Cardinals’ Fall Friend

December 22, 2020

Bayside Cardinal shelling sunflower seeds

Photographer: Rob Sheridan
Summary Author: Rob Sheridan

Although it will deign to consume the occasional insect or fruit, the Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) is a prolific eater of grain. During mating season, males will entice females with choice kernels presented beak-to-beak. Late in the summer, their attention turns to newly mature and highly nutritious sunflower seeds. However, reaching the nutritious nutmeat requires removing the tough outer hull. This is difficult to do without hands, but the Northern Cardinal succeeds with only its blunt beak and tongue as illustrated by this bright red male as it stakes out a productive sunflower head. Photo taken November 26, 2019.