The Northern Cardinal is one of the most unmistakable species of backyard birds. The fiery red coloring of the male cardinal makes this bird stand out from the crowd at your feeder. Cardinals are known to travel in pairs, and the female is a warm brown color with tinges of red. If you’re not seeing any cardinals in your backyard, it’s very easy to attract them to your feeders.
Find Out if Cardinals are Native to Your Area
Northern Cardinals can be found in abundance throughout eastern and central North America. They can also be found in parts of Mexico and Central America. It’s only in recent decades that they have been found in the northern parts of North America and Canada, and as far west as Texas. Though not as common, they can be found in Hawaii and Bermuda. Cardinals are non-migratory birds, meaning they tend to stay put where they are year-round.
Get the Right Feeder
The Northern Cardinal is considered a medium sized bird. As such, it’s important that you have the right feeder to attract them to your yard. Cardinals are known to prefer a stationary or platform feeder, which best supports their weight.
Additionally, keep placement of the feeder in mind when trying to attract cardinals to your yard. Cardinals tend to be skittish birds and like to have cover close to where they are feeding if they should be startled. Place the feeder close to trees or shrubs that allow the cardinal to escape and hide from potential predators.
On another note, the Northern Cardinal is also a ground feeder, so be sure to scatter some seeds on the ground below the feeder. When scattering seeds on the ground, scatter them away from low shrubs and plants so that predators can not hide and prey on them. However, if you tend to have a lot of squirrels in your yard, you might want to avoid leaving seeds on the ground.
Cardinal Preferred Foods
With beaks that are powerful than most backyard birds, it’s easy to see how cardinals can break open hard husk seeds with ease.
The cardinal’s food of choice is the black oil sunflower seed. It’s an inexpensive seed and is commonly found in most bird seed mixes sold commercially. You can also buy bags of sunflower seed alone.
Other favorites are the striped sunflower seed and the safflower seed. Safflower seed is a white seed that is typically ignored by most birds and squirrels, guaranteeing your cardinals a meal each time they visit your feeders.
See also: 10 Best Foods for Bird Feeding
Provide a Source of Water
Like any other bird visiting your backyard, you need to offer the cardinal a source of water both for drinking and bathing. Place a bird bath a few feet away from your feeders. For the cardinal’s safety, the depth of the bird bath should be no more than two inches. If your bird bath is deep, you can alter the depth of the water simply by placing smooth stones or river rocks in it.
After the depth of the water, cleanliness is the next important factor. Keeping your bird bath clean will take some work. At a minimum, clean your bird bath weekly—more if there is a lot of regular activity. Scrub it with a stiff brush, rinse with cold water, and refill.
The Best Times to Spot Cardinals
Like most birds, cardinals are early morning visitors, getting the bulk of their nutrition at the start of their day. Putting out your seeds the night before will save you a mad dash to your feeders in the morning, ensuring you don’t miss seeing the cardinal, or scare them off while fussing with bags of seeds.
The cardinal will also return to your feeders in the evening for another good meal before the sun goes down. You might want to jot down the times you see them in your backyard to get an idea of when you’ll be sure to spot them.
A Fiery Red Sight
With the right feeder and their preferred foods, you’re sure to begin seeing fiery red cardinals and their mates at your feeders. And as the fall turns to autumn, their vibrant red color is even more stunning against the snowy backdrop of your wintery yard.