|Baby cardinals, the day before fledging|
|Baby cardinal gets ready to leave the nest.|
Two babies remained in the nest, one quite active and one more sedate. I was fascinated by what happened next. Mama cardinal flew into the camellia, hopped up to the branch where the bold Baby Cardinal 1 sat and fed him. She stuck her beak into his open mouth several times, ignoring the loud peeping of the other babies, then flew off. I saw this scene repeat itself several times. Mama clearly was favoring the first cardinal out of the nest.
|Baby cardinal 2 practices using his wings.|
Baby Cardinal 2 responded with more activity. He opened his wings. He hopped. Soon he was standing on the rim of the nest. Still, mama cardinal ignored him. Suddenly, he, too took the leap. He flapped his wings and behold! He landed on a higher branch, about two feet from the nest. It took mama cardinal about two more feedings to take notice of him. I cheered internally when mama returned and fed Baby Cardinal 2 first.
|Baby Cardinal 2 ventures out of the nest.|
Meanwhile, Baby Cardinal 3 had gone for well over an hour without food. I was concerned, but what could I do? I had to leave the house for a couple of hours. When I returned, I checked the nest. Baby Cardinal 3 was now out, awkwardly clutching a branch above the nest. It stayed there for quite some time. Mama cardinal was nowhere in sight. Neither were the two other fledglings.
|Baby cardinal 3. Notice the lack of tail feathers.|
I haven’t seen the fledglings since. Several times, I walked through the garden looking for them. I could hear peeping everywhere. I tracked the peeping to some large red tip photinias in the neighbor’s yard, but couldn’t see the babies. Later, my husband saw what he thought was Baby Cardinal 1, making short flights between a maple and two camellias, with mama observing.