Redily Available

Shot of the Month – October 2013

Northern Cardinal (female), Maryland-USA (2031)This month one of the most readily recognizable and popular birds in the United States.  How popular?  Well, no less than seven states have made this species their state bird (North Carolina, West Virginia, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, and Virginia).  And then there are the sports teams.  This bird is a very popular mascot — a certain St. Louis baseball team uses this bird as their moniker, as does an NFL football team in Arizona.  Many a high school, college and university fly this bird’s likeness on their team flag.

Still in doubt? (you non-birder, non-sports fan, non-mid-west/Southerner types) Part of the problem might be that this photo is of the female gender of this bird species.  Per usual, the male tends to garner all the attention.

Another clue, they are named after these guys:  Cardinals

No, it is not the monk bird.

Of course, it is a Cardinal.

To be accurate, it is a Northern Cardinal (NC).  For you bird geeks out there, the term cardinal actually includes about 60 species of birds (see the whole list here) that us laypeople would call tanagers, grosbeaks, buntings, chats, and saltators that may exhibit a broad range of colors from red to blue to green to just about any color in the rainbow.

To the right is the flashy male Northern Cardinal that is almost universally recognized, even by non-bird enthusiasts:


Northern Cardinal (male), Maryland-USA (8547-3)

No doubt that the male is a stunner, a startling all-out attack of RED; the female is more subtle, with delicate tones of tan and caramel with well appointed red highlights.

A few bird bits to ponder:

  1. Northern Cardinals used be found primarily in southern states.  With the proliferation of bird feeders and warming climates, these birds can now be increasingly found from Mexico to Canada, from Maine to Nebraska.
  2.  NCs are ground feeders and dine mostly on seeds (hence that powerful, seed-cracking beak).
  3. NCs used to be popular pets but the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 put an end to that silly practice.  If you capture or kill a NC you can be fined $15,000.
  4. Cardinals mate for life.  The females really dig the red — the brighter the male plumage, the better the success in finding a mate.
  5. NC’s don’t migrate.
  6. Unlike many other songbirds in North America, both the male and female can sing.  Usually, only the male sings.


Next time you spot that glorious jolt of red at the feeder or in the woods, take a bit of time to find and appreciate his lovely partner….



Until next month….:-)