Sycamore Grove Farm, Madison County
We have a lot of cardinals on our farm. They are regulars at our bird feeders and also out in the field. I will often see 10 or up to 20 cardinals on my morning walk. The male’s bright color is truly eye-catching. Surprisingly comfortable around people, cardinals feed and sing within a few feet of you if you remain still and quiet. That makes them easy to observe up-close and admire the male’s brilliant red plumage and the interaction between the male and female birds.
Besides being the State Bird of Virginia, the Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) is also the state bird of Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, North Carolina, and West Virginia. Not to be outdone by that alone, the cardinal is the mascot of two professional teams: the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team and the Arizona Cardinals NFL team.
Cardinals are known by a lot of common names, including redbird, common cardinal, and red cardinal. An interesting thing about cardinals is that both the male and female sing. While 64% of female birds around the world sing, it’s more common in tropical areas. Cardinals are monogamous and stay together year round. Female cardinals sing as part of their strong instinct to defend their breeding territory. And females have more elaborate songs than males and may sing up to two dozen different tunes. During egg incubation (11 to 13 days), the male brings food to the female. Once the eggs hatch, the female varies her song to the male – either signaling the baby birds need food (“come to the nest”) or warning him not to come (she may have spotted a predator). Scientists have been able to isolate specific female songs and identify what she is trying to communicate to her mate.
Here are some other interesting facts about cardinals:
Birding tip: For a list of bird identification books and apps, check out BIRDA (https://birda.org). BIRDA is a birdwatching app and community aimed at people who want to deepen their connection with nature and join a community that can support their interest in birding.
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