Gardening Payoff

This male cardinal was eating bayberries

This male cardinal was eating bayberries

Nothing says Christmas time to me like a guy in a bright red suit and the smell of bayberry. I saw a flash of red the other day. “Is it SANTA?”, I wondered aloud. Checking the calendar it seemed doubtful, we still have 11 days to go. Besides, Santa seems hell-bent on the cookie tray, and this guy was dancing through the small, tight limbs of one of my female bayberry shrubs, a.k.a. wax myrtle. Oh, silly me…’tis a male Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis).

 

The northern cardinal is one of the more vivid and recognizable birds. The males have that bright red thing going while the females are a little more sedate with a reddish brown glow. Rather like L’Oreal RC6-Cherry Auburn versus 6RB-Light Reddish Brown.

The female has more subtle colors but still a beauty all her own

The female has more subtle colors but still a beauty all her own

These birds are year round residents in their range that covers the eastern two-thirds of the United States. Nice that so many of us have the opportunity to be in their breeding area, although they tend to hide nests in dense tangles of shrubs. I know that they nest in my neighbor’s scrub area because I have seen the parents bringing food for little ones, but heck if I can find where the actual nest is. I can often hear the cardinals flitting from shrub to shrub with their “chip” of a call. They also have a very melodic song that they readily share.

 

“My” cardinal was happily snagging the waxy blue berries on the bayberry, which is native to Florida. Cardinals readily visit backyard feeders, although planting shrubbery native to your locale such as Bayberry or Red Cedar is a more nutritious way to bring them calling and will provide for a greater variety of wildlife than just commercial bird seed will.

 

While a lot of people aren’t fond of Wax Myrtles since their roots structures creep along creating baby wax mrytles where you might not want them, I appreciate their “creep”. They pretty much are filling in along the fence lines to create a natural barrier; AND they attract massive species of wildlife, such as the beautiful cardinal. As I watched while I drank my morning coffee I was happy with nature’s choice of this planting since it brought this red beauty to my beautiful wildlife garden.

 

© 2012, Loret T. Setters. All rights reserved. This article is the property of BeautifulWildlifeGarden.com We have received many requests to reprint our work. Our policy is that you are free to use a short excerpt which must give proper credit to the author, and must include a link back to the original post on our site. Please use the contact form above if you have any questions.

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Comments

  1. Kevin J Railsback says

    I moved from an older neighborhood to a new one about six years ago.
    Not having a lot of established growth meant I missed out on a lot of the birds I used to see at my feeders and in the cover I provided.
    This year is the first year where Ive seen cardinals at my feeders in the new neighborhood.
    Not quote sure where they are coming from yet but obviously the word is out that there is good grub at my place. :)
    Kevin J Railsback recently posted..Filming Nature and Wildlife – A Little Planning Can Avoid Frustration

    • says

      I have to say that I never tire of seeing them and often get distracted from my chores (ok, maybe I’m using the cardinals as an excuse hehehe). Nice to know that as your garden expands, so does the number of your cardinals. I’m planning on adding another red cedar at my place too!
      Loret recently posted..Profile of Darkness

        • says

          Thanks Kathy! I hope so too!

          I have put together grapevine wreaths utilizing berry branches and seeds from what already grows in the garden….mostly for my own amusement, since the birds have access to all that I use in the first place.

          My three cedars (two of which are under 2 ft tall) are in the back away from where they can be seen by anyone other than people who enter my garden. If the birds want decorated trees, they are going to have to go to walmart and pick up the garland themselves :-D
          Loret recently posted..It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

  2. Bob says

    Yep… and Cardinals think they’re the boss of the feeders, too! Of course, that IS disputed by Downy and Red Bellied Woodpeckers at my feeders: ) This Fall has been a great ‘payback time’ for all the years of planting wildflowers and shrubs… A constant stream of Red Breasted and White Breasted Nuthatches, Chickadees, the woodpeckers… even a brief visit from a Tufted Titmouse (that, and the R B Nuthatch were ‘yard-firsts’). Plan to enjoy the winter birds… and then comes the Spring wildflower explosion!

  3. says

    I have one great bayberry under my ash trees so it doesn’t spread but it doesn’t fruit either because I need others…hard to find them and growers don’t identify male and female so I plant small iddy bitty ones and hope someday to have fruit on the bayberry…I also hope to find a local grower who can identify male and female so I can plant a few more that may actually have berries. Seems the deer don’t like them so I love that.
    Donna Donabella recently posted..Faint Memories of My Garden

    • says

      Hi Donna….my friend plans on taking a branch or two from my females and grafting it onto her plant stock to ensure she gets berries. I don’t know that I would have the wherewithal or patience to do that myself, but she assures me it should work. I hope that some of yours turn out to be girls.

      I didn’t realize that bayberry wouldn’t be attractive to deer. Another plus for those of you in “over-deer’d” country.
      Loret recently posted..It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

  4. says

    Loret, I just love Wax myrtle and am delighted to have you sing its praises! Gloria in Excelsis! This lovely native is hardy, green all year, has an amazing and fascinating reproductive cycle, provides food and shelter for the birdies, and: it has a wonderful fragrance. I crunched a leaf every time I walked past mine. So enjoy all of the walks through your garden!
    sue dingwell recently posted..A Year in Virginia

Trackbacks

  1. [...] 75. Gardening Payoff: Nothing says Christmas time to me like a guy in a bright red suit and the smell of bayberry. I saw a flash of red the other day. “Is it SANTA?” I wondered aloud. Besides, Santa seems hell-bent on the cookie tray, and this guy was dancing through the small, tight limbs of one of my female bayberry shrubs, a.k.a. wax myrtle. Oh, silly me…’tis a male , and this guy was dancing through the small, tight limbs of one of my female bayberry shrubs, a.k.a. wax myrtle. Oh, silly me…’tis a male Northern Cardinal Cardinal… ~Loret T. Setters [...]

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