How to Attract Northern Cardinal Birds

Northern cardinal bird

Intro: There are many types of cardinals that can be found all over the United States, but the most recognizable of them all is the northern cardinal (aka common cardinal), which can be found from the Midwest to the East Coast of the United States. The northern cardinal has a crest and a crest on the face. The mask is black in males and gray in females. Males are also a more vivid red, while females are brown with red highlights around the body, including the crest, feathers and tail.


Scientific Name: Cardinalis cardinalis

Size: 8 to 9 inches long

Habitat: Although this wild bird can be found in eastern United States west to the Midwest, in Canada and Mexico, it has also been introduced in Hawaii and southern California. It inhabits woodlands, gardens, shrublands and swamps. The northern cardinal does not migrate.

How to Attract: Because the cardinal does not migrate, it is a winter resident during harsh East Coast winters. These beautiful red birds stand out among the snow, and because food is scarce during wintertime, they are commonly seen at birdfeeders in gardens. Set out seeds for these wild birds, and you should spot some at your birdfeeder. The northern cardinal eats mainly weeds, grains and fruits, and it feeds on the ground. The best way to attract this bird is by offering sunflower and safflower seeds in box feeders or trays.

Courtship and Breeding: The male courts the female by feeding her seeds. The pair (which mates for life) produce two to four clutches of eggs annually, with each clutch containing three to four eggs. Their nests are made of grasses, bark, stems, roots and pine needles, and are 2 to 3 inches tall and 4 inches across. Nests can be found in a shrub or a low tree in a hidden spot. The 1-by-0.75-inch eggs are white with gray or brown blotches.

Misc. Info: The Northern cardinal used to be kept as a caged bird, but this practice was banned in 1918. Males can have brighter red feathers if they get enough carotenoid pigments in their diet, otherwise they will be a more pale red. The cardinal’s song allows the males to claim and defend their territories. Songs vary based on regions because they learn each other’s songs. Cardinals have the ability to live to 15 years in the wild, but most die much sooner than that.

Read about the benefits of attracting wild birds to your balcony.

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