Updated: Mar 1, 2022
Cardinals are amazing birds! The males are the most beautiful with their distinctive crests and bright red plumage. The females are pretty in their own right, with their bright orange beaks and reddish-brown coloring, though not nearly as striking as the males. You may have heard that many mate for life! Although they will find a new mate if their partner dies.
Northern Cardinals are found up and down the East Coast and most of the South and Midwest and don’t migrate like many other species, so you can enjoy their bright colors year-round. Their red coloring is striking with a white snow background! Although shy, they are some of the most gentle, graceful birds, and are wonderful to have as regular visitors.
Some believe Cardinal sightings are angels of deceased loved ones visiting to look over them. I’m in! I can definitely use more angels watching over me!
So what are the best ways to attract Cardinals to your yard?? Here are some tips to invite and entice them to visit your backyard.
1) Buy a good bird feeder(s) that is easy to clean and will last multiple seasons. As a medium-sized bird, they don’t like the small perches that come standard with many tube feeders. Select a feeder with holes big enough to serve up sunflower seeds- their favorite food. I am not a fan of platform feeders as bird-borne diseases like Salmonella can spread quickly by birds walking/roaming in the seed. Click this link for more info on bird health and providing a safe feeding environment for Cardinals. https://www.clearviewbirds.com/birdhealth
Consider buying a window bird feeder if you’d like to see the Cardinals’ vibrant colors up-close! Or buy one of each; it makes a good combination for the yard feeder to attract them initially and get comfortable coming to your window. Keep your window feeder supplied year-round with your most premium seed to encourage them to brighten your window even during the cold winter months.
2) Place your feeder in a location safe from predators like cats and hawks. Think like a predator! Is this a good place for an ambush?
3) Stock your feeder with food Cardinals like. Cardinals have strong beaks that can break through the toughest seed husks. They love safflower and black-oil sunflower seeds! Even the larger and harder to open striped sunflower seeds are no issue for them. There are seed
mixes available specifically to attract cardinals.
If seed debris is an issue (like on a busy patio or deck), try “waste free” seed. Waste-free
means that it contains the seed hearts without the husks, so there will be less debris. Other
birds like seed hearts as well, so there may be more competition. Cardinals also like some
nuts and mealworms, which can be a welcomed but more expensive alternative. Perhaps
use a mix (keep the seed and mealworms separate) to attract a wider variety of insect loving
birds as well like Bluebirds, and Wrens.
4) Cardinals are early birds! Make your feeder ready by the crack of dawn or you will miss their prime feeding time! They also come at dusk.
5) Provide a clean water source. This is critical for birds, as they don’t always have access to
sanitary alternatives. Birds need water, too! Find a feeder that keeps water separated from
the seed and/or purchase a bird bath and regularly clean/replace the water to keep it
sanitary. For colder climates during winter consider a bird bath heater to keep water from freezing or a window mounted feeder will receive residual heat from your window, so they
have access to liquid water year-round. Click this link for more info on why clean water is
6) Clean and sanitize your feeder(s) regularly. Your feathered friends are counting on you to
provide the safest feeding environment possible. Many people are unaware that thousands
of birds die annually primarily due to infections from poorly maintained bird feeder and bird
baths. Use a 9:1 water to bleach solution on a weekly or bi-weekly basis to prevent bird-
borne diseases, or better yet, if you’re lazy like me, find a feeder you can easily clean and
sanitize in your dishwasher. Find tips for cleaning/sanitizing your feeder(s) here.
Remember to wash your hands thoroughly after handling any bird feeder.
7) Make sure you stock your feeder in the winter months, as food can be scarce for Cardinals during this time. They will likely nest near reliable food and clean water sources.
8) Be patient. It may take multiple weeks for Cardinals to feel comfortable and safe after
discovering a new food and water source (especially if you’re trying to attract them to a window feeder), but if they are around, they will find you if you are consistent!
In the meantime, other bird species will settle in with a new, reliable food and water source, but the Cardinals will be the brightest of them all! Enjoy!
For more information on the first and only window bird feeder designed from the ground up with birds’ health in mind, click here. https://www.clearviewbirds.com/
(Here are a few pictures taken from my own back yard!) ClearView Deluxe Window Bird Birder