Northern Cardinal

Even the most experienced Kansas birders smile when they see a northern cardinal. Cardinals are common in all Kansas counties and from Maine to Arizona, and down as far as Guatemala.

But these brilliant red birds possess some uncommon traits most people appreciate.

Cardinals are monogamous and breed with the same mate year after year. They’re a bit old fashioned because the female builds the nest and incubates the eggs while the male faithfully brings her, and eventually their chicks, food.

The bond often continues when they’re not breeding or raising young. Male and female are often seen together. Researchers have documented one cardinal starting a song and stopping and its mate finished the tune.

With their clear, recognizable song, male cardinals can be as pleasing to the ears as the eyes. In the spring they may start their concerts an hour before sunrise, when owls and whippoorwills are still calling.

Even in the dead of winter, with snowflakes falling, male cardinals will often sit in the open and sing their upbeat song. Some say their concerts can be about more than establishing territory and attracting females.

Legend has it cardinals are the angelic spirits of loved ones who have passed. They also say such birds have a way of showing up to cheer someone they left on Earth.

It’s hard to imagine a better bird to be such an angel.