Friday, August 22, 2014 · 7:48 a.m.

Northern cardinal: Riverwalk Bird of the Week

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The northern cardinal is the Riverwalk Bird Club's Bird of the Week. (Photo: Charles Dean)

The folks in the Riverwalk Bird Club don't just watch birds. The group includes some excellent photographers.

Nooga.com Outdoors is happy to share their great photos by featuring a Bird of the Week. 

This week, we feature a northern cardinal by Charles Dean, taken at Pinky's Point on Chickamauga Lake.

The male northern cardinal is perhaps responsible for getting more people to open up a field guide than any other bird. They’re a perfect combination of familiarity, conspicuousness and style: a shade of red you can’t take your eyes off. Even the brown females sport a sharp crest and warm red accents. Cardinals don’t migrate, and they don’t molt into a dull plumage, so they’re still breathtaking in winter’s snowy backyards. In summer, their sweet whistles are one of the first sounds of the morning.

Interesting facts
—Only a few female North American songbirds sing, but the female northern cardinal does, and often while sitting on the nest. This may give the male information about when to bring food to the nest. A mated pair shares song phrases, but the female may sing a longer and slightly more complex song than the male.

—Many people are perplexed each spring by the sight of a cardinal attacking its reflection in a window, car mirror or shiny bumper. Both males and females do this, most often in spring and early summer when they are obsessed with defending their territory against any intruders. Birds may spend hours fighting these "intruders" without giving up. A few weeks later, as levels of aggressive hormones subside, these attacks should end (though one female kept up this behavior every day or so for six months without stopping).

—The male cardinal fiercely defends its breeding territory from other males. When a male sees its reflection in glass surfaces, it frequently will spend hours fighting the imaginary intruder.

—A perennial favorite among people, the northern cardinal is the state bird of seven states.

—The oldest recorded northern cardinal was 15 years and 9 months old.

This information is courtesy of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

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