Northern Cardinal

Cardinalis cardinalis

A familiar bird in the eastern US, we also find the Northern Cardinal in southern Arizona, where I first met this species. I thought Arizona was rich in these brilliant red birds, but when I visited Texas, I realized this was a place of Cardinal riches. I found them everywhere I visited in the Lone Star State. So beloved is this bird, seven states have adopted it as their state bird. These North American natives are nonmigratory, and we find them nearly everywhere in the eastern USA between the Atlantic coast and the plains east of the Rocky Mountains and south into Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula.

Science recognizes 19 subspecies of Northern Cardinal. With a such a wide range over the North American continent, and virtually no migratory lifestyle, it should come as no surprise that the gene-pool of these birds might not blend homogeneously across the entire range. The Hatfields would stay in their valley, while the McCoys would remain in theirs (so-to-speak).

While I was in Texas at Laguna Atascosa NWR, I met a feisty male who could not stop jousting at any reflection of himself, and he entertained me with his persistent antics. Rear-view mirrors and shiny truck bumpers were all fair game. I’d read about such hormone driven episodes of aggression, but this was my first chance to be a witness.

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