11.19.17: Spring cardinal

A female Northern Cardinal perches on a branch, Sharon Woods Metro Park, Westerville, Ohio. 


Technical information

May 31, 2013,
9:13 a.m.

40°6’51” N,
82°57'31" W
(Show in Google Maps)

Canon EOS 7D

Canon EF 600mm f/4L, Canon 1.4x teleconverter (840mm) 


1/400th second


When people think of Northern Cardinals they think of the bright red male. 

Northern Cardinal is one of a number of dimorphic species of birds, where the color of the male differs from that of the female. The colorful male is very memorable and identifiable. The female is much less flashy.

But I’ve always enjoyed photographing female cardinals. Unlike the male, the female cardinal is more difficult to see — which makes it more difficult to photograph. Their subtle color (yellow-brown with touches of red on the crest, back and tail) often blends in with their surroundings. 

I found this female cardinal on a spring morning perched on a tree branch near the forest in Sharon Woods Metro Park. I liked how the bird’s color worked with the defocused yellow background so I grabbed a few shots before it flew off.

Cardinals are year-round residents of Central Ohio, hanging around for the hot summers and for the cold, snowy winters when other birds head for warmer climates. 

Cardinals are extremely shy birds, flying off quickly if they detect motion. So the vast majority of my photos of cardinals are taken during the winter months when I can shoot from cover — a viewing shelter near a feeder in Blendon Woods Metro Park near Columbus, Ohio — and catch the birds as they wait in nearby trees for a spot at the feeder. But I got lucky this time. I was in the open and I didn’t use a feeder as a lure.

Each week I will post a photo from my collection with an explanation of how I got the shot. Previous photos of the week are in the archives.