Nesting Shelves for Cardinals

CardinalmF12As wild birds’ habitat dwindles and becomes fragmented, more and more people are trying to provide a backyard oasis for them. Besides food and water, many people also have at least one, if not several bird houses on their property.

Bird houses appeal to cavity nesters—birds such as woodpeckers that excavate their own holes in trees, to smaller birds like chickadees who inhabit abandoned woodpecker holes. These birds like a cover over their heads and a deep cavity to hold their chicks. A bird house fits the bill perfectly!

But some birds, such as cardinals, robins, and blue jays prefer to build their open, cup-shaped nests among the branches of trees.  They use grasses and twigs to secure the nest to the branches, then weave the cup and cardinal pairfinally stuff it with feathers, moss, lichen or any other soft thing that will cradle the eggs and later the hatchlings. They won’t enter a box that’s closed in.

So how do we help these birds find nesting spots if we don’t have the appropriate trees in our yard where they can build?  One solution is a nesting shelf, but for the most part, they’ve been designed for robins and doves, who take to them readily.  They’re usually placed on or near barns or houses since these birds don’t mind nesting in close proximity to people. Nesting shelves are much more secure—nests don’t get blown around in the wind, reducing the possibility that the eggs or young may be lost. And they offer a protective roof that keeps the nest drier.Female Northern Cardinal

Over the years, birds such as Purple Martins and bluebirds have learned to seek out man-made housing and feeders for their survival. And other birds have also learned to live with humans such as chimney swifts, barn swallows and of course pigeons, to name a few.

Cardinals however, can be extremely skittish, shy and secretive when they’re nesting. So, although Duncraft has just introduced a nesting shelf specifically for Cardinals, it may take a while for your cardinals to discover the benefits of building their nest in one.  After all, this is something brand new that no one has tried before!  Your success at having a Cardinal nest in the box will have a lot to do with placement, so complete instructions come with the “house” to let you know exactly how high it should be and in what kind of location. A lot of  birds have learned to adapt and use the houses, shelves and feeders that we offer them, so there’s no reason why the Cardinal can’t do the same if only given the opportunity.  We think Duncraft’s Cardinal House will do just that!

With a little luck, our finicky Cardinals may come to learn that the nesting shelves we provide for them are sturdy, dry  and provide a secure platform for their nests.  In time, the birds may become less wary of them.  Safer nests will help to ensure the future of this beautiful bird!

–R. Brune

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Linda R March 5, 2011 at 4:42 pm

We built 3 nesting shelf birdhouses 3 or 4 years ago and have had no luck getting any birds to use them. Any suggestions on how to draw the birds to them?

R. Brune March 29, 2011 at 1:27 pm

Hi Linda,
I’m sorry I missed your comment. My suggestion would be to move the shelves to a different location. You might have them too high or too low or in an area that’s too close to your feeders or something like that.

John March 31, 2011 at 11:40 am

Cardinals habitat isn’t fragmented. They benefit from development.

JAN April 11, 2011 at 6:31 pm

WE HAVE HAD CARDINALS CRASHING INTO OUR BEDROOM WINDOW FOR 3 YEARS.. THEY BEGIN AT DAWN AND CAN GO ON
TILL DUSK. THEY FLY VERY HARD INTO IT. WE HAVE TRIED HANGING THINGS OUTSIDE THAT BLOW IN BREEZE..TRIED BLINDS OPENED….THEN CLOSED…EVERYTHING WE CAN THINK OF OR BEEN ADVISED ABOUT.

ANY OTHER SUGGESTIONS? THIS CAN BE QUITE AGGRAVATING ON ANY GIVEN MORNING. IT IS JUST OUR WEST FACING WINDOW..AND NO ONE ELSE ON THE BLOCK HAS THEM!

HELP!!

David April 23, 2011 at 10:44 am

We also have problems with male cardinals attacking their own reflections in windows and especially in the side mirrors on our cars. We put brown paper lunch bags on the car mirrors to stop them from scratching the mirrors and pooping all over the car. To keep them from going after the windows requires installing something over the outside of the window. Good luck.

John September 1, 2011 at 1:10 pm

I’d like to see photos of anyone successfully getting Cardinals to use these. Seems to be a bit of a marketing stretch to me.

The only birds I’ve ever seen use a nesting platform similar to these, are swallow species, when mounted on a house to control swallow mud nests. I’ve also seen Say’s Phoebes take to a nesting platform. That’s it.

Cardinals? Color me red with skepticism.

matt July 3, 2012 at 11:33 am

we have cardinals in a little bush outside. i need to create a nesting box for them so that i can remove the bush – i was going to try this and it might be successful since the nest is already made and there are birds in it.

gloria February 27, 2015 at 10:44 am

I might try this shelf but I would tack some small twigs around the out side of it to mimic the twiggy bush they are nesting in.

Heidi Babb March 3, 2015 at 10:01 am

Adding natural items to birdhouses can be a very effective way of attracting birds to them. Great idea!

Bill kafer March 24, 2016 at 12:01 pm

How high off the ground should a cardinal nesting platform be placed off the ground.?

Dawn Coutu March 24, 2016 at 12:32 pm

Hi Bill, thank you for asking! For best results, place a cardinal nesting platform on a tree or post and mount between 2-10 feet above ground. Cardinals prefer nesting in a sheltered area protected by dense brush or foliage, so they can hide from predators at a moment’s notice. With these specifications in mind, you can look forward to cardinals nesting nearby! Let us know how this works for you, Bill. Enjoy your birds! -Dawn

Adaje5 April 23, 2016 at 7:56 am

I have had to replace baby birds that fell from their nest on several occasions. This was necessary because on the ground the babies are attacked by ants and eaten by cats and when on concrete or asphalt they will cook. The good news is that putting them back in the nest does not cause the parents to abandon them. At least not robins or swallows.

Here is what I was thinking with reference to the problem of getting cardinals to use a nesting platform. a couple of times in the army i had to actually move nests with babies in them because the birds built in equipment we had to use. These were robins on both occasions that had built nests in cable reels we needed the cables from. The robins watched and after a while resumed feeding the babies in the new location. So perhaps if you moved a cardinal nest while the parents watched they would continue to feed the babies and occupy the platform. Trouble is: I don’t think it should be done unless the original nest site is compromised because there is a chance they will abandon babies and the babies die as a result. OTOH I think they probably won’t but might if they haven’t laid eggs or have hatchlings yet.

If it did work though; it is likely they would return year after year to the platform.

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