During this period, the male cardinal takes on the responsibility of providing food for the female.


After the incubation period, the eggs hatch, and the nest is filled with tiny, featherless hatchlings. The female cardinal remains in the nest to protect and care for the young while the male continues to provide food for the family. The hatchlings are entirely dependent on their parents for nourishment and warmth.


As the weeks pass, the hatchlings grow rapidly and develop their characteristic red plumage. They will gradually fledge from the nest, learning to fly and becoming more independent. During this period, the parents continue to provide guidance, food, and protection until the young cardinals reach adulthood.

In conclusion, the lifespan of cardinals is influenced by several factors, including predation, sickness, and food accessibility. While they have an average lifespan of 3 years in the wild, cardinals can live up to 13-15 years in captivity. Different species of cardinals exhibit variations in their lifespans, with the Vermilion Cardinal living for 2-3 years, the Desert Cardinal for up to 8 years, and the Red Crested Cardinal for 3-6 years in the wild and 13-15 years in captivity. The Northern Cardinal has expanded its habitat northward and into the Midwest, contributing to its increased population and overall lifespan. Cardinals are popular birds, often visiting backyard feeders, and their life cycle involves courtship, laying eggs, hatchlings, and eventual adulthood. By understanding and appreciating these factors that impact cardinal lifespan, we can better appreciate and protect these remarkable birds.

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