The Desert Cardinal is a year round resident of desert scrub, mesquite thickets, in the U.S. states of Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas and woodland edges in Mexico. It occupies the southwestern half of Texas, approximately the southern third of New Mexico, and southeastern region of Arizona. Its range flows further south inhabiting areas from the west to east coast of Mexico north of the Sierra Madre del Sur, Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt and Isthmus of Tehuantepec, whilst excluding the Sierra Madre Occidental. The Desert Cardinal has reportedly been seen as far away from its dominant range as Costa Mesa, California in Orange County.
The cardinal is relatively nonmigratory, though it may occasionally stray north. The Pyrrhuloxia prefers habitat along stream beds. In areas where the range of the Desert and Northern Cardinal overlap, breeding may occur. There seems to be no conflicts between the species as none have yet been reported.