The graceful bird of the month, the Bird Cardinal, is said by Native American tribes to have originated from the Colorado River Valley. Many believe that the Indian tribes who made food and supplies for the American pioneers were also hunters and gatherers. In fact, according to some accounts, the first specimens were found on the Colorado plains where they were used by Indian tribes for food, medicine, and clothing.
There are three subspecies of the bird; the Mountain Cardinal, the Southern Cardinal, and the Rockandorn. All of them are native to the Americas. They are widely distributed across the western half of the United States. In addition to the three species of bird, there are also a few unclassified species that may be found along the trails leading up the elevations. For example, a few are known to inhabit the Poudre Canyon, or in parts of Montana.
Most bird watching enthusiasts agree that cardinals are the most popular state bird in the United States. They can be found in a wide range of habitats: in parks, forests, fields, swamps, mountains, and suburbs. They prefer to roosts in large open areas, which give them plenty of opportunities for spotting prey and watching for other birds. They are most active during the spring and summer months, but can be found nearly all year around in lowland areas and desert regions. Some of the most common bird feeders for cardinals include the peanut, red, and white starchy seeds; white-crowned sparrows; California Redbirds; and Northern Cardinal.
Wild cardinals favor tall twiggy branches and dense undergrowth to hide in, so bird feeders must be hung just right. This makes it very difficult for birds to find the right perch, making them easy to spot. Attracting hungry birds is also an important task for cardinals. Like most wild birds, they will wait for a passing bird to catch its fancy before taking a snack.
One characteristic of the male cardinals that makes them unique is that they have a bright orange belly. The male of the species has a second set of black feathers near the top of its head. This set of feathers, called carrion feathers, is what the female bird uses to confuse male birds of other species. A pair of these carrion wings is the ideal place for a female to nest and raise her young. The male will leave the female alone to feed and then return for sex.
One of the most popular feeding places for cardinals is the San Juans in south western Colorado. In their native habitat this species would eat insects such as crickets, grasshoppers, dragonflies, and beetles. But the abundance of food in the San Juans has made them change to birds feeding on other foods. They will also eat small animals, as well as seeds, nuts and seeds from plantain leaves. They also like suet, berries, nectarines, acorns and fruits.
Although rarely seen, the state bird, the cardinal curvasci is small species which nests at the base of trees in moist soils. The birds are small in size with stout bodies, short wings and sharp beaks. Their heads, which are black with white feathers, are pointed like that of a cardinal. Their eyes are large, round and dark colored with a slight red tint. The tail has two toes, one with a toe pointed and the other pointing backward.
While feeding, cardinals will perch on branches and in bird feeders, but they prefer a more open area to feed in. The birds will sit perched on a branch until they feel the soil beneath their wings and begin to feed. Then they will move around and search for any insects. After they have fed, they will sit low to the ground and let the saliva of their mouth dry on the branch. They will then eat seeds or small insects while basking in the sun.