5 Best Cardinal Bird Feeders (+How to Attract Them)

best cardinal bird feeder

Are you in the market for a new bird feeder and wondering how to attract Northern Cardinals to your yard? 

Cardinals are known for their beautiful red feathers and are the chosen state bird in 7 states: Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, and West Virginia. This bird is easy to identify, which means people of all ages can appreciate a Cardinal any time it comes to visit. 

If you are unfamiliar with choosing bird feeders or the correct type of seed, you may wind up attracting other common species instead, such as American Goldfinches, House Finches, Mourning Doves, Blue Jays, Tufted Titmice, or Carolina Chickadees. 

By learning more about the type of feeder and seed you buy, you will be able to attract Northern Cardinals to your property in a shorter amount of time.

Cardinal bird feeders we cover in this article:

Do Cardinals even eat from bird feeders?

Cardinals are a common feeder bird in the Eastern half of the United States and are most frequently found in the fall and winter months. Cold weather and snow make food harder to find, so non-migratory species such as the Northern Cardinal are happy to visit bird feeders this time of the year. 

Using bird feeders during the harshest months not only attracts Northern Cardinals to your yard so they are easier to see but benefits their health and increases the odds of their survival until the next breeding season.

Types of bird feeders

There are many types of bird feeders available, and each is used for a different purpose.

  • Thistle feeders are made of cloth bags or fine metal mesh that hold tiny seeds best for attracting finches and sparrows.
  • Platform feeders are best for doves, suet feeders attract all species of woodpeckers and nuthatches,
  • and fruit feeders are almost exclusively used for migrating orioles.

The best bird feeder types for Cardinals are large tube feeders or hopper feeders.

  • Tube feeders are cylindrical and can be hung from a pole or supported from below; they have ports for seed accessibility with a perch at each one, allowing more than one bird to eat at a time.
  • Hopper feeders are rectangular and allow the seed to be accessed through a wide trough at the base.

Both tube feeders and hopper feeders are available with squirrel-proof technology. If squirrels or other wildlife are likely to raid your seed, consider purchasing a feeder with a spring-loaded perch; these feeders close seed ports when animals heavier than a typical bird is attempting to access birdseed.

If you already have a feeder without a spring-loaded perch, you can buy squirrel baffles to prevent a squirrel from climbing the pole from below or landing on the feeder from above.

PS! It is important to note that small tube feeders may not be easily used by Cardinals, so getting a large version that will be more comfortable for a Cardinal to eat out of is a good idea. 

PS! Platform feeders are also popular with Cardinals, but offer less protection against squirrels or rain, and can be raided by jays.

How to attract Cardinals?

  1. Northern Cardinals prefer safflower or black oil sunflower seeds above all others. Millet and thistle are generally too small for them and are better served to finches, chickadees, or titmice.
  2. Sunflower seeds can be bought mixed with millet if you are looking to attract mixed flocks or can be purchased alone if you are only looking for Northern Cardinals (although it’s important to note that if one bird comes to a feeder, more will follow! Birds other than Cardinals like sunflower seed too.)
  3. Other attractive features for Cardinals include berry bushes, evergreen trees, and birdbaths. If you are able to plant native shrubs that produce berries in the fall and winter (i.e. holly bushes, of which there are many species to choose from) Cardinals will be more excited to visit your yard.
  4. Cardinals eat berries and wild fruit in addition to seeds. Evergreens will provide shelter for birds too, and are great at shielding birds from snow if you live in an area that gets lots of it in the winter.
  5. Lastly, birdbaths are attractive to ALL bird species and can give your yard additional appeal. If you are able to go the extra mile, buy a heated birdbath to prevent water from freezing; your birds will enjoy the spa-like experience and come back year after year.

Where to place the feeder?

If you install your feeder in the wrong place, you won’t get any visitors! No matter the quality of the birdseed, birds would rather visit a well-placed feeder than one with poor placement. When placing your bird feeder, consider the type of habitat in your yard. 

Do you have bushes and shrubs in your landscaping, or is your property wide open and spacious? 

If possible, put your bird feeder in a location near some type of cover. Cover can be classified as any type of vegetation that provides shelter, or a place where birds can hide if a predator is near. 

