Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The saga of Cardinals in greater New Orleans

This afternoon in the back yard I was pleasantly surprised by the now-unfamiliar notes of a begging juvenal Northern Cardinal.  They sound like a jumbled series of the usual tik note made by the adults, though a bit softer.  I did not detect any fledges here last summer.  This is the first sign of success this summer.

Cardinals have taken hits from two directions in the last decade in the New Orleans metro area.  Katrina was a major blow, especially in the flood zone of Orleans and St. Bernard.  The species went from being widespread and common to almost absent.  The species is now so scarce that I now keep track of individual reports from residential hoods in this area.  They fared better in other parts of the metro area- but apparently were still impacted to some extent, at least south of the Lake.  My yard in Old Jefferson went from being at the intersection of three neighboring territories immediately before Katrina, to having only one since.

The other threat comes from cowbirds.  In residential areas, mainly the Bronzed Cowbird.  It lays its eggs in Cardinal nests, which presumably lowers the number of Cardinal young produced per year.  These Cowbirds target Cardinals more than they do other species, apparently much more.

Bronzed Cowbirds are generally regarded as already having driven Orchard Orioles from within the city, which they did about 20 years ago.  It remains to be seen whether our local urban Cardinals will survive the double onslaught of Katrina and Cowbirds.


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