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Feb 14

Valentine Bird Day

Indiana Cardinal
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Courting Cardinals
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"A day and then a week passed by: The redbird hanging from the sill Sang not; and all were wondering why It was so still— When one bright morning, loud and clear, Its whistle smote my drowsy ear, Ten times repeated, till the sound Filled every echoing niche around; And all things earliest loved by me,— The bird, the brook, the flower, the tree,— Came back again, as thus I heard The cardinal bird." ~ The Cardinal bird, William Davis Gallagher (1808-1894)

There was a popular notion in England and France during the Middle Ages that birds started to look for their mates on Valentine's Day. The Cardinal, sometimes known as the Valentine Bird or Redbird is a bright feature in a February landscape. Unlike many other songbirds in North America, both the male and female cardinals can sing. During the courtship process, male Northern Cardinals are known to exhibit affection toward females by feeding beak-to-beak.

There was a popular notion in England and France during the Middle Ages that birds started to look for their mates on Valentine's Day, February 14.  The brilliant red cardinal, also known as the redbird, is one such harbinger of this day, standing out against the winter landscape amongst all other birds.  The bright red males are easily spotted, especially in the winter.  Female cardinals are brown with a dusty red crest. 

 

Cardinal pairs mate for life and stay together year-round. Mated pairs sometimes sing together before nesting.  During courtship they may also participate in a bonding behavior where the male collects food and brings it to the female, feeding her beak-to-beak.

 

Cardinals do not migrate and have a year round presence, and their call sounds precisely like the words “cheer, cheer,” giving rise to the superstition that seeing one is an auspicious omen.   

The word cardinal itself is derived from the Latin word cardo, meaning hinge or axis. Like a hinge on a door, the cardinal has been seen in many cultures as the hinge on the doorway between the earthly and spirit world, carrying messages back and forth.

The cardinal is the state bird of Indiana (as well as many other states in the US).  ​

For more on the folklore and habits of the cardinal bird and the etymology of its name, click the cardinal!