Birding/Northern Cardinal

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Question
Questions about Northern Cardinal.
A northern male cardinal has been living in our backyard for at least 2-3 years.  I recognize him because he has a distinctive black feather on his left leg.  I read that this might be a sign that he is an older cardinal.  My wife and I have been feeding him (along with his female mate) sunflower seeds that we place on a wooden cart about 15 feet from our windowed garden room.  The male seems to recognize us.  When I whistle for him, he flies to the cart for the seeds and is often joined by a few sparrows and doves.  He has even appeared on our window sill as if he is looking for us.  As we approach the cart he flies to a low brand of a nearby tree, and chirps loudly.   Sometimes he flies to the house gutter just above or head and chirps loudly until we place the seeds on the cart.  We have witnessed him feeding his mate as well as his chicks.  
Questions:
1.   Is this cardinalís behavior as he relates to us (not his mate or chicks) unusual?  To us, he seems like a special bird.
2.   Most importantly. Where did he go?  The bird has disappeared for the past 3 weeks.  We know that our yard is his territory and that cardinals do not migrate for the winter.   But he was present throughout most of last winter.  In the past he has disappeared for a few weeks and returned.  But this time it seems longer.   We fear that he might have died, especially because he might be an old cardinal.
We would appreciate any light you might shed on our 2 questions. Thank you.

Answer
Hi James. The black feather does not indicate age, so we don't know how old this bird is. It's not unusual for birds to get used to people like this, but the danger is that they get so used to people they get too close. Then a cat, kids with BB guns, or something else gets them. Best that they stay wary of humans. Where did it go? It's not unusual for birds to leave their usual haunts for a few weeks to find other food sources. Yes, he could have died as they only live 4-5 years or so. But we hope he is ok.

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Roger Lederer

Expertise

Any and all about WILD birds - the science of ornithology. Information about birdwatching, ecology, conservation, migration, behavior, banding, rehabilitation, feeding, songs, binoculars, identification, and careers in ornithology. No questions about pet or caged birds, please.

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Have a PhD and over forty years as a professional ornithologist - research, teaching, author, speaker, webmaster of Ornithology.com . Have written thirty scientific papers, three bird field guides, a textbook in ecology four other bird books, the latest being "Beaks, Bones, and Bird Songs". Have traveled to 100 countries watching birds and have spoken to hundreds of groups about birds.

Education/Credentials
PhD in Zoology/Ornithology; Emeritus Professor of Biological Sciences; former Dean of the College of Natural Sciences at California State University, Chico

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