Monday, June 20, 2016

Northern Cardinal

Even casual birders are familiar with Cardinals. This female perched in front of us at Florida’s St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge last March. The male sang in our backyard in Northfield this spring. Since the 1800s, Northern Cardinals have moved northward, assisted by global warming, urbanization, and bird feeders.

The red color in both male and female cardinals is due to carotenoid pigments in the birds’ diet. The color signals mate quality. Bright males have higher reproductive success than duller ones. Bright colors in the male and in the underwing of the female are correlated with parental care—bright birds are the best providers for their young (Halkin and Linville 1999).

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