Hawks will notice active bird feeders and use distracted songbirds to their advantage. Many birdwatchers have stories of their feeder birds being hunted by hawks. Although you cannot protect birds visiting your feeder from every predator, they will appreciate feeders placed close to areas where they can hide, and more birds will visit feeders placed in short distance to natural vegetation than those out in the open.

An additional consideration for feeder placement is choosing an area away from high objects. If squirrels are an issue in your neighborhood, place your feeder 10 feet (3 m) or more from any nearby tree, deck, or fence. 

Bird feeders with squirrel baffles are great for preventing squirrels from climbing up from the pole below or dropping down from above; however, baffles offer no protection from squirrels jumping laterally to get to your bird feeder.

What NOT to do

Other than remembering to place your feeder in an area where birds can quickly take shelter from predators, you should take care to also clean and maintain your feeder on a regular basis.

Wild birds often depend on reliable sources of food, so avoid filling your feeder and then letting it go empty for long periods of time. It is extremely important to occasionally clean your bird feeder, too! Clean your feeder every 1-2 weeks with mild dish soap (such as Dawn) and hot water, by putting it in the dishwasher, or by using a 1:9 part bleach solution. Allow a cleaned feeder to dry before refilling it.

Cleaning your feeder will prevent a harmful buildup of mold or mildew. In addition, avian diseases that are commonly spread among birds at feeders will have less of a chance to cause harm. 

Current diseases that have affected birds of the Eastern US include avian pox, conjunctivitis, Salmonella, Trichomoniasis, and Aspergillosis. Cleaning your feeder will prevent the spread of these pathogens and help to maintain healthy wild populations of birds.

How to choose a Cardinal bird feeder?

When getting ready to buy your Northern Cardinal bird feeder, there are a few elements to keep in mind. 

Have a checklist to ensure the feeder is: physically big enough, easy to refill, versatile (if you want multiple species), squirrel-proof, has a roof to shield birds and seed from rain, and has drain holes to allow water to drain.

Perhaps most importantly of all, choose a bird feeder that you think is visually appealing to you. Pick a feeder that is durable and you will be proud to use for many seasons to come.

Best Cardinal bird feeders

This bright red bird feeder made by Perky Pet is ideal if you are looking to attract multiple species of backyard birds. 

Perky Pet was established in 1958 and is a leader in bird feeder production in the United States. 

Northern Cardinals will find it easy to eat sunflower seeds through the metal mesh of this feeder and will also be able to find seeds around the bottom trough. 

Due to its unique design, finches, chickadees, grosbeaks, and clinging birds such as nuthatches will also come to this feeder. It has great features such as an overhanging roof to provide shelter from sun and rain, drain holes on the bottom plate, a rust-resistant finish, and is easy to clean and collapse. 

This durability of this feeder means you can use it for decades. It should be filled with sunflower seed only, as other seed sizes are not suitable to be dispensed through the mesh.

Check the price of Perky-Pet Cardinal Feeder here

What we liked

  • Easy to clean
  • Easy to fill
  • Built-in drain holes
  • Up to 15 birds can feed at once
  • Collapsible when not in use
  • Zinc-plated and rust-resistant
  • Durable all-metal construction

What we didn’t like

  • Not squirrel-proof, so will require the additional purchase of a squirrel baffle
  • Only compatible with sunflower seed

How much seed can fit: 2.5 lbs (1.1 kg)
What special about it: overhang for shelter, rust-resistant
For what birds: clinging birds and perching birds

Interested in bringing birds closer to your home so that you, your family, and your pets can better enjoy wild birds? 

The Nature’s Hangout Window Bird Feeder is for you, featuring strong suction cups for a window-mount placement. 

The see-through acrylic of this feeder is easy to clean and allows for maximum visibility of any bird visitor. Drain holes are incorporated into the design so water can easily escape the seed tray to reduce mold and mildew buildup. 

The feeder only holds 4 cups of birdseed, but there is no restriction on what type of seed can be used. Sunflower seeds or safflower seeds for Northern Cardinals can be placed on one side, and mixed seed, thistles, or peanuts can be added to the other. A variety of birds will be attracted to this feeder, including Cardinals, finches, chickadees, jays, and even bluebirds if you are interested in enticing them with mealworms.

