Monday, May 1, 2017

Cardinal Smarts?



An interesting bit of animal behavior event caught my attention recently. On April 29 I saw a female cardinal pecking at the mirror of the passenger door of my car. I saw it peck a few times, jump on the top of the mirror and shit. Then it repeated this process. I left my window view and headed to the car and the bird switched to the driver side mirror to do the same thing. Both front doors were drizzled in the white leavings of the cardinal. I went and got a couple of rags and string and tied up the rags so that they obscured the mirrors. It was growing evening dim so I thought my issue was solved.

Anyone can go to YouTube and find films of birds attacking their own image in mirrors. It is a common occurrence and in some park locations there are warning signs of potential damage to vehicles from local birds. So a cardinal attacking what she imagined to be a foe was not surprising.

There are also many images of corvids and parrots on YouTube that show remarkable mental skills at problem solving. They even create tools to fetch a morsel of food that requires several steps to actually access. I had never heard or seen any evidence that cardinals had problem solving skills until I woke up on April 30th and looked out my window.

It was barely light outside but enough so that I saw a female cardinal (I presume to be the same one as the evening before) at the passenger side mirror. It was still covered with the rag I had tied there the previous night. I don’t know how long it was there but in my first few moments of watching this morning, it grabbed the rag with its beak and swung it off the mirror as if this were de rigeour.

Fearing that continual pecking at the mirror would sufficiently erode the integrity of the glass I went out and scared the cardinal away and then went off to Cromwell Park to some viewing of other birds. 

That evening and the morning of May 1st I saw no further evidence of this cardinal manifestation. While it was an interesting episode of animal behavior I do not want broken mirrors. I also do not want to routinely clean bird shit off of my car. I only wish I had the opportunity to film it so this event could have made it to YouTube.

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