Birds have been a life-long fascination - Audubon was the painter I most admired as a child. In Tsalagi myth the cardinal is the daughter of the sun, akin to the phoenix. Bitten by a morphed little person in the guise of a rattlesnake, she heads west to the darkening land of the dead. Her retrievers, alas, do not follow the instructions for her rescue and she escapes from the wooden box of her portage in the form of the cardinal, and remains thus. The full myth is recounted in Mooney's "Myths and Legends of the Cherokee."