At the end of July, I noticed a male northern cardinal (like the one at right) feeding its fledglings near my bird feeder. The female cardinal approached several times, but the male chased her away. Can you explain this unusual behavior?
—Chrissy Myers, West Grove, Pennsylvania
George: The most logical answer is that the female northern cardinal was not the mate of the male feeding the fledglings, nor the mother of the young birds. If they were a pair, another possibility is that they had already cycled into a second nesting, and the female was either building another nest or incubating eggs. At that point, the male takes over all feeding duties and protects the fledglings, perhaps even from his own mate.