Do you imagine a bird that looks like a cardinal but is not?
Yes, here you are going to see the bird looks like a northern cardinal or desert cardinal but is not. It’s been happening to you all of the time. Even if you’re an avid birder. The problem with this phenomenon is that there are so many different species of birds that look similar to cardinals. In the article below, we’ll cover 8 of these cardinal imposters. You’ll be surprised how many new feathered friends will come out from behind your bushes and trees!
This includes the Northern Flicker, Pileated Woodpecker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Roseate Spoonbill, American Goldfinch, Pine Grosbeak, Scarlet Tanager, and the Black Backed Woodpecker.
Bird That Looks Like A Cardinal But Is Not (8 Similar Birds)
Here are 8 birds that have a dark red feather. But are not a cardinal birds:
- Northern Flicker
- Pileated Woodpecker
- Red-bellied Woodpecker
- Roseate Spoonbill
- American Goldfinch
- Pine Grosbeak
- Black-backed Woodpecker
- Scarlet tanager
1. Northern Flicker
The Northern Flicker has a very similar color to a vermilion cardinal bird. But it does not have black on its wings or tail. It also has black crescents on the side of its head that are thinner than those on cardinals.
Northern Flickers are cavity nesters, favoring dead trees with narrow cavities!!! They will often use woodpeckers’ abandoned hole sites! Because of this behavior, they are important to neighbor tree species. The cause is they assist in removing pests from them! They eat small insects, seeds, berries, and some flowers!
- Red feathers
- Black crescents
- Similar bird call
- No black on wings or tail
- Thinner crescents on side of the head
- Eats more insects and some flowers
2. Pileated Woodpecker
The Pileated Woodpecker is very similar to the Northern Flicker. They both have black crescents on the side of their head, red feathers, and black wings without any white dots! But you can distinguish them because they are different sizes.
Pileated Woodpeckers mostly eat wood-boring insects that live in trees!!! Usually, these birds will drill into trees with large diameter trunks or branches that contain larvae of beetles or carpenter ants!! Every now and then, pine seeds may be eaten. But not as frequently as some other species of North American woodpeckers!
- Red feathers
- Black crescents on side of the head
- Similar shape and size
- Pileated Woodpeckers are larger
- Eats different types of insects
3. Red Bellied Woodpecker
The Red-bellied Woodpecker is very similar to the Northern Flicker and Pileated Woodpecker. Because it has black wings without any white dots! It also has red feathers on its head, neck, and breast. But it is easy to tell them apart. Because their underbellies are white or cream instead of black like the Northern Flicker!
Red-bellied Woodpeckers live in different types of forests! It is one kind of wild bird. They can be found in deciduous, pine, hardwood hammocks, swamps, mangroves. And sometimes even in suburban areas! They eat both insects and fruits. Insects include beetles, ants, grasshoppers, crickets, wasps, bees, etc. Especially while fruit includes wild cherries, black gum berries, raspberries, blueberries, or holly berries as a cardinal bird feeder.
- Black wings without any white dots
- Red feathers on head and breast
- The underbelly is cream or white
- Less likely to be seen in residential areas
- Eats more fruit than the other species considered here
4. Roseate Spoonbill
The Roseate Spoonbill is a very beautiful bird with pink feathers!!! But some have red on their heads as well! This makes it similar to cardinals. But not quite enough to be one.
Roseate Spoonbills eat fish, crustaceans, mollusks, aquatic insects, and amphibians!! They catch food by rapidly opening and closing their bills while submerging their heads underwater!!! While foraging on land or in shallow water. Then they have a tendency to probe in mud or silt instead of picking items from the surface.
- Pink feathers
- Red color on the head of some birds
- Spoonbills do not have black on wings or tails
- Doesn’t often visit residential areas
5. American Goldfinch
The American Goldfinch is very similar to cardinals. Because it has red feathers! But it can easily be by its yellow feathers of rare yellow cardinal. That is difficult to describe. But it is most likely a male American Gold house finch wild bird. Especially if you see it with a black mask, wings, and tail!
American Goldfinches eat various seeds (pine, birch, ragweed, etc.), fruits (hawthorn, mountain ash), and berries (elderberry, cedars). They also consume insects like caterpillars and grasshoppers! Sometimes they will peck on the ground for insects or take berries off low-hanging bushes by pulling them down with their beak!
- Red feathers.
- Black mask on the face of the male cardinal.
- No black on wings or tails.
- Eats different types of foods than cardinals do.
- Mostly eats berries instead of insects.
6. Pine Grosbeak
The Pine Grosbeak is very similar to the Red Crossbill. Because it has a red top and black underneath. But you can tell them apart because the Pine Grosbeak doesn’t have any white dots on its wings or tail.
