The Red-crested cardinal has a distinctive red head and crest, with the rest of its body being black and gray. This species, native to Brazil, is a songbird from the tanagers family. Despite the similar name, it is not a close relative of the true cardinal family of Cardinalidae. It is also known as the Brazilian cardinal. It measures 7.5 inches long and in captivity lives for up to 15 years.
These birds occur throughout the middle part of South America. This species does not migrate but is found year-round from central Bolivia south to Paraguay and in northeastern and central Argentina, throughout Uruguay and in the very south of Brazil. They have been introduced to Puerto Rico and Hawaii. In the wild, they inhabit a semi-open environment of scattered shrubbery and trees, especially near water.
These colorful birds are diurnal and often are seen in small groups or pairs, and outside the breeding season will form larger flocks. They typically forage low in shrubbery or on the ground, and in urban environments may become quite tame, approaching humans for food. Males can become aggressive during the mating season, vigorously chasing intruders. Both male and female use their crests for showing emotion. In flight, their path is undulating. This species has a melodious song which features a range of whistles and musical chirps of varied pitch. A single song only lasts 1-3 seconds, but a song may be repeated over and over.
Red-crested cardinals are monogamous and pairs mate for life. During the breeding season, birds remain exclusively in pairs. Mates maintain continuous contact by means of vocalizations and duets. Courtship displays involve strutting, fanning their tails and clicking their bills. The breeding season runs from October and November each year. The male constructs a cup-shaped nest of grass and twigs, and lines the cup with finer material such as rootlets, plant fibers and fur. The nest is located in the fork of a tree, typically 6-20 feet from the ground. Each year a pair raises 1-2 broods. 2-5 eggs are laid each breeding season and they are incubated for 12-13 days. The juveniles leave the nest 2-3 weeks after they hatch. Once they leave the nest, juveniles may stay in the family group for as long as a year until they find a mate.
These birds are not regarded as threatened or endangered, but can be susceptible to loss of habitat. As these birds are popular pets, bird poaching is likely to be a much bigger threat, but this has not had a significant impact yet on overall population numbers.
According to IUCN Red List, the Red-crested cardinal is common throughout its large range but no overall population estimate is available. According to the IUCN, the total population size of the species in Japan is 100-10,000 introduced breeding pairs that have been introduced. Currently, Red-crested cardinals are classified as Least Concern (LC) and their numbers today remain stable.