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Brooklyn Bird Watch: June 23

The Northern Cardinal. Scientific Name: Cardinalis cardinalis

June 23, 2021 By Joseph Palmer
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Several months ago “Brooklyn Bird Watch” featured a Heather Wolf photo of a bright red Northern Cardinal (the male of the species) on a limb in Brooklyn Bridge Park. Being a ‘Heather Wolf Groupie,’ I followed up with my own photo of a Northern Cardinal taken here in Central Florida, where I moved after many years in Brooklyn. The bright red male Cardinal is one of the most ‘watched for’ birds in the world, and one of the most popular among amateur bird watchers.  The Cardinal is the official state bird of no fewer than seven eastern states.

Photo by Heather Wolf

In my own experience watching the bright red male, I find that his partner, the less colorful and less popular female Cardinal, always remains closer to cover and safety. For example, the male  ventured out into the open on the concrete patio where I waited to photograph him.  But then I also managed to get a photo of the female, (shown in the photo near a wheel for cover, near the same patio where the male had been in the open.)  In the other photo, to highlight how they travel together, she waited for him undercover until he returned to join her just before they disappeared at the same spot from where they appeared a few minutes earlier. Although not a classic bird shot, it does seem to validate what the bird professionals say about how monogamous these cardinal couples really are.  For example, as the Cornell Lab points out; “Both parents feed nestlings.  The male may feed fledglings while the female begins the next nesting attempt, as they have two or three broods per year.”

Photo by Joseph Palmer

Although her male counterpart seems to attract all the photographers, nevertheless, the female cardinal is a beautiful bird in her own right.  Again, as the Cornell Lab “Cool Facts” noted: “Only a few female North American songbirds sing, but the female Northern Cardinal does, and often while sitting on the nest. This may give the male information about when to bring food to the nest. A mated pair shares song phrases, but the female may sing a longer and slightly more complex song than the male.” 

Another nice thing about having Cardinals living in a surrounding urban landscape is that during the early morning silence before all the traffic noise begins, especially in the summer, as Cornell describes it, one can hear the “sweet whistle” of the Cardinals. 

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