Cardinals are bold, perky birds who tend to establish a territory and live there the whole year around. They love thick evergreens for winter cover and for summer nesting but will take advantage of any dense foliage to make a home.
They are not fond of nest boxes, preferring to build their own accommodations. You will often see both the male and female cardinal in pairs as they mate for life.
Getting to Know Cardinals
Cardinals are seed-eaters. If you are a gardener with sufficient space, they will flock to a plantation of sunflower seeds or even a stand of amaranth.
If you have a bird feeder or feeding area, the bright red coats and perky topknot of the males stand out among the other birds. By comparison, the female cardinal is a modest little Quakeress in dove-gray or soft brown with only touches of color, but she is easy to pick out from other gray birds by the characteristic orange beak and black mask common to all adult cardinals.
Both parents will feed the young when they hatch. The babies are hairless, then are dun-colored balls of fluff. Their first feathers are drab, but they develop adult coloring at their first molt – often in late
Cardinals are songbirds. Their bright “What-Cheer! What-Cheer!” is a bright harold of spring and early summer. They are large, as songbirds go, so avoid dainty little feeders such as those intended for finches, chickadees or titmice. They are also messy eaters, prone to be territorial, so a feeder with more than one side or several feeding ports is ideal.summer or early fall.
Keep the Squirrels and Other Predators Away
The feeders can be hung, or they can be placed on a post. In both cases, take care to protect the feeder from neighborhood squirrels, cats or other predators who might regard your bird feeder as a personal smorgasbord.
Squirrels love the same seeds, suet, peanut butter and other treats that cardinals enjoy. If you have an active squirrel population they can quickly clean out a feeder, leaving little for your feathered neighbors.
Select sturdy feeders with small ports to help combat these scampering bandits. Some of the techniques used to slow down cats will somewhat delay a squirrel’s approach to your feeder. Squirrels, as you probably already know, are much better climbers than cats. With their clever, hand-like paws, and teeth that can gnaw into black walnuts, they can work their way into almost any feeder – given enough time.
Three Cardinal Feeders with Squirrel Prevention
There are a broad variety of commercial bird feeders available, some specifically made for cardinals. Most keep in mind predation from cats, theft by squirrels and opossums, as well as comfortable perches that will allow your cardinal flock to feed easily.
Duncaft makes some of the best squirrel proof bird feeders on the market. In particular, the Squirrel Buster Classic gets rave reviews from its customers.
This is another weight triggering design that moves the seed access away from hungry squirrels as soon as they land on it. the Classic model has removable perches and more footholds to provide plenty of options for feeding.
The Classic feeder is just over 32 inches tall with a 4-inch tube that holds 1-3/4 pounds of seed. A ventilation system is included which keeps the seed fresh longer. This feeder works equally well to attract cardinals, finches, nuthatches, woodpeckers and chickadees.
Watch the below video from Duncraft to see exactly how it works – it’s too funny!
Another great choice from Duncraft, the Wild Bird Superstore, is similar to the classic model above but can hold up to 2-1/2 pounds of seed compared to the 1-3/4 lbs the classic does. It features a similar metal skirt that drops down to protect the seed the minute that a squirrel climbs on it.
In addition, the SQL is made of tough stainless steel, a deterrent even to sharp squirrel teeth. It is a hanging tube type of bird feeder, with chew-proof stainless-steel perches, and cardinal sized feeding hatches. Larger birds, as well as the squirrels, will trigger the dropdown shield. This helps to discourage starlings and similar unwanted species.
Wild Birds Forever presents a moderately high-tech solution for foraging squirrels.
It looks like an ordinary tube feeder, and birds can happily enjoy its bounty without interruption. But should a squirrel try to climb onto it, a little motor switches on causing the feeder to spin. The squirrels are then flipped off the feeder.
It is the perfect springtime gift for a bird fancier with a squirrel problem and a sense of humor.
More Predator Fooling Tricks
One Way to Fool the Squirrels – Feed The Birds Like Chickens
Cardinals, like many other birds, tend to feed in the early morning and late evening. If you have the time, you can put out the feeder in the morning and bring it back in at night, or even just put it out for an hour or two at regular feeding times.
Your pensioners will quickly catch onto the routine, and flock to you when you bring out their treats. This gives the squirrels less time to work on your feeders, and your presence signals “food time” to the birds. It works much the same way as feeding farmyard poultry.
If physically removing and replacing a feeder is too much work, you can apply physics to the placement of your bird feeder. Add spinners a thin cord to suspend your bird feeder. Create a conical top hat for hanging feeders, and bottom barriers for post feeders. Place post feeders well away from trees or buildings that will allow squirrels to leap onto the feeding station.
Keep The Cats From Climbing Up Your Feeders
Cats can also be a nuisance to your bird feeder. To keep the cats from climbing, place a tangle of wire or a downward facing collar around a post-mounted feeder.
If you use a hanging feeder, place it well out on a high limb and let it depend too far to be reached by even the most ambitious feline.
FAQs on Feeding Your Cardinals:
Question: What kind of hanger should I use for a cardinal feeder?
Answer: A light-weight cable suspended from a lanyard makes a nice support for a bird feeder full of hungry birds and a load of seed.
Question: What kinds of food should I put out for Cardinals?
Answer: Cardinals love large seeds, such as sunflowers. They will also eat cracked nuts, peanut butter and chunks of suet. There are also available commercial pellets designed for cardinals.
Question: Are cardinals heavy enough to trigger squirrel preventions on mechanical feeders?
Answer: It depends on the feeder. In some cases, yes, they are heavy enough. Look for feeders that can have an adjustment to allow for the weight of several cardinals on the same feeder.
We Welcome the Cardinals
Cardinals are a bright, cheery guest at your bird feeder in any season. Their songs and bright coats are enough to make any day beautiful. They are also useful visitors to your yard and garden. Cardinals eat at least 51 different kinds of beetles. They will also dine on cicadas, aphids, grasshoppers, slugs, and snails.