The brilliant red male Northern Cardinal is common and conspicuous at the same time. It is the state bird of seven states – more than any other species; it would have been eight had Delaware not opted for a blue hen. Cardinals do not migrate, so their beautiful song can be heard year-round in Central Park. Keep your eyes peeled for the loving gesture of a male feeding his potential mate some seed – talk about romance! The red in our flag represents hardiness and valor. Anyone who has seen a cardinal shivering atop a snow-covered branch in the depths of winter can certainly agree that they are hardy and brave. The male’s color is a result of carotenoid proteins in their diets, including berries.
One of the most stunning all-white birds, the Great Egret is a member of the Heron family. These large, elegant birds, unfortunately, migrate during the winter, but are a delight to behold in Central Park the rest of the year. They are usually found lurking around the edges of water bodies. The white in our flag represents purity and innocence. The beautiful plumage of Great Egrets may be purely white, but if you watch one patiently waiting to spear a fish and gobble it down, it’s hard to think of them as innocent.
Another common bird that hangs out in Central Park year-round, the Blue Jay may appear blue, but does not actually have blue pigment. The feather color is caused by light interference with the structure of the feathers. Unlike Northern Cardinals, male and female Blue Jays are similar in coloration and differ only in size, so they all appear to be the same magnificent blue color. These passerine (perching) birds are members of the Corvid family (think crows) and are intelligent and curious. Blue Jays are also vigilant about justice, which is what the blue represents on our flag: they are the alert system to warn other birds about a nearby predator such as a hawk or owl. If you hear a lot of Blue Jays squawking, it might also be a territorial fight among themselves.