The Best Bird Feeders and Birdseed for Cardinals

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Cardinals are beloved backyard birds. Fill tube and platform bird feeders with their favorite types of birdseed to attract more cardinals.

It’s hard to miss a male Northern cardinal and his bold red feathers, black face mask and spiked crest. Although the female is more subdued, she is no less adored. Despite being fairly common, the birds can be a bit elusive. They often come to feeders as the sun is setting, when their red feathers are muted under low light conditions. Here’s the best bird feeders, bird seed and habitat to attract more cardinals.

Tube bird feederVia
Tube bird feeder

Best Bird Feeders for Cardinals

Begin with a tube feeder to welcome cardinals, finches, chickadees and titmice almost immediately. Those species seem to recognize the shape of the feeder, and their presence attracts other birds. Set out this Perky-Pet Triple Tube bird feeder (above) to provide multiple birds a spot to perch and eat. Buy it for $65 at

Cardinals also like to eat from platform or tray feeders. Try the Eco-Strong Platform Feeder; $50 from Duncraft. “I’ll sprinkle seeds directly on the ground or the sidewalk to give cardinals easy access to a meal,” says Mike Havlik, a naturalist for the Dallas County Conservation Board in central Iowa.

cardinal eating sunflower seedCourtesy Sarah Geiger
Northern cardinal eating sunflower seeds

Best Birdseed for Cardinals

Cardinals prefer to eat sunflower and safflower seeds and often roasted, unsalted peanuts. Seeds and nuts are no match for their hefty pink beaks. Cracked corn is worth setting out, too. “I recommend safflower seed because the squirrels leave it alone, but cardinals, woodpeckers, chickadees, titmice and grosbeaks love it,” says Susan Perry of Edgewater, Florida. Here’s even more proven ways to attract cardinals.

Habitat for Cardinals

Northern cardinals are abundant in the East, Midwest and Southwest. These birds thrive in towns and suburbs and generally stay in the same area. This helps get a jump-start on nesting, with some laying eggs by February. This long breeding season allows for multiple broods each year and ensures the survival of at least a few offspring. Do cardinals mate for life?

Cardinals aren’t too particular when it comes to nest location, and this generalist approach makes them susceptible to predation.
Thick cover provides good habitat for cardinals throughout the seasons. Hedgerows, shrubby stands, overgrown fields and forest edges all make suitable winter roosts. Here’s how to create the ultimate backyard wildlife habitat.

Ken Keffer
Nature writer Ken Keffer fondly remembers the spring duck migration in his native Wyoming, but now he gets most excited when irruptive finches, siskins and redpolls visit his feeders in Iowa.