The brilliant red Northern Cardinal is a splash of color in winter’s drab landscape, flying from feeder to ground to bird bath and back to the feeder and calling a familiar, “chit, chit, chit.” Of all the non-migrating songbirds the male cardinal stands out the most, offering a stark contrast against a snowy background. In addition to his bright red color the cardinal sports a crested head with a black chin and neck. Even the brown female glows with her red accents and sharp crest. And because they’re year-round residents, their bright red color symbolizes the beauty and warmth of the holiday season.
A social bird, winter finds the cardinals traveling and feeding in flocks of a dozen or more while foraging for food that consists mainly of seeds and fruit, with a supplement of insects. This behavior is in sharp contrast to the mating and nesting season when they move around in pairs, the female answering her mate’s song while sitting on the nest. She is, after all, one of the few female American songbirds that sing. Not only does she share song phrases with her mate, but her songs are often longer and somewhat more complex.
Cardinals tend to be a little skittish, but with patience and the right approach you can soon make them regular visitors to your backyard feeders. They’re ground feeders by nature so start by putting some safflower or sunflower seed on the ground beneath your platform feeder. Be sure to offer water, especially during the winter season. Further entice them by providing dense foliage, such as shrubs, pine trees or similar landscape ornamentals. The foliage offers nesting possibilities as well as protection from predators. With the expansion of backyards and the growing interest in watching and feeding birds throughout the years, the Northern Cardinal has thrived in the urban environment. So invite the beauty of winter into your backyard and enjoy the beautiful cardinal just outside your window.
Article Contributed by Customer Carolyn Marshall