The Northern Cardinal: A Vibrant Visitor to Your Backyard


The Northern Cardinal is one of my favorite birds and one that reminds me of my mother who passed away quite a while ago. It was one of her favorites also. Whenever I see one I still think of her.

The Northern Cardinal, with its striking red plumage and melodic chirps, is a favorite among bird enthusiasts. This article explores the Northern Cardinal’s range, habitat, feeding habits, favorite bird seeds, and tips on how to attract these vibrant birds to your backyard.


The Northern Cardinal is a resilient bird found predominantly in the eastern and central United States, extending south into Mexico and parts of Central America. In recent decades, their range has expanded northward, likely due to the availability of food from bird feeders and the adaptability of these birds to various habitats.


Traditionally, Northern Cardinals are found in woodlands, gardens, shrublands, and wetlands. They are particularly drawn to areas with dense shrubbery or small trees, where they can nest and take cover. These birds adapt well to human environments, often visiting backyard feeders in both rural and urban settings.

Feeding Habits and Favorite Birdseed

Northern Cardinals have a varied diet that includes seeds, fruits, and insects. When it comes to bird feeders, they have a few favorites:

  1. Sunflower Seeds: Both black oil and striped sunflower seeds are highly favored due to their high-fat content and easy-to-crack shells.
  2. Safflower Seeds: These are a hit among Cardinals, and less attractive to common feeder pests like squirrels.
  3. Cracked Corn: A good choice for ground-feeding, attracting Cardinals to the lower parts of your garden.
  4. Peanut Pieces: Rich in fat and protein, these are a nutritious addition to their diet.

Remember, Cardinals have strong beaks, which are perfect for cracking open seeds and nuts.

Tips on Attracting Northern Cardinals to Your Backyard

To attract Northern Cardinals to your backyard, consider the following tips:

  1. Right Type of Feeder: Cardinals prefer feeders with a large, stable perching area. Platform feeders or hopper feeders with a generous base will be most attractive to them.
  2. Dense Plantings: Incorporating shrubs or small trees in your garden provides necessary shelter and nesting sites.
  3. Water Sources: A birdbath or shallow water source can be a significant attraction, especially if it’s kept clean and ice-free in the winter.
  4. Avoid Chemicals: Minimizing the use of pesticides in your garden ensures a safe environment for Cardinals, who also feed on insects.
  5. Consistency in Feeding: Keeping your feeders well-stocked, especially in winter, will make your backyard a reliable food source for these birds.


The Northern Cardinal is not only a beauty to behold but also a joy to listen to. By understanding their preferences and creating a welcoming environment, you can enjoy the company of these brilliant birds all year round. Happy birdwatching!