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Red-Capped Cardinal


Order: Passeriformes
Genus & Species: Paroaria gularis
Family: Thraupidae


Listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List.


North and central South America, east of the Andes Mountains.


Tropical lowlands, swamps, mangroves, oxbow lakes, and other semi-open areas near water. Occasionally in lightly wooded wet habitats in towns or cities.


Diurnal, spending most of their time foraging for food. Observed singly, in pairs or family groups. They frequently perch on branches over water.


Unknown. Similar birds of the family Thraupidae live an average of 8 years in the wild and up to 10-12 years in captivity.


Diet in the Wild: Plant items ranging from seeds to berries, as well as insects or other arthropods. Forages mostly on ground and sometimes while perched on floating vegetation.

Diet in the Zoo: Mazuri Small Bird Maintenance pellets, Mazuri Parrot Breeder pellets, greens, fruit, and hard-boiled eggs.


Head and chin are crimson-colored, with glossy blue black upperparts, a black bib, white underparts, and black upper bill.


Mating pairs are monogamous. A mated pair defends permanent year-round territory and will promptly and aggressively expel intruders as soon as they are detected. Breeding and nesting occurs June – September, but may occur as early as February or March. A shallow open cup nest is constructed of dry grasses & twigs, rootlets, and ferns, with softer lining and placed in a bush or small tree overhanging water. Clutch is 2 or 3 eggs which vary in color from whitish to dull olive with brown flecks and blotches.

Ecology, Adaptations, Etc:

This bird can be nest parasitized by the shiny cowbird (Molothrus bonariensis), where the female shiny cowbird lays its eggs in the nest of another bird, or “host” species.  Some host parents recognize the cowbird egg as foreign and expel it from the nest.  Other hosts cannot differentiate the parasitic egg from its own eggs and will incubate the cowbird along with the other host’s eggs.  In most cases, the cowbird egg will hatch first and grow at a faster rate than the host bird’s chicks, and receive most of the food and care from the host parent at the expense of the host bird’s young.