Who wouldn’t love cardinals? Cardinals are often stunning decorations in your yard especially during the bare winter trees and bushes – thanks to their brilliant color year-round. Learn more about these cardinals and how you can invite them to your yard.
It’s thrilling to see colorful wild birds visit your garden. Cardinals are one of the easiest to recognize when you catch a glimpse outside your window. The males’ delightful bright red plumage makes them stand out wherever they go. Both males and females sport jaunty top-hat-like crests and sing cheerful melodies.
Cardinals are at home in most rural and suburban areas across North America. Unlike other birds, they don’t migrate so you can expect to see them year-round. Read the following tips so you can invite these common but beautiful songbirds to take up residence in your yard.
1. Plant Cardinals’ Favorite Trees and Shrubs
Cardinals are voracious seed eaters. Cardinals gather most of their food from nature. To encourage them to forage in your landscape year-round, plant some of their favorite seed sources. Native trees and shrubs are an excellent bet when you want to attract local birds. Some of the cardinals’ favorite trees include spruce, crabapple, flowering dogwood, serviceberry and mulberry. Shrubs at the top of their feeding list include viburnum species, gray dogwood, red-osier dogwood, and staghorn sumac.
2. Add Layers to Your Landscape
Dense, twiggy shrubs often serve as nesting sites for cardinals. Their four-layer nests consist of a twig frame covered by a green mat, lined with bark, and finally grasses. It takes 3-9 days to build the mini masterpieces.
A variety of shrubs will provide a good mix of materials the active birds need to construct a home. Added to plants that lose their leaves in the fall, make sure to include a few evergreen shrubs and trees, which the birds prefer in winter. Cluster several shrubs together near the edges of your property to create an inviting habitat. You can double the benefit when you choose shrubs that are food sources for cardinals.
3. Include a Water Source
Cardinals are attracted to water like all backyard songbirds. Build your own birdbath and add a small, simple heater will keep the water from freezing solid in cold winter areas.
4. Hang a Bird Feeder
Cardinals aren’t choosy when it comes to the type of bird feeder. A platform feeder eases the bird watching while a tube feeder is easy to fill and clean.
Use your favorite feeder but take cues from about what to place in the feeder. Studies have found that cardinals are most attracted to black oil sunflower seeds. Peanut hearts, cracked corn, safflower, and hilled sunflower seeds are also popular, but black oil sunflower seeds are the favorite.
Cardinals are relatively slow fliers because of their larger bodies and short, rounded wings. Cardinals make easy prey for cats when they’re on the ground picking up fallen seeds from feeders, so it’s best to keep your felines indoors.
5. Encourage Caterpillars
While cardinals eat seeds and other plant parts most of the year, their diet shifts to more protein-rich insects during the breeding season in the summer. When chicks hatch, their parents mostly feed them soft caterpillars. You can make it easier on the birds by adding plenty of caterpillar host plants, such as milkweed, coneflowers, parsley, fennel, and dill, to your container plantings and garden beds.
6. Provide Perches
Male cardinals regularly sing from perches high in trees. Choose trees with a columnar or narrow shape such as arborvitae for smaller landscapes. These trees will grow up more than they grow out, providing places for cardinals to sing without encroaching on nearby plants or structures.
Fun fact: Only a few female North American songbirds sing, but the female Northern Cardinal does, often while sitting on the nest. Scientists believe her songs may share information with her mate about when to bring food to the nest.