The cardinal is probably one of the most recognizable and popular backyard birds because of its brilliant red color and crested head. Cardinals will mate for life and remain together throughout the entire year. That’s why you will usually see a male and female together at your feeding station.

Range and Habitat

The Northern Cardinal is a year round resident of the Eastern U.S., and has been moving to the north and the southwest during the 20th century. For those of you living in the west, don’t despair, we had a cardinal visit our backyard feeding station in southern California! According to our local Audubon chapter, there are several groups of cardinals which have been spotted in the southwest.

Cardinals prefer brushy woodlands, streamside thickets, orchards, swamps, suburban gardens and parks. They like to roost and nest in dense thickets, evergreens and privet hedges.

How to Attract the Northern Cardinal to Your Yard!

The conical shape of the cardinal’s beak marks this bird as a seed eater. The Northern Cardinal’s diet consists of fruits, seeds and insects. For a seed eating bird, the Northern Cardinal eats a remarkable number of insects, especially during the breeding season.

Cardinals are known to eat over a hundred kinds of fruits and seeds in the wild. Attractive garden plants include brambles, sumac, cherry, dogwood, grape, mulberry, blueberry, elderberry, tulip tree, hackberry, and Russian olive. Many of these plants are also used for nesting.

At the feeding station, they prefer unhulled black-oil sunflower seeds over all other foods. They will also eat safflower, cracked corn, white proso millet, bread, nutmeats and peanut butter mixes.

You can attract the Northern Cardinal to your backyard by:

  • Providing open areas with trees and berry producing shrubs such as mulberry, blueberry, grape and dogwood.
  • Create a dense hedge or thicket around your backyard. Cardinals are especially fond of roosting and nesting in honeysuckle thickets.
  • Add a hopper feeder with plenty of perching space and fill it with black oil sunflower seed or safflower.
  • Or better yet, put out a specially designed sunflower seed feeder with sunflower seed.
  • Fill a platform feeder with sunflower seed, safflower or bread crumbs.
  • Offer suet in a suetfeeder year-round.
  • Offer a source of water for drinking and bathing.
  • Cardinals don’t migrate, like most songbirds. Help them out during the winter months by providing lots of cover and roosting places with pines, spruces, hemlocks and other dense evergreens.

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