Cheer cheer, birdie birdie


Decorate your snow white landscape with bright red birds.

The male Northern Cardinal is perhaps responsible for getting more people to open up a field guide than any other bird. They’re a perfect combination of familiarity, conspicuousness, and style: a shade of red you can’t take your eyes off.

female cardinal snow

Even the brown females sport a sharp crest and warm red accents. Cardinals don’t migrate and they don’t molt into a dull plumage, so they’re still breathtaking in winter’s snowy backyards. In summer, their sweet whistles are one of the first sounds of the morning.

Along with Mourning Doves, they arrive earlier in the morning and later in evening than many other birds. Crepuscular. Lately I have looked out the kitchen window in winter twilight to see four, five, six males materialized in the blueberry bushes and scrubby underbrush of the wood’s edge. If she flicks her tail or flies, I may spot a female or two also.

That is probably my favorite thing about cardinals – their ornamental aspect, decorative spots of colors to the landscape. As living individual birds, I don’t really have much feeling for them.

Northern Cardinal

Chew, chew.

They like black oil sunflower seeds a lot. And they will eat my suet dough.

They don’t seem particularly bright (other than color-wise) or interesting to me. I don’t connect with them as I do with other birds.

Bluebirds come close when I am outside, or look at me through the window, practically begging for favorite foods. Chickadees chatter meaningfully when I go outside (I think they have a name for me, or for what I am doing) and seem ready to land on my hand or head any moment, some day. Even the irritating blue jays enjoy pretending to be afraid of me, being “chased off” by the sight of me, returning quickly to thieve and stuff their faces with more peanuts.

I am in the minority, I know – many people love, love, love cardinals. The Northern Cardinal is the state bird of seven states.

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