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What Kind of Bird Seed Do Cardinals Like?

As a birding hobbyist I’m constantly googling things about different types of birds. Recently I found myself googling “what kind of bird seed do cardinals like?”. Cardinals are very common where I live in Tennessee and are one of my favorite feeder birds to see so naturally I want them to frequent my feeders.

Although they will eat smaller seeds if that is all that’s available, cardinals prefer larger seeds like sunflower or safflower seeds, but also crushed peanuts, chunks of suet (winter only), and cracked corn. Cardinals possess a very strong and thick beak that is perfect for crushing these larger seeds.

Once cardinals realize that your yard has a reliable food source they will probably become regulars to your feeder and make a home nearby. Cardinals do not migrate so be sure to keep your feeder full year round and not just in the warm months. They may come to depend on your feeder. Like a lot of other birds, they tend to eat most often in the mornings and evenings however you will see them all throughout the day if they have chosen your feeder as their primary food source.

So, what is the best bird seed to attract cardinals?

As I mentioned above, cardinals prefer larger seeds. A mixture of sunflower and safflower seeds make an excellent source of food for them. You can get a cardinal blend on Amazon which is perfect for attracting cardinals. In the winter time, consider putting out some suet chunks. Suet is made from animal fat and provides a good source of energy for feeder birds.

cardinal at hanging feeder
Image: PilotBrent |

How do I attract cardinals to my feeder?

To make your yard attractive cardinals there are some things you need to know and do other than just stick a bird feeder in the ground. I’m assuming you already know that cardinals are native to where you live, they are very common in central and eastern North America among other places.

Now that we’ve established that they already live in your area, you need to consider what you actually need to do to make your yard and feeder look like a great place to hang out and eat for cardinals.

  • Get the right kind of feeder
  • Get the right kind of bird seed
  • Strategically place a water source nearby
  • Be sure that they have shelter nearby, i.e. trees, shrubs

What is the best type of bird feeder for cardinals?

Image: Richard655 |

Cardinals prefer feeding from sturdy feeders rather than swinging or hanging feeders. They only weigh about 1.5 ounces but for feeder birds this is on the heavier side and is enough to cause the hanging bird feeders to swing back and forth while they are trying to nab some grub. Cardinals are full breasted and larger than many of the other birds you may see around your feeder so they need plenty of room to perch on the feeder while they are eating. The squirrel buster has nice roomy metal perches on it perfect for a cardinal to sit on.

Cardinals like for the feeder to be somewhere around that 5-6 ft. mark from the ground, but they enjoy ground feeding occasionally as well. So think large and sturdy rather than small and flimsy. Check out another article we did about the best bird feeders for cardinals.

Other things to consider

  • Cardinals need a water source. Be sure to have a water source close by, a simple bird bath is fine. As I mentioned cardinals are non-migratory so possibly consider a heated bird bath that will not freeze in those cold months.
  • Cardinals need somewhere to nest. Cardinals do not nest in birdhouses so make sure your yard has some bushes and shrubbery as well as some trees and pine trees so they can collect twigs and pine needles for building their nests.
  • Give them protection from predators. If you have cats or neighborhood cats then do what you can to keep your feeders out of the reach of cats. Some cats have a high prey drive and love snatching our little friends out of the feeder while they are innocently grabbing a snack.  This is where it’s important to keep your feeder high enough off the ground and away from trees and other things that a predator can leap from.