Attract More Cardinals to the Yard - 6 Tips and 3 Things To Avoid
Northern Cardinals are probably the most desired of all backyard-visiting birds. With their vibrant plumage and beautiful songs, it’s no wonder people want to attract Cardinals to their yards. Luckily for bird lovers, Cardinals are not particularly hard to please. With a few simple alterations to the backyard and birdfeeder set up, the yard could soon become a haven for these beloved birds.
Are Cardinals in My Area?
Northern Cardinals are non-migratory birds, meaning that once they are drawn to the yard they are likely to stay there year-round. This also means, however, that if Cardinals aren’t native to the area, you won’t be able to do anything to attract them to the yard. Cardinals can be found in the north as far as Maine and parts of southern Canada, and in the south through Central America and the Gulf Coast. They live in the west as far as South Dakota and Texas. In addition, Cardinals have been introduced to Hawaii, southwestern California, and Bermuda.
7 Tips for Attracting Cardinals
As with all living things, Cardinals need food, water, and shelter to survive. By meeting all of these needs and appealing to Cardinals’ specific preferences for each, you can make your backyard a favorite habitat.
1. Choose the Right Food
The first step to attracting any bird is to supply them with food they enjoy. Northern Cardinals feature a strong, thick beak, which is perfect for large seeds and other hearty foods. Safflower seeds, black oil sunflower seeds, and white milo are among a Northern Cardinal’s favorite seed options. In addition to large seeds, Cardinals enjoy eating crushed peanuts, cracked corn, and berries. During the winter, small chunks of suet are another great choice. Be sure to check regularly that the feeders are filled, particularly during the early morning and late evening when Cardinals prefer to eat. Once Cardinals realize that the backyard offers a year-round, reliable food source, they will likely take up a permanent residence.
2. Use Proper Bird Feeders
In conjunction with the type of food being offered, you need to select the proper types of feeders to suit the Cardinals. The feeders need to be sturdy enough to support the weight of a Cardinal, approximately equal to 9 U.S. nickels, which is actually on the heavy side for a feeder bird. In fact, lightweight, hanging feeders are best avoided in general because they may sway under a Cardinal’s weight. Platform feeders and stationary feeders that provide enough space to perch are generally preferred. Cardinals are broader, full-breasted birds, so they require more space when visiting a feeder.
3. Consider Food Placement
Choosing the ideal placement for the offerings is the last important factor of appealing to the Cardinals’ eating habits. Because Northern Cardinals prefer to have protective cover when feeding, the food should be placed near trees and shrubbery in the backyard. They will enjoy the foliage and feel safer with these hiding spots nearby. If squirrels aren’t a problem in the yard, seed can be scattered on the ground for the shyest Cardinals to enjoy.
4.Provide Water Sources
Cardinals need easy access to water for both drinking and bathing. Providing birdbaths or bird waterers is the perfect way to satisfy this need. As with the feeders, a birdbath needs to accommodate the size of these larger birds. Baths with a depth of 2 to 3 inches at the deepest point are usually best. To attract Cardinals to the birdbaths, consider adding drippers to keep the water moving. Keep in mind, whichever method is chosen, water should be changed, and vessels should be cleaned frequently to prevent algae and dirt buildup.
5. Prevent Frozen Water
Since Cardinals don’t migrate, they live in the same place all year, even `during the winter months. To ensure that water is available even in freezing temperatures, frequently refresh still water or add a heated birdbath. With that, the yard is sure to be a hotspot for the Cardinals!
6. Offer Protective Shelter
As mentioned above, Cardinals enjoy secluded areas surrounded by thick foliage with lots of trees and shrubs. Planting trees and bushes of varying heights will help these songbirds to feel safe and protected. Make sure to include evergreen trees and other plants that will be able to provide cover during the sparser winter months as well.
7. Encourage Nesting Sites
Unlike many other backyard birds, Cardinals will not use birdhouses or nesting boxes. In addition to enjoying dense plant life for shelter, they also prefer it for nesting. Grapevines, tall trees, and shrub thickets are ideal options for nest sites. Readily available nesting materials are also essential to encouraging long-term Cardinal nesting. Make sure that the yard features pine needles, small twigs, grass clippings, and other materials so that Cardinal visitors will build a nest nearby.
3 Things to Avoid
1. Reflective surfaces
Cardinals are known to attack their reflections as a territory-protecting measure. Though this behavior isn’t generally fatal, it may cause beak damage as well as unnecessary stress. You can prevent this by eliminating the reflection of windows or mirrors near nesting and feeding areas. For windows, try using screens or bird netting to deter them and cover car mirrors, when not in use, with opaque items such as plastic bags.
2. Harmful chemicals
Avoid using chemicals and poisons in the vicinity of the bird feeders and birdbaths. Insecticides, herbicides, and many fertilizers can contaminate the food and water sources, which can often be lethal to the Cardinals.
3. Predator-accessible feeding areas
First, if you have pets that go outdoors, you should do your best to keep them away from Cardinal feeding areas. In addition, you should avoid placing feeders or scattering seed near low shrubs and bushes, and anywhere else that predators may hide and easily attack them.
Perky-Pet® bird feeders are a perfect choice for all types of birds including cardinals. Your local independant retailer or garden center offers a selection of feeders to attract feather friends to the yard.