Urban Wildlife in Forest Hills – George and his Backyard Critters - Meet Baldy | Environment
Part 2 – Meet “Baldy”
I think one of the most beautiful birds is the male Northern Cardinal. Red is my favorite color, which is one reason why I can’t take my eyes off of cardinals. They also have those beautiful crests on top of their heads. Cardinals don’t migrate and keep their color all year round because they don’t molt into a dull plumage like the Gold Finch. This means the cardinals are still breathtaking in my snowy backyard all winter long. Don’t get me wrong, the females are also very pretty, but the males are stunning.
The other thing about male cardinals is they all look alike. The color of their feathers is the same. They all have the black masks around the eyes. They all have those distinctive crests.
Then one day my husband and I saw “Baldy”. He was unlike any cardinal we had ever seen. My husband first spotted him in early April. There was something seriously wrong with him. We gave him the name Baldy because he was missing the crest on the top of his head and the black feathers around his eyes. He looked like a character out of a horror movie.
We could only speculate on what happened to Baldy. Maybe “Hawkeye” attacked him. He’s the hawk that comes to visit our backyard from time to time. Or perhaps “Kitty”, the gray tabby that lives in the neighborhood, got the jump on him.
Feathers have several roles for birds. They help them fly, keep them warm, provide them waterproofing, and help them communicate. How long can a bird live in cold weather without the plumage on top of his head? We didn’t know, so we watched and waited for the answer.
Baldy stopped by our birdfeeder almost daily. He was my husband’s motivation to do a better job of keeping the bird feeder full. Fortunately for Baldy, we enjoyed some really warm days for the next week and a half. The thermometer edged into the 70’s and 80’s. Then the temperatures dropped into the 20’s and it even snowed. Could Baldy survive these temperatures? We watched and waited.
Finally, a few days later Baldy was back. Yup, he was a survivor. He continued to have a healthy appetite in the weeks ahead. It’s now early May, and we have noticed that his plumage is growing back. He still looks different from the other cardinals, but who knows maybe one day Baldy will look like all the other beautiful cardinals again.
I introduced you to George, our dog, last week. George has no interest in watching song birds. He likes the bigger urban wildlife. Next week, we’ll introduce you to his favorite backyard characters – “Doe-Boy” and his friends.
If you missed Part 1 of “George and his Backyard Critters”, click on this link: