Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Cardinal Drama

with 2 comments

IMG_1406e2Long time readers might remember the story of the resident cardinal that repeatedly does battle with his reflection in the windows of our house, in attempt to drive the apparent challenger away. I had read that the behavior, which I discovered is not uncommon, usually occurs for about a month in springtime. Our guy was still busy at it in October. …And November. …And December.

Lately, we have had very few of the gentle kerfluffles on our windows. The males seem to all be getting along with each other just fine during the month of February. We counted 6 of them out there together yesterday.

Then the peace and quiet was disrupted by an impact that gave the distinct impression of a bird colliding at full flight speed. Out of the corner of my eye, I detected a blur of red deflecting down and to the right. Based on the sound of the initial impact, I was hesitant about wanting look, but there is something about it. You just have to look.

My suspicion that it was a cardinal was confirmed, and it did not look good. I was definitely influenced by the sound the impact had made. I was expecting the worst.

He had landed in an evergreen shrub below the window. His tail feathers were sticking out like he was still in flight, and one wing was visible, feathers spread unnaturally, for a perched bird. I could see the trunk moving rhythmically, as if breathing. I expected motion to stop any second. I watched for what seemed like a long time. It was probably a few minutes.

Suddenly, surprisingly, he flopped to the ground, under the tree. He was on his feet, and he looked perfectly normal, except for the fact that he wasn’t moving. At all.

It was about this time that I realized there were no other birds around anymore. There had been dozens before this occurred. Now, not a one. That cardinal seemed totally immobilized. The thought that came to my mind was, he was a very high risk of becoming some other creature’s prey. I wondered if the other birds were aware of the same thing, and were choosing to keep a lot of distance between themselves and him.

He stood there, motionless, for a very long time. I wandered off to do something, but kept stopping back to check. Still there. Eventually, I noticed birds were starting to make a return appearance. Slowly, but surely, they made their way toward the feeder, and their previous level of activity.

The cardinal stayed motionless. Then I caught him making a slight glance to the side, toward some of the little juncos or chickadees that were ground feeding. But that was it. Back to motionless.

I bet it was over 5 minutes that I had been walking in there to see if there was any progress. Finally, I walked up just as a flash of red from another cardinal swooped down under that bush and …nothing. He was gone. Nothing under that tree except a scattering of feathers.

I don’t know what that behavior was, but it worked, and that concussed bird was off cavorting with the rest of the flock.

A happy ending! I was impressed. From the sound of that initial impact, and the sight of him sprawled out on that branch, I figured he was a goner.

Written by johnwhays

February 24, 2013 at 8:00 am

Posted in Chronicle

Tagged with ,

2 Responses

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  1. I love bird watching. I also have an aviary in my yard full of canaries.

    Al Kline

    February 24, 2013 at 7:47 pm

    • I’ve been known to take birds for granted, but our forest is one extremely big aviary, and the birds are a significant part of the scene here. I’m finding it easy to become increasingly aware of them.


      February 25, 2013 at 1:08 am

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