Pine Grosbeaks eat seeds from conifer, pines, and various other trees. Such as birches and maples!! They also will eat fruits like juniper, dogwood berries, bird cherry, mulberry berries, cedar fruit, holiday flowers (holly), Virginia creeper fruit, poison ivy berries, etc.
- Red color on the head.
- No white dots on wings and tails.
- Do not visit residential areas.
- Eats different types of foods than Red Crossbills do.
- Mostly eats seeds instead of insects.
7. Black-backed Woodpecker
The Black-backed Woodpecker has a very unique look which makes it difficult to describe. If you see one, it’s easy to tell it apart from other species. Because of its black and white striped pattern on the front and back (black/white/black).
Black-backed Woodpeckers eat insects that they find under the bark of trees. Such as beetles, ants, termites, etc. Also fruit such as wild cherries, grapes (raisins), Virginia creeper berries; and nuts like acorns. They drill holes in trees to make their homes or find other cavities of the nest. You can find them in deciduous or coniferous forests in the breeding season.
- Unique body pattern.
- No black on wings or red feathers like cardinals have.
- Drills holes in trees to make its home (rather than nesting in tree cavities).
8. Scarlet Tanager
The Scarlet Tanager is one of the most beautiful birds with its red feathers! Just like cardinals, it has a black mask on the face and wings. But very different from them. Because it has no white dots.
Scarlet Tanagers live in deciduous woodlands where they eat insects, spiders, small vertebrates. Such as frogs and salamanders, beetles, caterpillars, ants. Also fruits. Such as dogwood berries and Virginia creeper fruit! Summer tanager plumage also eats some seeds and nuts if they find them under the bark.
- Red color everywhere.
- No white dots on wings and tails.
- No black on wings or tails.
- Eats different types of food than cardinals do.
- Mostly eats insects & bugs instead of eating seeds.
#1. What is the most similar bird to a cardinal?
The Black-backed Woodpecker. Because of its black and white striped pattern on the front and back that looks like a female cardinal bird. Because a female northern cardinal is few different from a male northern cardinal.
#2. What is the least similar bird to a cardinal?
The Roseate Spoonbill. Because only some have red feathers. It eats different types of food than cardinals do. Also doesn’t visit residential areas. And has pink feathers instead of red ones.
#3. Is the Pine Grosbeak more similar to cardinals or to Red Crossbills?
The Pine Grosbeak is more similar to Red Crossbills. Because they both eat insects like caterpillars and grasshoppers!! They also both don’t often visit residential areas. Unlike cardinals who are seen visiting many people’s houses every day.
#4. Is the Black-backed Woodpecker more similar to cardinals or to Red Crossbills?
The Black-backed Woodpecker is more similar to cardinals. Because red color on their head like cardinals. And don’t have any white dots on their wings or tails like cardinals. They eat different types of food than Red Crossbills do (mostly eat seeds, not insects). Also don’t often visit residential areas, unlike the Red Crossbill who visits many people’s houses every day.
#5. What kind of trees do American Goldfinches like?
American Goldfinches mainly eat seeds from coniferous and pine trees!! And also fruit. Such as hawthorn, mountain ash; and berries. Such as juniper, dogwood berries, blueberry.
#6. Is there another bird that looks like a cardinal?
No, a cardinal is the only bird that looks like a cardinal. The other birds’ colors and patterns are very different from a cardinal’s. Someone says the blue jay bird looks like but it is not. Blue jay is not a red bird.
#7. What other bird beside a cardinal is red?
A Pine Grosbeak is red and has a black/white/black pattern on the front and back. The front is white, the middle is black & the back is white. So that also makes it look like a cardinal. A Pine Siskin is orange-red! And a Black-headed Grosbeak is pinkish-red.
#8. What other bird beside a cardinal doesn’t have any white dots?
The Black-backed Woodpecker doesn’t have any white dots on its wings or tail feathers. A Red Crossbill doesn’t have any either. But a Pine Grosbeak does have some white spots on its chest feathers. So it looks different from cardinals.
#9. What gray bird looks like a cardinal?
A European Starling looks like a cardinal. Because it is gray. It also eats fruit that is similar to the American Cardinal’s favorite food! So both characters of the European Starling bird are very similar to the cardinal bird.
#10. When do baby cardinals turn red?
Baby cardinals turn red after 4 weeks of hatching as young cardinals. It keeps their red color forever. An immature cardinal is yellow with a red bill. A young bird of a baby cardinal costs the same as an adult one. But it is more expensive. Because it will be bigger and more colorful when it gets older!
This post has been a great trip around the world to explore 8 birds that look like cardinals but are not. We hope this article was helpful and enjoyed your time with us today!
If you are looking to learn more about birds or need help identifying one, don’t worry. Check out our other similar articles on our BirdEver blog.