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Is this the world’s scariest cardinal or is it possibly the world’s smartest?

Updated on August 26, 2010

I am not afraid of snakes, rats, spiders or any of the other things that a lot of people seem to fear.

I just had a meet-up with a crazy cardinal that was about to change my view of what is normal behavior.

I was out in my backyard during the hottest part of the summer when a young male cardinal flew over from the neighbor’s pool. He took off from their fence like he had somewhere to go. When he got up to about 25 feet off of the ground, he changed direction and headed right for me.

I had never had that happen before. He got within about ten feet of me and landed on the ground. Then he hopped up to within about five feet. He stood there looking up at me. I’m thinking, “What’s wrong with this bird?” It didn’t appear as if he was about to budge.

I walked about 4 or 5 steps and stopped. It was very dry, so when I moved a little puff of dust came out from under my feet. He hopped up to within five feet of me again. My mind is working like crazy now. What is this cardinal up to? We did the same dance step four or five times more. I would move a few feet and he would close the gap again.

I was thinking dumb thoughts like, “Do birds get rabies?” Does this have something to do with the Avian flu? I had heard of large birds like Jays and Crows being found dead in our neighborhood. We were supposed to call someone and report it when we saw big dead birds.

Out of curiosity; possibly some fear involved, I dashed around the back corner of the garage. That bird was still following me. Now I’m beginning to feel like I’m prey or something. Just about that time I saw him nab a large grasshopper that I had kicked up. Whew! I could understand that kind of behavior.

Sheepishly, I realized that the cardinal had been using me as a tool to kick up bugs for him to eat. I now have a new candidate for the most intelligent species list.



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    • profile image


      7 years ago

      LOL - I liked this. :)

      I haven't ever seen behavior like that in a cardinal either, and even though he was using you as a food-finder, it was still brave and out of the ordinary. Maybe he's been hanging out around other people.

      Thank you for posting the pix and info on the bird-feeding syringes, and the video at the end is very cute.

      I rescued a baby bird night before last. He's been one of several over the years and, I just can't help myself. They're so little and fragile, I can't ever pass one up and not lend a hand when they've gotten too far from the nest too soon.

    • DiamondRN profile imageAUTHOR

      Bob Diamond RPh 

      8 years ago from Charlotte, NC USA

      Thanks for stopping by, Dolores.

      The robins have gotten so used to having me around that they will forage within reach, even with their fledglings in tow, when I am sitting on one of the iron benches in our backyard.

      We have planted a lot of bird-friendly perennials and have a birdbath available for them, but we don't have traditional feeders, except for the hummingbirds that my wife loves.

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 

      8 years ago from East Coast, United States

      I love to observe the behavior of birds in our own backyard. One oddity I have seen is that male American robins often dive bomb 2 of my sons, 2 redheads whose hair is almost the same color as the robin's breast. At first I did not believe them but have seen it. Must be the color.

    • Springboard profile image


      8 years ago from Wisconsin

      lol. It never ceases to amaze me the smaller things in a human's world capture ALL of our attentions. And we laugh at the image of an elephant shrieking in horror at the sight of a mouse. :)

    • Dardia profile image

      Darlene Yager 

      8 years ago from Michigan

      I once witnessed some sort of exchange between a Northern Flicker and a common squirrel. The squirrel was on upside down on a tree trunk and the flicker landed on the ground near the tree. They looked at each other bobbing about their heads as if they were visiting. I have a picture of them, they stayed there like that long enough for me to get my camera and snap a shot off. Nice hub!

    • katiem2 profile image


      8 years ago from I'm outta here

      Great article, I love birds and Cardinal are fearless and aggresive as we have many here in Ohio, our state bird. It's a toss up between them and the blue jays as to who's bolder, I think the female blue jay may have it hands down. The cardinals aren't to wise in their choice of nesting, each year I have a nest of cardinals in my Japanese maple just over hanging my Koi pond and it's only about 8 ft. tall, easy access of prey. What an amazing story. Thanks for sharing. Peace :)

    • equealla profile image


      8 years ago from Pretoria, South Africa

      Funny, funny, funny. I have to tell my kids about this, they will enjoy it just as much, for sure!

    • Judah's Daughter profile image

      Judah's Daughter 

      8 years ago from Roseville, CA

      Oh, this is too cute! What a refreshing hub. lol Thank you for the smiles!!!

    • eovery profile image


      8 years ago from MIddle of the Boondocks of Iowa

      Interesting behavior.

      Keep on hubbing!

    • maven101 profile image


      8 years ago from Northern Arizona

      I really enjoyed this little vignette writ with clarity, humor and panache...Thank you for the share...Larry

    • sheila b. profile image

      sheila b. 

      8 years ago

      Observing animals is so fascinating! Like you, I always end up in awe at their intelligence. This bird must have had the experience of man providing food, he remembered it, and acted on it. Loved this story.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Zack and I just read this. Found it h-i-l-a-r-i-o-u-s:) Please copy & paste to your HSH Blog (with image first or it won't come out on main page) if you get the chance. Thanks so much Bob! Have a great day!

    • Sally's Trove profile image


      8 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

      What a lovely vignette! And what a very smart bird. Thanks so much for sharing.

    • samsons1 profile image


      8 years ago from Tennessee

      up & beautiful! Tremendous hub, infatuating...


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