Well, we haven’t been able to check on them lately. You’ve probably heard in the news about all the tornadoes in this area of the country. We haven’t had any tornadoes, but we have had storms. It has been too wet to go down into the area of the yard where the birds nest is.
I was finally able to get down there a few evenings ago to peek at our baby birds and this is what I found:
As you can see in the photo, it was getting dark and I had to look twice to make sure that I was really seeing what I thought I was seeing: An empty nest. Both babies are gone!
At first, I thought the parents must have moved the babies. After all, this nest was not exactly undisturbed. First, Papa the Farmer accidentally knocked the nest out of the tree and onto the ground when he was cutting the grass with his tractor. (That’s how we found them!) Then, three little farmhands dragged a step ladder down to the tree so that they would be able to peek at the babies (and “check on them”) every once in a while. Then some really strong winds and storms came and shook the tree so hard that one of the baby birds fell out of the nest again! And finally, some crazy lady with a camera kept going down to take pictures (something about a blog and a giveaway…???) So, if the parents had decided to move to a quieter locale, I would have completely understood…
But I did what any modern homeschooling mother would do: I pulled out my 900+ page “Handbook of Nature Study” by Anna Botsford Comstock and did a Google search! Apparently our birds did not leave for lack of privacy. We know that these babies were cardinals because we were easily able to identify the parents.
Here’s what I learned about baby cardinals:
- Mother cardinals make nests and stay in the nest long enough to hatch the eggs. The nests are usually well-hidden in low branches of evergreen trees and according to Comstock, “It causes these birds great anguish to have their nest discovered.” (Oh dear! I wish I had read that before going down there to take pictures so often!)
- The father bird feeds his “wife” and sings to her while she is sitting on the eggs.
- Once the eggs hatch, the mother cardinal leaves to build another nest and the father cardinal takes over most of the work in caring for the babies. (That explains why I hardly ever saw the mother, and usually only saw the father cardinal!) This way they have multiple broods each summer!
- The babies do not develop red feathers until they can already fly. Instead, they are a dull brown color that helps them to blend in with their nest. This protects them from their enemies. If the baby boys were bright red like their father, it would be too easy for their enemies to find them and they probably would not survive.
- Cardinals do not migrate, so now that they’ve established themselves in our yard we will hopefully be seeing more of them!
- The babies leave the nest when they are only 9-14 days old! They hop on the ground and in lower branches for a few days until their wings are strong enough to fly.
- The babies stay with the father while the mother is hatching the next set of eggs. In the winter, lack of food often causes all the babies and the parents to stay fairly close together.
In the meantime, what about the Giveaway?
Since the babies have left the nest, I’m going to close our Baby-Bird Giveaway. In honor of our baby birds, Debra, from NotebookingPages.com has generously agreed to give one of my readers a set of her wonderful North America Birds NotebookingPages. You have until Wednesday at midnight to click here and enter. On Thursday morning one winner will be randomly selected via random.org!