I don’t know any other bird that gets me to jump off my chair to run and see it than the North American male cardinal. In fact it is one of the most well known and favorite birds in North America so much so that seven states honor it as their state bird: Kentucky, West Virginia, Indiana, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and Illinois. The NFL’s Arizona Cardinals and the MLB’s St. Louis Cardinals, as well as many other universities have made the Cardinal their mascot. A cardinal is distinguished by it’s bright red crest and bill and it’s black “Lone Ranger” mask and a shade of red that can only capture your attention and hold it. Since cardinals don’t migrate they are as conspicuous in winter against a snowy background, and in summer for their musical whistles. Both the male and female sing. Not many North American female birds sing, but the female cardinal does, often while sitting on her nest, probably an indication of when to bring food. Being the romantic that I am, it makes me happy to know that males and females stay together for life, perhaps why Teddy Wayne Smith depicted them above in a pair. They have a life span of up to fifteen years.
I found this beautiful Haiku by Christine Kelly written coincidentally on my Dad’s birthday Feb. 2, 2013 that says it all I think about devotion and love:
Pair of Cardinals
perched together in the snow,
one warm, beating heart.
My mother was a great lover of cardinals and all my life I still have her favorite knick-knack of a musical cardinal that she left. It plays “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning”, probably because in summer their whistles are one of the first sounds in the morning.
Many people think that cardinals are a sign of their lost loved ones and that they are a symbol of that person visiting them when they appear. According to this myth, they usually show up when you most need or miss your loved one. They also make appearances during times of celebration to let you know they will always be with you.
My friend Rosaleen who was very close to my parents has gifted me with some lovely reminders of my mother in the form of cardinals. One is this lovely snowy globe and recently she gave me some delicate cardinal hand-painted cups. Since I bought my childhood home back a few years ago, she is certain they will always be poignant reminders of them.
Cardinal snow globes
Cardinals are easily attracted to backyard feeders with sunflower seeds. They measure about 8” in length and have a wingspan of about 10 -12 inches. Although the male brings the nest material to the female, it is the female who does most of the building! They have a global breeding population of 120 million with 77% in the U.S. For those who choose to hold the Cardinal dear: you are a special person: energetic, vital, rare and always willing to care for those in need.
Thank you, Rosaleen.
See you next Tuesday. Have a warm almost summer weekend. Hope you see a cardinal.