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How To Attract Cardinals To Your Yard (7 Easy Steps)

Written by Garrett Hayes

Last updated on Apr 26th, 2024
A Cardinal perched on a bird house - feature image

Even for those who pay less attention to nature, it will just be too hard not to notice once a Cardinal starts singing.

One of the greatest pleasures of owning a garden is watching the birds that visit it, which is why most garden-owners would like to know more about how to have these beautiful birds in their backyards. 


If you're one of those who want to learn how to attract Cardinals in your garden, I'm sure that you will find this article interesting and beneficial.

To bring these beautiful bright birds right in your yard, it would be helpful to deep dive into some important details that will make us better understand the Cardinals’ behavior like what do Cardinals eat, what the sure-win steps are in attracting these Cardinals, and a lot more.

Cardinal’s Origin

A lot of us are familiar with the Northern Cardinals as it is the most famous one, but these birds have more than just one species. There are two more including the desert Cardinals and the vermillion Cardinals - you may have even read about the mysterious blue Cardinal showing up from time to time. 

The Cardinals are also referred to as "redbirds" who at first are more common in warmer climates such as the Southeast part of the United States. Now, there is noticeable population growth in their kind which might be because of their capability to adapt to even the suburban human habitats.

How They Get Their Color

Of all the things I’ve learned about the Cardinals, what I find the most interesting is how they get their colors. Just like the flamingos, the Cardinals also get their colors from the food they eat

However, if you look closely at these birds, you will notice that it is the male that has a brighter red color and it is also a clear indication of mating success, the brighter the red is, the better! Once the Cardinals stop eating berries, their color will start to fade.

Their Behavior

Cardinals are non-migratory birds and nest in dense foliage and look for conspicuous, fairly high perches for singing. They are well known for being songbirds and the male uses its call to attract a mate. 

Male Cardinals are larger than females which makes them easily distinguished from one another. Another interesting fact about these birds is that once they mate, they do so for life, which means once they've established a pair, the male will continue to mate with the same female Cardinal until one of the pair dies.


While the Cardinals mostly live at the edge of woodlands and where there is vegetation nearby, they can also be shy visitors and would sometimes visit suburban yards with low, dense ground cover. The Cardinals prefer a secluded area that gives them a feeling of safety and security like dense vines, trees, and bushes. These non-migratory birds often find shelter in evergreen trees and shrubs during winter.


If you're wondering what the best Cardinal bird food is, the first thing that you need to know is that their diet mostly consists of seeds, grains, and fruits. They also feed on insects including beetles, butterflies, centipedes, spiders, butterflies, and moths which they also give to their nestlings. 

Their growing chicks feed exclusively on insects. It is essential for the Cardinals to keep feeding berries or grapes to maintain their appearances, otherwise, their color will start to fade.

How To Attract Cardinals To Your Backyard

There's this belief that there's a cardinal symbolism when you see one. And if you're interested to know and prove it, it'll be an awesome idea to attract them into your backyard.

And now that we've learned these crucial details, it will make it easier for us to jump right into the topic of how to attract the Cardinals and start getting them in successfully into your backyards. 

The good news is that the Cardinals are not so hard to please, you would only need to know these next few steps in making your yard a haven for these non-migrating birds.

Create A Wildlife-friendly Backyard

It is no secret at all how birds get attracted to feeders. 

But more than that, it will be handy to go the extra mile and understand that what attracts these birds the most are things that come straight from nature like having plants and trees in your backyard.

Doing this is a foolproof way of rewarding you with more feathered visitors in your yard. Native plants will ensure that the birds will keep coming back, whether you want to attract more crows or other feathered friends.

Invest In Cardinal Specific Feeders

The kind of feeder used is just as important as what you feed the Cardinals. They are medium in size so these birds prefer big and solid feeders that they can perch on and will allow them to eat facing forward. 

You need to ensure that the feeder will have just enough space for the Cardinals to move around like the hoppers, trays, and platform feeders because these kinds will not sway easily and also because these birds don’t like twisting their bodies to eat. 

It would also help in providing more stability to have steady stationary feeders rather than hanging-type ones so that strong winds will not cause them to swing and eventually scare the birds off.

Entice Them With The Right Foods

Male and female cardinal

One of the greatest things about the Cardinals is that they are not hard to feed. Since they primarily eat seeds, putting out a wide variety of seeds will be a great way to start. 

You can include striped or black oil sunflower seeds which the Cardinals love, safflower seeds, and white proso millet as an alternative to sunflower seeds in any case that they are not available. Aside from this blend of sunflower and safflower. 

Ideal Cardinal food also includes shelled peanuts, buckwheat, and cracked corn. You also need to keep your feeders full at all times because the Cardinals will not choose to stay if they paid your yard a visit and found no food to eat.

Cultivate The Right Surroundings

While these Cardinals prefer to have a combination of evergreen and deciduous trees to surround their nesting area, remember the following: They also like to nest in bushes, large shrubs, or thick vines, most especially if they are the ones that bear fruit and face an open lawn. 

Some of the trees and shrubs that work great for nesting are dogwood, honeysuckle, pines, and hawthorn. Their other favorite nesting places are grape, spruce, hemlock, blackberry brambles, rose bushes, elms, box elders, and sugar maples. 

A wild grapevine is also a great addition because Cardinals use its bark for nesting. If you have a yard that has much to offer in terms of food and shelter, you have the best chance of attracting these songbirds.

Provide A Clean Water Source

Another way of drawing Cardinals in your yard is to ensure that you have a reliable water source. Just like any other birds, the Cardinals also love to drink, bathe, and splash around water.

Having a pond would be a great water source option. If you don’t have a pond, having a birdbath would also do the trick in encouraging them to spend more time in your garden. 

Heated birdbaths that sit on the ground or a submerged immersion heater to regular birdbaths are ideal for attracting Cardinals. That’s very ideal to prevent them from freezing during the winter. 

These birdbaths should be at least 2 to 3 inches deep because of the Cardinal's size while adding a dripper could also be a great way to get their attention.

Give The Cardinals An Extra Sense Of Security

Male Cardinals are aggressive when defending their territories so they tend to attack potential intruders. And that is why they sometimes fly into glass windows when all they really see is their own reflection. 

To make them feel secured, it will be best to remove or at least cover reflective surfaces like mirrors, glaring windows, or anything that could distract and cause them stress.  

Ensure Proper Placement Of Feeders

Have some fallen seeds scattered on the ground as it would also encourage these ground-feeding birds to visit. 

You may also try adding Cardinal feeders to different areas at various heights and proximity for an easy feeding option. Just make sure that these areas are not accessible to any outdoor pets as Cardinals could be very shy and any unexpected movement will threaten and scare them away.

They will most likely favor a feeder that can give them enough protection so it is best to place it near trees and shrubs so they have a shaded place and to also give them the chance to check the surroundings first before they start to feed.

BirdingHub Talk: Attract these 4 types of cardinals in your backyard and consider yourself "Prince of Cardinals" (in a way, though  😉). Proceed here to learn more about the different Cardinal types that exist.

Final Thoughts

Once their needs are met, having the best food for Cardinals, cleanest water, and the most secure nesting sites are met, then you are sure that that’s how to attract Cardinals to your yard in no time. 

They will, of course, opt to stay in a place where they feel comfortable and protected. It might take some time, but just remember to keep in mind all these helpful tips on how to attract Cardinals and soon you will have them nesting in your yard before you know it.

Once you do, make sure to find all the reasons to encourage them to stay for good because if the Cardinals have everything they need in your space, they will definitely stick around.

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