Below you will see Ruthven president Betsy Smith’s collection of 15 stuffed Cardinals. Each time one slams into the picture window she stuffs it and sticks it on a tree to attract more Cardinals to that grisly fate…….

Actually, Betsy lives across the river from Ruthven and about half a kilometre downstream. She has been getting as many as 18 Cardinals at her feeder at one time. We find that these birds tend to flock together and stay in the vicinity of the river during the winter.


7 thoughts on “Cardinals

  1. It is a magnificent sight. The high counts are normally between 7-8 in the morning and 5-6 in the evening. Sadly our camera cannot do justice to the picture.

  2. What possible evidence do you have for the assertion that “We find that these birds tend to flock together and stay in the vicinity of the river during the winter.”?

  3. Numerous winter observations of this phenomenon. Unlike some politicians who just pull justification out of the air – I get out in the field.

  4. Regarding flocking Cardinals, I found this on Birds of North America Online:

    “Flocks begin to assemble during or after fall molt (end of Sep in s. Indiana and Iowa; Hodges 1949, Kinser 1973). May start as family groups consisting of adults with their last brood, and enlarge when birds from adjacent breeding territories join together (Kinser 1973). In some areas, some pairs remain on breeding territories year-round, only joining flocks as they pass through their territories (central Tennessee [Laskey 1944]; sw. Kentucky [Shaver and Roberts 1933]; central Kentucky [Ritchison and Omer 1990]; s. Illinois and s. New York [Wanamaker 1942]).

    Winter flocks reported in subspecies cardinalis (Bent 1968 and other references below) and superbus (Gould 1961). Flock size may vary geographically within cardinalis; flocks of >100 reported only from W. Virginia (Christy 1942), s. Indiana (Kinser 1973), and probably S. Carolina (T. Nuttall in Bent 1968). In Ohio, winter flocks of 4–60 (M. B. Trautman in Hundley 1953); in Tennessee, 6–25 (Ganier 1941, Laskey 1944). Mean winter flock size 13.8 in s. Indiana (n = 430 flocks; Kinser 1973), but 4.6 in central Kentucky (n = 922 observations of flocks that included at least 1 of 8 radio-tagged cardinals; Ritchison and Omer 1990): These studies used different methods and possibly different criteria for flock membership, but both found variation in flock sizes over course of winter and day, and with temperature; first study also reported different flock sizes in different habitats.

    Flock movement described as “rolling” or “tank-tread like,” with front birds settling on ground to feed until most of flock has passed over them, and then flying up to settle at front again (Land 1952, Kinser 1973). Flock membership is fluid; not only do birds spending winter on breeding territories temporarily join flock as it passes over them, but within 6-h period, marked birds were observed to move 500–900 m, changing flock with which they were associating (Kinser 1973). Flocks may move “through several square miles,” but in this case individual birds rarely remained with flock for distances >1.6 km, and small groups joined flock as it “rolled” over them, while similar numbers of different individuals left flock to remain behind feeding (Land 1952). Members of winter flocks roost in aggregations in thickets or conifer groves (Hundley 1953, Gould 1961, Merritt 1975). Flocks gradually disband Jan–Mar as birds leave to establish territories (Kinser 1973, Merritt 1975).

    Flocks are usually made up of approximately equal numbers of males and females, and contain mix of hatch-year young and older adults (Shaver and Roberts 1933, Christy 1942, Laskey 1944, Kinser 1973). During feeding, males dominate females and adults dominate juveniles (Lemon 1968a, Ritchison and Omer 1990). Banded hatch-year young have been seen in winter flocks 0.8–4.0 km away from where they hatched (Laskey 1944). Cardinal flocks may be closely or loosely associated with other species, including Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis), White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis), Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor), Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia), American Tree Sparrow (Spizella arborea), American Goldfinch (Carduelis tristis), Rufous-sided Towhee (Pipilo erythrophthalmus), and Pyrrhuloxia (Land 1952, Gould 1961, Kinser 1973).”

    As far as personal experience goes, I have encountered a flock of 25-30 Cardinals in Niagara, and have had a small group of 6-7 at my feeder this winter.

    I’ve had one singing in my yard for the past few weeks.

  5. Okay, so they flock.
    Interesting to note that on March 7th (?) 2008, as I walked down our suburban street in early morning gloom, heavly overcast and with the start of a major winter storm filling the air with snow, a cardinal was singing agreeably if not lustily. They know spring ain’t far away, even if the weather conditions are anything but spring-like.

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