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Life Lessons from a Little Red Cardinal

A watchful CardinalGuard sings his most menacing song from the tree above our campsite.

Last month marked my second trek to Garner State Park in west Texas. Our first visit was last July, when it was sunny, warm and packed with fellow campers.

But this was February, and the park was nearly empty. We arrived after hours and navigated through the park in the cold, chilly darkness until we found our very same campsite from July. We parked, set up our tent and headed out again in search of victuals and firewood.

A light rain was falling when we returned and crawled into our tiny tent for the evening.

The next morning, I awoke to a sound I definitely wasn’t expecting to hear in the dead of winter.

“Heeeeerrrreeee pretty birdie birdie birdie birdie birdie!”


Unbelievably, amazingly, he was back. Our personal CardinalGuard. 

Our precious CardinalGuard preparing to run off the red feathery intruder.

This tiny red bird had repeatedly attacked our car during our previous week-long summer camp-out. He would start with the driver-side mirror, proceeding around the car window by window until he reached the passenger-side mirror.

In between attacks, he would perch in the tree just above the car and screech out what (I have to assume) was his most threatening song….

“Heeeeerrrreeee pretty birdie birdie birdie birdie birdie!”

On this, our second trip, the cardinal was all business.

The first day we were there, he restricted his efforts to the respective reflective surfaces on the outside of our vehicle. But on the second morning, when we took the rain guard off the top of the tent and settled back down to snooze, all of a sudden I heard whirring wings.


Seizing the opportunity presented to him, our CardinalGuard took a more direct approach. If he couldn’t run off the larger blue vehicle, the smaller blue tent would do just fine.

That morning I took the car to go run an errand while my friend stayed behind to make breakfast. When I returned, he showed me a photo he’d snapped of the picnic area.

Our CardinalGuard menacing the picnic table.

It showed the picnic table, chairs and small campfire. On one side of the picnic table, I could just make out a tiny red…..cardinal. My friend told me the cardinal had dive-bombed him while he was sitting at the picnic table, whizzing around beneath the table top to give his legs a good scare.

A few times throughout the weekend, we glimpsed a less-bright, red-beaked bird perched higher up in the trees…clearly this was our ferocious CardinalGuard’s other half. Always with his lady watching, and anytime we would forget to close the doors of our car, he would dive down and harass it, even ducking inside to give the cab’s rearview mirror a good scare.

Then he would fly underneath the car to sit and catch his breath before resuming his onslaught.

To us, the whole display was simply precious.

But as we drove away from Garner for the second time, my friend suggested we might want to pick a different campsite next time to give that poor cardinal a break.

Life lesson: Never give up. Ever. EVER. Especially if there is a fetching and feathery ladybird watching. If you keep trying (and are especially menacing) the large featherless intruders will eventually leave.

Life Lessons from a Little Red Cardinal

Shannon Cutts

Freelance writer. Author. Cockatiel, redfoot tortoise & box turtle mama.

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APA Reference
Cutts, S. (2018). Life Lessons from a Little Red Cardinal. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 27, 2020, from


Last updated: 16 Feb 2018
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