Many homeowners who want to know how to attract cardinals, need to know where do cardinals live naturally before attempting to attract them. You will find Northern Cardinals living freely in regrowing forests, mesquite, marshy thickets, hedgerows, overgrown fields, forest edges and yes, ornamental landscaping and backyards.

Cardinals have always been anyone’s desired bird and a lovely bird to have to frequent your back yard.  The fortunate factor is that cardinal migration is not natural, and they love to stay throughout the year.

The advantage that eastern North American resident have is that cardinals were forced northward due to the growth of suburbs and towns. Therefore, when you know how to attract cardinals you will find they are rather easy to find and easy to please birds.

However, you need to make a few alterations like food, water, and shelter to have the gorgeous red bird with its lovely song living in your back yard.

Why we love Cardinals

It is easy to identify a northern cardinal. They are a long-tailed, fairly large bird with a prominent crest.

Female cardinals are overall a pale brown color with red tinges to the crest, tail, and wings with a red-orange bill and black face.

The male cardinal, however, is magnificent with its brilliant red color, black face, and red bill.

The beautiful appearance is paired with beautiful singing and make a welcome addition to a backyard. Birders love attracting cardinals as a colorful, cheerful addition to the backyard.

How to attract cardinals

Make sure cardinals are native to your area

Many people ask, do cardinals migrate in the winter? The answer is no, cardinals do not migrate, and this means they will remain in your backyard when you know how to attract cardinals to your yard.

Therefore, is it important to know before you try attracting cardinals to your backyard if they are native to your area?

You do get a Texas cardinal bird as well as South Dakota. You will find cardinals when you live in regions like southern California and Maine. You will find them to the south in areas like the Gulf Coast and Central America as well. In addition, when you live in Bermuda, southwestern California, and Hawaii, you can also attract cardinals.

How to attract Cardinals with food

You will attract a cardinal when you know what cardinals eat in the wild and what are the cardinals eating habits. When you have bird feed for cardinals you will be able to attract them.

Buy and place large Cardinal Bird Feeders in your backyard

You will have to focus on getting bird feeders for cardinals which are sturdy and strong. A cardinal is a large bird that loves a good place to perch and a small feeder simply will not be sufficient. They need adequate footing for nesting and feeding as they are heavier than the average backyard bird.

You could look at a cardinal only bird feeder when your aim is only to attracting cardinals and at the same time keep squirrels out. It must be easy to reach for you to replace the cardinal bird seed, while they can have easy access too.

Keep in mind that you must keep it stocked with cardinals birds food or they might leave your yard in search of a place with a consistent supply of food.

  • Cardinals like areas like suburban landscaping, high perches, dense foliage as well as backyard trees.
  • They would like to have feeders with some cover close by, therefore should the cardinal bird feeder be in a place where they can flee to when needed, like shrubs or trees.

Choose the Right Food

You will be able to attract northern cardinals with a feeder and when you know what kind of seeds do cardinals eat? Sunflower seeds certainly would attract cardinal, but when you want more, you have to do more to attract an array of gorgeous cardinals and other birds too.


Cardinals food preference is according to their bill’s structure and shape. Compared to other birds, a cardinal has larger jaw muscles, and the downward curve of their bill tell you that they can crack or crush seeds. While smaller seeds are good you can get medium-sized too as the cardinal can eat larger seeds as well.

What kind of birdseed do cardinals eat?


Sunflower is available in two varieties that a cardinal will eat:

Black-oil sunflower

The least expensive and most popular sunflower seed is the black oil. It is found in all bird food mixes and with it, you will attract various species of birds.

Striped sunflower

The striped is harder to crack and larger that black-oil sunflower seeds. When you want to know how to attract cardinals, but no other birds, you could buy this type of seed as smaller birds will not be able to eat these and therefore will you only be attracting cardinals.


Cardinals favorite food is their seeds but loves to eat wild fruits too. Researchers and studies show that the main reason why cardinals love fruits could be for the seeds. Therefore, when you plant fruit-bearing trees ensure it is of a larger seed-type. Common seeds and fruits include wild grape, mulberry, sedges, and more.


When you want to know how to attract cardinals to your yard, ensure you have safflower as they love it. It is especially great when you want to be attracting cardinals but not other species like blackbirds and especially squirrels as these do not feed on safflower.

Red-Fruited Plants

Carotenoid pigmentation is the reason why male cardinals are crimson red. This is found in red-fruited plants and when you get more of these, you will have cardinals with an even brighter red color.

Suet Cakes

Cardinals will occasionally snack on suet cakes. A suet cake should only be fed to cardinals in colder temperatures though or it will turn rancid.

Cover Plants

When you know how to attract cardinals, you also need to keep them happy to remain in your yard. Cardinals love nests that are low and you will have to have adequate trees and dense shrubs for cardinal nesting.


The best cardinal bird food for adults are seeds, however, the cardinal parent feeds babies with insects. These nestlings need muscle which is provided through the exclusive feeding of insects.  What do cardinals eat when they are nestlings, is a question many ask. They do not feed on seeds when young, therefore is it important to have adequate plants and garden for insects like caterpillars. When you have plants that attract butterflies, it is a bonus.


Many people ask, are cardinals ground feeders? The answer is yes, even though they are not only foraging on the ground. If you do have food on open ground, you need to ensure that they are able to retreat to safety. During the winter season, they love evergreens. You will, therefore, be attracting cardinals when you have adequate cover especially during the winter and more than enough food.

Plant evergreen trees or shrub

A cardinal bird house or nest will be in shrubs or dense evergreen trees. They will build their nest in the cover of trees as protection for their nest.

Offer nesting material

Since you are looking at ways how to attract cardinals, you obviously intend for them to nest and remain in your yard. You will not need a cardinal bird house or build birdhouses for cardinals as they prefer to build their own nests. Cardinal migration is not something that is in their nature and when you place things yarn, dog fur and lightweight material somewhere where they can get it, they will nest nearby.

Offer Running Water

As cardinals do not migrate you want to keep them happy all-year-long. In winter when water freezes, make sure you have running water.

Create a Welcoming Environment

Once you know how to attract cardinals, how are you going to keep them in your yard? When the environment is welcoming, they will nest and make your yard their home. They want natural shelter, running water and food. When you know what do cardinals eat and you have a birdfeeder in place, consider spreading additional seed to attract more cardinals that might fly around in your area.

Things to avoid

Harmful chemicals

Fertilizers, herbicides, and insecticides are poisonous for a reason and this is one thing you need to avoid at all costs. It will contaminate both the water and food sources which are lethal to cardinals.

Prevent Frozen Water

Since cardinal migration does not happen, they remain in your yard but will have to leave if there is no water. Ensure that they have heated birdbath and frequently fill up fresh still water if you do not have a running water source.

Reflective surfaces

You do not want cardinals in your yard to be distressed, which could happen when they have mirrors or reflecting windows near their nesting area. Deter the cardinal from windows with bird netting or screens.

Predator-accessible feeding areas

When you have other pets in your homes like cats and dogs, they must not be able to access cardinal feeding areas. Predators from outside your yard must be kept at bay as far as possible, therefore should the cardinal seed feeder be close enough and high enough for ground animals not to reach the birds during feeding or nesting. Give the cardinal the opportunity to seek protection in dense bush or trees when it feels unsafe.

When you meet the cardinal’s need for nesting sites, secure shelter, freshwater, and adequate food, you will be able to attract and keep this gorgeous bird throughout the year.

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