01.26.20: Winter cardinal

A female Northern Cardinal perches on a limb on a snow morning in Blendon Woods Metro Park, Westerville, Ohio.

A female Northern Cardinal perches on a limb on a snowy morning in Blendon Woods Metro Park, Westerville, Ohio.

A touch of warm color in a cold season

‍Tech specs

  • Date/time: Feb. 13, 2014, 9:56 a.m.
  • Location: 40°4'23.76" N 82°52'5.279" W (Show in Google Maps)
  • Camera: Canon EOS 7D
  • Lens: Canon EF 600mm f/4L, Canon 1.4x teleconverter (840mm) 
  • Aperture: f/5.6
  • Shutter: 1/800th second
  • ISO: 1000

‍Male Northern Cardinals are attention-getting birds, with their brilliant red feathers, red-orange beak, black face and sharp crest. You can spot the red in green trees and bushes during the summer or against snowy backgrounds during the winter since cardinals don’t migrate south from cold Ohio during winter months.

‍But female Northern Cardinals, the subject of this photo, are less attention-getting. Female cardinals are primarily a yellowish-brown with warm reddish tinges on the tail, crest and wings. The subdued colors blend with their surroundings, making them harder to spot.

‍I see cardinals in the summer but have very few photos of them with green leaves. That’s because cardinals are extremely shy birds, flying off quickly if they detect motion. There’s little to keep them in one spot when I approach in the summer.

‍The vast majority of my photos of cardinals are taken during the winter months in Blendon Woods Metro Park where I found this cardinal. The park has a viewing shed that provides bird watchers with a chance to watch a variety of waterfowl on a nearby pond during winter months (the pond has an aeration system so it doesn’t freeze solid in the winter).

‍The park also has a well-stocked bird feeder to the side of the shed. That’s why I go. 

‍I use the shed as a photographer’s blind, keeping me out the birds’ sight while protecting me from wind and snow (the shed isn’t heated, so I have to deal with the cold). Cardinals, nuthatches, chickadees, titmice, a variety of sparrows, woodpeckers, blue jays and a number of other species queue up on surrounding limbs, bushes or fallen logs while they wait for a spot at the feeder. That’s when I get my shots.

‍In this photo the female cardinal was perched on a tree limb about 10 feet behind the feeder. A recent heavy snowfall blanketed the surrounding forest, providing an uncluttered background.

Female cardinals are primarily a yellowish-brown with warm reddish tinges on the tail, crest and wings. The subdued colors blend with their surroundings, making them harder to spot.

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