How To Attract Cardinals To Your Yard: 10 Tips & 4 Things to Avoid

Cardinal siting at backyard plant

What Seeds do Cardinals Eat?

Safflower seeds, black oil sunflower seeds, and white milo are among a Northern Cardinal’s favorite seed options. Northern cardinals also eat a lot of berries. 

What is Best Feeders for Cardinals? 

Most bigger hanging bird feeders that can hold a few pounds of seed and allow several birds to eat at once.

What is Best Water Sources for Cardinals?

Cardinals need easy access to water for both drinking and bathing. Baths with a depth of 2 to 3 inches at the deepest point are usually best.

What is Best Shelters for Cardinals?

Cardinals will not use birdhouses or nesting boxes. Grapevines, tall trees, and shrub thickets are ideal options for nest sites.

3 Things to Avoid

  • Reflective surfaces.
  • Harmful chemicals.
  • Predator-accessible feeding areas.

How To Attract Cardinals To Your Yard?

The Northern Cardinals are medium-sized songbird. The Northern Cardinal has a body length between 7.75 and 10 inches with a wingspan that is nearly 20 inches. As its name suggests, it has an impressive array of bright red feathers.

However, there are two other color morphs for both males and females: one where there are more white feathers than normal (called albino) and another called variegated where they have patches of white as well as red. You’ll likely see Northern Cardinals at your feeder; they are some of North America’s most common birds.

Northern Cardinals eat a variety of foods, including fruits, seeds, buds, insects and small animals. You can attract northern cardinals by planting native trees and shrubs that provide food for birds; include a feeder stocked with sunflower seeds to encourage feeding. Cardinals also like bird baths with shallow water.

When attracting birds into your yard, it’s important not to use pesticides or other chemicals in your landscaping as these can harm not only Northern Cardinals but other wildlife too. However, attracting birds in your yard can be quite tricky.

The birds are not migratory so, if you are thinking to put effort to attract cardinals, keep reading for interesting and proven tips to attract lovely redbirds into your yard and also things to avoid.

Cardinals at bird feeder

i. Use Cardinal Specific Feeders

Cardinals are very choosy for their feeder, they don’t choose any feeder even you provide them their favorite food. The birds are medium-sized, thus they prefer large-sized and solid bird feeders. The feeders you choose for cardinals should be strong enough where the birds can sit, perch, and feet facing forwards.

Due to their size, you can see the birds using hoppers instead of tube feeders. Hoppers are suitable for cardinals because they can twist their bodies in such feeders and easily access the food.

You can search several feeders among which choose one that cardinals like best. Hoppers, trays, and platform feeders are some best feeders for cardinals and the feeders should be filled with their favorite food.

Cardinals eating seeds

ii. Tempt With Right Treats

If you want to attract cardinals in your yard, you can tempt them with the right food. A variety of seeds, nuts, and fruits are liked by Northern Cardinals. The birds have strong and sturdy beaks that help them for husking and hulling seeds.

The birds love sunflower and safflower seeds and husk them with their specially designed beaks. Cardinals can be attracted by using their favorite and most popular feeds, sunflower seeds. Striped sunflowers are another option for attracting these birds. The seeds are bigger than black-oil sunflower seeds and have a harder husk, but the birds break it with their beaks.

Often, most birds and even squirrels ignore safflower seeds but unlike them cardinals like safflower seeds and create their specific cardinal blend with sunflower seeds. The birds also feed on corns and peanuts.

Cardinals eating at hanging feeder

iii. Place Feeder to the Right Location

Changing the location of the feeder often disturbs cardinals. It can weather break or make their presence in your garden. The birds are very shy and prefer protective cover around their feeder. Thus, you should provide a feeder along with a protective cover for ensuring protection.

Place the feeder or food source near any tree or shrubbery, where the birds can get safety from potential predators and also a perching site to observe everything going on in the yard.

You can encourage cardinals for visiting your garden by adding multiple feeders with different heights and proximity. The birds need enough space for hiding and also add ground-feeding locations.

Cardinals taking bath

iv. Offer a Water Source (Preferably Moving)

Water source is a very important and essential need of all birds. Adding a water source in your yard helps you in attracting cardinals also. Especially during winter, many birds need water sources. Northern Cardinals need drinking water every day like other birds and mammals.

You can make your yard more attractive for the birds by providing a suitable water source. Ensure cleaning and changing the water regularly to prevent birds from disease and also to prevent algal growth in the water source. It also prevents mosquito eggs and bacterial growth in the water.

