What bird matches the colors of Valentine’s Day more than the American Cardinal, especially that bright red male cardinal. The female is a browner shade and it might seem unfair that the male gets to be so showy while she is somewhat drab, but the female sits on the eggs while the male flies around as a distraction to predators, literally risking his life to make sure his lady and the next generation are safe.
All birds are pairing off already, as this couple of cardinals demonstrates. This usually begins soon after February 2, that magic day when winter changes over to spring and all the creatures feel the stirring of the cycle. The young cardinals have been showing off with spectacular aeronautics through the trees and all over the backyard, which is lower than my house so I get to see them from the top with the sun shining full on their feathers.
On several different occasions in the spring I had seen a male cardinal run off to the feeder to get a sunflower seed and bring it back to his lady, offering it with a bow. One of these occasions happened to be Valentine’s Day a few years ago. Honestly, I’m not anthropomorphizing (interpreting animal activity by human traits), because I later read in an article about birds that this is a ritual that cardinal couples undertake during courting.
I wrote a poem about it after reading the explanation. Happy Valentine’s Day.
He doesn’t have to give this gift to her
and she doesn’t have to receive it
as she could easily feed herself
but she perches on a branch
while he flies to the feeder
grasps a sunflower seed
and flies back to perch next to her;
they tilt their heads as if to kiss
as she accepts this seed of his love,
the bright red cardinal’s first act of courtship
to his dark red mate
on Valentine’s Day.
I read this poem as part of my 2008 annual poetry reading and art exhibit, “Winter Twilight”, and I have printed a folio of all the poetry from that series of four poetry readings, Paths I Have Walked. You can read more of my poetry on my Professional and Creative Writing Page.
I let PhotoShop combine the two photos I had taken of the cardinals because I couldn’t fit them into one shot. I’m not sure what it did with the missing tree branches, but at least the cardinals are where they should be!