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How To Attract Cardinals To Your Yard

How To Attract Cardinals To Your Yard
Posted at 1:10 PM, Jun 24, 2021

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One of the best ways to appreciate the great outdoors is to set up a bird feeder in your yard, and one of the most beautiful birds that might show up is the Northern cardinal. But while these birds are popular and abundant, knowing how to attract cardinals to your yard is helpful if you want them to become regular visitors at your home.

The Northern cardinal is the official state bird to seven states in the U.S., and its range includes nearly all of the East, South and Midwest, as well as Texas. Most people associate the cardinal with its bright red feathers, but only the males have that vibrant hue. The females typically have shades of brown and buff on their plumage, with touches of the classic red. Both males and females have easy-to-spot crests on their heads and bright orange beaks.

Cardinals are also known for their gorgeous song, and the Audubon Society has a fantastic collection of clips for people to listen to and learn to recognize. If they’re frequent visitors to your home, you’ll learn their song quickly!

Northern cardinals don’t migrate during the winter, so if you’ve successfully set up a bird feeder for them, they’ll visit throughout the year.

In order to start watching them, though, you need to know how to attract cardinals to your yard. Here are a few tips for encouraging cardinals to stop by and hang out on a regular basis.

Get The Right Feeder To Attract Cardinals

Cardinals are medium-sized birds, so they need something sturdy to stand on while feeding. Their large beaks also need to be able to fit into the feeder to get to their snacks. Wild About Birds recommends a hopper or platform feeder to attract cardinals and make the feed the most accessible.

Squirrels can easily find their way onto platform or tray feeders, though, so try a baffle if this becomes a problem. And if you live in bear country, you’ll want to keep in mind that bears like to eat from bird feeders they can access, too.


Feed The Right Foods For Cardinals

Cardinals eat a variety of foods, from seeds and nuts to fruit and mealworms.

According to WorldBirds, the Northern cardinals’ large beak is designed for breaking into seeds. At feeders, they’ll eat safflower seeds and black-oil sunflower seeds — which are a favorite of many different kinds of birds, and are usually readily available at pet and garden stores and online at Amazon.

But if you’re putting out a variety of options to attract other birds as well, Cardinals will also eat peanut hearts, millet and milo, according to Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Project FeederWatch.

Cornell Lab also recommends keeping your seed dry and cleaning feeders regularly with a mild bleach solution or soap and water to keep the birds happy and healthy.

Northern Cardinal perched on bird feeder with seed

Place Your Bird Feeder In The Best Location For Cardinals

You’ve found the perfect feeder for cardinals and filled it with the cardinals’ favorite seeds. But if you don’t put the feeder in the right place, the birds might not show up.

Cardinals are notorious hiders. Birdwatching HQ suggests putting the feeder near bushes or trees to give them a place to escape to if they notice predators nearby. Really, this is helpful for all of the birds who visit your feeder.


Add Cardinals’ Favorite Trees And Shrubs To Your Landscaping

If you’re wondering how to attract cardinals to your yard beyond just putting bird feeders out, you can also put some special effort into creating an ideal landscape for them.

You want the birds to be able to gather food from the environment and give them a comfortable place to set up their nests. Better Homes & Gardens recommends trees such as mulberry, flowering dogwood, crabapple and spruce. For shrubs, consider staghorn sumac, gray dogwood and viburnum varieties.


Give Cardinals A Water Source In Your Yard

We’ve got food and shelter covered for the cardinals. Now, all that’s left is water for the birds to drink.

Cardinals (and other birds) will stay in areas that provide a reliable water source. Adding a birdbath with at least 2 to 3 inches of water will encourage birds to stick around your yard. Make sure to keep the water fresh for safe drinking and to avoid attracting mosquitos.

Male Northern Cardinal visits a backyard birdbath

These simple tips to help you attract cardinals to your yard will help bring nature closer to home and provide hours of enjoyment for the whole family.

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