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What Kind of Bird Houses Do Cardinals Like?

What Kind of Bird Houses Do Cardinals Like?

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The northern cardinal, Cardinalis cardinalis, is a medium-sized songbird that’s native to the New World. It’s abundant in gardens, parks, forests, and even backyards all year round.

People usually love having these beautiful birds around, as they add a lot of color and cheer wherever they go. This is especially true on the chilly winter days when most birds migrate to warmer places. Despite the rough weather, the Cardinals decide to stay.

If you’d like to attract these gorgeous red birds to your backyard and enjoy their melodic chirrups, then you should read this article. Cardinals are a bit picky when it comes to their nesting and feeding habits.

So what kind of bird houses do cardinals like? Read on to know all about it.

Would Cardinals Nest in Regular Bird Houses?

Most birds like the shade and shelter they get when they find a backyard bird house. However, this doesn’t apply to the northern cardinal.

Cardinals are rarely enthusiastic to take residence in regular bird houses, for several reasons. They might seem a bit too particular at first glance, but these little red birds definitely have good reasons for that stance.

Safety and Security

Cardinals are naturally excessively aware of the threats of nature. They know so well how a bigger bird could drive them off the nest, a squirrel could pick a fight, or a snake could steal their eggs.

The typical closed-off bird house wouldn’t let them see any of these predators coming. Contrary to that, making a nest in the middle of thick foliage gives them a clear advantage, when it comes to spotting intruders.

Size Matters

Additionally, cardinals are slightly bigger than regular bird house dwellers. Tiny-sized swallows, chickadees, and finches find it easy to go in and out of the narrow bird house entrances.

The same opening would probably be a tad too tight for the cardinals.

Building Materials

Cardinals are known for their utilization of the strangest materials for building a nest. In addition to small twigs, they use grass blades, pieces of thread, animal hair, paper strips, and any other building materials they can get their hands on.

The small round entrance to the bird house doesn’t facilitate the multiple errands needed for stocking these materials.

Decoy Nests

As a defense mechanism, Cardinals sometimes build several empty ‘decoy nests’ around the one they live in.

This often distracts predators and provides the little red birds with a measure of safety. Smart move!

Emptying the Nest

Cardinals rarely use the same nest twice. Even though they’re non-migratory birds that spend most of their lives in the same neighborhood, they don’t stick to one nest. Cardinals typically leave their nests as soon as their hatchlings become strong enough to fly.

Thus, giving them a single bird house might be useful for one time only. But it’s not likely that they’d return to it again.

So What Kind of Bird Houses Do Cardinals Like?

Interestingly, the nicest house you can give a cardinal isn’t like a typical house at all!

They feel most comfortable nesting on a ledge that’s open from all directions. This should give them the sense of security they get from watching their surroundings.

Also, the open architecture provides full access for them to stock materials and build their nest.

Some bird house manufacturers include natural materials in cardinal houses, like tree bark. This makes the bird shelter feel more homey and comfortable.

It’s worth noting that the shape, size, and material of the cardinal bird house aren’t the only factors necessary to attract these birds. In fact, the placement, surroundings, and extra amenities are just as important!

More about that in the next sections.

The Best Bird Houses for Cardinals

If you’re a birdwatcher, or just would like to enjoy having a bunch of bright red chirrupy birds in your backyard, then you’d better get the right house for cardinals.

You can DIY a cardinal bird house, or buy a ready-made one. Either way, it’s best to know what exactly to look for.

Here are some pointers

  • An open ledge with just a little covering, and possibly a single side.
  • It should be made from wood, as natural materials would feel more familiar to the cardinals.
  • The screws and nails should be rust-resistant, since the bird house would be out in the rain.
  • Sturdy hangers are essential. That’s to make sure the bird house wouldn’t fall off and scare the cardinal.

How To Attract Cardinals to Your Backyard Bird House?

Placing a bird house often does the trick of attracting a host of little birds to your backyard. Cardinals might be a bit harder to please though. Here are some ideas to win them over.

Give Them Delicious Food

Food is relatively easy to find in summer and spring, however, as winter takes hold, it becomes seriously scarce.

Thus, keeping a healthy supply of bird food should attract droves of cardinals. The good news is, that once they know you have good food, they’ll keep coming back for more all year round.

Cardinals are fond of black oil sunflower seeds and safflower seeds. Additionally, they like to use their strong beaks for cracking peanuts, corn, and apple. They’d also welcome suet, berries, and large seeds.

Use the Right Kinds of Feeders

Upright feeders with small openings and thin rails are great for regular birds, but not for cardinals.

The small openings are annoying to a medium-sized bird with a thick bill. Also, being a bit massive, the cardinals need a solid footing to stand on.

Shelves, trays, or hoppers are often better for cardinals than hanging feeders. Additionally, you can leave some seeds on the ground, as they sometimes fancy foraging there.

Install a Bird Bath

Cardinals really enjoy splashing in a bird bath. They freshen up and have a drink while they’re at it.

Usually, birds partake in that fun during the summer season. Cardinals don’t often conform to these norms though, and they splash in winter as much as in summer. That’s why it’s best to install heated birdbaths or use an immersive heater.

Additionally, cardinals respond more to running water, so a bird bath with a little fountain would be much appreciated.

Give The Cardinals Full Privacy

Cardinals really appreciate their privacy. If they feel that humans are hovering around constantly, chances are, they’ll fly away.

You can come by to replenish the feeders, clean the bird bath, or remove an abandoned nest. An occasional visit might not be alarming. However, being too close too often would certainly drive the cardinals away.

Additionally, if you want to install a camera around a cardinal’s nest, then it’s best to keep it fully covered. Yes, these little birds would assume that the camera is also an intruder, and it would freak them out.

Using solar-powered cameras is also a good idea to minimize human intervention.

Cover Reflective Surfaces

Cardinals are known to fight with any other birds if they feel that they took a step too close. This includes their own reflections in mirrors!

This hostility isn’t exactly a hobby for cardinals, and if they have to fight off other birds, or their own images, too often, they eventually become worn out.

Reflective window panes and car mirrors are the biggest threats to the little birds. It’s not a big surprise then that they would abandon the whole area if they feel that tense.

Final Thoughts

Northern cardinals are amazing birds to have in your garden. Their fiery red color and cheerful songs would always brighten up your day.

They might seem too quirky compared to other backyard birds, but it’s really their way of feeling secure and keeping their young safe.

The kind of bird house that cardinals like is pretty simple; an open ledge placed inside a thicket of dense foliage. They’d stick around if they find a reliable source of food, a cute little fountain to bathe in, and a quiet place to sing their songs.

That would easily be their new home.


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