Cardinal Rules

We have a bird feeder out back and specifically put black sunflower seeds in it to attract cardinals.  For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved cardinals.  Maybe it’s because when I was young, we had cardinals that would brave the snow and cold to eat off the bird feeder we had around the house.  I’m also drawn to their beautiful color.  As I grew up, I learned that cardinals don’t always have such majestic color.  The males eventually turn bright red, but the young males and females have more muted color.   In fact, there is much more to cardnals than meets the eye.  There are different types (clades)  of cardinals as seen by “buntings” on their feathers.

On more than one occasion, somehow cardinals end up in our screened in patio area out back.  Perhaps they are drawn to the swimming pool as they may see it as one giant bird bath.  Or, they are curious and somehow find their way in.  Whatever the case, I’m fascinated on how they get out. 

They screech and chirp wildly as they try incessantly to get out of the screen enclosure.  That draws attention of their fellow cardinals on the outside.  Ok, the last four times this has happened that I’ve really paid attention too, it’s always the males or young cardinals getting stuck.  To the rescue comes what seems like a flock of female cardinals to save the day. 

Here is where the “cardinal rules” come in to play and what we can learn from them.

Rule #1…Stay calm.  Ok, for birds that means to chill on a plant branch.  It’s as if the female cardinal says “ok idiot, listen up.  Relax and we’ll think of how to get you out of there.”

Rule #2…Watch out.  Look out for dogs, cats and well intentioned humans.  Dogs and cats are more annoying than anything.  Humans really want to help, but don’t understand how fragile we are.  When it comes down to it, you have to get yourself out of the mess you’ve made but guidance from a pro can help.  Just remember, everyone has an opinion on the best way out.

Rule #3…Pay attention.  Listen to what the experts are trying to say.  In the case of the cardinals, usually three or four are helping.  One sits atop two of the corners of the screened enclosure, another on the ground in the middle of the outside of the screen, and one that flies around giving instructions.  It really is quite fascinating. 

Rule #4…If you get flustered, remember Rule #1.  More often than not, the cardinal stuck inside will calm down and almost make it out and for whatever reason starts back to flying aimlessly around the enclosure bouncing into the screen and getting worn out.  This may happen three or four times before the cardinal starts to process what the others are chirping. 

Rule #5…Use your instinct.  At the edge of the open screen door, one of the cardinals will come and just sit there….like knowing exactly where NOT to go.  The cardinal chirps and chirps in what seems like irritation as if to say, “Hello, hey stupid, the door is over here.”   Then, It is almost like the enclosed bird says “dahhh, the opening is there…watch out….hop to the floor and hop then fly out of the patio.”  As they fly out, the others fly to either scold, congratulate, or check for problems in cardinal language. 

We humans can learn some things by using the cardinal rules.  When you find yourself in a predicament, remember to Stay Calm, Watch Out, Pay Attention, If you get flustered remember to Stay Calm, and finally, Use your instinct.  This is why cardinals rule and perhaps why I truly love them.

A Cool Cardinal Fact…In the 1800s Cardinals were much-sought-after cage birds highly valued for their color and song. Thousands were trapped in the south in the winter and sent to northern markets, and thousands more were sent to Europe. This trade ceased, fortunately, with the passage of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.  (Cool Cardinal Fact  from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology)