Cardinals moving closer to this area

We have some brilliant birds in Northwestern Ontario but here’s one which we don’t really have very much–not yet, anyway.
The cardinal is a bird which is almost all red–at least, the male is. He is vermilion red all over, except for a bit of black around his beak. He has a tuft of feathers on the top of his head, which he can raise and lower at will.
The female is mainly brownish or greenish, with washes of red on the wings, tail, and breast. She also has a crest, and both have red beaks.
This bird is on the move. Years ago, when I was a boy in Northumberland County, there were no cardinals at all. In fact, I didn’t know that there were any anywhere in Ontario.
Now, they are quite common through all of southern Ontario up past Manitoulin and the Ottawa Valley.
They have spread northward from lower Minnesota to the border, and westward to North Dakota and further. They have been seen quite regularly in Winnipeg.
Here in Northwestern Ontario, they have been spotted for sure in Sault Ste. Marie, Thunder Bay, Atikokan, Fort Frances, and in the Rainy River-Baudette area.
Cardinals obviously are quite easy to identify–no other bird anywhere near here looks like it. But they also are well-known by their songs.
No vocal shrinking violet, this bird speaks in loud, clear, flute-like tones. Sometimes some of the pleasing notes are repeated, “Cheer-cheer-cheer.” It has a great many different kinds of whistles and chirps.
And here is something a bit different about the song of the cardinal–the female also sings a lot. And the young start to sing shortly after they have left their parents and are on their own.
Another unusual thing about this singing is that it goes on for most of the year.
Cardinals do not nest in big trees. Usually, nests are in fairly dense thickets, in shrubs at the edge of a wood, or a pasture. They are quite comfortable around people and often nest in the shrubbery around homes.
Two or three broods a year is quite a common practice.
As with most sparrow-type birds, cardinals live mainly on seeds. Insects are used for part of their diet, and those are generally what we would call pests.
But the majority of the diet is made up of seeds–weed and grass seeds, wheat, oats, corn, etc. They are very easily attached to bird feeders in the winter.
If they are anywhere near your feed supply, they will quickly find it–and stay close all winter.
This bird once was called the Kentucky Cardinal, and was considered to be a southern bird. Now the official name is the Northern Cardinal. In scientific terms, he is Cardinalis cardinalis.
In the cold of winter, it is a very cheering sight to see this brilliant splash of red out there in the white snow and brown trees. And even in midwinter, he may have a song or two.
Let us hope the cardinal will continue to expand its range into Northwestern Ontario. After all, we can use a bit of bright colour in our long, weary winter.

Posted in Uncategorized