An Alternate Valentine's Day Tale

Did you know that cardinals mate for life?

When most people think of Valentine's Day, they think of hearts and flowers, boxes of chocolate, valentine's day cards, Cupid and his arrow -- all that stuff. Some years ago I heard a different Valentine's Day story that I wanted to share.

The month of February is when the cardinals start to sing. The beautiful red male cardinals, even more brilliant against the white snow, begin to sing their distinctive tune that some describe as sounding like they are saying "birdie, birdie, birdie." The females, colored a pale brown with a few red accents, also sing, but their muted plumage doesn't draw the eye as sharply as the males' red.

Something you might not know about the cardinal, is that they mate for life. Once paired up, they stick with their partner through thick and thin*. The male cardinal brings food to the female while she is brooding their eggs, and also to her and the fledglings once the eggs hatch. 

So, some of us associate Valentine's Day with the return of the beautiful song of this beautiful bird that mates for life and brings so much joy! I hope you enjoy this sweet poem that always makes me smile.


by John L. Stanizzi
(for Carol)

I had seen them in the tree,
and heard they mate for life,
so I hung a bird feeder
and waited.
By the third day,
sparrows and purple finches
hovered and jockeyed
like a swarm of bees
fighting over one flower.
So I hung another feeder,
but the squabbling continued
and the seed spilled
like a shower
of tiny meteors
onto the ground
where starlings
had congregated,
and blue jays,
annoyed at the world,
disrupted everyone
except the mourning doves,
who ambled around
like plump old women
poking for the firmest
head of lettuce.

Then early one evening
they came,
the only ones—
she stood
on the periphery
of the small galaxy of seed;
he hopped
among the nuggets,
calmly chose
one seed at a time,
carried it to her,
placed it in her beak;
she, head tilted,
accepted it.
Then they fluffed,
hopped together,
did it all over again.

And filled with love,
I phoned to tell you,
over and over,
about each time
he celebrated
being there,
all alone,
with her.

* To be completely accurate, cardinals are what is called socially monogamous - they raise the children together. But they are not always sexually faithful, and 9-35% of the fledglings that hatch have a different father than the one who raises them!

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