Red Robin vs Cardinal Compared, Whats the Difference?

Cardinals and Red Robins are two well-known avian members of the bird family that reside in shrublands, pine forests, and the wild.

Regardless of the fact that Red Robins & Cardinals share a similar habitat, they are very different species.

The most significant difference between the two species is that Red Robins are larger than Cardinals. Another notable distinction is that the Cardinals have a more colorful body than Red Robins.

Furthermore, because their distribution overlaps in many locations, these two species are frequently found in the same environment.

As a result, in this post, you will discover everything you need to know about each of these species, making it easier for you to distinguish them. Here is a Red Robin vs Cardinal comparison.

Main Difference Between a Robin and Cardinal

American Robin

The color of each species is one of the most noticeable variations; whereas American robins have a vivid orange chest and gray back, male northern cardinals have bright red coloration, and females are pale brown.

Ornithologists also notice differences in the size of each species. Cardinals are smaller than robins in size. Although these are the most noticeable differences, we can find many more in practically every aspect of both birds, as we shall see below.

1. Color

The underside of American robins is orange, with this being the most noticeable. It is grey and brown throughout the remainder of its body, except for its head, which is significantly darker than the rest of the body.

The males of cardinals have substantially stronger coloring than the females, in this example, a vivid red hue. Females, on the other hand, have light brown color with reddish reflections on their wings, tail, and crest.

2. Size and Shape

Robins have a spherical body shape with a length of 9-11 inches between their legs and heads.

Cardinals have a similar shape to Robins; however, they are somewhat longer despite their smaller size. On average, they are 8.3 to 9.3 inches in length.

3. Beak

The beak of an American robin is tiny and delicate, giving it an elongated shape with a little upward curve. Its beak is fashioned as a way to make hunting its food, which is mainly little insects, simpler. Its beak is totally yellow in hue.

Cardinals have a cylindrical beak with an orange-colored cone shape at the base. They have an invisible circular black mark on the face surrounding the beak.

Although this species feeds on insects, its beak does not exhibit the characteristic curve of hunting birds.

4. Wings

Adult robins have rounded wingtips and a 12 to 16-inch wingspan (30-40 centimeters). When opened, northern cardinals have rounded wingtips and a wingspan of 10 to 12 inches (25-30 cm), which is much less than that of robins.

5. Tail

The tail of an American robin is shaped like a spreading fan and is totally black or dark brown.

Northern cardinals have a rounded tail that, like the rest of their body, is brilliant red in color; however, females’ tails are pale brown with reddish reflections.

Northern cardinals have a shorter tail than robins because they are smaller.

6. Flying Techniques

When American robins take to the air, a white patch between the belly and the tail is a simple way to tell them apart. They fly at a straight and somewhat quick pace.

Northern cardinals fly in a distinctive manner, with their wings beating in a distinct and powerful manner.

7. Flocks

American robins are very gregarious birds that seek shelter in groups, especially during the winter. Northern cardinals, on either side, frequently pick a spouse with whom they will live following mating season. This type of bird gathers in tiny family groups at this time to find a companion.

8. Call

American robins create a variety of noises to attract females or to alert other males that they have entered their area. Northern cardinals, like robins, utilize their noises to attract females, but they also employ them to ward off predators. 

Because the northern cardinal learns its songs, the tunes differ by location. They have very similar music, which is what causes people to mix them up.

The sound of cardinals, according to experts, is more appealing and slower.

9. Lifespan

Northern robins, on the other hand, have had less luck. Their life expectancy is between 5 and 6 years; however, they usually have shorter lives because nature is full of risks. In the wild, they normally survive for two years.

Cardinals in the north live significantly longer than robins in the south, with a life expectancy of up to 15 years.

However, like robins, they do not survive as long in nature as a general rule, averaging approximately 3 years in their species.

