Birds That Look Like Cardinals

Whenever we think of Cardinal, we think of the usual Northern Cardinal. Many people like this bird because it is very interesting to see. Many people think that some birds that look like cardinals are real cardinals.

Cardinals, or red birds, maybe the most easily identified bird in the world. Their bright red feathers leave them and make them a favorite among young and old alike. These gunbirds enjoy warmer climates and are not migratory like other birds.

Their population has grown in part over the years due to their amazing ability to adapt to parks and suburbs. The average lifespan of wild cardinals is 15 years. Popular subspecies of cardinal include American, desert cardinal, and vermilion cardinal popular Northern cardinal.

Also Read: How Long Are Birds Pregnant?

There are also some birds that look like cardinal birds, but they are not direct cardinal birds. Maybe those birds are the same or similar species of cardinal birds.

So, which bird looks like a cardinal? There are many cardinal-like birds, including Cedar Waxwing, Pyrrhuloxia, Phainopepla, Scarlet Tanager, and Summer Tanager. Surprisingly, a Pyrrhuloxia can be confused with a female North Cardinal, since they look quite similar.

Now, let’s discuss below a brief introduction to the cardinal-looking birds and why they look like cardinals.

List Of The birds That Look Like Cardinals

1. Cedar Waxwing

The cedar waxwing is a member of the Bombycilla siderum family, or the waxwing family is the passerine bird. It is a mostly brown, gray, and yellow bird, named for its waxy winged tips. It is native to North and Central America breeds in the open areas of southern Canada and lives in the winter in the far northwest of the United States, Central America, and South America.

Cedar Waxwing

Cedar waxwings are medium-sized birds about 15-18 cm long and weigh about 1.1 to 30 g. The black mask of waxwing has a thin white border. Immature birds extend to the neck and bottom and often do not have an adult black mask. Both men and women look alike.

The flight of the Waxwings is strong and direct, and the movement of the sails on the flight coincides with a swarm of small pale European Sterlings. Cedar waxwings travel at speeds of up to 40 kilometers per hour (25 miles per hour) and fly at altitudes of 610 meters (2,000 feet).

2. Pyrrhuloxia

The pyrrhuloxia or desert cardinal (Cardinalis sinuous) is a medium-sized North American songbird. They are found in American southwestern and northern Mexico. Pyrrhuloxia is a year-long desert scrub and inhabitant of the Mesquite Thriket. These birds are also known as desert cardinals.

Pyrrhuloxia | birds that look like cardinals


  • Pyrrhuloxia is brownish-gray in color.
  • They have red spots on the crest, upper wings, chest, neck, and tail.
  • They have red masks.
  • The breasts and abdomen of male birds are slightly reddish.
  • Their body length is about 8.3 inches or 21 cm.
  • When the normal weight is 0.8-1.5 kg.

3. Phainopepla

Phainopepla is found throughout the southwestern United States. These birds are also easily found in the deserts of Arizona, Southern Nevada, Southern California, and the Baja Peninsula. In addition to the desert, these birds also prefer arid forests. They are often seen perched on tall trees and shrubs. Their unusual name comes from the Greek word for “shining robe”, a word that refers to the shiny black plumage of an adult male.

Phainopepla | birds that look like cardinals


  • Phenopaplas have a random crest and a slender appearance.
  • The males of these birds are shiny black.
  • Women’s body color is dark gray.
  • Their wing feathers have white spots.
  • They have long tails and red eyes.

4. Scarlet Tanager

Scarlet Tanager is a medium-sized American songbird. They usually live in evergreen forests in the eastern, midwestern, and northeastern parts of North America. During the winter, these birds migrate south to the northwestern part of South America. In addition to forests for habitation, they prefer shrubs, habitats, and backyards. These birds reach their breeding grounds from mid-May to early June.

birds that look like cardinals | Scarlet Tanager


  • The Scarlet Tanager, a medium-sized bird, is 16 to 19 centimeters long or 6.3 to 7.5 inches long.
  • Their wingspan is 25 to 30 cm or 9.8 to 11.8 inches.
  • Adults have pale, horny-colored, fairly stout, and smooth-textured bills.
  • Adult males are reddish with black wings and tails.
  • The females are yellow on the underside and olive on the top, with yellow-olive-toned wings and tails.
  • Some males have orange feathers on their wings.

5. Summer Tanager

Summer Tanagers are commonly found in the southeastern and southwestern United States. These birds migrate to North-South America, Central America, and Mexico in winter. You can also find their presence in Texas and Florida in the winter. Summer Tanager


  • Summer Tanagers look red.
  • Female birds have greenish-yellow spots with orange spots.
  • Male birds have somewhat elongated, pale yellow bills.
  • These birds have slightly shorter tails and round eyes.
  • The wings have been shown solely to give a sense of proportion.

Some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  • What bird looks like a cardinal but isn’t red?

Phainopeplas (Phainopepla nitens) are roughly the same size and shape as cardinals, but their bodies are slightly narrower and have noticeably thinner lips. Males have glossy black plumage and females are all gray, so their cardinals also lack distinct red color.

  • What kind of bird looks like a cardinal but is brown?

The male house finch has a reddish part like the male cardinal but is initially tan / brown in color. Among the more notable differences are: the house finch is small and the male cardinal is a medium sized bird. The House Finch has no crown while the male cardinal has long red crown feathers.

  • Are cardinals only red?

Cardinals exist in red, yellow, white and gold / brown. Many people believe that they have seen a blue cardinal but they do not exist. The primary colors available to cardinals include red for male cardinals and gray-brown for female cardinals.

  • Are grey cardinals rare?

The short answer to a complex question is that cardinals are not uncommon. Any bird is a rarity in the wrong habitat, and even very rare birds are seemingly abundant in some small, select areas. From a conservation standpoint, Cardinals, or North Cardinal, is actually doing quite well.

  • Are Blue Jays bigger than cardinals?

Although the average length of two birds between 20-25 cm may be the same, their mass is different. A blue J weighs about 65-110 grams while a cardinal weighs about 43 grams on average. Both birds have a strong bill, but on closer inspection they are still physically different.

Final Word

Hopefully, now you know about birds that look like cardinals. Now you won’t be confused to identify the northern cardinals and the birds that look like them.

However, there are some other similar birds that can be easily identified because they look quite different from the cardinals. Of course, keep in mind that Phenomenons may have random feather crests like the North Cardinals but they are glossy black in color.

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