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Bird Feeder Tips for Cardinals

Bird Feeder Tips for Cardinals

North Cardinals are tiny omnivore birds with a life span of about 15 years. They are brightly colored songbirds that commonly visit your backyards. They are commonly called redbirds because of their plumage, and are common in warmer climates. They do not migrate and are generally social birds found in flocks, even interacting with birds of other species.

If you’re a bird lover who wants to attract cardinals to your backyard and set up a bird feeder without any hassle, make sure you read this blog till the end. 

We discuss all the tips on what kind of bird feeder to choose to attract them, what type of kind of food you can put up in the feeder, what things you should avoid, how to attract cardinals in different seasons, and a lot more.

Below is a simple infographic showing everything in a nutshell.

Infographic: Bird Feeder Tips for Cardinals

Also, if you want a quick summary on all the Bird Feeder Tips for Cardinals, here is a table summarizing the same. The first column categorizes the tips based on different aspects such as tips for choice of bird feeder, placement, food, things to avoid, and some special tips. Second column is the list of tips.

Type of Tips for Cardinal Bird FeedersList of Tips
Type of Bird FeederChoose spacious Tube and Hopper bird feeders
Bird feeder should be sturdy
Choose feeder of high feed capacity
Cardinals are non-migratory, choose easily refillable feeder
Choose seed feeders as Cardinals love seeds
Placement Tips for the FeederPlace feeder in the bushes
Keep minimal activity around the feeder
Place the Cardinal feeder away from Windows
Feeder to be visible easily
Provide water sources and nesting facilities
Things to avoidAvoid reflective surfaces
Avoid usage of harmful chemicals around feeder
Avoid predator accessible areas for the feeder
Tips on food in Cardinal feedersPlace sunflower and Nyjer seeds
Provide peanuts for Cardinals
Provide water sources
Provide running water for natural ambience
Tips for specific seasonsProvide fat rich foods in winters or frosty nights
Provide protein rich food in summers to take care of molting

Now, that you have seen a summary, let us go into all the aspects in full depth and details.

Tips on Choosing the Best Type of Bird Feeders for Cardinals

Below are some of the tips based on my experience with different bird feeders and observing the needs of Cardinals.

1. Tube and Hopper Bird Feeders with enough space to perch are best

There are many different types of bird feeders that you can choose from, but the best ones for Cardinals are those that have plenty of room to perch and eat. As per Wikipedia, they have a body length of 21-23 centimeters (8.3-9.1″). The best bird feeders for this purpose are tube or hopper type feeds that give ample room around them where the bird may stand upright without feeling cramped whatsoever!

2. Make sure the bird feeders are sturdy

An adult Cardinal can weigh up to 65 g (2.29 oz). This weight might be lesser than some other birds. But this weight is good enough to demand for a sturdy bird feeder. Particularly, when you prefer your bird feeder to be hanging and want multiple birds to perch at same time, you need a sturdy bird feeder for Cardinals.

3. Bird feeders having high feed capacity are best

The friendly, non-migratory Cardinal likes to stay at one place and hence visit your feeder often. You should fill it frequently or offer a large capacity feeder. This will help keep food available for our favorite visitors!

4. Having an easily refillable bird feeder is key

Cardinals are always on the go, so it is important to make sure their feeding needs can be met without having any messy refills. Tray feeders allow for easy access and clean up while still satisfying this criteria!

5. Feeders that support seed are perfect for cardinals

Cardinals love seeds, peanuts and berries. They also enjoy cracked corn in the winter months! If you have a bird feeder that is suitable for offering seed-based foods like these, then it’s more convenient for them than one without these options.

Also, check out this article on which color bird feeder can attract Cardinals.

Tips for the Placement of Bird Feeders for Cardinals?

While it is important to know what to feed the birds and how, it is equally important to understand the best placement of the feeders to ensure safety and comfort for the birds. 

To know how to hang the bird feeders properly, consider the following factors:

1. Natural feeding by putting them in the bushes or trees is ideal

The best place to put the feeder is hanging them on the tree trunks and branches to get a protective covering where the birds usually prefer eating. Since cardinals are shy birds, you need to make sure that they have a protective shelter. You can provide this by planting trees and bushes to help them feel safe and sound. The evergreen trees will shelter them all year round.

2. Ensure that you keep the feeder in areas with minimal activity

Do not place a feeder in any area where there is too much action or noise as it can disturb the birds coming to your yard. While certain natural sounds can attract birds, place your feeders away from artificial sounds like wind chimes, which are unpleasant to the birds. 

3. Place the feeder a good distance away from the windows to ensure safety

The feeder should be placed at least 3 to 10 feet away from the window so that the birds do not hit the window and cause serious injury to themselves. Since cardinals are known to be territorial, they sometimes confuse their reflection in the window as a perceived threat and start attacking it, harming themselves in the process. 

4. Greater visibility of the feeders in your yard will attract more cardinals

The feeders should be properly visible by keeping them out in the sun so that a passing bird can spot them easily. Ideally, you should place the feeder on a high branch so that the birds do not face any threats from predators.

5. Provide water sources near the nesting site or beside it

The cardinals need water for drinking and bathing, so providing birdbaths is a great idea to satisfy their need. It would help if you accommodate a bath 2-3 inches deep, and make sure that this water is cleaned so that there is no algae or dirt buildup.

6. Help them build long-term nesting sites

The cardinals will not prefer birdhouses or nesting boxes. The best options out there are grapevines, trees, and shrubs, which can encourage them to make long-term nesting in your yard.

What Are The Things To Avoid When You Are Feeding Cardinals? 

