The third coin in the Colourful Birds series of commemorative coins from the Royal Canadian Mint depicts the Northern Cardinal. The cardinal is one of few bird species that are present in Canada all year round, bringing a dash of bright red to a season shrouded in white. The cardinal coin follows previous entries in the series depicting the Blue jay and the Cedar Waxwing.
Where Are Cardinals Found in Canada?
Cardinals are found primarily in Ontario and the southeastern regions of the country. However, in recent years, the cardinals’ range has expanded west as far as Manitoba and northeast to Newfoundland and Labrador. Several factors contribute to the cardinals’ spread:
- Warmer winters
- Increased nesting habitat
- Bird feeding operations by humans
Cardinals are frequent visitors to backyard bird feeders, with sunflower seeds being a favourite food. An abundance of food due to human intervention has allowed cardinals to extend beyond their traditional range. Human activity also converts forests into farmland more conducive to a cardinal nesting habitat.
How Can You Recognize a Cardinal?
Cardinals are pretty distinctive-looking birds. They have short, orange beaks designed for eating seeds, black colouration around their eyes and throats, and a tuft of feathers sticking up from their heads. Male cardinals have red feathers all over their bodies, and this bright hue helps them attract mates. Females are mostly grey or tan to blend in better with their surroundings while hatching eggs and raising offspring. However, they also have some red feathers on their wings and tail.
You may hear a cardinal before you see it. Its call consists of a series of slow, high-pitched chirps, followed by faster, low-pitched chirps.
What Symbolic Meaning Is Attached to Cardinal Sightings?
It is a widespread belief that cardinals are messengers from the afterlife and seeing one up close means that a deceased loved one is nearby. This belief has been popularized in a poem posted on a nature blog, but the idea seems to go back further and originate with traditional folklore.
It is not clear how the cardinal became associated with visitations from lost loved ones, but it may be that the bright red colour suggests the eternal flame of love. Another theory is that, because cardinals do not migrate during the winter but stay in the same habitat all year, they represent faithful, steadfast love that persists even beyond the grave.
What Is Special About the Design of the Coin?
The coin depicts a male cardinal in a snowy winter scene, sitting amongst branches of spruce and bittersweet. In the background is a cozy-looking home surrounded by evergreen trees. The cardinal is in the foreground with its body facing away from the viewer but looking curiously over its shoulder. You can tell that it is a male cardinal because it is selectively coloured to show off its brilliant red plumage. The selective colouring extends to the snow-covered spruce branches and the fruits of the bittersweet plants. These small, orange, pea-sized fruits are toxic to humans, but they provide food to birds such as cardinals. These plants are both hardy enough to survive the winter and provide shelter and food to overwintering birds.
The red of the cardinal contrasts with the green of the spruce needles, demonstrating a complementary colour combination that is common in nature but no less striking for that. The selective colouration also creates the illusion of an immersive view, pulling you into the scene and allowing you to get closer to the cardinal than you would probably be able to do in person. The reverse image was designed by Tony Bianco, a Canadian artist.
Learn more about the latest in the Colourful Birds series and see the coin’s reverse design up close. Colonial Acres has hundreds of Royal Canadian Mint coins for sale. View all available coins online or drop by for a visit to take a closer look at them.