These are robust, seed-eating birds, with strong bills. They are
typically associated with open woodland. The sexes usually have
distinctly different plumages; the family is named for the red colour (like
that of a Catholic cardinal's vestments) of males of the type species,
the Northern Cardinal.
The "buntings" in this family are sometimes generically
known as "tropical buntings" (though not all live in
tropics) or "North American buntings" (though there are
other buntings in North America) to distinguish them from the true
buntings. Likewise the grosbeaks in this family are sometimes called
"cardinal-grosbeaks" to distinguish them from other grosbeaks.
name "cardinal-grosbeak" can also apply to this family
as a whole.
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