Little Lady Redbird

Doodlewash and watercolor sketch of female cardinal redbird on white background

These past few weeks we’ve been visited by a little female cardinal so she’s the #NatureDoodlewash I’ve made today. She’ll come and sit for a moment on the metal fence of our terrace and stare at us briefly before flying off to somewhere else. She keeps returning hoping we’ve grown more interesting, but sadly we haven’t and so she quickly flies on. Typically the male cardinal gets all the glory with his signature red feathers that grace every other Christmas card, but I’ve always found the female version more interesting, particularly at dusk when she reveals her hidden hues.

Another cool trait of the female redbird is the gift of song. Only a few female North American songbirds can actually carry a tune, but the female cardinal enjoys singing, often while sitting in her nest. She’ll share song phrases with her mate in order to communicate about when to bring food to the nest. Not wanting to only be part of a duet, she’ll break out into a longer and slightly more complex song in an effort to upstage her husband. She may not make it on all the holiday cards, but she’s damn determined to prove she’s no slack when it comes to vocal performance.

Cardinals can appear a bit odd during spring and early summer when both sexes become a bit obsessed with protecting their territory. As their hormones rage, you’ll find them attacking their own reflections in windows and the shiny bumpers of cars. Which makes them appear perfectly insane. But that simply adds to their charm. And I can’t help but smile when I see our little guest come and greet us. I wish I could tell her that I think she’s actually the more beautiful of the pair. You’re beautiful and jungle red is so out this year, I want to say. But I don’t speak cardinal. So, I just stupidly nod in approval while admiring the subtle beauty of a little lady redbird.

Join me throughout the month of June on a virtual nature hike! Show everyone what you love most in nature with a watercolor sketch or painting and tag your images #NatureDoodlewash so we can all enjoy it with you! I’ll create a featured artist gallery of our global hike at the end of the month! 

World Watercolor Month is coming in July! Click here to learn more!


About the Doodlewash

M. Graham watercolors: Ultramarine Blue, Burnt Sienna, Gamboge, Azo Orange, Pyrrol Red and Neutral Tint. Lamy Safari Al Star pen with Platinum Carbon sepia ink in a 5″ x 8″ 140 lb. (300 gsm) Pentalic Aqua Journal

Profile photo of Charlie O'Shields
Creator of Doodlewash® and founder of World Watercolor Month™ (July) and World Watercolor Group™. Sharing daily watercolor illustrations and stories while proudly featuring talented artists from all over the world! If you’d like to be a guest artist on Doodlewash.com, contact me!
Published in By Charlie
61 Comments
  1. Sand Salt Moon 1 year ago

    We have a blackbird with red wings that has a half a song – I’d love to see this one in real life. Thanks for the intro!

  2. Catherine Johnson 1 year ago

    That is stunning, Charlie! I see tonnes of males but I don’t remember seeing a female. They are more interesting to look at. My favorite around here after the cardinal is an oreole but they don’t come by very often.

    • Author

      Thanks so much, Catherine! 😃💕Yeah, for some reason we’ve only seen this one female around and no male version. Ooooo Orioles are gorgeous!!

  3. beautiful bird Charlie! I have never, ever seen a Cardinal…..:( I have always been amazed by their color. I truly love the fact that you appreciate the female. I don’t even know what they sound like, now I need to google it and find out.

    • Author

      Thanks, Margaret! 😃💕And what?! You’ve never seen one? Wow…you need too, they’re stunning in person. A really lovely bird in both genders.. Hehe

  4. Tom Merriman 1 year ago

    What a gorgeous little visitor, Charlie! Very cute.

  5. Teresa Robeson 1 year ago

    LOL! We did have one of those crazy female cardinals that tried to peck our car mirrors. You sure captured this one’s beauty! ❤️

  6. Sharon Bonin-Pratt 1 year ago

    Sung to the tune of The Entertainer:

    Oh, my handsome male of the bright red crest,
    When you come round to visit our sticky nest
    Won’t you bring us a morsel of food,
    A little nut or a seed,
    Perhaps a berry or weed,
    Something to sink our pointy beaks into
    I know you’re tired as can be
    Have posed all day for photography
    But we’re hungry you see
    And I’ve been minding kiddies
    Not a minute to change this old dress
    So if you want to preen my golden plumage
    I suggest you appear at the tree top cottage
    And remember to daddy is to be
    More than a red-hued birdy
    And start to hunt with more finesse.

    Well, all that singing has put a little orange into my tail feathers.

