Red Gallery – Northern Cardinal
Both sexes sing clear, whistled song patterns, which are repeated several times, then varied. Some common phrases are described as “cheeeer-a-dote, cheeer-a-dote-dote-dote”, “purdy, purdy, purdy…whoit, whoit, whoit, whoit”, “what-cheer, what-cheer… wheet, wheet, wheet, wheet” and “cheer, cheer, cheer, what, what, what, what”. The northern cardinal has a distinctive alarm call, a short metallic chip sound. This call often is given when predators approach the nest, in order to give warning to the female and nestlings. In some cases it will also utter a series of chipping notes. The frequency and volume of these notes increases as the threat becomes greater. This chipping noise is also used by a cardinal pair to locate each other, especially during dusk hours when visibility wanes.
The songs of the two sexes of the northern cardinal, although not distinguishable by the human ear, are sexually dimorphic. It is suggested that this is because of the differences in levels of hormones of the two sexes.