What do you associate with Valentine’s Day? Hearts and flowers? A box of chocolates? Valentine’s Day cards? Birds? In the fifth century A.D., Pope Galesius established February 14 as the Feast of Saint Valentine to recognize a priest who was martyred by the Romans in 269 A.D. In the Middle Ages, people in Europe associated St. Valentine’s Day with love when they noticed that birds began choosing their mates at that time. Did you know that cardinals start to sing on Valentine’s Day to attract a mate? 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 cardinals, 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. Now, I 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. Cardinals 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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