What Kind of Bird Seed Do Cardinals Like: A Guide to Attracting and Feeding Cardinals

Introduction: Discovering the World of Cardinal Birds and Their Diet

Introduction: Discovering the World of Cardinal Birds and Their Diet

Cardinal birds captivate bird enthusiasts with their stunning appearance and melodious songs. Native to North and Central America, these vibrant creatures bring a burst of color to any backyard. In this article, we will explore the fascinating world of cardinal birds and delve into their dietary preferences.

Male cardinals are famous for their striking red coloration, an attention-grabbing visual display to attract mates and defend territories. Females, on the other hand, sport a more subdued reddish-brown hue, providing effective camouflage during nesting. While cardinals primarily subsist on a seed-based diet, they also incorporate insects and fruits into their meals.

Seeds play a vital role in the cardinal’s diet, and their beaks are adapted for cracking open these nutritional powerhouses. Sunflower seeds, with their high fat and protein content, are a favorite among cardinals. Safflower seeds and cracked corn are also popular choices. Birdseed preferences may vary based on regions and individual bird preferences.

To entice cardinals to your backyard, offer a variety of food options. In addition to seeds, cardinals are attracted to suet, a high-energy food source made from animal fat, which helps them withstand harsh weather conditions. Protein-rich mealworms are another enticing option that can draw cardinals closer to your feeding station.

Providing a diverse mix of seeds not only attracts cardinals but also enhances the overall birdwatching experience by inviting a wide range of bird species to your backyard. This creates a vibrant ecosystem.

Cardinals are non-migratory birds, making them a beloved sight for backyard birdwatchers year-round. Enjoy their beauty and charming melodies in every season.

In the following sections, we will discuss the specific types of birdseed cardinals prefer, how to select the right birdseed, and tips for feeding cardinals at home. Let’s delve deeper into the world of cardinals and discover how to attract these magnificent birds to our own little havens of nature.

2. Cardinal’s Preferred Birdseed

Cardinal's Preferred Birdseed

Cardinals, with their vibrant red plumage and distinctive crests, are beloved backyard birds for many birdwatchers. As seed-eating birds, cardinals have specific preferences when it comes to birdseed. Providing the right kind of birdseed will attract these beautiful birds and ensure their health and well-being.

2.1 Black Oil Sunflower Seed: A Cardinal Favorite

Black oil sunflower seeds top the list of cardinal’s preferred birdseed. Rich in high-quality fats and oils, these seeds provide cardinals with essential energy, especially during colder months. The thin shells of black oil sunflower seeds make them easily accessible to cardinals, allowing them to crack them open with their strong beaks.

2.2 Striped Sunflower Seeds: An Alternative Option

Cardinals also enjoy striped sunflower seeds. While these seeds have a thicker shell compared to black oil sunflower seeds, cardinals have no trouble breaking through them. Including striped sunflower seeds in your birdseed mix provides variety and caters to different bird species visiting your backyard.

2.3 Safflower Seeds: A Cardinal Favorite and Squirrel Deterrent

Safflower seeds are highly attractive to cardinals. Cardinals relish safflower seeds, and these seeds also deter squirrels and other unwanted birds. Incorporating safflower seeds can help keep pesky squirrels at bay while still attracting cardinals.

2.4 Additional Birdseed Options for Cardinals

While sunflower seeds (both black oil and striped) and safflower seeds are primary choices for cardinals, they may also enjoy other birdseed options. White proso millet, cracked corn, and peanuts can be included in your birdseed mix as secondary choices. However, these alternatives are generally not as favored by cardinals compared to sunflower and safflower seeds.

2.5 Freshness Matters to Cardinals

Cardinals prefer fresh, high-quality birdseed. Store it in a cool, dry place and avoid purchasing more than you can use within a few months. Regularly inspect the birdseed for signs of spoilage and discard any compromised seeds promptly.

2.6 Feeder Considerations for Cardinals

When setting up feeders for cardinals, consider their larger size and beaks. Opt for feeders with larger perches or tray feeders that can accommodate their needs. This makes it easier for cardinals to access the birdseed and enjoy their meals comfortably. Place feeders in a quiet and safe location, away from potential predators, to create a welcoming environment for cardinals to feed undisturbed.

In the next section, we will delve into how to select the right birdseed for cardinals, taking into account factors such as quality, freshness, and the preferences of these delightful birds.

How to Select the Right Birdseed for Cardinals

Attracting cardinals to your backyard requires choosing the perfect birdseed. Here are some guidelines to help you make the right selection:

1. Black Oil Sunflower Seeds: The Top Choice

Cardinals have a strong affinity for black oil sunflower seeds. These energy-rich seeds with thin shells are easily cracked open by cardinals. Look for high-quality black oil sunflower seeds at garden centers, pet stores, or online retailers.

2. Safflower Seeds: A Bitter Delight

Cardinals also enjoy safflower seeds. These bitter-tasting seeds deter squirrels and unwanted birds, making them an excellent choice for attracting cardinals specifically. Cardinals have no trouble handling the hard shells of safflower seeds.

3. Additional Seed Options

To attract a wider range of birds, including cardinals, consider including these seeds in your bird feeder:

  • White Millet: Cardinals readily consume this small, affordable seed.

  • Cracked Corn: Cardinals enjoy cracked corn, which is easy for them to handle. It also attracts other ground-feeding birds.

  • Peanuts: Adding peanuts to your bird feeder can entice cardinals and other bird species.

4. Avoiding Fillers and Low-Quality Seeds

Increase your chances of attracting cardinals by providing them with a dedicated feeder filled with their preferred seeds. Avoid birdseed mixes with high percentages of fillers like milo, wheat, or oats. Choose seed blends that prioritize the seeds cardinals prefer.

5. Freshness and Storage

Proper storage is essential to maintain the freshness and attractiveness of birdseed. Store it in a cool, dry place, ideally in a sealed container to prevent spoilage. Regularly check for signs of mold or unpleasant odor and replace if necessary. Fresh, high-quality seed is more appealing to cardinals and other backyard birds.

By selecting the right birdseed for cardinals and providing them with a dedicated feeder filled with their preferred seeds, you can enhance your chances of attracting these vibrant birds to your backyard.

Types of Birdseed that Cardinals Like

Cardinals, with their vibrant red plumage and distinctive crests, are a delight to watch in any backyard. To attract these beautiful birds, provide them with the following types of birdseed:

Black Oil Sunflower Seeds

Considered the top choice, black oil sunflower seeds have a high-fat content that provides cardinals with the energy they need, especially during colder months. Cardinals find the thin shells of these seeds easier to crack open.

Striped Sunflower Seeds

Cardinals also relish striped sunflower seeds. The thicker shell of these seeds makes it more challenging for smaller birds to access the tasty kernel inside, allowing cardinals to feed undisturbed.

Safflower Seeds

Safflower seeds have a bitter taste that deters squirrels and grackles, but cardinals seem to enjoy them. If you want to attract cardinals while discouraging unwanted visitors, safflower seeds are an excellent choice.

Cracked Corn and Millet

Including cracked corn and millet in your birdseed mix can entice cardinals, as well as other ground-feeding birds. Offering these seeds along with the preferred options attracts a variety of avian visitors to your backyard.

Remember that cardinals prefer feeding on platform feeders or on the ground. Provide a flat surface or tray for them to perch on, making it easier for cardinals to access the seeds and feed comfortably.

When selecting birdseed for cardinals, avoid mixes with a large amount of fillers like milo, wheat, or red millet. These fillers are less appealing to cardinals and can result in wasted seed. Opt for a high-quality birdseed blend that primarily consists of the seeds mentioned above to maximize the chances of attracting cardinals to your feeders.

Individual cardinals may have specific preferences, so experiment with different types of birdseed to find what works best in your area. Providing a variety of options ensures a steady stream of cardinals gracing your backyard with their presence.

In the next section, we will explore how to store birdseed to keep it fresh and attractive to cardinals.

How to Store Birdseed to Keep It Fresh and Attractive to Cardinals

How to Store Birdseed to Keep It Fresh and Attractive to Cardinals

How to Store Birdseed to Keep It Fresh and Attractive to Cardinals

To keep your birdseed fresh and appealing to cardinals, proper storage is crucial. Follow these guidelines for effective birdseed storage:

Store in Airtight Containers

Use airtight containers to maintain the freshness of your birdseed. Plastic or metal containers with secure lids create a barrier against air, moisture, and pests that can compromise the seed’s quality.

Choose a Cool and Dry Location

Find a cool, dry spot to store your birdseed. Heat and humidity can promote mold growth and spoilage. Avoid areas like garages or sheds that experience temperature fluctuations. Instead, opt for a pantry or a cool corner of your basement.

Rotate Your Stock

Regularly rotate your birdseed stock to ensure freshness. Consume older seed first to prevent staleness and preserve nutritional value. Keep track of purchase dates or label containers for easy identification of the oldest seed.

Clean Storage Containers

Thoroughly clean your storage containers before refilling them. Residue or contaminants can spoil the fresh birdseed. Use mild soap and water to wash the containers, rinse them well, and allow them to dry completely before adding fresh birdseed. This extra step maintains the quality of the stored seed.

