Cardinal Story

We are fortunate to live in an area with many species of birds. There are majestic raptors like the hawks, eagles, and owls we regularly see gliding over the prairies and dry creek beds with an eye out for a rodent meal.

Then, there are the songbirds. Over the years I’ve started to love the songbirds. When we first moved to the midwest, I was attracted to the red-winged black birds and goldfinches that graced our yards. Then, I noticed the eastern blue birds and the juxtaposition of colors on their feathers. We even made houses for them one year (2008-2009) in garden club. Common robins filled in the dull days, especially in the spring. Cardinals were always around too, but lately I’ve noticed them more.

Several years ago, my inlaws passed away within a year of each other. First, my father-in-law passed, then almost a year later, my mother-in-law passed away. We joke when we see cardinals now, based on the legend that they are family members coming back to visit. Some believe that seeing a cardinal means a loved one is checking on you, making sure you feel you are not alone. Over the last few years we’ve enjoyed saying that “Norma”or “Ted” is visiting on the occasion that we’ve seen cardinals (sometimes on the date of their passing) in our yard.

Earlier last week, we started to hear a knocking at the window in the room we use for odd jobs like sewing or record keeping. It used to be our son’s room, one of two bedrooms in the front of the house. I couldn’t figure out what it was at first. But then, I saw wings zip past the window when I went to look for the cause of the sound. Sure enough, a few minutes later, a female cardinal came back and sat in the hydrangea we have growing in front of the window. After a few more minutes she flew at the window again, pecking the glass with her beak.

For hours and days, this has gone on. I only saw the female cardinal, not a male. Then, during a brief snow storm, I saw a male cardinal sitting in some spruce trees we have on the north side of our house. Ah, her mate, I said to myself and snapped a few photos.

The day after that both cardinals, male and female, were sitting in the hydrangea. The female was periodially flying at the window. And, the male was sitting there watching her or flying away as if disgusted with her activity. When she sat still, she looked around, as if she were looking for him. I was able to snap soem quick photos of this pair both singally and together, all while having a good laugh that it was my in-laws trying to get inside and away from the frigid winter air.

Now, when we hear the knocking, we just laugh and say ” Norma and Ted are at it again” – and my husband and I enjoy the visit!

Here are a few facts about cardinals:

  • They are monogamous, usually mating for life.
  • The male brings food to the female while she sits on the eggs in the nest.
  • They do not migrate and are found in northern climates year round.
  • Males have bright red feathers, while the female are a light brown with streaks or tinges of red.
  • They like to nest in low shrubbery. (1-15 feet off the ground).
  • They typically do not reuse nests from year to year but might return to the same area.
  • The female flies into the window to fend off an intruder (another female cardinal) which is really just her own reflection.

I hope you enjoy the songbirds as they make their way back into the northern latitudes.

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