April 27, 2010

Cardinal Mother

A female cardinal has built a nest in the holly tree outside our kitchen window. She rarely leaves her post and then only briefly to fetch a seed or two from one of our feeders. When the weather turned cold again, she snuggled in to protect her eggs.

photo by Peter Doyle

We wonder where the male is. Did the female choose a deadbeat spouse that can't be bothered sharing the parental role? Or did her mate take off with a younger redhead? There's a strong possibility that he met with the backyard equivalent of drive-by violence. A neighborhood cat named Whiz seems especially fond of stalking the feeders hoping for a bite of bird. We've found more than one dead cardinal or robin in the yard.

Whatever the reason for her mate's absence, the prospective mother keeps her eggs warm and struggles to maintain her energy with sunflower seeds and suet. She'll need all the energy she can muster once those chicks hatch and start clamoring for food, food, glorious food.

I check on her every morning and throughout the day and whisper encouragement through the closed window.

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