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Pair of Northern Cardinal (cardinalis cardinalis) in a tree.jpg

February

Northern Cardinal

Our February bird is another one that’s common in North America—The Northern Cardinal. It’s a pretty bird, and popular, too: Seven states claim it as their official bird, and many a holiday card and calendar have featured a stunning male posing against a snowy backdrop (although the females have a beauty of their own—just not as showy).

One particular reason February is a good month to talk about cardinals is the holiday of love that we celebrate—Valentine’s Day. Cardinals, you see, have been known to mate for life. And get this—during breeding season, the males will feed seeds to their partners!  I’ve actually seen this happening at my feeder station and couldn’t help but let out an, Aww, how sweet! (especially since it looks like they’re kissing when they do that). My husband and I have taken to calling any cardinal pair we see “Mr. and Mrs. Cardinal.”

Northern Cardinals are fine singers, too, with their cheer-cheer-cheer and birdie-birdie-birdie and what I’ve heard someone describe as the space laser gun. They’re also frequent feeder visitors, often the first to come in the morning and the last to stop by in the evening.

And yet, with all the reasons to love cardinals, how many of us pass them by with barely a passing glance? Let’s resolve this year to stop and admire the cardinals in our lives.

Image by Trac Vu

January

American Robin

January’s Bird of the Month is the humble American Robin, one of my earliest bird memories growing up in the city. For a while I thought its official name was Robin Redbreast, since that’s what so many people called it. (The fact that the bird’s breast looked orange confused me, but I just went along with it.)

American Robins aren’t birdseed eaters. They prefer worms and insects and often forage on the ground. They also eat berries; I’ve seen them in winter plucking them from trees and shrubs. They will join in on the bird action in your yard and may partake if you offer stuff like mealworms and fruit. They also visit birdbaths.

The robin’s song is relatively loud and goes something like cheerily, cheer up, cheer up, cheerily, cheer up. They also do a loud laugh.

Fun fact: Every once in a while an American Robin will get blown off course during migration and end up across the Atlantic! British birdwatchers will flock to see this rare (for them) species with their own eyes. So whenever you're out birding and think to yourself “Oh, it’s just a boring robin,” try to remember how amazing the sight is to those in the U.K.

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