A his-and-her pair of cardinals have once again settled in the evergreens which surround our rural home.

But trust me, they better behave themselves.

You see, cardinals and picture windows – any windows for that matter – can often spell nuisance. 

So far this spring, all is well. But that has not always been the case at our house.

A few years ago, for example, a coveted pair moved into our territory and took advantage of the daily free lunches at the bird feeder.  

The coveted male cardinal in his bright red plumage would harken his familiar call from a nearby treetop. And the equally beautiful reddish-brown female would answer. Upon that first sighting, I scurried out and filled the bird feeder before they could think about looking elsewhere.

Every morning I’d put out the dog, feed the cats, and check on the cardinals. Especially that beautiful, bright red cardinal who’d make it a habit of flying from tree to tree in the front yard.

One day, he boldly landed atop the bushes just outside a picture window.

Oh, look! He’s getting closer and closer to our house! So I went out and invested twenty in birdseed…the kind with the image of a glorious, bright red cardinal printed on the bag.

Day by day, this beautiful, glorious, bright red cardinal would report to our front yard. He weathered a final late snow storm that year. And he survived an early-April cold snap. And he and his feathered friends went through $20 in bird seed faster than the kids could devour a box of Wheaties…the one commemorating that year’s World Champion St. Louis Cardinals, of course.

Every morning, the kids would watch for the bus and I would watch for the cardinal. 

It only gets better. After a few weeks, he began fluttering near our front window. And he’d occasionally brush his feet across the outer pane.

And then he did it again.

For years, cardinals harbored in our yard, I thought to myself, but never has one been so social and entertaining.

So I hauled home another bag of birdseed and its contents disappeared quicker than the loot from a broken piñata.

My very own resident Illinois State Bird expressed his appreciation by tapping on the front window, only this time more emphatically.

No risk of oversleeping the next day – our magnificent, glorious, beautiful, splendid, bright red cardinal signalled us to get up and relish every minute of what promised to be an idyllic spring morning…which was going to begin with sunrise in about 45 minutes.

And I was grateful to my colorful, magnificent, glorious, beautiful, splendid, bright red cardinal for his vigilance on that Saturday morning, a day when one might be tempted to stay in bed even though it was just about not dark out anymore.

The next morning – Sunday – my highly energetic, colorful, magnificent, glorious, beautiful, splendid, bright red cardinal began to repeatedly bang his feet against the outer pane of the bedroom windows.

Being the Sabbath, I woke up with words of thanksgiving and praise for being blessed with the presence of an excessively highly energetic, colorful, magnificent, glorious, beautiful, splendid, bright red cardinal who had made it possible for me to catch one last glimpse of the moon as it set in the west. He also afforded me the opportunity to watch the last of the overnight infomercials which precede the regular TV programming which airs about an hour and a half before daybreak.

Meanwhile, my φηκϕσοιλ, excessively highly energetic, colorful, magnificent, glorious, beautiful, splendid, bright red cardinal had made it a habit of perching himself on the back of a lawnchair outside the picture window. The φηκϕσοιλ, excessively highly energetic, colorful, magnificent, glorious, beautiful, splendid, bright red cardinal had mistaken that lawnchair for a restroom.

After I’d already been denied about three early morning hours of sleep over the weekend, this dirty, rotten, no good φηκϕσοιλ, excessively highly energetic, colorful, magnificent, glorious, beautiful, splendid, bright red cardinal was back at it earlier than ever on Monday morning. First, he slammed into the bedroom windows. Then he ricocheted from one picture window to another. Then he smacked into every upstairs window before dirtying the back of that lawn chair I had cleaned off the previous evening.

The next day, before the clock struck five, Illinois’ official state royal pain – a  dirty, rotten, no good φηκϕσοιλ, excessively highly energetic, colorful, magnificent, glorious, beautiful, splendid, bright red cardinal – was bodyslamming himself into each window around the house at a speed which led me to believe we were in the middle of one doozy of a hail storm.

And when finished, he landed on the back of that lawn chair and stared defiantly at me as if to say: “Guess what, I’m a protected species and I’m going to be back even earlier tomorrow!”

Later that week, I called former neighbor Bob Massey of Herscher, a biologist with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

“You got one that’s driving you nuts, don’t you?” said Bob upon the mere mention of the word cardinal. “And yes, they are protected,” he replied to my next obvious question. Bob went on to explain that cardinals tend to spar with their own reflections.

“They won’t stop. Their heads can even get bloody. It could go on for weeks,” he explained. 

So far this year, the cardinals in our yard our behaving themselves. 

But just in case, I’m putting out a sign: Warning: Our cats still have their claws.