Attract Cardinals

Become a better birder this year by trying one of these tips.

Learn How to Attract Cardinals to Your Yard

Cardinals are a welcome sight for northerners, there is seldom a more welcome sight on a blustery winter day than the flashy red male cardinal and his attractive mate. Even their call, an exuberant “cheer, cheer, cheer” brightens up a dreary day.

Listen to the cardinal’s cheery call!

Cardinals are frequent visitors to the Northeast, but the Northern Cardinal was not always a northern bird—it was originally a bird of the southeast. As early settlers moved west and northward along the Mississippi River, they cleared the land of dense forests and the cardinal followed, preferring the more open terrain.

By the early 1900’s, cardinals had reached southernmost Canada and by the 1940’s and 50’s had expanded northeastward to New England. And it’s very likely that the popularity of bird feeding also contributed to the cardinal’s expansion. Cardinals can now be seen as far west as Kansas and down into Texas with local populations in New Mexico and Arizona.

It’s easy to attract beautiful cardinals to your yard. They enjoy a diet of seeds, fruits, berries and insects and there are a lot of bird seed choices that will appeal to them. As with most backyard birds, cardinals love black oil sunflower seed. And they’re one of the few birds that enjoy safflower seeds.

Try offering them Duncraft’s special blend–Cardinals’ Delight, with sunflower seeds, sunflower hearts and chips and safflower seeds. Mixes with dried fruit are also readily accepted by cardinals. They love Very Berry Blend, which includes dried blueberries and cherries.

In summer, you can offer cardinals fresh fruit, too. They like chopped grapes and apples and you can even try putting out some banana or watermelon. Replace the fruit if it becomes moldy. Cardinals love insects. They will love a treat of live, dried or canned mealworms.

There are a ton of different birds, from cardinals to a flicker, feeding on this Q1706 Large Fly Through Platform.

Platform feeders are perfect for attracting all kinds of birds.

Cardinals are big birds that can’t cling to mesh feeders, and sometimes avoid feeders with small perches. They won’t use a feeder that sways in the wind or one that they have to balance on. Because they usually prefer eating from the ground, a ground platform feeder, such as the Ground Feeder with a Roof is perfect for them. The roof is nice because it keeps rain and snow off the food.

The advantage to platform feeders is that you can feed seeds, fruit and mealworms all on one feeder. Cardinals will also come to an elevated platform feeder with or without a roof, such as the Large Fly-Through Feeder (above). And large hopper feeders with ample perching room, such as the Absolute feeder, are ideal for cardinals as well.

Cardinals are non-migratory and spend their lives within an 8 square mile area. So if you do attract cardinals, you’ll be seeing the same individuals all year round. And with the right feeder, some black oil sunflower seed and treats of fruit and mealworms, you’ll be enjoying beautiful cardinals in no time! Shop today for bird feeders, seed and more. Happy Birding!

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  • Denice Thomas January 26, 2010 at 4:40 pm

    Hello, We have a pair of cardinals that have been regulars in our yard for a couple of years now. We enjoy watching them but have one problem. The male cardinal will not stop striking one of the windows. We have put several types of your window decals on the windows and they didn’t even slow him down. He will sit in the gardenia a few feet away and just fly into the window. I would hate to stop feeding the birds, but this is the bedroom window of a 2yr old and he is woken up regularly by the birds. Thanks for any help.

  • R. Brune January 27, 2010 at 9:19 am

    Hi Denice,

    This is a common problem with cardinals. They see their reflection and think it’s a competitor that’s trying to move into their territory, or steal their mate, and try to attack it. The only thing to do is to block the reflection on the window. I’d suggest covering the area on the window that the bird is attacking with something. Temporarily putting up cardboard, would work, but it has to be on the outside. When the bird stops seeing it’s reflection, the behavior will stop and eventually he’ll go away. After that you can take the cardboard down.

  • Sue S February 7, 2010 at 2:34 pm

    In my backyard, I always have safflower seed in one feeder, and black oil sunflower seed in another feeder. Cardinals love them both. About 10 years ago, my father told me that Cardinals like to feed at sunrise & sunset. I have yet to check on how many Cardinals come to feed at dawn. However, almost every evening, they can be found feeding on & under those 2 feeders. They are always moving. And depending on the amount of light left outside, it can be challenging to get an accurate count. Eight individual Cardinals each evening is the most common number. Though, I have had 16 all at the same time many times in the last 2 years. My father is jealous, as he sees 1-2 pairs at the most each evening. I’m trying to convince him to put out another feeder in his backyard with only safflower in it, as I think he could attract more of these beautiful birds. I have numerous other types of birds coming & going throughout the day, but Cardinals are the only ones who are are out at this time of day. And just before it’s dark, within a few minutes of each other, they leave. It is such a treat to see!

  • Melissa April 17, 2010 at 4:33 pm

    A discovery about Cardinals, taught to me by the Juncos! In a blizzard here in the Midwest last winter even the Juncos were desperate, they were panicked at my bird bath. Digging & throwing snow like the best snow blower…then they would look at my living room window above their flower border at me!? Over & over they did this as the heavy flakes pounded down around them refilling their space. Finally I got it-they wanted seeds in the bird bath! Shallow depth bird baths are best; they & their ground feeding buddies the Cardinals, Doves & others can now feed all seasons!

  • nancy koron August 18, 2010 at 1:34 pm

    i have a very hard time getting cardnials to come to my feeders i have flat hanging ones fly throughs and feeders on the ground and i hardly get them so sad an i want hummingbirds i have all either ones would want

  • Julie Shoulders December 9, 2013 at 11:31 am

    One winter we were living in a temporary rental location in Kentucky out in the country. There was a fence-row grown up with brush. Early in morning we would see what seemed to be hundreds of cardinals feeding on the plants. Have you any idea what the plants could have been? I would love to plant some in our new location as a natural way to feed and enjoy watching the cardinals.