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Posts Tagged ‘Northern Cardinal’

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About a month ago, as I sat at my computer, I became aware of a tapping at the picture window. There would be a rap, and then an extended pause, followed by another rap. I finally got up to see what was going on. As I watched, a bright red cardinal flew out from the tree outside the window and up to the glass, giving it a peck with his bill. His own reflection had caught his eye and he was convinced he had a competitor.

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He made foray after foray, attempting to dispatch his rival. I stepped outside to frighten him away, hoping that this diversion would be enough to make him forget about his competitor. It was not. As soon as I returned indoors, the cardinal was back.

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We finally got out a plastic tarp to hang over the window. We left it up for a day or two, expecting the cardinal to move on. However, when we took it down, there he was again, back at it. In the end, we left the tarp up for a couple of weeks before removing it. That finally did the trick. Until this weekend, when he again returned.

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This time, we hung some netting over the window. The cardinal looked this over carefully, and could still see that other darn bird, lurking behind the netting. He flew at the window a few times, but rather than rapping the glass, he landed with agility on the netting. Perhaps he was satisfied that, while he couldn’t get in, the other bird couldn’t get out from behind the netting, and was safely locked away. After a brief investigation, the cardinal departed, no doubt off to catch up with other pressing matters.

So that solved the problem. Until yesterday. He was back again and not giving up! He launched attack after attack on his window rival, pausing on the netting before returning to the tree to regroup. At least he was no longer hitting the glass.

So now the tarp is back over the window while we investigate the availability of non-reflective window film. Crazy bird.

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Northern Cardinal

This beautiful cardinal can be heard every morning now, singing out his song from a treetop perch. He’s been here all winter, but he has just started giving full voice to his chorus of “Birdie, Birdie, Birdie! Whit, whit, whit!” in the last week or so. What female could resist him?

It’s hard to believe that it was only last weekend that I spotted the first Red-winged Blackbird. Now they are everywhere, chucking and oak-a-leeing in the branches and foraging beneath the bird feeders. Over the course of the week, other migrants have joined them. There are quite a number of Common Grackles joining their numbers. Look at the beautiful iridescent colours on this fellow, helping himself to a seed at the feeder.

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Common Grackle

As I was walking past a pine tree, I noticed a Brown-headed Cowbird keeping a cautious eye on me. There have been a few American Robins around for a few weeks, but now they are back in plentiful numbers. And this morning, I spotted a pair of Hooded Mergansers on the river. They skillfully avoided my attempts to capture them with my camera, taking off for a site farther upstream.

The birds are early, ready to put The Winter That Wasn’t behind them and move on to spring. This winter was the 3rd warmest on record here. Three of the warmest winters ever have been recorded in the last six years. What was additionally notable about this winter was the lack of precipitation. It was also the second driest winter on record.

How are these shifts in winter weather patterns affecting migrating birds?

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Brown-headed Cowbird

A special report titled The Winter that Wasn’t: Bird Migration aired on CBC’s morning show The Current on March 7th. Biologist Allen Hurlbert from the University of North Carolina, B.C. biologist Dick Cannings and eBird editor Mike Burrell from Bancroft all addressed this question.

They note that the timing of migration is vitally important to the success of the upcoming breeding season. If a bird arrives back too early, he may encounter the bad weather and lack of food he flew south to avoid. If he arrives back too late, he may fail to find a good breeding territory and prospective mate.

One of the most important elements about timing is hitting the height of the insect season just right. Birds need a big supply of bugs to feed their demanding young. Without them, chicks may starve. If a warm spell disrupts normal insect patterns, causing bug populations to peak earlier, parent birds may not be able to adequately supply their young with food if they have started nesting according to their normal schedule.

We often have a poor appreciation of just how interconnected the natural world is. Failure or changes to one sector can have a ripple effect right through an ecosystem. Some bird species, such as Red-eyed Vireos seem to be adapting to changing weather patterns. Other species, such as Barn Swallows have been devastated. While Barn Swallows were once common birds, their numbers have plummeted by 75% over the last few decades.

You can learn more by listening to the full broadcast linked here.

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American Robin

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Whit! Whit!
Whit! Whit!
Cheer! Cheer!
Cheer! Cheer!
Birdie! Birdie! Birdie!
Breaker! Breaker! Breaker!

In the closing days of February, I heard a Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) singing once or twice as I went outside. As we have moved into March and the season has been progressing, I have heard the singing with increasing regularity, although I haven’t been able to get a photo of the bird until today. This morning as I went out to the barn, there he was, singing his heart out from a tree top near the barn. I rushed back to the house for my camera and was finally able to get a shot of this beautiful singer.

At our former home in the Toronto area, cardinals were common birds. Such is not the case here, south of Ottawa. There has been a pair visiting the bird feeder sporadically over the winter, but cardinals are not an everyday sight. I’ve really missed them, especially since they begin singing their territorial love song early in the spring. The calls are easy to identify, once you become familiar with the singer. Before I connected the song with its source, I used to wish that the bird calling “Birdie! Birdie! Birdie!” would be a bit more specific about his identity.

I hope that the morning serenade I enjoyed today will become a daily event and the singer and his missus will nest nearby. Birdgirl wrote an interesting and informative entry about cardinals in “All Dressed in Red“. Fly on over to The Marvelous in Nature for more information on these eye-catching birds.

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