by Marilyn and Keith Davis

"The Christmas Bird"

Northern Cardinal

                            cardinal        How was your Christmas? I hope it was joyful like mine. One of my gifts this year was a snow globe with a brilliant red Cardinal inside (someone knows I love birds). The snow globe sits on a snowy base covered with branches of red Pyracantha berries. We also received a gift bag with beautiful male and female Northern Cardinals on either side, and were sent several Christmas cards with this same beautiful bird depicting Christmas. The colorful Cardinal is one of North America’s favorite birds. In reality, the Northern Cardinal has to be The Christmas Bird, for it stands out beautifully against a background of white snow. Unfortunate for you and I, we don’t get to see this bird live, for this bird spends most of its time in the east. But like some of the other eastern birds, the Cardinal is making its way to the west by way of Texas, New Mexico, and now Arizona.

        When I visited my daughter in Virginia, Cardinals were everywhere. I was so excited to hear their noisy chatter. As a species, they can be very secretive and hide in thickets. But when it’s spring, male Cardinals will go to the top of exposed perches and sing, and sing, and sing. The female does not make herself a target like the noisy male, but how else is he going to get noticed if he doesn’t make a conspicuous effort? The Cardinal is 8 3/4 inches. The male is red over all with a black face while the female is buffy olive tinged with red on the wings. Both have a cone-shaped crest (which looks like a knight’s helmet from the middle ages), and a heavy reddish bill. Northern Cardinals are easy to attract to feeders if you have sunflower seeds to offer. The thick bill is designed for cracking seeds.

        Hopefully this Christmas you also received some gift wrapped with a picture of America’s favorite Christmas bird. This is our way of enjoying the Northern Cardinal. But if you make a trip back east, take the time and effort to get out and see this beautiful bird in person and you too will find yourself a first-hand lover of the Northern Cardinal. Today’s picture was painted with color pencils by Keith Davis.

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