Country Birds: Northern Cardinals

Last weekend, the weather here was cool, but dry, so I decided to go riding at my friends’ ranch west of the city, where I keep my horses. After our ride, I was drinking some juice at the main house, and while looking out the windows of the sunroom, noticed four male Northern Cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis) on the swimming pool cover. Male birds have bright red plumage, so they are difficult not to notice. The four cardinals were joined by six more, all males, hopping around the pool deck and cover, and drinking from the rainwater that had collected on the pool cover from last week’s storms. Occasionally a female cardinal, with less conspicuous red-brown plumage, landed on the cover, but was usually chased away by a male bird. At one point, there were five or six female cardinals, and no males, poking through the leaf litter and drinking the pooled rainwater. My friends said they’ve seen up to fourteen male Northern Cardinals on the pool cover at one time. They have a bird feeder with sunflower seeds nearby, but there are also lots of native seeds and berries available to the birds during this season.

City bird sketches later this week – we see the occasional cardinal pair in town, but not nearly so many as can be seen regularly out in the countryside.


Northern Cardinals on a swimming pool cover. Colored pencil and watercolor.

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3 Responses to Country Birds: Northern Cardinals

  1. Steve Caplan says:

    So that’s where all our cardinals have gone! I know they are not supposed to migrate, but they do disappear from our backyard when it gets really cold. I often wonder where they do go.

    Great sketches!

  2. Stephen says:

    Beautiful Kristi – I said so on Twitter yesterday but am not sure if you’re there…

  3. KristiV says:

    Thanks, Steve and Stephen!

    @ Steve – We certainly seem to have more than our fair share of cardinals in the winter here. We also have the Pyrrhuloxia (Cardinalis sinuatus), but I’ve rarely seen them – and never in town, only out in the semi-arid scrub west of the city.

    @ Stephen – No Twitter for me yet. I’d probably enjoy it, but I already waste enough time on other social media. 😉

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