Strange Happenings: A Cardinal in Winter

It’s rather unusual — for me anyway — to see Cardinals in Toronto in the middle of winter. Every fall, the birds all take off for points south. One hears the honking in the air, looks up, hand shading eyes, and follows the ducks and geese as they flock south. Slowly the variety of birds diminishes until only the sparrows and greedy pigeons remain. Robins go. Blue Jays go. And Cardinals go. That’s the way it’s been for decades. But Global Warming isn’t just changing the air temperature and creating wild weather, and Global Dimming isn’t just giving us endless depressing grey skies; they’re also changing animal behaviour, and I’m starting to notice.

This past summer, I rarely saw a Blue Jay; did catch a glimpse of a pair of Cardinals. But when winter came, the Cardinals came out. In the past couple of weeks I’ve seen a pair of Cardinals and today a loner. And they didn’t just zip by and hide behind a thick branch, like they do in summer. They hung out in full view, did a dance in the air, flew off, came back, and sat in the sun. How odd. Even odder now it’s so frigid.

I hope they survive the cold and grace the summer with their presence.

4 Comments so far

  1. Joe (unregistered) on January 25th, 2007 @ 8:41 pm

    Maybe it’s different where you live, but I’ve always known Cardinals to stay over the winter. Blue Jays too. Wikipedia’s entry on the Northern Cardinal also mentions this, saying “These birds are permanent residents throughout their range, although they may relocate to avoid extreme weather or if food is scarce.”

    So, while global warming is real, this isn’t an example of it, I think.


  2. talk talk talk (unregistered) on January 25th, 2007 @ 9:04 pm

    The Hamilton Conservation Authority site also mentioned that they stick to their home range, and also say that cardinals are more visible in winter, (though where I’ve lived in the city I haven’t traditionally found that to be the case). I think the key to why I’m seeing them more might be that it “is a relatively recent arrival to Ontario. The first Cardinals were seen just after 1900 in the Point Pelee area. Since then, they have moved east and north.” The Authority doesn’t say why the spread in range.

    Global warming may not be the reason for their spread as far north as Sault Ste. Marie or Sudbury, but logically speaking, plants and animals (from insects to mammals) from warmer climes can only spread into colder climes when the colder gets warmer. We do know that global warming is affecting migration patterns. However as for why I’m seeing more cardinals, it could simply be a blip or it could be due to a change in competing species or it could be global warming. We can only guess.


  3. Sheryl (unregistered) on January 26th, 2007 @ 1:06 pm

    They’re around all winter.

    There are at least a couple of pairs here in Parkdale that I’m aware of. They tend to eat very well, as they’re a favourite at backyard feeders. I daresay, if you stand at the corner of Melbourne and Gwynne Avenues with an open handful of sunflower seeds, they’ll find you quickly enough.


  4. talk talk talk (unregistered) on January 26th, 2007 @ 2:03 pm

    I can see why they’re a fave. They’re so beautiful to look at!

    My mother has two (or is it now three?) feeders in her backyard and is much more into birds than I am. She was saying to me today that she too has seen more Cardinals this winter than previous winters. So perhaps their population is growing which is why they’re becoming more visible…



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