A Splash of Color and a Sign of Hope

John SniffenLa Hacienda

A male cardinal in a tree on Serenity Hill

One of the joys of winter is the sighting of a bright-red cardinal sitting amidst bare tree branches or flashing across a gray sky.

The male pictured above was resting in the underbrush next to the Serenity Hill walking trail early on January 3. His more-muted mate had just flown on ahead.

Cardinals start mating as early as January and average about one mating pair per four acres. This pair may have had a nest—or were starting one–nearby.

Cardinal Numbers

An Internet search about cardinals produces an interesting item: they have links to the number 12.

Redbirds are year-round residents of the eastern two-thirds of Texas, so they are here all 12 months.

Their eggs, usually about three to a nest, take about 12 days to hatch and the young birds grow to mobility in another dozen or so days.

And, according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, a cardinal’s average wingspan is 12 inches.

Popular and Lucky

Their popularity is well established. More states—seven—officially claim the cardinal as their state bird than any other species. (For the record, the western meadowlark is second at six states, and the mockingbird is third at five.)

As with most wildlife, there are legends and folktales regarding the cardinal’s origin and meaning. In general, these colorful birds are considered good omens.

“If you see a redbird, make a wish and it will come true,” is one of those tales according to the Texas Folklore Society.

Sounds like a fine way to start 2019.