Hard to top the northern cardinal

A male cardinal shows its brilliance in Tuesday’s snow. As well as stunning looks, the birds are eternal optimists and extremely faithful to their mates.

We could all learn a lot about living from northern cardinals. They’re one of nature’s premier optimists, and know a thing or two about how to treat their mates.

Well before daylight amid Monday’s blowing snow, a male cardinal was happily trilling away from deep inside a cedar tree near our backyard. Most spring mornings, from the Black Hills to the Everglades, they’ve been the first bird I’ve heard in the morning while on spring turkey hunts.

Mated males and females are so tight she may finish a song that he begins, and the male will bring the female food while she’s incubating their eggs. Even now, weeks before the first eggs of spring, often where you see one you’ll also see the other.

Cardinals are the favorite birds of many people I know, but a lot of that is probably because of the male’s brilliant red colors. That they also aren’t too shy probably adds to the appeal.

Scouting a place to photograph pheasants on the snow earlier this week I happened by a deer feeder with a half-dozen or so male cardinals sitting about a snowy cedar, shining in the early morning light. Sitting in the warmth of Ol’ Red, a window down just enough to rest  a 400mm lens, the birds seemed to pose for about 200 photo frames in less than an hour.

Happy, brilliantly colored and seemingly ready to pose for easy photography…what’s not to like?