Saturday, April 12, 2014

This week's Crops & Clips: Northern Cardinal

It is impossible to pass by a cardinal without taking a second look, or a photo (usually many) if camera is in hand. As a child I remember my grandmother called it a "Redbird," and that name stuck until I got my first bird book. I didn't know it, but way back then the New York City area was only beginning to celebrate the return of this species. During the first quarter of the 20th Century it had inexplicably withdrawn from the northern limits of its range. 

Northern Cardinal 20110330

Ludlow Griscom wrote, in 1923 (Birds of the New York City Region, Amer. Mus. Nat. Hist., NY), that the "Eastern Cardinal" had been "extirpated" from the area. Its return to my home turf in New Jersey during the 1930s and 40s was variously attributed to milder winters and the increasing number of bird feeding stations. 

Female Northern Cardinal 20091228

I was gifted with a copy of Allan Cruickshank's 1942 edition of Birds Around New York City, which became my point of reference when I found an unusual bird or one during an unexpected time of year. Cruickshank described the cardinal as "...slowly but steadily re-establishing itself northward... Like all permanent residents which reach the northern limits of its range here, the Cardinal is subject to severe winter killings." 

Northern Cardinal close 20111104

Later, John Bull would write: "The increase and spread of the Cardinal in the New York City region, as well as throughout most of the northeast, particularly since the mid-1940s, and more especially in the 1950s, has been positively phenomenal. Few, if any, species have made such gains" (Birds of the New York Area, 1962). Since that time we have seen extraordinary range expansions of other bird species, for example the House Finch, Cattle Egret, Boat-tailed Grackle, White-winged Dove, Eurasian Collard-Dove and the steady northward shift of the breeding grounds of many native land birds.

Northern Cardinal female portrait 20131031

In the above portraits I have provided equal space for both male and female Northern Cardinals, for if one captivates us with color, the other subdues us with softness.

Northern Cardinal 2-20121226

Female Northern Cardinal 20090225

Cardinals may be North America's most welcome visitors to water features and back yard feeders.

 Northern Cardinal 20131102

Northern Cardinal female 2-20131102

Northern Cardinal 20130218

Northern Cardinal 20130310

Because I took up photography after moving to the sunny South, I suffer a notable absence of images of red cardinals on white snow, a magnificent combination. However, if you look closely at this coy female peering around our daughter's feeder in Illinois, you may catch a few snowflakes.

Northern Cardinal 20130305

In the interest of fairness, I should also embarrass this adolescent male before he has time to dress in his finery. Note the dark bill which will become fully red as an adult. 

Northern Cardinal 2-20120808

An adult male in molt can be a sorry sight. I can't blame him for hiding behind a leaf!

Motley Cardinal 20100826


  1. laughing that you included the awkward teen and molting male, too. :)

    i think these birds get more folks into birding in n. america than probably any other species. lovely shots!

  2. Wonderful series on the Cardinsals. They are all beautiful! Happy Sunday!

  3. A lovely set of pictures and an equally informative set of information Ken. Before reading your words I didn't realise that the Cardinal had only recently re-established itself. The information is heartening news for all those people in North America who devote love, time, energy and money in feeding Cardinals through the winter months.

  4. Very beautiful photos and great details.

  5. A great series on one of my favorite birds. Love that first closeup.
    You can't help but be delighted by the cardinal.

  6. Spectacular photos of this beautiful bird! The focus on the eye in the first shot is incredible!

  7. Wonderful photos of the cardinals! Both the male and the female are beautiful.

  8. Fabulous series! You have captured the beauty of this bird. :)

  9. Beautiful bird and it is very interesting to read how their range has changed over the years.

  10. Great series about this beautiful bird.

  11. Love the vibrancy of colors. I especially like the one with snowflakes. :)

  12. HI Kenneth Brilliant bird shots of this beautiful Cardinals

  13. When we lived in MO, we had one Cardinal pair that I not sure if the male ever regained its crest. I flew bald for quite some months. My St. Louis Cardinal fan hubby is bald as can be. We could not resist drawing a comparison! Love your beautiful pictures.

  14. When as I saw your cardinal thumbnail above mine over on WBW I wanted to delete my post ;>)...I love this bird though and enjoyed your much better pictures and much much better information about it. Thank you.

  15. They are great looking birds - if you get them at bird feeders, I can see why the number of feeders increased!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  16. No matter the molting is just a phase of 'awkward'...we humans have that some way or another!!!

    I so enjoyed each and every image this time 'round Ken. And, I must apologize for being so tardy in dropping by to visit/view....we are still trying to get back into routine from our trip.


Thank you for visiting Rosyfinch Ramblings! I will enjoy a visit to your page just as soon as possible. Some anonymous comments and some containing active links may not be accepted.