The Zen Birdfeeder: Acceptance

We had a fatal window strike last week, a male cardinal. I found him laying in the seat of the Adirondack chair that sits beneath our front windows.

I had been sitting in that chair about 12 hours earlier, so it was either at nightfall or quite early in the morning It was puzzling because we had been in the house, and did not hear that awful "thunk" against the window.

We buried him but he has not left my mind since.

Spring wildlife deaths bother me maybe the most. Whether it's roadkill or a bird in my own yard, spring deaths seem so unfair. Animals that survived the northeast winter's cold and ice and snow, lived to greet the spring only to meet their demise as the breeding is just getting underway. It does not seem fair.

In bird loss is easy, but a cardinal loss is extra hard. We just do not have many cardinals in the yard. I knew we definitely had one pair, and the loss of one-half of that pair is devastating to me.

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We did not even have cardinals in our yard until 2005! Cardinals have been expanding their range northward and to higher elevations, and it was not until after 15 years of feeding birds in our yard that a male cardinal appeared on April 2, 2005. We've had them regularly since, though not in large numbers. Then I'm sorry about Mrs. Cardinal.

Over the past couple weeks, I saw a cardinal pair staying close to each other, feeding together, and at least three instances of mate-feeding. Her on a perch or a feeder, I approach with her sweet offer of food, she kindly accepting his gift. A cardinal pair engaged in mate-feeding is likely to nest nearby.

The cardinal pair has also been exchanging songs, another sign of pair formation. Morning and dusk, early to rise, late to sleep, I was assured a duet of "what cheer" from the two.

I see the female now and then. And I have seen a male in the yard. But I think that's what he was: "a" male, not "the" male. I see no mate-feeding. I hear at the cross-singing early in the morning and the night falls. I fear the worst has happened and the "male" cardinal that ruled our yard and pronounced it theirs is gone.

It's getting dark out there, five days after our loss. It's just before 8pm, and I see the female cardinal alone at the bath, no male in sight. In the cardinal duet, so for me, even though there is plenty of other bird songs and calls, the silence is deafening. I'll miss him and think of him all summer long, and the redbird family that might have been.

  • Adam Floyd