I have two bird feeders hanging on a Magnolia tree right outside my window. I love to watch the winter birds feed while I’m thinking about what to write.
That is, I loved it until the Cardinals started watching me back.
And it was not just watching. It was flat out staring. Sometimes there would be five or six of them, sitting in the tree, absolutely glaring at me.
Was this some kind of message? Cardinals are supposed to be symbols of vibrancy and brilliance. They remind us that even when things appear bleak or isolated, there is always the presence of beauty, hope and love. All good.
But that still didn’t explain the gang staring. Was it personal? Did they not like the chow?
It turns out they were just being Manly Men. They weren’t staring at me. They were staring at their own reflection in the window.
The male Cardinal fiercely defends his breeding territory from other males. When a male sees his reflection in glass surfaces, he goes into, well, red alert. He may spend hours fighting the imaginary intruder.
According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, many people are perplexed each spring by the sight of a Cardinal attacking its reflection in a window, car mirror, or shiny bumper. Both males and females do this, and most often in spring and early summer when they are obsessed with defending their territory against any intruders. Birds may spend hours fighting these intruders without giving up. A few weeks later, as levels of aggressive hormones subside, these attacks should end (though one female kept up this behavior every day or so for six months without stopping).
I’m glad my window isn’t highly reflective, since the Dudes seem to be satisfied with just giving it attitude rather than attacking. And I’m really glad that it wasn’t personal. It was just Cardinal business!