110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
By Lynn Bowen
posted Jan 6, 2013 - 11:07:46am
Papa Cardinal was watching his teenage son exploring Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge in December. Dad was never more than 50 feet away from his son. This must have been a maiden voyage for the beautiful brown-and-red-plumed youngster. I'm certain that Dad would alert his son to danger and let him know where to search for food. Soon, all the youngster's brown feathers will be crimson red.
An adult male Northern cardinal is 8.75 inches long, has a 12-inch wingspan, and weighs only 1.6 ounces. A little black mask is around his eyes and bill, his beak is cone-shaped, and his legs and feet are dark pink-brown. A crest looking like a fancy chapeau crowns the cardinal's head.
The adult female is approximately the same, but with different-colored plumage. She has yellowish-brown feathers on her upper body and paler undersides, with pinkish buff on her belly.
These songbirds sing spirited songs, such as their high-pitched "cue-cue" melody. In contrast, a female Northern cardinal's song is softer-sounding, as well as lower-pitched. Cardinals have many songs in their repertoire.
Nesting is from April through July. The nest is carelessly made from loosely put together twigs, bark, weed stems, grass and horsehair. It is two to eight feet from the ground in palmetto or oak bushes, small orange trees, or clumps of vines.
Cardinals often have two or three broods per year. The male brings his mate food while she sits on the nest for 10 days. They both care for the young until their chicks fledge, and then the male is responsible for the young for about a month. These are excellent parents!
Northern cardinals live in the eastern half of the U.S. and all of Mexico, in cities, swamps and woodlands. They eat both seeds and insects. Quite interesting is the fact that they do not migrate. Most live within a mile of where they were hatched!
These gorgeous garnet-red birds seem to capture everyone's heart. People always smile when they see the red jewels flying and landing. They colorfully seem to personify the word "cheerful"!
— Bowen lives in DeLand. Send email to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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