Posted by: Dan | February 16, 2007

Birds and Blizzards

It’s no secret that we here in Ithaca had a pretty good snow storm a couple days ago, with the official tally being 16.8 inches of snow. This not only causes problems for us humans, but for birds as well – the food that songbirds can usually find easily becomes covered over by the fallen snow. They have an easy solution, however – go visit the nearest birdfeeder.

And visit they did. My backyard was alive with very active birds, while we watched from the warm comfort of the house.


I didn’t keep an accurate count of all the juncos, tree sparrows, titmice, chickadees, and others. I did take note of a rather gimpy-looking tree sparrow though, that was clearly favoring its right leg. Poor thing, we thought.

Fascinating though, were the cardinals.

Cardinal pair

Normally, my yard is dominated by a sole pair of cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis) – a male and female. The storm drew out many more than that on Wednesday, however. I saw no less than 4 males, and 2 females. One of the males was constantly chasing the others, clearly unhappy with the presence of other cardinals on its territory.

Face off

Interestingly, I thought that cardinals, like most songbirds, established their territories by singing primarily, even in the winter months. Yet these cardinals were not singing, merely chasing. I suppose that the time of year, or the cold temperatures, gave these colorful birds cause to remain silent.


  1. I just started feeding the birds again but the other feeders have been very busy with the birds! I always love watching the cardinals with their chasing!

  2. I’ve heard a couple of male cardinals counter-singing on warmer mornings here on the borders of Sapsucker Woods for the past few weeks; a bird’s presence and activity can play a very important role in territory maintenance, but territory size (as well as antagonism amog birds) decreases when there is ample/unlimited food, like at a feeding station. Great selection of feeders (and birds!) by the way…

  3. Welcome to I and the Bird #44 – Science and Serendipity, Words and Pictures

    (and I envy your cardinal shots – I tried to get one yesterday but they wouldn’t let me close enough for the little camera I had. Sigh.)

  4. Greenbelt means good birding

    Greenbelt: An undeveloped swath of land designed to keep a bit of the country in otherwise urban, or quickly becoming urban, settings. Greenbelt: Our home in Maryland for almost two decades, one of three green towns built as part of President Franklin …


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