Tuesday, January 25, 2011

What's all the ruckus?

There's some weirdo in a red suit on my porch. He's eating sunflower seeds and screaming death threats. He's even wearing a black mask!

Rats, he flew away.

It was a cardinal, and boy, was he beautiful. There's something especially cheering about a flash of red feathers when the world is covered in snow.

I always make sure to put sunflower seeds in our feeders. Minus the hulls, when possible, because they leak an icky enzyme that can damage ornamental plants. However they're served, the seeds don't last long when the cardinals come calling.

Probably the most easily recognized of backyard birds, Cardinalis cardinalis can be found throughout a large chunk of North America. From Mexico to Minnesota, these fabulously fledged little guys can be seen year-round in parks, yards, and wooded areas. When you see that flash of red, look closely at the shrubs nearby for a glimpse of olive brown. While Mrs. Cardinal's feathers aren't as bright as her husband's, she is a pretty lady all the same.

Like other male birds, the sweet call of the cardinal masks a more serious note. While we hear "Tra-la-la, oh what a beautiful morning!", the actual translation is quite different.

"Oh, yeah? Come over here and say that! I'm hottie! I'm a hottie! I'm a hottie! WHAT?! I'll rip your beak off, you jerk! Hey, baby! Check out my nest. Nest! Nest! Get away from that feeder, buddy! Those are MY seeds!"

And so on.

If you'd like to invite cardinals into your yard, you don't need to roll out a red carpet. Put up some feeders, add a water element, and plant a few shrubs for cover. If you're in their range, you may soon hear the self-congratulating cry of "Pur-dy, pur-dy, pur-dy!" right outside your window. While you're waiting, click here for a really neat story about How the Red Bird Got His Color.

Who's in your yard today?


  1. We have lots of Cardinals in our yard here in Virginia. They add a lot of color to dismal winter days. And, of course, I love the birds on the bat--emblem of the St. Louis Cardinals!



  2. A herd of deer were in our yard the other day, no thanks to the dog, who was lying low! My mother is the bird-lady: She feeds them on her side porch, just outside the French doors, so she always has a mixed flock. Our favorite is the tufted titmouse. She has cardinals, goldfinches, indigo buntings--so many! And squirrels, of course. lol!

    Marian Allen


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