Saturday, September 25, 2010

Northern Cardinals, nest and their fledglings

A friend of mine visited me in early May. While sitting at deck enjoying a cool, breezy evening, she noticed a flock of red birds came to sunflower seeds feeder and amazed how beautiful they were and she had never seen these birds in California and wondered what kind of birds they were. "They are Northern Cardinals", I relied. She took many pictures and emailed them to her three daughters. (Left, male Northern Cardinal)







Northern Cardinal is a widespread bird in east coast and it can be seen in some parts of Texas and as far as Arizona desert. They are non migratory and often come to feeders. We, at east coast, are blessed geographically with these delightful birds. Our backyard becomes alive with their daily visit. Especially during winter when leaves are gone, their colorful appearances embellish Simorgh's Garden.

I have few pairs cardinal residents live around  my backyard. In early April, I discovered a female cardinal bring some nesting material and decided to follow her (not too closely, of course). She mainly worked in the morning and took time off in the afternoon. Male cardinal will bring food to feed her. This lovely theme quickly spread through out other pairs. The first nest was completed in a short 3 or 4 days. Then two subelliptical eggs were laid. In order not to get too close to the nest, I managed taking some pictures and videos of nest and egg incubation. This particular female's first nest was not that successful due to an attack by two crows. I was depressed for few days after this incident and thought I could help to defend her because I witnessed her accident. Later, I realized it's the "nature". It's really hard for wild birds to survive in nature with harsh weather, lack of food source and constant threat from predators. In a short few days (3 to 5 days), this female cardinal found another secluded spot not far from her previous nest and started a new nest. Cardinals do not reuse their nests.


 (Above, male is feeding fledgling)
My whole summer became a nest seeking adventure. I kept a good distance from all nests or females will abandon their nests. It was fun to see female singing and calling from her nest and quickly male showed up and brought her food. Female cardinal incubates her nest for 11 to 14 days and she only leaves briefly for food while male stays close by to watch out for her and also drives away any potential intruders and predators. In a pouring rain afternoon, I worried about the young birds and went to check on them. I saw mother spread her wings to cover her young and I was very touched.


In late August, I noticed a female was feeding her chicks and I realized this was the end of breeding season.  I have not seen as many Cardinals these days as I used to. September through October is a time when Northern Cardinals are molting, causing them to become more vulnerable to predators, and most become more secretive. I found this animated map from eBird.org of the predicted occurrence of Northern Cardinal in the Lower 48 United States in 2008(patterns-from-ebird-northern-cardinal) interesting. I encourage birders to input their data into eBird as these data become crucial for researchers to study them. 


(Fledgling...I'm flying soon!)

The purpose of making this video is to remind general public to protect and conserve more green space for our feathered friends. I truly believe that wildlife, nature and human should live together peacefully and harmonically. We can not fight with nature. Human cut down trees to build things, contaminate ocean by dumping oil and endanger wildlife for advancing our own life. If there is no green space left on earth, what else out there for anyone to live on?





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