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 by Sally Blanchard (copyrighted 2011)

At one time the male and female cardinals looked pretty much the same. They were both kind of a light reddish brown color. The only real difference was that the male had a blacker face than the hen. 

One year when Spring came early, everything started to bloom. Grasses were shaking off the brown of winter and turning green. Color was beginning to peek out of the buds on trees and shrubs. Colorful crocus and daffodil flowers dotted the landscape and forsythia branches embraced with yellow flowers reached out to the sunshine.

The male cardinal delighted in all of this splendor and wanted to tell the whole world that Spring was here. He flew from branch to branch and sang out, "pretty, pretty, pretty, what cheer, what cheer!" He became the town crier and because of the cardinal's song, everyone for miles knew it was Spring and shared in the cardinal's enthusiasm. 

But the next day, snow once again blanketed the landscape and covered the brightly colored flowers. Tiny icicles hung from the emerging tree buds and bowed the forsythia branches. He was no longer the joyous announcer of Spring. Jays scolded him and mockingbirds mocked his calls with a slight edge of sarcasm. Even the normally cheerful chickadees commented on his mistake by mobbing him and criticized him with their "dee dee dee." As the cardinal made his way through the neighborhood more and more of the local birds and animals made fun of him. He was too early in announcing Spring and he blushed with so much embarrassment that he turned forever red. 

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