You can also add one or two sticks in the water bath to provide them security and a comfortable resting place in the water while drinking water after bathing. As discussed above, the birds are large-sized, so make sure that the birdbath should be slightly deeper than other birdbaths.

You can also add a dripper or a mister in the birdbath to make it more attractive. Consider placing the birdbath on the ground for ensuring the security of these shy birds.

Cardinals feeding at hanging bird feeder

v. Keep Your Feeders full at all Times

Cardinals are not migratory birds and stay all year round in a place. Thus, once they started visiting your yard, they use the feeder in all the seasons and all times of the year. If you are trying to attract cardinals in your garden, always keep your feeders full of seeds in all seasons to provide them with a reliable food source.

The method definitely helps them in finding a reliable food source and attracts them to your yard. A well-stocked feeder will ensure the birds a reliable food source and attract them towards the feeder.

Cardinals ground feeding

vi. Encourage Ground-feeding for Variety & Security

To encourage cardinals to visit your yard, give some opportunities for ground feeding as well along with the sturdy feeders. By doing this, the birds will feel more secure and visit the yard regularly.

Add some bushes and trees in your yard to attract these birds but leaving fallen leaves in the ground will also help you and attract more cardinals to your garden. You can provide these shy creatures a better feeding place by placing a tray, mesh net, or platform beneath hanging feeders.

As discussed above, the birds prefer large-sized feeders due to their size, thus feeders having narrow perches are not ideal for these birds. You can also give them a landing place or feeding place by attaching a tray to the bottom of the tube feeder.

Protective environments with plants for Cardinals

vii. Offer Protective Shelter

Cardinals are not very social and like privacy. They like secluded places with dense growth and place with a lot of trees and shrubs. You can attract these songbirds by planting different trees and shrubs in your yard that vary in height. In such places, the birds feel more safe and secure.

Cardinals particularly love cedar bushes and trees and find them attractive. Adding these bushes in the yard also provides greenery during harsh winters. Consider including six basic layers in your yard to provide as much coverage as possible to the birds.

The layers are large trees, small trees, small shrubs, large shrubs, perennials, and ground cover. These layers provide your yard with an intense look and also ensure the privacy and safety of birds. The birds also get a lot of nesting material from these layers.

Cardinal Nest

viii. Provide Nesting Material

However, the birds do not like birdhouses but they use nesting shelves. Generally, cardinals prefer to build their nests in dense green shrubs, thus they get attracted towards thick greenery or dense shrubs.

Offering a lot of nesting material to the cardinals is also helpful for attracting cardinals as well as other nesting birds. You can put yarn, string, and pet fur in the yard or even put the material in an empty suet cage, and hanging it near your feeder will also attract the birds.

The birds rarely reuse their nests however they may have several broods per year. They use several lightweight materials such as leftover hairs in a brush in their nest. Cardinals can attract to your yard by offering them nesting material.

Cardinal Taking bath in backyard bird bath

ix. Prevent Frozen Water

Provide heated bird baths to cardinals during winter months. It is an essential requirement of these birds, especially during the winter months. You can avoid freezing by refreshing the water frequently and by providing a heated birdbath to the birds during winters.

There are two basic styles of heated bird baths including basin and immersion. Both types of birdbaths are suitable for providing water to the birds in your backyard garden.

Cardinal Bird house

x. Remove Reflective Surfaces

Northern cardinals are shy but territorial. The birds make their territory and protect it aggressively. During this time, the aggressive hormones produced in the birds are at their peak. They defend their territory against various intruders and spend many hours for this.

Sometimes, cardinals attack themselves while seeing their reflection in a window, car mirror, or on any other shiny surface. In some cases, they take unnecessary stress due to these fights that are not fatal usually but can last hours or days.

The beak of the cardinals gets damaged in the fight. To ensure the safety of these birds, avoid a lot of reflective surfaces in your garden such as mirrors, gazing balls, and other shiny surfaces.

You can also use various techniques for minimizing the agitation of surfaces that cannot be avoided such as windows. You can also use such methods for preventing bird-window collisions so that the birds protect themselves from attacking windows.

To avoid such incidents, you can use some opaque objects such as plastic bags to cover mirrors also use of netting or decals on windows is useful.

4 Things to Avoid

Adding appealing elements to your yard isn’t the only thing you can do to attract cardinals to your yard. There are also a few things you can avoid to make your property safer, ensuring many return visits by your cardinal friends.

i. Don’t Fill Your Garden With Artificial Trees

While artificial trees might seem like a good idea because they look so real, there are several reasons why you shouldn’t use them. First, all of your backyard birds should have access to natural trees for shelter.

