Northern Cardinal

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Images from North Central Texas 2005 - 2007


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The older cardinals have been living here since before 2004. The older male has darker red feathers while the younger male has a brighter red. The older female has darker, dingier feathers as well. The juveniles or 1st winter cardinals have less red and lighter gray coloring. They are very similar to a pyrrhuloxia which can be differentiated by the yellow beak instead of the cardinal bright orange beak.

During non-mating season, the male cardinal does not usually share the food dish with his mate. He eats out of the dish while she has to scavenge for seed on the deck below or she has to come to the feeder when he is not there. During mating season, the males entire attitude toward the female changes. He will pick up seed and feed it to his female mate which looks like a kiss when he is very gently giving her the seed (usually a half peanut or sunflower seed.) 

Although he helps to build the nest, she usually ends up doing all of the sitting on the eggs while he is off doing his own thing. In my yard, she does all of the feeding of the babies and the male has been known to try to distract her from the babies to start mating again and she has been known to abandon the babies.

Another problem cardinals have are Cowbirds which destroy some of the Cardinal eggs and substitute their own. The eggs are nearly identical. After the parasitical cowbird is born and raised by the cardinals, the cowbird takes up company with other cowbirds even though they were raised by cardinals.

Cardinals are inordinately intelligent and demonstrate very high analytical and technical skills. They often study the situation from a distance before approaching.

Mocking Birds and Cardinals do not get along well, even though the mocking birds rarely eat at a feeder. It seems to be a territorial issue. On the other hand, sparrows tend to flock around cardinals at a feeding station and appear to have a sense of security when the cardinals are present. Normally, the cardinal will challenge aggressive birds but will not stay at a feeder if cowbirds are present.

Cardinals are a favorite guest at bird feeders. They should be fed and protected year round since they usually remain during the winter. Raw, shelled, unsalted peanut halves and sunflower seeds are a favorite meal.

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Property of Midge C.

Copyright 2007 (All rights reserved)