December 2015 Bird Photo of the Month

A beauty in her own right © John A. Middleton, Jr.
Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)

Isn’t she a beauty? Often the female of many bird species is less colorful than the male, and we do not appreciate her. In her own right, this Northern Cardinal, with her bright orange, seed-crushing bill, reddish wings and tail would be touted as a unique, colorful bird if she did not have such a flashy partner. Viewed by herself alone, in the details allowed by John A. Middleton, Jr.’s 300mm f4 with Nikon TC14E-II for 420mm telephoto lens, we can savor even the tiny red-orange facial feathers, her erect crest and watchful gaze. Often during mating season, male Cardinals may attack your windows or even your car’s side-view mirrors. What is he doing? He is likely warning the apparent rival Cardinal he perceives in his reflection that this is his territory and not to intrude!

Unfortunately, human structures often have done tremendous damage to our birds. The reflection of trees and sky in your windows may deceive a bird into thinking it has a clear escape path to freedom, especially when it is startled or is being pursued by a predator like a hawk. Though you may notice only one or two birds each year that have perished from impacting your windows, it is estimated that many millions to as many as one billion birds in the U.S. die from window collisions annually. Scientists have found that birds, which can see into the ultraviolet spectrum, will avoid windows if we use ultraviolet decals on windows that are nearly invisible to human eyes. If all us made our home and business windows less reflective, either by pulling shades during migration and breeding seasons, designing buildings differently, or using glass with decals or implanted UV patterns, we could save millions of birds lives.

Juanita Baker, Coordinator
Florida Bird Photo of the Month
Pelican Island Audubon Society

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