A One-legged Cardinal

A couple of weeks ago, while sitting on my back porch with my evening cigar and bourbon, I noticed a female Cardinal with a disheveled wing on its right side. Initially, I thought the wing was disheveled because new flight feathers were coming in, or that it possibly had been attacked by one of the many cats which free range the neighborhood. As I monitored this Cardinal over the past couple weeks, I additionally noticed that when the bird lighted on the ground, it tended to lean a bit to one side, and fluttered its wing to keep its balance and move from place to place. I also noted that when it flew to a perch, it tended to sit rather like a Common Nighthawk, which sit more sideways when perched, due to their tiny feet, rather than facing outward. Over the past few evenings, I’ve been able to determine that the Cardinal is indeed missing one of its legs, so I’m fairly certain that it had been attacked, though I cannot say whether by a cat, or one the many hawks moving north this time of year, some of which, like the Cooper’s Hawk, are well versed in hunting bird feeders in backyards.

I was prepared to put the Cardinal down with my trusty 1958 Daisy BB gun, but as I monitored it, its wing returned to its normal appearance, and its appearance suggests it is in fine health, except for that missing leg. The bird still flies with aplomb, and its balance on the ground has improved, and when flying to a perch, it grabs hold with its one good leg as if it was landing on two. Even more positively, over the past few days I note that its mate (Cardinals mate for life) is now with it almost at every visit to my feeder, and if she is perched in the tree while he is at the feeder, he will fly to her and tenderly feed her a sunflower seed. I hope to see them at my feeder with their young ones as the year progresses. Here are a couple of photos taken with my phone. First is the female Cardinal alone, the second is with her mate. I apologize for the lack of quality.

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