Embers From the Fire
A weekly blog by Deacon Dan Wagnitz for the Quad-Parish Community
Of Cardinals – 2/26/2021
Last Sunday my wife Michelle asked whether the cardinals should start singing soon? They usually do start in February. I replied that I hadn’t heard any cardinals yet, probably because of the recent chilly weather I hadn’t spent too much time outdoors. I got up early the very next morning. I had gone out to shovel the three inches of snow that fell during the night when, right on cue, a cardinal’s clear song broke the silence. He didn’t even wait for the sun as the east was just pinking.
I am partial to cardinals. Their color, their crested heads, their song – everything about them seems unique and intriguing. Surely the scarlet of the males catches the eye, especially against the white of winter, but the females, though more subdued, actually have more complex coloring – at least to my eye. It’s interesting isn’t it, that in nature it’s the unique that catches our interest, but in people the unique tends to put us on guard.
When we first built our house in 1991, we didn’t have any trees in the yard. You could still see old corn stalk stubble amongst the wildflowers and waist high grasses when we purchased the property. So, for the first ten years or so any cardinal sighting was usually down the road along the woods. Now that we and our neighbors all have some good-sized trees in our yards, cardinal sightings are much more frequent. I hope that means that the population of cardinals is increasing; I think the world is better with more cardinals in it.
Besides the standout coloring, cardinals are perfect birds for fledgling birders as they are so easy to spot. If you hear one singing just look at the very top of the tree where you heard the song. You’ll find him there perched on his throne, the taller the tree the better.
Cardinals are frequent guests at our birdfeeders. In fact, we have a resident pair that is here every day. I hear that geese and swans and cranes are thought to be unique in the bird world because they supposedly mate for life. If that is true, it certainly isn’t because of their size. Turkeys are bigger and they certainly don’t form any lasting bond. Except for the mating season (April – May in our neck of the woods) males travel with males and the females raise the young on their own or with the assistance of one or two other hens. The bird books don’t mention the possibility of song birds mating for longer periods. But the pair that comes here every day is always together. When one shows up at the feeder you only have to wait a few seconds for the other to show. We have other cardinals that come to feed as well but almost always as singles; it is just these two that seem to be “together”. Maybe it’s just sentimental, but I like to think of them that way.