About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Why a cardinal might chirp at night

Hello. Have been enjoying your blog and thought I'd share today's bird experiences. Visited WBU store in Mobile, AL (closest one to Pensacola, FL) to purchase birdseed. It's always a pleasure to go there! After arriving home, I spotted a male indigo bunting on the birdbath. Breathtaking vibrant blue and first one seen this year. Could also hear whistling cedar waxwings before they finally flew in; only counted three before they flew off. Usually both of these appear before this time of year. Perhaps they've been in the area, just not observed in my backyard until today. 

Anyway, late this evening, close to midnight, I hear soft chirping notes from a female cardinal who's nesting in a shrub not more than ten feet from my front porch. I suddenly begin to see her flying around my very small covered stoop.  She would circle around at different heights, clinging to the brick sides or perching on porch light fixture and even on the "steeple" of decorative wooden birdhouse. I slowly made my way to the sidelights to get a closer look at her.

She flew around a few more times and then darted out into the night. I went outside, hoping she had flown back to the nest, but soon heard fluttering wings and chirps several feet above my head as I caught a glimpse of her flying up to an oak tree branch. I have never witnessed this type of behavior from cardinals or any other bird for that matter doing this, especially at night.  All I can surmise is that she must have been getting insects attracted to the light, even though I didn't actually see her catching/eating any bugs.

This was just the strangest behavior to me.  Last time I checked, she had laid 3-4 eggs in the nest and had been sitting on them during the day. 
Wouldn't she normally be sitting on the nest since there are eggs, especially on a cool night? Can she see to fly back to her nest at night? I hope all will be safe and well in the morning light. I am just perplexed by this odd sight and wondered if you've had any similar experience. Thank you for your informative blog. Happy birding!

It sounds like she was defending her nest. If a cat, raccoon or some other threat comes within five to ten feet of the nest, the female cardinal will typically move away from the nest at a ninety-degree angle from the predator’s approach and give a series of chip calls.

Unlike other bird species like blackbirds or bluebirds, cardinals don’t attack or dive bomb predators. Instead their tactic is to distract or re-nest as quickly as possible if the nest is attacked. If she is back on her nest this morning her tactic or perhaps your check on her, made it a safe night.

Thank you for sharing your great observations, Sarah

Related Articles:
- Common Backyard Bird Nest Identification http://bit.ly/ACMDcf
- Why Birds Keep Attacking the Window? http://bit.ly/z0Z8Va
- When do Northern Cardinals Nest? http://bit.ly/xR7hxz
- How to Attract Cardinals http://bit.ly/zdXWDV
- Why Cardinals Flock http://bit.ly/zocRzC
- How Birds Mate http://bit.ly/zRvpJ1

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