Artificial ones offer none of these benefits, which is especially bad for Northern Cardinal that spend time in large flocks; when birds are looking for a safe place to roost at night, having one fake tree among many real ones can make it difficult to find their friends.

Second, these types of trees don’t provide any food or nesting material. As humans replace nature with concrete and plastic, we need to do what we can to maintain as much habitat as possible.

Empty bird feeder

ii. Don’t Let Feeders Get Empty

If you’re not at home or out in your yard for a few days, be sure to fill up your bird feeders. And don’t give birds just seed! Offer fruits and nuts as well; many birds including Northern Cardinals like these foods, and it will increase their chances of survival if they find something nutritious when they’re away from their usual habitat.

iii. Don’t Use Pesticides

These are not just dangerous for birds, but for your whole yard. It takes a lot of poison to rid your yard of pests, and it’s just as bad for kids and pets. If you have a problem with ants or other insects that get into your home, you can ask a professional to come out and treat them without toxic chemicals. Birds will not return quickly if they find their favorite nesting tree is covered in pesticide residue!

iv. Don’t Let Bird Feeder Dirty

Clean your bird feeder once a week during warm weather. During cold weather, you should clean it twice a month or more. If you don’t clean your feeder regularly, mold will grow and may be eaten by birds; that can make them sick. This can also lead to dirty bird feeders, which may cause disease in some species of birds like pigeons.

Also, when a bird cleans itself after eating from a dirty feeder, it is more likely to get parasites like ticks and lice. Also clean it if you see signs of pest infestation like ants or flies around your feeder or on birdseed on your ground underneath it! That is almost always a sign of moldy seed in which pests love to live and breed.

Cardinals perching

Final Words From Bird Experts

There are a few cardinal facts to keep in mind when it comes to attracting these beautiful birds. The best way to attract cardinals is by planting lots of sunflowers. These large seed heads are ideal for providing shelter and food for nesting females and their young.

Providing ample water is also important; cardinals need fresh water every day during breeding season. If you’re having trouble keeping them around, installing a pond or birdbath can help—as long as it isn’t too close to your feeders, which would then become filled with bugs. Lastly, if cardinals have already made your yard their home but aren’t reproducing, build them a nest box and they should do just fine!

FAQ About Cardinals

What are Cardinals?

The Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) is a bird native to North America. The male is a vibrant red, and black face with an obvious crest, or ruff. It has a wide white stripe on its wings and tail feathers. Females are a brownish color with hints of red in their tail feathers; juveniles are similar but duller in coloration than females.

They have short legs, long wings, and a short rounded tail. It feeds mostly on seeds such as sunflower seeds; you can attract them by planting sunflowers. As omnivores they will eat fruits, vegetables and insects if they’re available.

What Seeds do Cardinals Eat?

Some bird feeders have already been designed that are specific for attracting Cardinals, but if you’re interested in making your own and not buying them, then what seeds do cardinals eat? In general, cardinals like a diet of sunflower seeds, black oil sunflower seeds and safflower seeds.

If you want to attract many different types of birds into your yard such as chickadees and jays along with cardinals, then a mixture of sunflower seeds and black oil sunflower seeds will attract all three. Nuts can also be good options since these birds enjoy eating peanuts as well as acorns. Peanuts are typically cheaper than nuts though so they’ll likely be your best bet.

Cardinals Perching in backyard

What Plant Attract Cardinals?

While it’s not a secret that birds love a variety of berries, they also go crazy for some specific fruits and veggies. If you’re looking to attract cardinals, try adding these plants and trees (all either fruits or veggies) to your yard: apple trees, cherry trees, grapevines, blueberry bushes, radish plants and squash plants.

The key is offering a range of plant choices; if you plant just one or two types of fruit in your yard, other bird species will be more likely to eat there before cardinals have a chance. It may sound difficult but it’s actually quite simple: grow an assortment of sweet fruits and vegetables in your garden beds so that wildlife don’t have far to fly when they’re hungry!

Where do Cardinals Nest?

Generally, cardinals nest in open-wooded areas that have some protection from above but have clear sight lines. They will also nest near water sources, such as ponds or lakes. They typically prefer deciduous woods with a variety of trees and shrubs; conifers are not ideal for cardinals because they can’t hide as easily in them.

While cardinals may choose tree cavities or holes in dead wood as nesting sites, they are often opportunistic when it comes to finding a place to live. They will build their nests on cliffs, ledges, fences and even decks! Do you have a place like that on your property? It might be worth checking out if you want to attract cardinals.

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