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What bird is often the first to visit a feeder in the morning and the last to stop by and grab a bite at night?
The Northern Cardinal! Easily recognizable because of the male’s bright red plumage, the cardinal has expanded its range greatly since the days of John James Audubon. Back then the bird was known only as a southern bird. Today, it has a wide range throughout the East, New England and southern Canada as well. Northern populations of the bird tend to migrate during winter while cardinals that live in the South stay there all year. On bright sunny winter days these “resident” cardinals will sing.
Cardinals prefer to feed on the ground but they will perch at hopper feeders and tube feeders. Their favorite food is oil sunflower and safflower seeds, and many times they will choose the seed that’s easiest to open. You can attract cardinals by putting WBU Supreme Blend or WBU premium sunflower seed in a Seed Tube or hopper feeder. A tray might entice the cardinal to use the feeder.
In winter cardinals generally flock together but by spring they pair up for nesting season. They are famous for their display of courtship feeding. The male picks up a bit of food and takes it over and places it on the female’s bill.
The Northern Cardinal’s “kissing cousin” is the Pyrrhuloxia, sometimes called a desert cardinal. These birds live in the Southwest and are frequently seen at feeders with cardinals. Males are gray and red and females are a buff color with red tints. Their song is similar to the cardinals. Pyrrhuloxias prefer sunflower seeds and cracked corn and may occasionally eat milo. Put out WBU Select Blend and a source of water to attract this bird.
Q: There were many cardinals at my feeder during the winter. This spring, I seem to have fewer birds, and the ones I have are always fighting with each other. Why is this happening?
Many birds tend to fight during spring, primarily related to mating and nesting activity. As birds establish their territories, they tend to be aggressive toward other birds of the same species. And some fluctuations in bird numbers can occur from this territorial behavior.
Try setting up separate feeding stations to help separate the birds. Sometimes a physical barrier that separates the feeders is what is needed so the birds don’t see each other feeding.