October 23, 2009
The Northern Cardinal
So, the cool weather is definitely coming (and fast). I've made mention of some arriving winter birds already and yet another sign of things to come is that the Northern Cardinals of the area are also beginning to flock together. Through the warmer months they are quite territorial and one pair will dominate and protect this feeding area as their own, for their own. Now though, more show up, it's not quite a fight, they are sharing the feeders.
The Northern Cardinal is probably my most favorite of the backyard visitors. I've had an admiration for them for as long as I can remember; going back to the early years of schooling and doing animal projects. What is my fascination with them? Not really sure, just always been attracted to them. I'm not the biggest fan of the color red unless it's blood splattering in one of my gore movies; but there is something quite striking when seeing one of these birds in my travels... I just have to stop and admire him for a while. I am stunned when I see people just pass him by and taking no notice.
So, when I put out my first bird feeder here... two weeks later, my first arrival of any bird species was a pair of Northern Cardinals. I freaked with joy! Last winter I had the pleasure of no less than 12 Cardinals at my feeders one afternoon... 9 males and 3 females. They do not migrate so we get them all year long.
For those not knowing... the bright red ones are the males; the females are a reddish brown but still quite pretty, just not as flashy. Cardinals do not molt into dull plumages so they are still breath-taking in the winter... looking even brighter against the snowy landscapes.
Female Cardinal pictured below...
I've heard many reports and queries of people having a male Cardinal sit at their window and peck at it non-stop. Why? They see their reflection, thinking it's another male in their territory and attack it (not a very proud moment for my boy I tell ya).
The Cardinals are the earliest of risers and will be the first to the feeders. Funny enough they are also the latest of the settlers in the evening and are the last to hit the feeders again just before sunset.
The range for Cardinals is growing a little every year due to more people taking part in the pleasure of backyard bird feeding and climate change is another factor.
The calls of the male are very distinct and when you familiarize yourself with a few of them you will surely know of their presence in the area long before you see them.
Cardinals love Black Oil Sunflower Seed. They also enjoy Safflower which most birds do not. So if you would like to try to just attract Cardinals to your backyard (providing they live in your area)... a feeder with just Safflower might do the trick.
Cardinals are also insect eaters. So one more reason to not mind having a few buzzing around your property helping with the insect population.
Adding native plants to your property can also help attract these birds. Mulberry, Hackberry, Blackberry, Wild Grape, Viburnums and Dogwood are a few of what they may feast upon. I planted two types of Dogwood this summer. Last year I planted 3 Viburnums and one is named "Cardinal Candy".
How one cannot enjoy birds in the backyard is a mystery to me. The Cardinal, as an example and topic of this blog, is great to watch. The songs of this bird add a sound-track to my backyard activities. One needs not to read a book to learn about this bird... just pay attention when happily co-existing with them. It's also their world and people must realize this.
A male House Sparrow and a kind female Northern Cardinal enjoying a snack together on a fence post. Nice to see them get along so well.
This would have been a great shot if it came out clear... I just can't delete this photo despite the fuzziness.
This male Cardinal knows his place around the male Red Winged Blackbird... wait your turn buddy.
An evening shot of a male at the back of the yard... sure looks like a painting.