Originally posted Dec 1, 2011
I've posted a couple of photos of Cardinals and probably need to do some explaining about one of them. Nature photographers are not ever supposed to exhibit a picture that has a bird feeder in it. At the same time, it's darned hard to just go out walking around, shooting arresting photos of birds when and if you happen to see one. It's both easier and better to rely on a facet of bird behavior that many folks are probably not aware of. It's this: birds, when coming to feed, will almost always perch for a bit on a tree or something higher than the food location. They like to fly down to feed after briefly surveying the area for predators, etc.
A trick many bird photographers use is to construct a perch, higher than and near the feeder and typically made from a bare tree limb or branch. I tried this myself, but there are over twenty trees in my backyard, every one of them standing a lot taller that my bird feeders. Accordingly, the birds cheerfully ignored my branch-perch and continued to do what they probably always have done in my yard...perch on a "real" tree limb and then fly down to feed.
I know all of this and yet have chosen to include in the photos on this website one picture where both pictured birds were obviously perched on a feeder. I did this because the photo in question shows some bird behavior that until recently, I've been quite unaware of. What I'm talking about is the fact that Cardinals build a nest and tend to raising youngsters as a couple. The male Cardinal (and the female as well) bring food to the baby birds both in the nest and after they fledge. I didn't know that until I saw a dad Cardinal actually exhibiting this behavior, feeding safflower seeds to a Cardinal youngster, both of them perched on one of my feeders.
I was so struck by this that I did a little looking in one of my bird books and confirmed what I had witnessed. I've always thought that male Cardinals were, if anything, kind of cocky and self absorbed, probably led to that conclusion by both their appearance and mannerisms. But it turns out that this colorful and raucous guy is a liberated male, working together as a team with his mate to provide for their off-spring.
That may be extra meaningful to me because my parents both worked when I was growing up, and as I remember it, my Dad really did shoulder an equal share of the household load, though he - and the rest of us - drew the line at cooking. And if I had a dollar for every diaper I changed and bottle I fed when Kristi was little, well, I'm sure I could finance a get-away weekend in New York, or at least Chicago. Well, maybe Omaha.
I hope you enjoy the photos.
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