The National Audubon Society; by Nature Science Network, Inc. (1992)

Cardinals Up Close is 50 minutes long and narrated by Michael Godfrey. This tape, as with the others of the Up Close series, suffers from the repeated use of mediocre video footage, some questionable information, and a generally amateurish production quality.

Too much of the video in Cardinals appears to have been shot through a window and/or is not consistently in focus. Also, much of the footage is through a tangle of branches, and otherwise good nest sequences are backlit thus showing just the shapes of the birds. Ironically, much of the better video is of other species such as Blue Jay, Cactus Wren, American Robin, Rose-breasted and Evening Grosbeaks, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Pyrrhuloxia, and Indigo Bunting. There are also some good examples of background vocalizations, but rarely are the other species (or their songs or calls) identified. Had this been done periodically, it would have added to the overall quality of the video. Likewise adding to the amateurish feel is the failure to use a microphone windscreen (the fuzzy rubber ball often seen on outdoor microphones) so that the technical quality of the outdoor interviews is poor.

This is not to say that some good video and information is not provided as there are good, close-up shots of male Northern Cardinals feeding females and some interesting points made concerning feeders and feed selection. Rather, the inclusion of the mediocre video and questionable information detracts from the positive. An example of the latter is the statement that the Sharp-shinned Hawk is the main enemy of the Northern Cardinal. While a female Sharpie has no problem handling a Cardinal, a male is much more likely to prey on warblers and sparrows. Thus, while this statement is not necessarily misinformation, it is likely to confuse the relatively inexperienced person who is the obvious target of this video. Also detracting is the use of narration of John James Audubon in an artificial French accent, and the section on the need to conserve tropical forests that does not belong in this tape as shown by the admission that Northern Cardinals do not migrate.

On a scale of 0 (truly worthless) to 10 (the outer limit of human ability), I rate

Cardinals Up Close a 5½. It has decent video and information, but is generally an amateurish production. However, it is not excessively priced at $29.95 (especially given that NJAS/CMBO members can get it at a discount).

Mike Hannisian