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What Is the State Bird of Virginia?

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  • Written By: Esther Ejim
  • Edited By: Kaci Lane Hindman
  • Last Modified Date: 01 November 2016
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The state bird of Virginia is the cardinal or northern cardinal. It is a medium-sized songbird and was adopted on 25 January 1950 as the official state bird. Northern cardinals have a distinctive appearance, which makes them easy to identify. Although the state bird of Virginia is mainly granivorous, meaning that its diet consists mostly of seeds, it also feeds on fruits and insects. Male northern cardinals are territorial, and they mark their territory with song.

This bird species show differentiating physical and characteristic attributes between the males and females. Male northern cardinals have a vivid red color, an identifying crest and a black mask-like coloration on their face. Cardinal females are a dull brown-red color, with a crest and a gray mask-like coloration on the face. The male cardinal sings in a loud, piercing whistle from a high location in order to advertise its presence to other males, warning them to stay away from its territory. The loud song also serves as a warning call to the females and hatchlings when a predator is near the nest. Cardinals also make a piercing chipping noise to locate their mates when it is dark and visibility is low.

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The state bird of Virginia generally feeds by foraging on the ground. It hops about while it tries to locate things like snails, cicadas, grasshoppers, berries, oats, sunflower seeds and beetles. It also sips maple saps from the holes already made by sapsuckers. During courtship, a cardinal pair practices a type of bonding in which the male collects food and feeds it beak-to-beak to the female.

Female cardinals do the majority of the work required to build the nest. The males may assist by bringing nest materials like twigs, pieces of bark, grass and pine needles. It could take around three to nine days to construct the nest, which is usually placed in a well-hidden spot on a low tree or among shrubs. The female generally lays her eggs between one to six days from the nest's completion. The eggs of the state bird of Virginia are smooth-shelled and white with a tinge of brown, blue or green. A female lays her eggs in a clutches of three to four and incubates them for 12 to 13 days. Male cardinals share in the incubation of the brood and also in the feeding of the brood, especially if the female is incubating another clutch.

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