Date: 9/26/17 11:07 am From: Steve Thomas <stype...> Subject: Interesting Cardinal Moment
Yesterday in my yard I saw a male Northern Cardinal perched with a large caterpillar in its beak. Normally when I see a cardinal with an insect I expect it to be feeding young. However, it’s been few weeks since I’ve seen any cardinal feeding activity, though there was plenty of it going on here earlier. I got my bins on the bird and saw that the caterpillar was a Tobacco or Tomato Hornworm about two and half inches in length.
I don’t know the correct term for what the cardinal did next, but he “chomped” the hornworm, working his way from the head end to the tail methodically. When he got to the “horn” he then went back along the caterpillar chomping from tail to head. As the bird was doing this I could see “juice” coming out of the caterpillar’s head end. When the cardinal had gone the length of the caterpillar this second time - apparently to rid the caterpillar of its unappetizing stomach contents, he then swallowed the caterpillar whole.
I know this must be a common practice for Northern Cardinals but I have never witnessed it in detail before. I thought it was an interesting moment observing this behavior in a species that I think of as being exclusively seed eaters (as adults).