Barry Kent MacKayArt by Barry Kent MacKay
Art and Photo Presentation

In this section are copies of original works of art. All of them are dedicated to helping us live according to unconditional love and compassion, which is the foundation of our peaceful means of bringing true and lasting peace to all of God's creatures, whether they are human beings or other animals.

Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis cardinalis)

Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis cardinalis)
(Artwork - 121)
Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis cardinalis)

The Northern Cardinal is one of the more common garden birds in southern Ontario, where I live, and yet was virtually unknown in Ontario prior to the start of the 20th Century. Before then it was thought of as a bird of the southeastern U.S. It has a wide distribution across temperate North America, including much of Mexico, west, in the south, as far as California, but missing through the entire northwestern and northern regions of the continent. Since cardinals are non-migratory, they have diverged into a wide range of subspecies (19 by one count), some of which are quite distinctive. The ones I saw in the deserts of Arizona, whose well-chosen subspecific name is C. c. superbus, were a brighter red than the ones back home, with distinctly longer crests and less black on the face. The species has been introduced to places like Bermuda and Hawaii, where it is quite common.

While most folks just call them “cardinals”, the proper English name is “Northern Cardinal” to distinguish the species from a very similar species found only along the Caribbean slope of Colombia and Venezuela known as the Vermillion Cardinal (C. phoenicues), once popular in the cage-bird trade, and, sadly, still captured to be caged in some regions, even illegally poached. It, especially the male, is very similar to the Northern Cardinal in appearance, but with a still longer crest, less black on the face, and a blackish, not red or orange, beak.

I had planned to do this simple study of a male Northern Cardinal on a bare maple twig, but a few weeks ago I saw one on twig of red osier dogwood (Cornus sericea) and found the contrast between the different shades of red on the cardinal and the more purplish-maroon reds of the dogwoods very interesting, and so changed my mind and showed my cardinal on the dogwood, the same bush, in fact, putting both in front of a softly blue sky.


In some regions cardinals stay with the same mate through the year, but here they seem to break up, although it is not terribly odd to see, in winter, very loose flocks of them, perhaps one or two dozen or more birds in a relatively small area, although the birds not terribly close to each other. In my yard the males chase the females from the feeders until about February, when the females get first choice and the males are ever-so-polite, it seems. Although only the more softly-coloured female incubates the eggs, both parents feed the young, usually about two or three per pair but possibly up to five.

The painting is approximately 12 by 9 inches, approximately life-size, on hardboard, in acrylics. Framed.

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Copyright © Barry Kent MacKay
Barry describes himself as a Canadian artist/writer/naturalist.
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