Friday, July 13, 2007

Fathers of Baby Cardinals

The cardinal pairs have just had their second nestful of babies. You know they're being made when the male cardinal whistles. You know they're born when he's back and forth carrying sunflower seeds in his beak to his wife, who stays subtly on a tree branch in the shade. He cracks the seed casing for her and feeds her just the kernel. It's so romantic!

And now the juvenile cardinals. They look like females except with brown bills (females' are orange) and instead of crests have just just a feather or two, a proto-crest, like stubs on the head of a young buck. The reddest thing about them is their tail feathers. In fact I used binoculars to check that they weren't summer tanagers. But they are juveniles all right. Their father picked sunflower seeds out of the feeder and flew down to them, cracked the seed in his bill, and fed them the kernel, right into their beaks, just like he fed their mother.

What good spouses birds are! What good and trustworthy parents! I've seen a bluebird leading a bunch of his fledges to the birdbath where they leaped in and splashed joyously, like a troop of Cub Scouts at a swimming hole. There's no question in my mind that they did it purely for the fun.

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