Avoid Mixing Different Seed Types

While cardinals primarily feed on sunflower seeds, they may also enjoy other types like safflower, cracked corn, or peanuts. However, it’s best to avoid mixing different seed types in the same container. This allows you to cater specifically to the preferences of cardinals and prevents waste or contamination.

Monitor for Freshness

Periodically inspect the birdseed for signs of spoilage. Mold growth, insects, or a rancid smell indicate that the seed has gone bad. If you notice any of these signs, discard the affected seed and clean the storage container before refilling it with fresh birdseed.

By following these storage guidelines, you can ensure that your birdseed remains fresh, nutritious, and irresistible to the beautiful cardinals visiting your backyard.

How to Select the Right Birdseed for Cardinals

Attracting cardinals to your bird feeder requires choosing the right birdseed. Here are some tips to help you make the best selection:

  1. Black Oil Sunflower Seeds: Cardinals have a strong preference for black oil sunflower seeds. These high-oil seeds with thin shells are easy for cardinals to crack open and devour. Make sure black oil sunflower seeds form the foundation of your birdseed mix.

  2. Safflower Seeds: Cardinals also enjoy safflower seeds. Despite their thick shells, cardinals readily consume them. Including safflower seeds in your feeder will attract cardinals specifically.

  3. Cracked Corn: Cardinals appreciate cracked corn, an affordable option. However, offer it in moderation as it lacks some essential nutrients found in other seeds.

  4. White Millet: Although not their top choice, cardinals will still eat white millet. Adding a small amount to your birdseed mix can help attract cardinals.

To maximize the appeal of your bird feeder, create a blend that combines black oil sunflower seeds, safflower seeds, cracked corn, and a small amount of white millet. This diverse mix will attract cardinals and provide options for other bird species.

Types of Birdseed that Cardinals Like

Cardinals have specific preferences when it comes to birdseed. Here are the seed types they particularly enjoy:

  1. Black Oil Sunflower Seeds: Cardinals highly favor black oil sunflower seeds due to their high oil content and easy-to-crack shells. Including a generous amount of these seeds in your bird feeder will attract cardinals.

  2. Safflower Seeds: Cardinals readily consume safflower seeds, despite their thick shells. Adding safflower seeds to your feeder will attract cardinals and discourage less desirable birds.

  3. Cracked Corn: Cardinals appreciate the affordability and appeal of cracked corn. Use it in moderation, as it lacks certain essential nutrients found in other seed types.

  4. White Millet: Although cardinals prefer larger seeds, they will consume white millet. By incorporating a small amount into your birdseed mix, you can increase the likelihood of attracting cardinals.

By incorporating these seed types into your bird feeder, you can create an enticing buffet that caters to cardinals’ preferences.

How to Store Birdseed to Keep It Fresh and Attractive to Cardinals

Proper storage of birdseed is essential to maintain its freshness and appeal to cardinals. Follow these guidelines:

  1. Choose airtight containers: Transfer birdseed to airtight containers, such as plastic bins or metal canisters, to prevent moisture and pests from spoiling the seed. Ensure the containers have tight-fitting lids to maintain freshness.

  2. Store in a cool, dry place: Find a cool and dry location to store your birdseed containers. Avoid direct sunlight or humid areas, as they can lead to spoilage and mold growth.

  3. Rotate stock: Use the oldest birdseed first to prevent it from going stale. When purchasing new seed, place it behind the existing stock to ensure proper rotation.

  4. Check for freshness: Before refilling your bird feeder, inspect the birdseed for signs of spoilage, such as a musty smell or mold growth. If you notice any issues, discard the seed, clean the feeder, and add fresh seed.

By following these storage practices, you can maintain the freshness and quality of your birdseed, making it more enticing for cardinals and other birds.

Tips for Feeding Cardinals at Home

Tips for Feeding Cardinals at Home

Feeding cardinals can be a rewarding experience. Here are some tips to attract and accommodate these beautiful birds in your backyard:

  1. Choose a suitable feeder: Select a bird feeder designed for attracting cardinals. Look for feeders with larger perches and open platforms that comfortably accommodate the cardinal’s size and feeding habits. Avoid feeders with narrow perches that restrict access for cardinals.

  2. Placement is key: Position your feeder in an open and accessible area, preferably near trees or shrubs that provide natural cover for the birds. This setup allows cardinals to feel secure while feeding and offers nearby perches for observation and rest.

  3. Keep it clean: Regularly clean your bird feeder to prevent the buildup of mold, bacteria, and other contaminants. Use a mild soap and water solution to wash the feeder, and rinse it thoroughly before refilling with fresh seed.

  4. Offer a variety of seed: Cardinals prefer black oil sunflower seeds, safflower seeds, cracked corn, and white millet. Provide a mix of these seeds to attract a diverse range of birds, including cardinals. Experiment with different seed ratios to find the ideal blend for cardinals in your area.

