Monday, July 28, 2008

Baby Cardinal

A few mornings back, I noticed a flurry of activity near the pine tree when I set out to water my garden. A red cardinal and his mate chooked near me incessantly as I walked, careful not to trip on the shallow tree roots. That's when I saw a fluttering ball of moving feathers on the ground, blending into it. A tiny scraggly bundle of cheeping hatchling tried its level best to get away from a large and scary interloper. I was only thankful that I hadn't stepped on it in my hurry to get to the garden hose.
The anxious chooks continued as I showered the plants with their daily dose. I wasn't sure whether I should move away and let the cardinals get their little one, so I finished up as rapidly as I could manage and went inside.
Half an hour later, I couldn't resist stepping outside. Now the cardinals were fluttering around the base of the cherry tree, a good 50 feet away. They flew away, scolding as I approached it. At first, I could see nothing, but then I saw something that looked like a rock at the grass near the roots. It was the hatchling, camouflaged almost perfectly by its unremarkable grey. Only its beady eyes and pale beak were give-aways. I hoped that the parents had not abandoned it because it fell out of the nest, but was reassured by this article that I had done the right thing in not attempting to take the bird home. Apparently, baby cardinals are ground bound for about 10 days and fed by their parents till they develop enough strength to learn flying.
The next morning, I noticed a fluttering in my vegetable garden. Little Hatchling was skipping merrily around my beans and okra, with Mom and Dad scolding and chooking the moment I made my morning rounds near the garden. Shortly, it perched precariously on a rhododendron stalk, utterly still as I brought out my camera. Preternaturally calm as I shot my photos, it stayed in place without budging for 5 minutes.
The cardinals have since moved their baby to another location. I still see them at my feeder every morning, peering to see if it has been filled, calling accusingly if I am tardy in replenishing the feeder. Some day soon, I expect that I will see the cardinal with their newly-flighted chick perched on the deck railing, feeding it the last mouthfuls of regurgitated baby food, before it is old enough to fend for itself.


Anonymous said...

Do birds prefer to nest in evergreens, I wonder? Our neighbor was showing us a nest in one of his (spruce, I think) trees. Lots of birds in our yard, but no nests (or hatchlings) :(

Sujatha said...

It's possible that the nests may be quite well hidden from you. In my 10 years of suburban living, this is the first time that I'm coming face-to-face with a hatchling, so take heart. You may yet come across one, even if it is a few years down the line!

Midwest Farmer's Daughter said...

Thanks for sharing your story! We have a young cardinal family currently in our back yard and get such a kick out of seeing them grow.

Anonymous said...

My power came back on at 6:30 a.m. and I was so thankful as I walked out the back door with my 2 dogs. Immediately, RDS were flying and I noticed a male cardinal fly from a near ground level perch on my butterfly bush. Solo,terrier mix, started after it, but saw the male cardinal was safely across the fence in neighbors tree. Solo came back to the bush and just as he was sticking his nose in, a baby cardinal flew out. It was not able to gain height needed, and landed on the patio, against the house. Fortunately,I reached the baby seconds before Solo, and scooped it up as carefully as I could. Poor thing was obviously frightened and was fluttering wildly in my cupped hands (one over n one under). I made it through the gate as mom n dad cardinal flew frantically around me. I took it to the front of the house, where there were plenty of bushes in my and neighbors' yards. (There are dogs in all back yards behind and beside me.). I opened my hands and it perched on my finger. It looked around, and seemed to study me. I was beginning to worry that it may have been injured when I rescued it, though I was sure I had been very gentle with it... the parents made another fly by and the baby flew to a nearby bush in front. Parents were quick to follow. It made my heart glad to see them safe. After the fearsome storms last night, it was good to experience the joy of life - simple but precious. I feel blessed.
I enjoyed your story and wanted to share mine.

Sujatha said...


Thank you for sharing your story of the baby cardinal. Birds are among the best of life's little joys!

Anonymous said...

thank you for the info - i have 2 baby cardinals in the yard and thought they fell out of their nest. after reading your info i will not put them back in their nest. tho i do worry about them making it to flying stage! must be the mom in me :)