Monday, December 13, 2010

Birdie Birdie Birdie

Two pictures of a female Northern Cardinal at the feeder.  The female is often neglected in photos because her coloring isn't the stunning colors of the male.  If you would enlarge (by double clicking) these photos, you will notice her colors are truly beautiful in their own way.

I had two pair (2 males & 2 females) at my squirrel feeder yesterday during the blizzard conditions.  All four were ground feeding on the crushed corn.

And then, there are the little guys that make the Christmas cards, calenders and photo opportunities.  

Northern Cardinals Cardinalis cardinalis are especially obvious during our snowy winter months.  They never fail to stop me in my tracks as a pass a window and catch that little spot of red.

Although the Cardinal is an attention getter, they are not all that big, measuring only about 8-9 inches long.  Although our visual perception is "RED", the male has a black face and the female is buff-brown.  Both have the red crest (top knot) and red beak.

They have a very distinctive song, one I characterize as "birdie birdie birdie".  Both the female and male are songsters and sing all year.  They have a "chink" call.     

To attract Cardinals, provide a woodland habitat, thickets, brushy swamps and/or full gardens. 

The female use thickets to build a deep cup nest of twigs, leaves and plant fibers.  She crushes twigs with her beak until they are pliable, then turns in the nest to bend the twigs around her body and push them into a cup shape with her feet. The cup has four layers: coarse twigs (and sometimes bits of trash) covered in a leafy mat, then lined with grapevine bark and finally grasses, stems, rootlets, and pine needles.  The nest typically takes 3 to 9 days to build; the finished product is 2-3 inches tall, 4 inches across, with an inner diameter of about 3 inches The female will lay 3 or 4 pale green eggs, spotted with red-brown.  They will raise two or three broods a year, feeding their young as late as September. 

Cardinals are aggressive and do not migrate.  Seeds are their main diet although during breeding they eat insects.  They frequent feeders in the winter.  Cardinals are skittish and prefer feeders farther from humans and animals but given no choice, they will feed closer.      

These beauties were seldom seen north of the Ohio River in the 1880s.  By the 1920s, cardinals were common only in southern Illinois.  In the years since, thanks largely to widespread bird feeding, our Illinois State bird has steadily expanded its range and is now found in southern Canada. 

  • This species was named after the red robes worn by Roman Catholic cardinals.
  • The Northern Cardinal is a member of the finch family.
  • The male behaves territorially, marking out & defending his territory with song. 
  • During courtship, the male feeds seed to the female beak-to-beak.
  • It was once prized as a pet, but its sale as cage birds is now banned in the United States by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.
  • Mated pairs often travel together.

No comments:

Post a Comment