Back Yard Science: Hello, Mama Cardinal!

So, if you’ve been paying attention at all- or ever- it will not surprise you to hear that nature is not always beautiful. In fact, it’s pretty darn brutal. (I have a theory that this is part of why all the world’s major religions keep having to tell us the same things over and over, like, “Don’t kill each other.” Although those things SOUND obvious, when you observe other members of the Animal Kingdom you start to realize that it’s not really what you’d call an innate concept. It’s necessary for civilization, but we seem to need to be reminded, the way a five year old keeps needing to be told to wash his or her hands after using the toilet. So, for those of you keeping track at home: Nature is harsh. Don’t try it at home.)

The further adventures of my Mama Bird Watching have led me to discover┬áthat the nest in my hedge actually belongs to a pair of Northern Cardinals. Close on the heels of that information, I learned that there is a bird called the cowbird. Cowbirds are apparently total jerks. They watch other birds build their nests, and then come lay their own eggs in them. Sometimes they just leave once they’ve done that, and sometimes they peck the other eggs to make sure their own offspring will be alone in the nest. If you’ve just come to the realization that your back yard should be rated “R” for violence, you are not alone.

The reason this is relevant is that it’s nearly impossible to tell Northern Cardinal eggs from some kinds of cowbird eggs. Fingers crossed that mama cardinal is actually sitting on eggs she laid herself, and not those of some outsized interloper who will gobble up all the bugs she brings while her natural chicks starve. (Keep calm! That does happen but this year the 17 year cicadas are coming. Bugs will practically throw themselves into these baby birds’ beaks. In other words, No One Will Starve This Year.)

Listen to a Northern Cardinal:

Stop by my post Hello, Mama Bird to learn about Carolina Wrens, the bird I thought had made this nest, and also for bird lesson resources!

About Meghan G

I like blues, punk, and crime drama. I love having boys, keeping active, and the outdoors. I'm a cat person, but I think dogs should have equal opportunities.

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7 Comments on “Back Yard Science: Hello, Mama Cardinal!”

  1. We have a pair or cardinals in our yard that are the cutest ever – I had to put cardboard on my window because they keep crashing against it trying to get in. No, my windows are not that clean! LOL

  2. How wonderful to find the cardinal in your backyard. I have heard of those cowbirds and that is such a lazy way to have babies.. lol. Just have them and leave for someone else to care for.

  3. Here they are! We accidentally scared mama off her nest this morning, so I snapped this very fast and then we got out of there. Sorry the quality isn’t better but I didn’t want to keep them from their mama by trying for a better shot!

  4. Seriously, people, nature is harsh! This robin’s egg could have been damaged by a cowbird, a crow, or a bluejay. Raccoons, squirrels, and snakes are also predators but wouldn’t peck holes like this one.

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