Featured bird family: Cardinalidae  [references]
The featured bird family is Cardinalidae which includes cardinals, buntings, and some, but not all, grosbeaks. Species in Cardinalidae are generally small (4.5 to 9 inches long, 0.5 to 1.6 ounces) and have the following characterisitics:
     • males often brightly colored, females brown tones
     • found in brush or wooded habitats
     • thick, conical bills
     • feed on seeds, fruit, and insects in weedy or brushy habitats.
The species in this family (names in bold-faced type are present annually in the KC area) in the US are:
     • Northern Cardinal - abundant in KC area all year
     • Pyrrhuloxia - in southwest Texas, New Mexico, Arizona
     • Lazuli Bunting - in western US, west of central Kansas in summer
     • Indigo Bunting - abundant in KC area in spring, summer, and fall
     • Painted Bunting - in KC area in spring and summer (uncommon)
     • Varied Bunting - in far southwest Texas and Arizona in summer
     • Black-headed Grosbeak - in all western US west of Rockies in summer
     • Blue Grosbeak - in KC area in spring and summer (uncommon)
     • Rose-breasted Grosbeak - in KC area in spring, summer, and fall (uncommon)
     • Dickcissel - in KC area in spring, summer, and fall (common)
Unusual vocalizations in Cardinalidae
  • In most songbird families only the males sing. In Cardinalidae, females in at least three
    species (Northern Cardinal, Pyrrhuloxia, and Black-headed Grosbeak) sing regularly.
  • Some species, e.g. Indigo Buntings, do not learn their song in the nest from parents, but
    from other males when they are one year old and return to the breeding grounds.
The table below gives the approximate sizes of each of the species found in the KC area.
Northern Cardinal
7.75 - 8.75 in
10 - 12 in
1.6 oz (45 g)
Indigo Bunting
4.5 - 5.5 in
8 in
0.51 oz (14.5 g)
Painted Bunting
4.7 - 5.5 in
8.75 in
0.54 oz (15.5 g)
Blue Grosbeak
6.25 - 6.75 in
11 in
0.98 oz (28 g)
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
7.25 - 8 in
11 - 13 in
1.6 oz (45 g)
5.75 - 6.25 in
9.75 - 10 in
0.95 oz (27 g)
Worldwide there are 42 species in the family Cardinalae, and they are found entirely in the western hemisphere. In addition to the 10 species in the US, there are 32 species which are found only in Latin America: a Vermillion Cardinal, 3 other species of buntings, 14 other species of grosbeaks, and 14 species of saltators.
Page added 6/10/2011 (Latest Rev 8/10/2016 better Blue Grosbeak)