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Valentine's Day brings thoughts of the cardinal

When most people think of Valentine's Day, they think of hearts and flowers, boxes of chocolate, Valentine's Day cards, Cupid and his arrow -- all that stuff. Some years ago I heard a different Valentine's Day story that I want to share.

The month of February is when the cardinals start to sing. The beautiful red male cardinals, even more brilliant against the white snow, begin to sing their distinctive tune that some describe as sounding like they are saying "birdie, birdie, birdie." The females, colored a pale brown with a few red accents, also sing, but their muted plumage doesn't draw the eye as sharply as the males' red.

Something you might not know about the cardinal, is that they mate for life. Once paired up, they stick with their partner through thick and thin*. The male cardinal brings food to the female while she is brooding their eggs, and also to her and the fledglings once the eggs hatch. 

So, some of us associate Valentine's Day with the return of the beautiful song of this beautiful bird that mates for life and brings so much joy! I hope you enjoy this sweet poem that always makes me smile.

Cardinals

by John L. Stanizzi (for Carol)

I had seen them in the tree,

and heard they mate for life,

so I hung a bird feeder

and waited.

By the third day,

sparrows and purple finches

hovered and jockeyed

like a swarm of bees

fighting over one flower.

So I hung another feeder,

but the squabbling continued

and the seed spilled

like a shower

of tiny meteors

onto the ground

where starlings

had congregated,

and blue jays,

annoyed at the world,

disrupted everyone

except the mourning doves,

who ambled around

like plump old women

poking for the firmest

head of lettuce.

Then early one evening

they came,

the only ones—

she stood

on the periphery

of the small galaxy of seed;

he hopped

among the nuggets,

calmly chose

one seed at a time,

carried it to her,

placed it in her beak;

she, head tilted,

accepted it.

Then they fluffed,

hopped together,

did it all over again.

And filled with love,

I phoned to tell you,

over and over,

about each time

he celebrated

being there, 

all alone, 

with her.

* To be completely accurate, cardinals are what is called socially monogamous - they raise the children together. But they are not always sexually faithful, and 9-35% of the fledglings that hatch have a different father than the one who raises them!

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