Arizona's Northern Cardinal a Desert Treasure

Are there Northern Cardinal birds in Arizona? The answer is a resounding yes!

These beautiful birds, known for their bright red plumage, are indeed present in the state, particularly in southern Arizona.

The Northern Cardinal, or Cardinalis cardinalis, is a well-known red bird that is native to the eastern United States but has also made its home in the American Southwest, including Arizona.

northern cardinal arizona

The males of this species are particularly striking, with vibrant red feathers that make them easily recognizable.

Their appearance, especially against the backdrop of the desert landscape, makes them a captivating sight for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts in the region.

The Desert Native Cardinal Bird of Arizona

So, what is that gray bird that looks like a cardinal called? That bird is commonly known as the desert cardinal but its real name is Pyrrhuloxia,

It's a fascinating member of the cardinal family that can be found in the southwestern United States, including Arizona.

This species, with its scientific name of Cardinalis Sinuatus, is native to the arid environments of the American Southwest and northern Mexico.

The Pyrrhuloxia is well adapted to desert habitats and is often found in areas such as the Sonoran Desert, making it a distinctive and iconic part of the avian population in the region.

This bird is more common in Texas than in Arizona or New Mexico due to habitat loss. They used to be abundant as a common bird 50-plus years ago.

Description of Desert Cardinal

The male Pyrrhuloxia is a striking bird with a unique blend of red and gray feathers.

Its muted yet elegant appearance sets it apart from the more widely recognized northern cardinal.

male pyrrhuloxia bird

The male's crest, bill, and face are a vibrant red, while its wings and tail are a soft gray, creating a visually captivating contrast.

In contrast, the female Pyrrhuloxia has a more subtle appearance, with a grayish-brown overall plumage and hints of red on its crest, wings, and tail.

Both the male and female Pyrrhuloxia possess a distinctive, curved bill that is well-suited for their feeding habits.

These desert cardinals are most likely to be found in arid and semi-arid habitats, particularly in the Sonoran Desert and its surrounding areas.

They are often spotted in regions with sparse vegetation, including desert scrub, mesquite thickets, and arid grasslands.

Their preference for these arid environments reflects their remarkable adaptation to survive and thrive in harsh desert conditions.


arizona range map for northern cardinal

Northern Cardinal Range Map

While the Northern Cardinal is more widespread and can be found in various parts of the state, including Arizona state parks, the desert cardinal is primarily concentrated in the southern regions, extending into southern California and other western states.

Their presence adds to the rich diversity of birdlife in the American Southwest, making them a sought-after sight for birdwatchers and photographers.

Are They Rare?

As for the rarity of cardinals in Arizona, they are not considered rare in the state, particularly in southern Arizona.

Pyrrhuloxia Range Map

Pyrrhuloxia Range Map

While they may not be as abundant as in their native eastern United States, Northern Cardinals are year-round residents in Arizona, making them a familiar and relatively common sight for those who venture into the southern regions of the state.

Additionally, the desert cardinal, Pyrrhuloxia, can be found in the southwestern United States, including Arizona. This adds to the overall presence of cardinals in the region.