Family Cardinals (Cardinalidae)

Least Concern

Vermilion Cardinal (Cardinalis phoeniceus)


French: Cardinal vermillon German: Purpurkardinal Spanish: Cardenal de la Guajira

Cardinalis phœniceus


, 1838,

“the country south of the Bay of Honduras”; error = north Venezuela


Has in the past been placed in separate genus, variously Richmondena and Pyrrhuloxia. Relationship of this species and C. cardinalis to C. sinuatus the subject of varying opinions, but molecular work suggests present species and last-named are sister#R. Race robinsoni was proposed for birds of Margarita I, but all claimed differences fall within range of variation of mainland birds, except perhaps the normally shorter crest. Monotypic.


Extreme N Colombia (Guajira Peninsula) and N Venezuela (NW Zulia E through Falcón to SE Lara; NE Anzoátegui E to Sucre, including Margarita I).

Descriptive notes

19 cm. Male has crown bright red, elongated crown feathers bright red at base with slightly darker tips; face and ear-coverts bright red, with narrow black band around bill... read more


Song a pleasant series of loud whistled notes, “cheer o-weet-toweet toweet toweet” and... read more


Inhabits semi-arid scrub with various cacti and spiny leguminous bushes. Absent from better-watered... read more

Food and feeding

Few data recorded; of 80 emetic samples from Sucre (Venezuela), 83% contained invertebrate remains (six species identified), 48% fleshy... read more


Only six nests so far described, all on Margarita I. Season Jun to early Aug, with completed nests by mid-Jun and nestlings late Jul to... read more


Apparently sedentary.

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened. Restricted-range species: present in Caribbean Colombia and Venezuela EBA. Quite common in suitable habitat in some parts of range. Frequently... read more

Recommended citation

Brewer, D. (2019). Vermilion Cardinal (Cardinalis phoeniceus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 18 June 2019).