  5. Provide fresh water: Cardinals require a nearby water source for drinking and bathing. Place a shallow birdbath or a water feature with a gentle stream near the feeding area. Ensure the water is clean and change it regularly to prevent the spread of diseases.

  6. Be patient: It may take time for cardinals to discover and trust your feeder. Be patient and consistent with your feeding routine, and eventually, these striking birds will become regular visitors to your backyard.

By following these tips, you can create an inviting environment that attracts cardinals and provides them with the necessary food and water to thrive.

Conclusion: Summary of What Kind of Birdseed Cardinals Like

In conclusion, cardinals are primarily seed-eating birds with specific preferences for birdseed. They highly favor black oil sunflower seeds and readily consume safflower seeds, cracked corn, and white millet to varying degrees.

To attract cardinals to your feeder, create a blend that includes black oil sunflower seeds as the primary ingredient. Incorporate safflower seeds to attract cardinals and discourage less desirable birds. Offer cracked corn and white millet in moderation to provide variety and cater to cardinals’ preferences.

Remember to store birdseed in airtight containers in a cool, dry place. Choose a suitable feeder and position it in an open area with natural cover nearby. Keep the feeder clean, provide fresh water, and be patient as cardinals become acquainted with your feeding station.

By implementing these tips, you can enhance your bird-watching experience and enjoy the vibrant presence of cardinals in your own backyard.

Conclusion: Attracting Cardinals with the Right Birdseed

Conclusion: Attracting Cardinals with the Right Birdseed

Cardinals are captivating birds, renowned for their vivid red feathers and melodious tunes. To entice these stunning creatures to your backyard, it’s essential to understand their preferences when it comes to birdseed.

1. Black Oil Sunflower Seeds: The preferred choice for cardinals is black oil sunflower seeds. Packed with energy-rich oil and boasting thin shells, these seeds are effortlessly cracked open by cardinals’ robust beaks.

2. Safflower Seeds: Cardinals also enjoy safflower seeds. With their tough shells, safflower seeds provide a challenge to smaller birds, giving cardinals an advantage. Adding safflower seeds to your feeders can attract cardinals to your yard.

3. Supplementary Options: Alongside their favorites, cardinals may also consume cracked corn, millet, and peanuts. Their strong beaks enable them to crack open larger seeds with ease.

4. Avoid Fillers: When selecting birdseed, avoid mixes with high percentages of fillers like milo, wheat, or oats. Cardinals tend to overlook these fillers and leave them uneaten.

5. Feeder Selection: Choose feeders with larger perches or trays to accommodate the cardinal’s size, making it easier for them to access the seeds. Scattering birdseed on the ground can also attract cardinals, as they are ground feeders too.

6. Water Source: To further allure cardinals, provide a fresh water source alongside the birdseed. Cardinals require water for drinking and bathing, and having it readily available enhances their visitation to your yard.

By understanding cardinals’ specific birdseed preferences and implementing suitable feeding strategies, you can create an inviting environment that attracts these delightful birds. Remember to regularly clean and replenish the feeders to maintain freshness and prevent the spread of diseases.

So, whether you choose black oil sunflower seeds, safflower seeds, or other compatible options, your efforts will be rewarded with the presence of magnificent cardinals gracing your outdoor space with vibrant colors and enchanting melodies. Happy birdwatching!

Frequently Asked Questions

What kind of birdseed do cardinals prefer?

Cardinals prefer black oil sunflower seeds as their top choice of birdseed. They also enjoy safflower seeds, cracked corn, and white millet to varying degrees.

How do I attract cardinals to my backyard?

To attract cardinals to your backyard, provide a mix of black oil sunflower seeds, safflower seeds, cracked corn, and white millet in your feeders. Place the feeders in an open area with natural cover nearby. Additionally, offer a fresh water source, such as a birdbath, and be patient as cardinals become familiar with your feeding station.

Can I mix different types of birdseed for cardinals?

While cardinals primarily feed on black oil sunflower seeds, they can also consume safflower seeds, cracked corn, and white millet. It’s best to create a seed blend that primarily consists of black oil sunflower seeds, with smaller amounts of the other seed types to provide variety.

Where can I buy birdseed for cardinals?

Birdseed for cardinals can be purchased at garden centers, pet stores, or online retailers that specialize in bird supplies. Look for high-quality seed blends that include black oil sunflower seeds and safflower seeds.

How should I store birdseed to keep it fresh for cardinals?

To keep birdseed fresh, store it in airtight containers in a cool, dry place. Choose containers with tight-fitting lids to prevent moisture and pests from compromising the seed’s quality. Rotate your stock to use older seed first, and regularly check for signs of spoilage, such as mold or a rancid smell.


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