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Why Do Red Birds Feed Each Other?

Why Do Red Birds Feed Each Other?

If red birds visit your backyard and garden, you might see some of them feeding each other. You might wonder whether it is normal behavior. If yes, why do they feed each other? Let’s understand below! 

Which red birds feed each other? 

Many red birds feed each other, but not every one of them. So, if you get many red birds on your property, you should know which of them exhibit such behavior. 

Feeding young nestlings is a common behavior among parent birds. Such parenting behavior is pretty common among the avians. Almost all red birds like Tanagers, Vermilion Flycatchers, Pine Grosbeak, Northern Cardinals etc., feed the juvenile birds till they become accustomed with self-feeding. 

However, you can observe that Cardinals feed other adult birds fondly. It’s a different and uncommon behavior among Cardinals. Some people often refer to the feeding behavior of the Cardinals as ‘kissing’. 

In the upcoming section, let’s understand why adult red birds feed each other. 

Why do red birds feed each other?

As you know, many red birds feed each other. But, why do they display such a unique behavior? Here are some reasons behind their unique habit. Let’s see! 

1. Some male red birds feed the females to attract them

Unique and interesting courtship behaviors are common among all birds. However, red birds take a step ahead and showcase a different courtship behavior. They feed each other to impress their mates during courtship. Generally, male red birds feed the females to attract them and showcase their parenting potential. 

The females are very choosy and observe well before picking the best partner. Many male birds can bring food to a particular female. However, the female red bird chooses the most compassionate one that brings better food for her. 

They become too picky to check the parenting skills of the males. A male red bird that brings better seeds to females will help her keep the young ones healthier and is a better parent.

2. Courtship feeding make their bonds stronger

Have you seen a pair of cardinal birds feeding each other in your backyard? 

Caring for each other makes a great avian couple. Keeping the idea in the foreground, some red birds care for their partners by feeding them. It’s a common courtship behavior among many red birds, including cardinals. 

Red birds feed their mates even after courtship. The male red birds keep caring for their females when they are pregnant or incubating the eggs. Such behavior strengthens the bond between the partners and helps them become better parents. 

Also, the male red bird practices finding and bringing food, and feeding everyone in the upcoming family when the female is still incubating the eggs. It gives them command over feeding the female and young ones from an early stage. Thus, they become better parents, eventually. 

3. Male cardinals provide nutritive food to female nestling cardinals

Cardinals are caring birds and they are the most common species showcasing a fond courtship behavior. You can often see male Cardinals feeding the females, even after mating. Apart from strengthening their mutual bond and practicing bringing food for the young ones, there’s another reason. 

Female Cardinals need more nutrition when she’s pregnant or incubating the eggs. It happens when the females are pregnant and require extra nutrition for rearing the young ones or the eggs. In such a case, the compassionate male cardinal often feeds the female. They bring nutritive food from everywhere possible and keep the female well-fed to help rear the babies efficiently. 

4. Juvenile red birds depend on feeding

Red birds might attain the fledgling age and hop out of their nests. But, they might still face challenges finding food and keeping themselves well-fed. Some red birds, like Northern Cardinals, feed juvenile red birds till they become self dependent. 

Do you know? Red Cardinals are excellent and compassionate parents. They care for their juveniles even after they leave the nests. The male Cardinal might bring food for the young ones and feed them in your backyard. 

Apart from Cardinals, other red birds, like Tanagers and Flycatchers, care for their young ones, bring them nutritious food, and feed them. So, whenever you see adult red birds feeding the young ones, you know what’s happening. 

The Cardinals are so friendly birds that you can often see them feeding the juveniles of other Cardinals or even other birds. If you find such an event in your garden, it’s not uncommon at all. 

5. Feeding the dominant red birds

Some red birds are territorial and have dominant individuals in their species. However, some red birds, like Cardinals, become dominant during specific times, especially when it’s the breeding season. Their behavior can significantly change when treating a dominant red bird. 

For example, the Cardinals might bring food to and feed the dominant individuals, showcasing a submissive behavior. It’s more common during March and September. If you find an adult Cardinal with bright red plumage feeding another adult Cardinal during the given months, it’s probably due to this reason. 

6. Feeding the injured red birds

Injury and accidents might keep birds incapable of finding food, eating, or even moving. Due to such reasons, they might even starve to death. They can depend on external feeding during their recovery phase. 

Although not common, some red birds have been reported feeding the injured birds in such cases. It’s more often with Cardinals as they are highly caring and loving towards other birds. You can see some Cardinals bringing food to and feeding other birds (not necessarily, red birds), if they are injured and cannot take care of themselves. 


Red birds look unique and behave differently. Overall, the behavior of feeding each other showcased by cardinals is perfectly normal and reasonable. They often impress the females, care for them, nestle the young ones, help injured birds, and feed the juveniles in various scenarios. Now, if you find a pair of red birds feeding each other, you know the scientific reason behind their activity.