Saturday, January 4, 2014


photo by paul davis
Redbirds a.k.a. Cardinals (cardinalis cardinalis) were frequent visitors to my home in northeastern Ohio where I grew up.  That bright flash of red announcing the male and his paler counterpart and mate.   They came in the winter to feast on seeds we left in the large feeder my father constructed.   The Redbirds were not alone, but they were the brightest spot in the feeder alongside the flashing blue of jays, the grays of juncos, the soft browns of sparrows and the stark black and white contrast of chickadees.  Even the brown fur of an occasional squirrel could be seen among the feathers. 


photo by paul davis
We watched, along with the cats, from the window as the flashing colors came and went all winter long.  Those winters were long in the Snowbelt that stretches between Cleveland, OH, and Buffalo, NY.  They were also gray on most days for the lake effect snows dumped plenty of white stuff on the ground which can’t be done on a bright, blue sky day.  But for all the stark trees against their background of white, always there was that flash of red.  A reminder that the world is not always seen in black and white and shades of gray.


photo by paul davis

Of course, we did not spend all our time sitting at the window watching the Redbirds and their friends.  Most weekends found us out-of-doors, bundled against the cold, riding down the big hill behind our house on our toboggan.  That was especially fun when Dad came along.  He was heavy enough to take the toboggan all the way to the creek that ran through the valley at the bottom of the hill.  Before the saplings were big enough to stop us with a BUMP, we came perilously close to a soaking on more than one occasion.  Winter birthday parties always ended up with rosy cheeks and cold noses, hands and feet, as well as a lot of whooping and hollering.  And hot chocolate when we finally went inside.  Still, sometimes, sometimes, there was a flash of red through the trees.

photo by paul davis

Once walking the back roads home after school through the muffled silence of big, fat, falling flakes of snow, a Redbird crossed over the road directly in front of me.  My friend saw it too.  We stood still in the gathering dark and watched as the red flash disappeared into the woods calling, “Whoit cheer, whoit cheer, cheer-cheer-cheer!”


I have lived in two of the seven (yes, seven!) states where the cardinal is the state bird – Ohio and Illinois.  Now I live in Colorado and have for over half my life.  I miss those flashes of red.  Yes, there is still a bird feeder outside the window.  It is visited by redwing blackbirds and sparrows mostly as the magpies prefer dog food over seeds.  But the bright flash of red is missing as cardinals do not live here. 

So I thank my friends who send their pictures my way brightening my winter days with a flash of red.

© Julie Herrera 2014


Unknown said...

I enjoyed the post and the photos! I have a redbird puppet that I love. Thanks for sharing.

Unknown said...

I enjoyed your post and the photos! I have a redbird puppet that I love. Thanks for sharing.

Stories by Julie said...

Thank you, Jessica. A Redbird puppet - Wow!

View my website at: