The Northern Cardinal ranks as one of the most recognized birds in North America. The male’s bright red feathers, noticeable crest and orange bill distinguish this bird from other red birds in the United States. A common sight at bird feeders, cardinals will nest in backyards with suitable habitat. Instead of making an enclosed birdhouse, you are more likely to encourage a pair of cardinals to make a home on a simple open-concept nesting platform, properly placed a good distance from the ground.

Cardinals prefer to nest in the branches of trees rather than holes in the trunk. Making an enclosed birdhouse for a cardinal will most likely be in vain, as the cardinal will ignore it, while cavity-nesting birds such as wrens and house sparrows will move in. A simple nest structure may encourage a female to build a nest.


As with all living things, Cardinals need food, water, and shelter to survive. By meeting all of these needs and appealing to Cardinals’ specific preferences for each, you can make your backyard a favorite habitat.

  1. Choose the Right Food

The first step to attracting any bird is to supply them with the food they enjoy. Northern Cardinals feature a strong, thick beak, which is perfect for large seeds and other hearty foods. Safflower seeds, black oil sunflower seeds, and white milo are among a Northern Cardinal’s favorite seed options. In addition to large seeds, Cardinals enjoy eating crushed peanuts, cracked corn, and berries. During the winter, small chunks of suet are another great choice. Be sure to check regularly that your feeders are filled, particularly during the early morning and late evening when Cardinals prefer to eat. Once Cardinals realize that your backyard offers a year-round, reliable food source, they will likely take up a permanent residence.


  1. Use Proper Feeders

Cardinal at feederIn conjunction with the type of food you offer, you need to select the proper types of feeders to suit your Cardinal friends. Your feeders need to be sturdy enough to support the birds. the weight of a Cardinal is approximately equal to 9 U.S. nickels (1.5 ounces), which is actually on the heavy side for a feeder bird. In fact, lightweight, hanging feeders are best avoided because they may sway under a Cardinal’s weight. Platform feeders and bird feeders with built-in trays that provide enough space to perch are usually preferred. Cardinals are broader, full-breasted birds, so they require more space when visiting a feeder.

  1. Consider Food Placement

Choosing the ideal placement for your offerings is the last important factor of appealing to your Cardinals’ eating habits. Because Northern Cardinals prefer to have protective cover when feeding, you should place food sources near trees and shrubbery in your backyard. They will enjoy the foliage and feel safer with these hiding spots nearby. If squirrels aren’t a problem in your yard, you can also scatter seed on the ground for the shyest Cardinals to enjoy.

  1. Provide Water Sources

cardinal at bird bathCardinals need easy access to water for both drinking and bathing. Providing birdbaths or bird waterers is the perfect way to satisfy this need. As with the feeders, a birdbath needs to accommodate the size of these larger birds. Baths with a depth of 2 to 3 inches at the deepest point are usually best. To attract Cardinals to your birdbaths, you may consider adding drippers to keep the water moving. Keep in mind, whichever method you choose, water should be changed, and vessels should be cleaned frequently to prevent algae and dirt buildup.

  1. Prevent Frozen Water

Cardinals live in the same place all year, even during the winter months. To ensure that water is available in freezing temperatures, you should frequently refresh still water or add a heated birdbath.  With that, your yard is sure to be a hotspot for the Cardinals in your area!

  1. Offer Protective Shelter

As mentioned above, Cardinals enjoy secluded areas surrounded by thick foliage with lots of trees and shrubs. Planting trees and bushes of varying heights will help these songbirds to feel safe and protected. Make sure to include evergreen trees and other plants that will be able to provide cover during the sparser winter months as well.

  1. Encourage Nesting Sites

Unlike many other backyard birds, Cardinals will not use birdhouses or nesting boxes. In addition to enjoying dense plant life for shelter, they also prefer it for nesting. Grapevines, tall trees, and shrub thickets are ideal options for nest sites. Readily available nesting materials are also essential to encouraging long-term Cardinal nesting. Make sure that your yard features pine needles, small twigs, grass clippings, and other materials so that Cardinal visitors will build a nest nearby.

Source: perkypet.com and sciencing.com

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