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The Magic of Cardinal Eggs: Facts for Bird Lovers

It’s warming up, and it’s the time when gardens start to fill up with activities and the sweet songbird calls. Among the stars of any garden, the vibrant cardinals take center stage. Observing these elegant birds as they prepare for the nesting season is a sight to behold, witnessing their unwavering dedication as they work tirelessly to bring up their offspring.

Cardinal eggs are small in size and range in color from buff white, ivory, and light green with dark speckles all over the egg. Nests will have between 2 and 5 eggs per nest, laid between February and September, and range in size between 2.2 and 2.7cm in length.

The courtship ritual of cardinals is a spectacle of love and devotion. It is a joy to witness the male cardinal’s affectionate gestures, as he provides nourishment for his mate, proving his capabilities as a caring father-to-be. Their interactions appear as tender exchanges, resembling affectionate kisses shared between the devoted pair. Knowing about cardinal eggs is just as important as knowing what they look like if you find a nest and what you should do about it.

What Month Do Cardinals Lay Eggs?

Cardinals are actively busy nesting and looking after broods from February to September. As of March, cardinals will start to lay eggs and may have between two and four clutches per year.

Cardinals do not migrate, so they enjoy much longer nesting and brooding seasons than any other wild bird.

How Many Eggs Do Cardinals Lay At A Time?

Cardinals can lay from one to five eggs at a time, but you will generally see about three eggs in a clutch. In some cases, northern cardinals may lay multiple clutches of eggs, and it’s not uncommon for them to have two clutches, and sometimes even a third, during the breeding season.

Do Cardinals Stay With Their Eggs?

A female Cardinal bird will start filling her nest with eggs after she has completed the building of her nursery. Once she starts to lay her eggs, this can take one to eight days to do.

Cardinal eggs can be left unattended for seven days before they need to be incubated.

The mother cardinal will only start incubating the clutch once all her eggs have been laid to ensure all of the eggs hatch at relatively the same time.

Once incubations start, the mother will periodically sit on her clutch to incubate them until they hatch.

A female cardinal bird will incubate her eggs for twelve to thirteen days before the hatchlings start to emerge from their eggs.

The mother cardinal will sit on her clutch for 40-minute intervals and then take a five to fifteen-minute break before returning for the next session.

The male cardinal will be on the lookout for any predators or dangers during this time. He is also tasked with feeding the female bird as she sits on her brood.

So, next time you see a female cardinal bustling about, she might just be preparing her nursery for some adorable little hatchlings!

How Many Times A Year Do Cardinals Lay Eggs?

Since Cardinals do not migrate for winter, they have a much longer breeding period and can lay anything between two and five clutches per season.

Cardinals do not reuse the same nest, but if conditions are favorable, they will return to the same area and may nest very close to where they nested the year before.

What Do Cardinal Eggs Look Like?

Cardinal egg colors can vary between shades of pale green, ivory white, or buff white with light and dark brown spotted blemishes on the egg.

The eggs are fairly plain compared to the cardinal bird’s striking appearance.

Cardinal eggs are small and delicate, with a 2.2-2.7 cm length and a width of 1.7-2 cm.

If you find an empty or abandoned nest, special care not to damage the eggs or the embryo inside needs to be taken.

How Long Do Cardinal Eggs Take To Hatch?

The hatching time of the eggs is between twelve and thirteen days from the moment the female begins to incubate them in the nest.

Once the baby inside the egg is ready to emerge, it cracks at the egg from the inside to make a small hole on the side of the egg.

Once the crack is made, the baby will wiggle and move around inside the egg, stretching itself to crack the egg a bit more until the shell has broken into two pieces and it is free from its house that protected it for the first eleven to thirteen days.

This process can take the baby about twenty to twenty-five minutes to fully emerge from its shell. The mother will sometimes come and help the baby by removing the shell and eating it. The baby that emerges is now called a hatchling.

How Long Do Baby Cardinals Stay In The Nest?

A cardinal baby will stay in the nest until it becomes a fledgling which takes seven to thirteen days. At this stage, the fledgling will have all of its feathers.

The young cardinal will leave the nest during the fledgling stage while hopping around, and learning to fly.

Dad’s cardinal will typically look after the fledglings and feed them until they can fend for themselves.

What Color Are Baby Cardinals?

Baby cardinals go through a very quick development once they hatch. Their plumage can change drastically from hatchling to adult. Baby cardinals will remain with their parents for 25-56 days while they learn to fend for themselves and can feed themselves without the aid of their parents.

  • Hatchlings are named so from 0-3 days old and are naked and pink with spare bits of gray down. Their eyes are still closed, and they depend completely on their parents to keep them warm and feed them.
  • Nestlings are aged 3-13 days old, their eyes start to open, and they form feathers on their wings. They still depend on their parents.
  • Fledgling starts exploring more and leaves the nest at least once after 7-13 days. At this stage, the fledgling has all its feathers and hops around while dad cardinal generally looks after them, while mom starts with the next clutch.
  • Juvenile cardinals now resemble the mom cardinal but with a bit of a grumpy look to them. They are now able to gather food for themselves.
  • Young adults will get their first real adult plumage the first fall after changing from juveniles.

Juvenile cardinals will resemble the female cardinal in most ways, but an adult female cardinal will have an orange beak and red crest that sets her apart from her youngsters.

Do Cardinals Abandon Their Eggs?

Cardinals will not easily abandon their nests, but if the nest has been severely disturbed, they may feel threatened and decide that the nest is unsafe and will abandon the nest to start another nest in a different location.

Another reason why cardinals may abandon their nests is the infestation of insects. If too many flies or ants bother the birds, the cardinals may decide it is not worth the hassle to hatch babies in an environment that could land up being fatal to the hatchlings.

Do Cardinals Move Their Eggs Or Babies?

Cardinals will not move their eggs from one nest to another. This would be impossible for them to achieve physically.

As with the eggs, cardinals will not move their babies if they abandon their nests due to predators. They will fly away and start to build a new nest and start with a new clutch of eggs.


After pairing, the mated cardinals will team up to look after the nest, where both parents have their duties in ensuring the eggs hatch and the hatchlings of cardinals grow up to be independent young adults that can fend for themselves before mom and dad move on the next batch of nests that they will build and fill.