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Tips To Attracting Cardinals To Your Backyard

That red bird with the big beak really has it made. During the holidays, just about everyone receives its picture-It might just be the number one Christmas card pinup! The Northern Cardinal, as this bird is officially called, is popular for good reason. No other bird looks so good against freshly fallen snow. Both the male and the female sing a pleasant, simple song that’s often counter sung (the male answers the female on a slightly different pitch).

Cardinals seem to prosper even with the habitat alterations accompanying our home-building efforts. Few other songbirds reward us so richly or rapidly if we scatter a few handfuls of their favorite seed on the ground or on a low feeding table.



More Cardinal Facts:

The word cardinals, which means “principle,” comes from the Latin “cardo” for “a hinge or pivot”. This bird is named for its color, which matches the robes of Catholic Cardinals.

Cardinals have greatly increased their breeding range over the past 80 years. Cardinals do not migrate, but simply keep pushing farther North and West as suburbs and bird feeders proliferate. Cardinals are one “red light” you’ll want to attract!!

The Cardinal ranges throughout most of the Eastern and Central states, the entire South, and much of the arid Southwest. Cardinals prefer dense, shrubby habitat-If you provide that in your backyard, you keep the Cardinals happy! They nest in shrubs and viney tangles at least twice every summer. If the shrubs (such as junipers, dogwoods, honeysuckle and viburums) provide fruit-all the better!

Feeders And Feeder Placement 

The Cardinal is really not a hard bird to please. Provide his favorite seeds and the Cardinal will often be your first bird to feed in the morning, and the last at night. In the Spring, you’ll enjoy seeing the male Cardinal offer the female a carefully selected seed as part of their “Mate Feeding Ritual”.

Cardinals are “ground” feeders; however, they will feed on flat surfaces. Thus, wood platform feeders (hopper, fly through and open platform) placed five feet or so above ground level are ideal to attract them. Note that the perches on most tube feeders are too small to allow Northern Cardinals to comfortably feed. To attract Cardinals, you must attach a tray, and we have a tray for nearly every tube feeder made!!


The Cardinal will not use nest boxes. Provide viney, fruit bearing shrubbery, as described under More Cardinal Facts, for best results in attracting nesting Cardinals.

Protect Cardinals with Cardinal Alert.

The Cardinals territorial behavior can prove annoying, as a male will constantly batter himself against a window to “scare away” his potential male competitor. Use Cardinal Alert to help prevent this from happening.


The preferred seeds of the Cardinal are:

Black Oil Sunflower, and Safflower, or a mixture of both. The Cardinal’s large bill also allows them to crack open the larger striped sunflower seeds.