Christmas Day a cardinal “joined us” as we ate brunch, by which I mean he could be spied out in the woods outside our dining room window. (I count that as joining). My mother had a great fondness for cardinals and both my parents loved to watch birds. Beyond the sliding glass doors of their dining room, they maintained a bird bath and bird feeder. My father could make bird calls. Sadly, all of these things I failed to appreciate at the time.
Since Christmas I have explored the topic of cardinals. On one site I found the comment that “The male Northern Cardinal is perhaps responsible for getting more people to open up a field guide than any other bird.” Further it was stated, “Cardinals don’t migrate and they don’t molt into a dull plumage, so they’re still breathtaking in winter’s snowy backyards. In summer, their sweet whistles are one of the first sounds of the morning.” The female Northern Cardinal is one of only a few female songbirds that sing, sometimes while sitting on the nest. This perhaps gives the male the information of what food to bring.
A few years ago a friend of mine had an experience with a cardinal that seemed totally inexplicable: the bird kept attacking her window every day. I learned in my reading that this is not unusual. Males and females will both do this, attacking windows or car mirrors or shiny bumpers. This happens most often in the spring or early summer when they are defending their territory from intruders and mistakenly identify their reflection as another bird to defend against. Most often these attacks subside as the aggressive hormones subside but there have been instances of this going on for months. In my friend’s case, when the bird persisted, she eventually named him “Red Fred” and began to value his presence.
Beliefs about cardinals have generated folklore: “Cardinals appear when angels are near,” for example. I learned that in Native American lore, the number 12 is considered lucky. It is believed the person who sees a cardinal will have good luck coming at noon or at midnight or within 12 days.
We may have “good luck” but our creatures, birds and otherwise, are more and more vulnerable as wetlands and forestlands are destroyed, and vast changes in weather patterns wreak havoc. May we value what we have and contribute what efforts we can to preserve these gifts of nature.
May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter. Shalom, Kate
Hope’s Café Bonus: Safflower seeds, black oil sunflower seeds, and white milo are among Northern Cardinals’ favorite seed choices. In addition to large seeds, they like crushed peanuts, cracked corn and berries. Small chunks of suet are recommended in the winter.