Check the price of Nature’s Hangout Window Feeder here

What we liked

  • Brings birds closer so they are easy to see
  • Ideal for any seed type
  • Attracts multiple bird species
  • Built-in drain holes
  • Easy to clean
  • Easy to fill

What we didn’t like

  • Not squirrel-proof
  • Only holds 2 lbs of birdseed
  • Not ideal for clinging birds

How much seed can fit: 2 lbs (0.9 kg)
What special about it: mounts to windows
For what birds: perching birds

If you are looking for a tube feeder that requires very little maintenance, the Squirrel Buster Plus feeder by Brome is a perfect choice. 

This feeder is compatible with sunflower, safflower, and mixed seeds to attract whatever birds you desire most. 

It features squirrel-proof technology, including chew-proof material and seed ports that close when heavy birds or squirrels attempt to eat from this feeder. 

The feeder also features a ventilation system to keep seed fresh longer, so the large 5-lb capacity can be refilled less frequently and you can rest assured that the seed will retain its quality over time regardless of the weather. 

Best for cardinals, finches, and other perching birds, this will not be ideal for nuthatches or other clinging birds and therefore would be best paired with a suet feeder in your yard if you are looking for a mix of species. 

Lastly, Brome offers Lifetime Care with its feeders with assistance to replace any broken parts with free shipping.

Check the price of Brome Squirrel Buster here

What we liked

  • Holds 5 lbs of birdseed
  • Chew proof against squirrels
  • Adjustable spring on the perch
  • Comes with free cardinal ring
  • No tools required

What we didn’t like

  • Not for clinging birds

How much seed can fit: 5.1 lbs (2.3 kg)
What special about it: squirrel-proof 
For what birds: perching birds 

Roamwild offers tube feeders in multiple colors and designs to help attract wild birds to your yard. 

Not only gray squirrel-proof, but also red squirrel-, chipmunk-, and large bird- proof too – this feeder has two baffles incorporated into the design to make sure the birdseed is only for the birds. 

The weather guard keeps seed dry by shielding it from rain and snow. 

Ports are individually spring-loaded and the perfect size for perching Northern Cardinals, but is also suited for a variety of other perching birds such as finches, grosbeaks, chickadees, titmice, and bluebirds. 

The PestOff feeder is designed to hang and requires 18 inches (45 cm) of clearance around the feeder to effectively baffle squirrels. Roamwild offers a warranty and 100% satisfaction money-back guarantee with this product.

Check the price of Roamwild Cardinal Feeder here

What we liked

  • Squirrel-proof
  • Compatible with multiple seed types
  • Easy to fill
    100% satisfaction money-back guarantee
  • Warranty included

What we didn’t like

  • Only feeds 2 birds at a time

How much seed can fit: 3 lbs (1.4 kg)
What special about it: waterproof, squirrel-proof
For what birds: perching birds

Our second product by Perky Pet, this hopper feeder is a replica of an adorable cozy home. 

Complete with chimney and windows, the metal construction of this feeder has a weight-activated squirrel proof port

It can be hung or pole-mounted and holds an impressive 8 lbs of seed – one of the highest capacities available on the market. 

The capacity of this feeder is ideal for yards with abundant birds. 

Compatible with multiple seed types, this feeder is easily refilled by lifting the roof. 

Sunflower seeds or safflower seeds can be used with this Perky Pet feeder to attract the most Cardinals, but mixed seed can be used as well, which means birds from Cardinals, finches, grosbeaks, sparrows, grackles, jays, and woodpeckers will want to visit.

Check the price of Perky-Pet Squirrel Be Gone II Feeder here

What we liked

  • Holds 8 lbs of birdseed, compatible with multiple seed types
  • Squirrel-proof with adjustable spring calibration
  • Durable metal construction
    Versatile installation
  • Easy to fill
  • Cute design

What we didn’t like

  • May require the additional purchase of a squirrel baffle on the pole since squirrels are still able to access seed if they hang upside-down from the feeder’s roof

How much seed can fit: 8 lbs (3.6 kg)
What special about it: squirrel-proof, pole or hang-mounted
For what birds: perching birds

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