The factors in attracting cardinals, as mentioned above, are not enough for you to keep them in your yard. Make sure you read on to find out some things you need to avoid when feeding cardinals:  

1. Avoid reflective surfaces as it might terrorize the birds

They are quite protective about their territory and are known to attack their reflection. Usually, they’re not damaging, but they may cause some damage with their beaks if they feel unsafe. Try using bird netting or opaque shields to deter reflections, and cover the car mirror appropriately.

2. Harmful chemicals should not be used in and around your feeder

Ensure you do not use any toxic chemicals in and around the yard. Insecticides and herbicides can cause contamination which can be fatal to your cardinal buddies.

 3. Predator-accessible feeding areas should be avoided

If you have any pets that usually go outdoors, the best thing is to keep the feeders away. If you keep the feeders at a low level, it is easy for your pets or any other predator to attack these birds when they come to the ground level to eat.

Precautions to take while feeding Cardinals

  • If you live in an area where bears are commonly sighted, you should not keep the feeders out as the bears can attack them and cause distress to the birds.
  • If you choose to give these birds suet, then the hot weather can soften it, and it can become rancid. It’s best not to put lard when it’s hot or warm. Some suet companies state that the blocks can withstand hot temperatures, but it’s best to avoid them in summers so that they do not cause unnecessary damage to the birds. 
  • The birdseed can get spoilt more frequently when it’s warm, so it is best to regularly change the food and water feeder by the end of the day — keeping the bird feeder out in the sun after cleaning is a must. It gets rid of algae and dirt buildup.
  • Try to keep the feeders protected from extreme weather conditions. Instead, find a spot in thickets and shade, hidden from plain sight, so that these birds feel comfortable. 

These are some of the things you should consider when trying to attract cardinals. Keeping the feeders full all year round should not be a problem. But if your area has pests, predatory animals, or any pets which can cause distress to the birds, it is best to tie the feeders to a high branch on the tree for more visibility and to keep them away from the animals’ reach.

Tips on what kind of food to place in the bird feeder

1. Sunflower seeds are essential for birds

Sunflower seeds are an all-time favorite of cardinals because of their high-fat content that these birds use all year long. The black-oil sunflower seeds are the most preferred.

2. Nyjer (thistle) seeds for high protein and energy

These are the tiny seeds that are rich in oil, which is helpful to build up their strength and for the healthy regrowth of feathers. The small black seeds should be kept in your large feeders to accommodate more birds which often travel and feed together.

3. Peanuts are their favorite

You can treat these birds with peanuts, which are rich in protein and fats. Since peanuts are not seasonal, they are easily accessible to you all year round, and your birds will love them too. Just make sure that they are not salted or seasoned, and avoid giving any other type of candy-coated peanuts that are not favorable and healthy for the wild birds.

4. Provide water sources near the nesting site or beside it

The cardinals need water for drinking and bathing, so providing birdbaths is a great idea to satisfy their need. It would help if you accommodate a bath 2-3 inches deep, and make sure that this water is cleaned so that there is no algae or dirt buildup.

5. Take care to prevent the freezing of water during wintertime

Cardinals do not migrate during winters, so you need to make sure that you provide them with fresh, heated water during winters to make them stay. Once the cardinals know that the water is heated in the wintertime, your yard will become a hotspot for them.

6. Giving them running water can make them stay longer

If you give them fresh and natural water, they tend to stay for longer as they need a natural ambiance. Supply them with nesting materials that do not consist of unnecessary items like dirt particles, sharp nails, or any other harmful objects, so that they can make a nest easily.

What is the Best Time to Put Up the Feeders?

There is no specific time to put out the feeders as you can keep water and food all year round. It is generally not harmful to keep your feeders out all year round.

Special Tips for feeding Cardinals during Autumn and Winter

 If you are thinking of autumn and winter, then follow these steps to attract Cardinals the right way.

  • In harsh weather or extreme temperatures, make sure you are filling the feeders enough to feed these cardinals twice a day, i.e., in the morning and the early afternoon.
  • These birds require a lot of energy, so they need food rich in fats to survive the frosty nights. Do not invest in low-quality food scraps. 
  • Take your time to clean up the uneaten food as it should not be kept out for too long. Therefore it’s best to throw away the leftover food in the feeder, clean it regularly, and keep it fresh.
  • Once you have set a routine, do not change it as the birds will be accustomed to visiting your yard at a particular time.

Special Tips for feeding Cardinals in Spring and Summer

If you are thinking of putting out feeders in spring and summer:

  • Cardinals generally undergo molting, i.e., replace their feathers with new plumage, during summer. That’s the number one reason why they require protein-rich food.
  • The best sources of protein for these birds are black sunflower seeds, oatmeal, soaked raisins, grated cheese, waxworms, and their favorite loose peanuts.
  • You can also use soaked cat and dog food, but it’s best to avoid pet food if you have a pet at home. You can use fresh soft apples, pears, bananas, and grapes as they are also nutrient-rich fruits.
  • Avoid using fat and bread at this time as it can be harmful to the baby bird when adult birds feed them. It would be best to put out small-sized peanuts so that there is no risk of choking.
  • Make sure to keep extra food for them as this is also their breeding season. It’ll help both the baby and adult cardinal birds immensely.


Male northern cardinals stand out because of their brilliant red plumage. Whereas, female cardinals are more inconspicuous, but still exquisite, with their red-tinged brown plumage. Cardinals are beloved songbirds that can be easily attracted to your backyard when you put effort and time into setting up their food, feeder, and placement.

The best part about cardinals is that they do not migrate. If you make a comfortable enough spot for them to nest and rest, they might end up becoming your permanent backyard residents. Make sure you follow every point given above to welcome these cardinals and their family into your home.