Tuesday, March 05, 2002

Frigid Temperatures Don’t Stop Cardinal from Singing

A Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis), the familiar “Red Bird” of many easterners, began singing this morning at 6:15 AM from the shrubbery beside our house. What causes me to remark on this event is the exceptionally cold temperature. With the termometer hovering near single digits, this is perhaps the coldest morning we have experienced in this exceptionally mild winter. It appears that the increased hours of daylight may be having more influence on this bird’s physiology and behavior than a aient air temperatures.

If this had been just about any other songbird, one could naturally have assumed that the bird singing outside my window was a male. But female cardinals are nearly as likely to burst forth in spontaneous song as are the males. Cardinals also differ from many other songbirds in their tendency to sing throughout the year. For them, singing is as much about advertising and defending their territory (yes, the females defend a separate territory during some parts of the year) as it is about attracting a mate of the opposite sex.

The bird sang for about 10 minutes and then fell silent, going about its daily routine, just as I am about to embark on mine.

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