The Cardinal is a mid-sized songbird with a body length of 20–23 cm (7.9–9.1 in) and a wingspan of 25–31 cm (9.8–12 in). It weighs about
The male is a brilliant crimson red with a black face mask over the eyes, extending to the upper chest. The colour is dullest on the back and wings.
The female is fawn, with mostly grayish-brown tones and a slight reddish tint on the wings, the crest, and the tail feathers. The face mask of the female is gray to black and is less defined than that of the male. Both sexes possess prominent raised crests and bright coral-colored beaks. The beak is cone-shaped and very strong.
Pairs mate for life, and they stay together year-round. Mated pairs sometimes sing together before nesting. During courtship they may also participate in a bonding behavior where the male collects food and brings it to the female, ( food for thought J ) feeding her beak-to-beak. If the mating is successful, this mate-feeding may continue throughout the period of incubation.
The female generally incubates the eggs; the male will incubate for brief periods of time. Incubation takes 12 to 13 days. A newborn will become a young fledgling 10 to 11 days after hatching. Young birds, both male and female, show the coloring similar to the adult female until the fall, when they molt and grow adult feathers.
Two to three, and even four, broods are raised each year. The male cares for and feeds each brood as the female incubates the next set of eggs.