What is a Group of Cardinals Called




What is a Group of Cardinals Called

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In the world of ornithology, have you ever wondered what a group of cardinals is called? Well, you’re in for a treat! Cardinals, charming birds belonging to the Cardinalidae family and the Cardinalis genus, have a multitude of creative names for their gatherings. From a college and conclave to a deck and Kremlin, these names add an air of intrigue to their already enchanting nature. While cardinals are known to be rather territorial during the breeding season, they become more sociable in the fall and winter, forming small flocks that range from 5 to 60 birds. These flocks symbolize positivity and bring a burst of color to the wintry landscape, thanks to the vibrant plumage of the male cardinals. So, let’s dive into the fascinating world of these beautiful birds and explore their group dynamics!

What is a Group of Cardinals Called


Have you ever wondered what a group of cardinals is called? You may have heard terms like “college” or “conclave,” but what do they really mean? In this article, we will explore the different names used to refer to a group of cardinals, as well as delve into the social behavior, life cycle, and symbolism of these beautiful birds.

Cardinalidae Family and Cardinalis Genus

Overview of Cardinalidae Family

Cardinals belong to the Cardinalidae family, a group of passerine birds found in North and South America. This family includes various species known for their vibrant colors and melodious songs. Cardinals are known for their stout beaks, feather crests, and strong hopping movements.

Overview of Cardinalis Genus

Within the Cardinalidae family, cardinals are classified under the Cardinalis genus. Currently, there are two recognized species in this genus: the Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) and the Vermilion Cardinal (Cardinalis phoeniceus). Both species are known for their striking red plumage, which is predominantly displayed by the males.

Different Names for a Group of Cardinals


One of the names used to refer to a group of cardinals is a “college.” This term is believed to have originated from the Latin word “collegium,” meaning a group or society. It symbolizes the close-knit nature of a group of cardinals, as they often exhibit strong bonds and cooperative behavior.


Another term used to describe a group of cardinals is a “conclave.” This name is derived from the Latin word “conclavis,” meaning a locked room or chamber. Historically, a conclave referred to the assembly of cardinals who gathered to elect a new pope. It highlights the importance and significance of cardinals coming together in a unified manner.


Some people refer to a group of cardinals as a “deck.” This name is likely inspired by the image of a deck of cards, with each bird representing a unique and vibrant card. It emphasizes the visual impact of multiple cardinals gathering together and the stunning display of their colorful plumage.


The name “Kremlin” is sometimes used to describe a group of cardinals. This term is borrowed from the Russian word for “citadel” or “fortress,” which is synonymous with strength and unity. It reflects the idea of cardinals forming a strong and unified presence when they come together.


A “radiance” is yet another term used to depict a group of cardinals. It evokes the image of a brilliant and dazzling display, much like the vibrant plumage of these birds. The term radiance highlights the visual impact created by a group of cardinals, as their bright red feathers capture the light and create a stunning spectacle.


Lastly, a group of cardinals may also be referred to as the “Vatican.” This term is associated with the highest authority in the Roman Catholic Church and represents the central hub of spiritual power. Using this name for a group of cardinals symbolizes their significance and spiritual importance.

Cardinals’ Social Behavior

Territorial Behavior During Breeding Season

During the breeding season, cardinals exhibit territorial behavior. Males vigorously defend their chosen nesting territories, using their vibrant plumage and melodious songs to attract mates and establish dominance. This territoriality helps ensure the successful breeding and survival of their offspring.

Increased Sociability in Fall and Winter

In contrast to their territorial behavior during the breeding season, cardinals become more sociable in the fall and winter. As the days grow shorter and food becomes scarcer, cardinals adjust their social behavior to increase their chances of survival. They begin to tolerate the presence of other cardinals and even join together in small flocks.

Joining Small Flocks in Fall and Winter

As fall and winter approach, cardinals join small flocks consisting of anywhere between 5 to 60 birds. These flocks offer protection and a higher chance of finding food, especially during the harsh winter months. By joining forces with other cardinals, they increase their collective chances of survival.

Flocking for Scarce Food

One of the main reasons for cardinals to flock together in the fall and winter is the scarcity of food. As their preferred food sources, such as seeds, fruits, and insects, become harder to find, cardinals rely on collective foraging to secure sustenance. Flocking allows them to efficiently search for food while benefiting from safety in numbers.

Cardinal Flock Size

The size of a cardinal flock can vary, ranging from just a few individuals to larger gatherings. The average size of a winter flock usually consists of about 10 to 20 cardinals. However, in some cases, flocks may be much larger, especially when multiple neighboring territories converge in search of food.

Life Cycle and Pair Bonding

Joining Flocks in Late Summer

After the breeding season, young cardinals typically join flocks in late summer. These flocks provide them with protection, guidance, and social interaction as they transition into adulthood. Joining flocks allows young cardinals to learn key survival skills and establish important social bonds within their species.

Life-Long Pair Bonds

Pairs of cardinals often form life-long bonds, with both males and females actively participating in raising their young. Once a male and female cardinal mate and establish a territory, they remain together for many breeding seasons. These strong pair bonds contribute to the overall stability of cardinal populations.

Isolation and Dispersal

Isolation of Some Cardinals

While some cardinals readily join flocks during the fall and winter, not all individuals display this behavior. Some cardinals choose to remain isolated, especially if they have established successful breeding territories and have an abundant source of food available. They prefer to maintain their own space and resources, ensuring their survival without the need for flocking.

Dispersal in Small Flocks

When not breeding, cardinals disperse from their breeding grounds in small flocks. These flocks may consist of family groups or individuals from neighboring territories. Dispersal offers cardinals the opportunity to explore different habitats, find new food sources, and potentially establish new breeding territories in the future.

Non-Migratory Nature of Cardinals

Dispersal from Breeding Grounds

Unlike many other songbirds, cardinals are not considered migratory birds. They do not embark on long-distance seasonal migrations to seek more favorable climates or food sources. However, cardinals do exhibit seasonal movements within their range, dispersing from their breeding grounds to adapt to changing environmental conditions and resource availability.

Symbolism and Colorful Plumage

Positive Spiritual Symbolism

Cardinals have long been associated with positive spiritual symbolism in various cultures and beliefs. Their bright red plumage is often seen as a symbol of vitality, courage, and passion. Many people believe that encountering a cardinal is a sign of good luck or a message from a loved one who has passed away.

Colorful Plumage of Males

One of the distinguishing features of male cardinals is their vibrant red plumage. The contrasting black mask and distinctive crest further enhance their bold appearance. These visually striking characteristics serve multiple purposes, including attracting mates, defending territories, and establishing dominance within their social groups.

In conclusion, a group of cardinals can be referred to by various names such as a college, conclave, deck, Kremlin, radiance, or Vatican. While cardinals display territorial behavior during the breeding season, they become more sociable in the fall and winter, joining small flocks for increased chances of survival. They form life-long pair bonds and disperse from their breeding grounds in small flocks. Cardinals are non-migratory, but they exhibit seasonal movements and adjust their social behavior to adapt to changing environmental conditions. With their vibrant plumage and positive symbolism, cardinals captivate the hearts of many bird enthusiasts and spiritual believers.

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