Watching Cardinals Feeding

Anywhere around St. Louis watching cardinals means the St. Louis Cardinals. The Red Birds have a large fan base.

Baseball Cardinals aside, my backyard is hosting flocks of cardinals for the winter. The birds live here all year, but are most noticeable over the winter because their bright red contrasts so well with the dull winter colors around them.

cardinal pair waiting to eat at the feeder
Birds do have insulating feathers. Puffing these up increases the air layer among them and keeps them warmer as these cardinals sit waiting for room to open up at the bird feeder.

Like many other people we put up a bird feeder. Our feeder is a simple platform under a tin roof. The sunflower seeds are in an old rectangular metal cake tray. The scratch feed is in a small plastic dog dish. A suet cake is in a homemade wire basket. A lump of peanut butter is on a half brick. Water is in an old enamel pan without a handle. The array goes out in the morning and comes in at dark.

winter cardinals show up against the snow
There were seeds around here. The cardinals ate these scattered seeds knocked off the bird feeder. Now the seeds are under the snow.

Shortly after dawn the birds begin to arrive. They are little more than dark shapes in the trees. As the sun rises, watching cardinals decorate the trees with their bright colors and search the ground for leftover seeds distracts me from making breakfast.

cardinals waiting in a tree
Birds have a feeder waiting list. The first birds on the feeder are the mourning doves. There really isn’t much room left for any other birds as they eat. Next come the cardinals. These red birds sit in an old dead tree waiting and watching the doves. Once the cardinals move onto the feeder, the tree will host nuthatches, finches, chickadees and titmice.

As soon as the seeds are put out, the feeder is filled with the cardinal crowd. More wait their turns sitting in the old apple tree. Others stand on the roof peering over to see if they can sneak in.

watching cardinals feeding at the bird feeder
Birds descend on the bird feeder to cover the floor, trays and suet cake as they gorge on the seeds. Titmice, nuthatches and juncos tend to grab a seed and fly off to enjoy eating in peace. Cardinals, mourning doves and blue jays stand in the tray and eat. Chickadees and woodpeckers hang on the suet basket and eat.

Food is serious business for birds over the winter. They must eat a lot to keep themselves warm as well as active. In cold and snowy weather the sunflower tray empties by noon and is refilled.

Watching cardinals working on the seeds is fun. Watching other birds sneak in, hang off the suet, climb the feeder poles, swoop by to grab a seed and fly makes washing dishes take more time as the kitchen window affords a great view. No wonder so many people enjoy feeding the wild birds.

Feeding wild birds is written about in “Exploring the Ozark Hills“.