By Dan Weisz
With springtime the Cardinals are very visible again, with the males singing from the tops of trees to declare their territories. I’ve seen a pair feeding in my back yard for some time now. The other morning this male Northern Cardinal was demonstrating some unusual behavior. He was on the ground quite a while picking up various twigs that had fallen from my chuparosa plant.
However, he never flew off with a twig. I wasn’t sure what he was doing. Here, he had let go of the first twig and seemed to be surveying the other twiggy debris around him.
He found another ‘perfect twig’.
He put it down and picked up another. Was he playing? Was he searching for the right twigs for a nest he was building? I really couldn’t tell. By the way, here is information about the chuparosa plant from the Desert Botanical Gardens in Phoenix: https://dbg.org/chuparosa-a-plant-for-every-season/
And then, he bit the twig in half. If you look at the photo above, the short stick is whole. In the photo below, he has bit through the twig with both pieces to the sides of his bill and falling to the ground. Is he trimming the twig to size? Will he now pick up the right-sized piece?
Nope, he moved on to another long piece. What is going on in his mind?
Snip, he bit off the end of that piece too. You can see that what remains of that piece is missing the long upper part. The Cardinal seemed to be looking at me as if to dare me to do something. I was inside the house and behind the window just watching.
Then he bit off the lower portion of that same twig!
Finally, the Cardinal flew off without any twigs in his beak. I still have no idea what he might have been doing but he kept himself busy for quite a while. For more on this interesting species, Birdnote introduces this very familiar bird: https://www.birdnote.org/listen/shows/northern-cardinal-meet-cardinal