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037 The Cardinals, not Football 2009-01-26

cardinal bird

It’s cold in Tennessee this winter. Now that doesn’t mean it is Minnesota cold, but it is Southern cold.

During the cold stretch my wife and I noticed a couple (as in a male and female) of cardinals digging for food in our front yard. Together they hopped around hunting and pecking at the ground - just being birds. But on the really cold nights their behavior was far more interesting.

On the front of the house we have a small alcove around the front door. To light the alcove we use a compact fluorescent bulb with a yellow globe.

One night I was going out the front door to retrieve the mail in the evening and was surprised by a fluttering. The female cardinal was flying around noisily in the top of the arched alcove, I presumed to warn me of her presence. I re-entered the house by another door but went to the front door to see what she was doing.

Perched on a wire the cardinal was sitting next to the light bulb. She was not trying to build a nest, she was just trying to stay warm for the cold single digit night. We checked on her several times during the night and she just sat there perched near the light.

The next morning, six o’clock, I went downstairs to start the coffee and check on our new resident. She was gone. I guessed the early bird was out looking for a worm even when the ground was frozen.

My interest in the birds made me more aware of their calls. After a tussle of some sort, I ran to the window to see what was happening but saw nothing. It was at dusk and when I checked the front door again we had a new visitor, the male cardinal. He sat exactly where his female counterpart had sat the night before as he endured the cold.

Since that time I have seen them warming by the light and in the yard together scouring the ground for food, but I have never seen them by the light at exactly the same time. There seems to be adequate room for both of them to sit by the warm bulb, but they choose not to. So where is the other bird during the cold nights? Have the birds found two cozy areas and one takes one area and one the other? Or is one bird just left out in the cold? I hope not.

So birds of a feather flock together, but when it gets cold - it’s go find your own light bulb!



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