Cardinals stick close to home in winter

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Northern cardinal is a beautiful red songbird native to most of the eastern half of the U.S. and much of Mexico and Central America. The male northern cardinal may be North America's most easily recognized songbird. Sporting a crest of red feathers and a black face mask around a prominent yellow/red beak, the male cardinal is a pleasant sight.

Northern cardinals do not migrate south to escape winter's cold. Instead, most will partner in male/female pairs for years at a time and remain in a general home territory for life.

Sometimes they will form small flocks during winter and roost together in thick cover for protection from cold nights and snow and threats from predators like owls, cats and other fur bearing animals.

Cardinals eat insects during warm months. However, if you provide a bird feeder of seeds, cardinals will likely visit your yard during winter. Providing a roost site of evergreen shrubs nearby will almost certainly seal the deal. Cardinals like dense brush year-round in which to hide.

I photographed this male cardinal after it had claimed a grain from a pile of corn I had poured onto the ground nearby. Cardinals are wary birds and will spook easily. When you are close to them, your slightest movement may scare them away. Have the camera focused and ready before the bird gets close.

Through the Woods is a weekly nature photo column by Aaron Horrell. Find this column at semissourian.com to order a reprint of the photo. Find more work by him at the O'Tenem Gallery.

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