Monday, October 12, 2015

Well, who's Perfect?

Drawing of Northern Cardinals by Trudy Smoke

We’ve all read about how certain bird breeds mate for life.  Northern cardinals, Cardinalis cardinalis,  like the ones in my drawing from the Field Guide form breeding pairs that may last one season or several.  However, even though they stay together for that time period, researchers have found that “between one in 10 and one in three eggs in a female cardinal’s nest has genes that don’t match her partner, and less commonly, they don’t even match her own.”  Still commitment wins.  The parents stay together and raise the young. They are “socially monogamous,” which means that the male has a role in parenting:  he defends the nest, brings food to the nestlings, and tends to the fledglings.  But cheating happens even with these paired couples: some females cheat on the male and males may father eggs in other nests.  They can’t even make sure who’s the daddy with those DNA kits that we see advertised all over town and on the web.  But observing cardinals together nonetheless sends us a message of love and commitment, and that was why I decided to draw a pair.  The difference in appearance between the male and female is also important to identification and to me in drawing them.  And as for their behavior--You know what Joe E. Brown said in one of the best movie last lines ever in Some Like It Hot, “Well, nobody’s perfect.”

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