An Old, Feisty Female Cardinal Bit the Same Scientist Eight Years Straight

Talk about an unpleasant reunion.

This audio story is brought to you by BirdNote, a partner of the National Audubon Society. BirdNote episodes air daily on public radio stations nationwide.


This is BirdNote! 

That's the Northern Cardinal. It swoops through gardens and eats from seed feeders in the eastern United States. The males are brilliant red, the females greyish tan, but both sport jaunty crests and have large red beaks. If you haven't seen it in the wild, you've likely seen the colorful cardinal on holiday cards and the covers of bird books. 
Biologist Eric Lind, who heads up the Audubon Center at Constitution Marsh on the east side of the Hudson River, has had a unique experience with a cardinal. 

During spring breeding season, Eric and his team capture and band birds at the marsh. They're part of an important study, because the north end of this 270-acre tidal marsh is a remediated Superfund site. For eight years in a row, Eric caught the very same female cardinal. Eight years – that's about twice the average age of an adult cardinal. This aggressive female didn't just peck at the banders' fingers like other captured birds, but clamped its strong bill on to the soft flesh between his thumb and first finger. And held on tight. Ouch!

Each year that Eric re-caught the bird, he dreaded the experience, yet admired this particular Northern Cardinal. She wasn't "just another pretty face," but a feisty survivor.

You can learn more about the study at Constitution Marsh and see a photo of a female Northern Cardinal, on our website I'm Mary McCann.

Producer: John Kessler

Executive Producer: Chris Peterson

Written by Frances Wood

Narrator: Mary McCann

Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Song of male Northern Cardinal [105598] recorded by G.A. Keller; spring dawn chorus at a marsh in Sussex County recorded by A.B. Vandenberg [86375]; song of female Northern Cardinal [409693] recorded by G.F. Budney.

© 2014 Tune In to     November 2017   ID#     NOCA-02-2012-11-18    NOCA-02