Jul 14, 2009

Red Alert: Some Notes on Cardinals

For true birders this will be old news and somewhat mushy. But for novices, maybe the sketches are interesting.

One male cardinal won’t allow another to share the feeders and yard, though they share comfortably with other birds. I think it’s been each spring for a few years that I’ve seen two males challenging each other; maybe the females also stake out territory, but I haven’t seen it.

I have seen a male cardinal face off against a blue jay twice his size and win—much more bravado than physical contact. Still, the cardinal had been at the feeder first and was not going to give ground.

Mister and Mrs. check out the safety of the yard before they settle onto the platform feeder or the grass. One lights on a pine branch or the eaves trough on the garage to stand guard and wait for the other to drop to a lower level. Usually each partner goes to one or two lookout stations before both settle down to feed for a minute or two. Then they leave and come back several times, but the cardinals are usually the last to leave, as dusk almost becomes night.

More than once I’ve watched Mister stuff food into the beak of Mrs., to the point where it’s more than she can handle and has to spit it out or turn away. It’s one of the most comical courtship rituals I’ve ever seen, until I walk around at a mall.

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