We love to sleep with the windows open whenever weather permits. Last summer, I awoke one morning to an unusual chirping sound coming from the rhododendron outside my bedroom window. Little did I know that one of the most amazing learning experiences of my life was about to begin...
A female cardinal was sitting upon a nest she'd made for her eggs, and her doting mate was making trips into the bush to feed his girl. I was immediately entranced, and I spent the next several weeks spying on this budding family.
I began reading about cardinals and learned that couples mate for life and stay together year round. Learn more about the Northern Cardinal with this BIRD GUIDE .
For two whole weeks, Mama cardinal sat on her eggs. She sang constantly, and whenever she called out, Papa cardinal would appear. He brought her food regularly, and he bounced from bush to tree all day long, chirping out information on what was happening in the yard so that he could keep the female safe. It was amazing!
And then it happened. The chicks hatched on the 11th day of my observation.
If only my photographs were better, but these were taken with a crummy camera, through our bedroom window and screen. I didn't want to disturb the miracle I was witnessing, so I tried to stay as quiet and non-invasive as possible.
|Mama cardinal tending to her newly hatched chicks.|
|Three hungry chicks, all crying for Mama at the same time.|
|Papa carrying a green worm for his kiddos|
|Daddy on Patrol|
|Mama on the lookout while the chicks nap|
|Mama feeding the babies|
|About to open eyes for the first time|
|Mama protects the chicks during a storm.|
|Mama with her chicks at night.|
|Mama, feeding from above|
|Mama, inserting food into her chick's mouth.|
|Astonishing to witness!|
|The first chick is about to hop out of the nest.|
|And then there were two...|
|The last chick, about to leave the nest.|
|Mama, coaching on the far end of the bush.|
|Fledgling 1, looking right at me!|
|Fledgling 2, feeling brave.|
|Fledgling 3 was the most wary bird. She wasn't as bold as her siblings when it came to leaving the bush.|
Mostly, I can't help but compare the maturation of these chicks to that of my own daughters. As difficult as it must have been for Mama and Papa to prepare these babies for leaving the nest, their love, dedication and team work was completely evident and inspiring.
I empathized with Mama and Papa on the day their chicks left the nest and imagined the day when our daughters will be off to college, exploring the world on their own, truly spreading their wings for the first time. The emotions must be overwhelming for Mama and Papa and the chicks alike, as I'm sure we will experience in our own family when that day arrives.
Every time I see a cardinal now, I am reminded of the love and devotion that exists within families, the bonds that are formed by selfless perseverance and patience and the awe-inspiring truth that we are all connected in this world. We just need to spread our wings...