  7. Jacob 1 year ago

    Beautiful doodlewash of a beautiful bird – I’m loving the funky crest! How lucky you are to be afforded her company -she can’t think you’re that dull if she continues to visit! 😉 And the image of one scuffling with a reflection is quite funny. Perfectly insane indeed, but not exclusive to birds: my (perfectly insane) cat Oscar has swiped and hissed at his own reflection many a time! 😛

    • Author

      Thanks Jacob!! 😃Haha! You need to get a video of Oscar doing that…it’s YouTube gold!! Or at least post it for us!! Hehe

      • Jacob 1 year ago

        Oh, it so would! No doubt he’d enjoy the celebrity! Sadly though he doesn’t do it so much now – he’s quite old, and is less for boxing and more for sleeping!

  8. Jodi 1 year ago

    I’m always drawn to the beauty of the female cardinal too. We have tons of them here, and I love them. You captured the essence so wonderfully Charlie O!

  9. memadtwo 1 year ago

    I love their song, too. They haven’t been around this year though. Maybe later in the summer…(K)

  10. Teri C 1 year ago

    You painted her beautiful with all the love showing through. I like ver watching them in the spring as they flit about singing and acting coy with each other.

    • Author

      Thanks so much, Teri! 😃💕 Yeah, they’re really fun to watch! It’s nice they seem to like to hang out around our terrace. Hehe

  11. Nancy 1 year ago

    We have a pair of Cardinals that have been hanging out in our yard too. I do think the lady is more attractive in her understated style. Your rendition is lovely too. 😊

    • Author

      Thanks so much, Nancy! 😃💕 Glad you agree! The one that visits comes at what photographers call ‘the golden hour’ and the sun at that time of day reveals so much color! It’s beautiful!

  12. Sharon Mann 1 year ago

    Gorgeous and subtle colors, Charlie. And a very interesting narrative.

  13. Carmel Campbell 1 year ago

    Nice detail and wonderful color!

  14. GeorgieMoon 1 year ago

    I love your Cardinal bird. I’m sure we don’t have any bird like this in the UK, but we have a Robin redbreast which appears on our Christmas cards.

    • Author

      Thanks so much! 😃💕 Glad you liked this! The robin is beautiful as well! I actually almost doodlewashed one of those tonight! Hehe

  15. We have a lot of cardinals visiting us too and they make a lot of noise but I have never hear them sing. Maybe they are just warning me away for the nest. Love your girl bird Charlie.

    • Author

      Thanks so much, Beth! 😃💕I think they refer to almost any sound as singing. Hehe…but yeah…they might have been warning ya! Apparently they’re crazy territorial which I didn’t know!

  16. Jill Kuhn 1 year ago

    Lovely female Cardinal, Charlie! ❤️ We don’t get Cardinals here in the Pacific Northwest so enjoy your doodlewash even more! 😍🎨💕

    • Author

      Awww thanks, Jill!! 😃💕Yeah, I didn’t realize they didn’t end up out west until I saw a map of their migration. Well glad you enjoyed my virtual version!! Hehe😃

  17. I love cardinals, just wish I could see one for real, sadly not a chance, they don’t live here! Lovely doodlewash Charlie 😀

  18. M. L. Kappa 1 year ago

    She’s lovely, Charlie!

  19. itsmyhusbandandme 1 year ago

    Would love to see her. Great pic.
    JP

  20. I’m so sad for all the people who don’t have cardinals! Charlie, you’ve done a beautiful job with this mama Cardinal, I just love them too. They are much more beautiful than the males. So glad you agree. I just love your posts, never knew that about the singing, always learn something here, Charlie. I may just try painting a cardinal, thanks for the inspiration. ❤️❤️❤️

    • Author

      Thanks, Laura! 😃💕I’m starting to realize I may be taking these lovely birds for granted having always grown up seeing them! You should totally paint a cardinal!! It would be brilliant!!

  21. ikenna. c 1 year ago

    nice little bird

  22. YesterdayAfter 1 year ago

    Oh Charlie this is a great work beautiful bird I love the colors and the shadow! Well done! <3 😉

  23. culturedpuggle 1 year ago

    I really enjoy this photo, very talented!

  24. Cathe 1 year ago

    She’s a beauty and I agree her muted palette is so pretty. I love that you used sepia ink on her, she glows!

    • Author

      Thanks Cathe!😃💕 I’m really loving the sepia ink… I keep thinking it’s so dark and close to black and then I realize how different it is. Cool effects!

  25. […] was inspired by Charlie at Doodlewash, who recently painted a female cardinal and it was just lovely.    It made me want to try a bird painting, as I’ve not done one in awhile.   I always […]

  26. Snehal Kank 1 year ago

    She is so lovely 😍

  27. artandmoondreams 1 year ago

    Gorgeous painting of a delightful subject. As always, your post is both informative and wonderfully entertaining. Thank you for being a bright part of the day.

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