During the last couple months, an intrigue has developed at the bird feeder. This romantic tangle involves the resident cardinals. As the temperatures warm globally and here in central Maine, cardinals have moved their winter territory north until they now stay here at the farm year round. For several seasons a mated pair feed on our sunflower and safflower seeds all winter and nest in the spruce hedge in spring. The male fills the May air with his lusty songs of love.
Sadly, in November his female flew into one of our picture windows and killed herself. Otto, the intrepid tracking German shepherd, spotted her poor body and I buried her under a spruce. A dark time for the cardinal. He visited the feeder on his own. I wondered where cardinals go to meet chicks.
Three weeks ago, he showed up one morning with a new lady friend. She is a fine, healthy bird who has shown no tendency to fly into glass. They seem to still be in the courtship stage. The male moves toward her and she flits coyly away, only to stop on a branch and preen herself. They appeared content.
The scandal started late last week. Another female arrived! She hangs back in a nearby tree, watching as the first female feeds. When that bird flies up into the branches, the other swoops down onto the prime spot under the feeder. Mr. Cardinal is captivated by both ladies. I wonder if he is hedging his bets for plate glass roulette by keeping two females? Or, perhaps the second is another who has lost her mate and just hangs around for the company.
They will need to sort it out, because as spring arrives, one must move on. Female cardinals are very territorial, especially at nesting time. Often, they attack their own reflections repeatedly, thinking a rival is infringing. In the meantime, it is good to know there are plenty of lady cardinals out there for the lonely heart.