10. Diet

These birds are omnivores, meaning they consume both plants and animals. Invertebrates make up the majority of their “carnivorous” diet; however, they do occasionally kill small animals. Earthworms, grasshoppers, & other insects are among the prey they catch.

Throughout their territory, they look for seeds, nuts, berries, and fruits. Berries and other fruits are among their favorite foods.

The food of the northern cardinal comprises mostly (up to 90%) weed seeds, cereals, and fruits. It’s a ground-based trough that forages for food by jumping between trees and vegetation.

Snails and insects like beetles, cicadas, and insects are also consumed, and their young are almost completely fed insects.

It prefers seeds that flake readily throughout the summer but is less discriminating during the winter when food is limited.

Is There a Similarity Between Red Robins and Cardinals?

Northern Cardinal

The answer is a loud no; they are not the same as we have previously determined. They vary in the great majority of their major characteristics.

In case it wasn’t evident, there are a few more distinctions that have nothing to do with its look, such as:

1. Name’s Origin

Both species were found by European immigrants in America, and their names were given to them by them. For example, the cherished robin of England gave robins their name, while robins are called after the gowns once worn by Church cardinals.

2. Behavior

Both species must be aware that when it comes to guarding their area against other birds, they are highly violent. They are also wary of their surroundings until they have become accustomed to them.

As previously said, robins seek shelter in the herd and congregate in big flocks throughout the year, particularly in the winter.

3. Habitat

Both species prefer to dwell in woods, shrubs, and wetlands, but they have become acclimated to our presence and have learned to coexist with us. As a result, they are frequently seen flying in metropolitan parks and gardens, courtyards, and suburban regions.

Robins and cardinals prefer to forage in open settings such as meadows or fields. When it comes to nesting, however, these birds prefer areas with thicker flora to protect their young from predators.

4. Distribution

Robins enjoy a wide range of habitats in North and Central America. This bird may be found across the southern United States, as well as Mexico. Northern Guatemala and northern Belize are other good places to look for them.

5. Migration

Despite the fact that many bird species migrate in the winter, both American robins and northern cardinals dwell year-round in the same area. It is not required for them to migrate in order to live.

6. Breeding

Between April and June, the American robin produces two clutches. They lay 5 to 6 eggs each lying and are blue or greenish-blue in color. The American female robin selects the site of her nests and constructs them from the center outward.

7. Predators

Hawks, shrikes, bald eagles, the golden eagle, and numerous owls, notably long-eared owls and eastern screech owls, are among the predators that feed on both species in North America.

If you are wondering about Birds That Look Like Robin but Aren’t then check this article out for similar looking birds.


As you can see, there are a lot of differences between the two species, which makes it easier to tell them apart.

You must remember that the fundamental difference between them is in their color and size and that with a little experience, you will be able to detect them merely by looking at them.

Listening to them is perhaps the most difficult way to tell them apart because, as previously said, their songs are quite identical save for a minor variance in tempo.


Are cardinals related to robins?

No, robins and cardinals don’t have anything in common.

Is a cardinal larger than a robin?

Yes, robins outnumber cardinals in size. They are, in fact, bigger than most other songbirds.

Is there any kind of bird that looks like a robin?

The American robin and the spotted towhee are remarkably similar in appearance. Spotted towhees, on the other hand, lack the white face characteristics that robins have.

Furthermore, spotted towhees possess a white chest with reddish-brown sides, whereas robins have a reddish-orange breast that is completely reddish-orange.

How can I know whether a bird is a cardinal?

Cardinals have a red body, a reddish bill, as well as a black face that surrounds the bill. Females have a pale brown overall coloration with warm reddish tinges on the wings, tail, and crown. They both have black faces and reddish-orange beaks.

Last Updated on March 22, 2023 by Lily Aldrin

About Lily Aldrin

I am Lily Aldrin. I attended Cornell University, where I obtained my degree to become an Ornithologist so I could pursue my love of these magnificent creatures in and out of their natural habitats.

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