What Colors Attract Cardinals? (Use Red + Other Color Accents!)

If you want to bring cardinals to your outdoor space, keep reading.

To attract these eye-catching birds, it’s important to understand what colors entice them and the elements that make your outdoor space most appealing—all of which we’re revealing in this article.

Key Takeaways

  • Use red, white, and brown accents in your yard design to attract both male and female cardinals.
  • Offering the right balance of food, shelter, and color can effectively attract cardinals.
  • Providing a safe and comfortable environment is crucial to keeping cardinals around all year round.

Colors That Attract Cardinals

sunflowers growing in a garden under a blue sky

Northern cardinals, with their striking red color, are an amazing sight. If you’ve ever spied them against a white, snowy background, they are perhaps even more stunning to behold.

Attracting these beautiful birds to your backyard takes understanding their preferences, including their favorite colors.

So without further ado, let’s dive into the colors that cardinals will come flocking to.

Read Next: Plants That Attract Cardinals

Cardinals Love Bright Red

Cardinals are known to be attracted to colors that mirror or complement their own vibrant plumage.

The most attractive color for these birds is undoubtedly red, as it matches the male cardinals’ fiery feathers.

So, bright red feeders, bird baths, or garden accents can help catch their attention and draw them to your backyard.

Yellow, Black, and Green

Other colors that cardinals find strongly appealing are yellow, black, and green.

And fortunately, you can easily grow flowers and plants in your garden that harness these colors.

Take sunflowers. Cardinals love sunflower seeds and are easily attracted to their large, sunny yellow petals contrasting with their dark centers.

White for Contrast

Although red is the primary color for cardinal birds, white contrasts also hold a strong appeal for them.

The stark contrast between their red feathers and the white landscape during winter months makes it easy for them to spot potential food sources, mates, or perching spots.

So, working white elements into your yard can boost your chances of inviting these lovely birds.

Browns and Muted Reds

It’s worth noting, the color preferences of female cardinals differ slightly from that of their male counterparts.

Unlike the showier males, female cardinals display brown feathers with subtle red undertones.

And while they still appreciate similar colors as the males do, offering browns or muted reds in your backyard setup can help attract females in particular, and give them good hiding places.

Cardinal Birds’ Food Preferences

male red cardinal perched at a platform bird feeder with seeds

If you want cardinals, you need to know about their dietary preferences, too.

Cardinals enjoy a variety of seeds, which can greatly influence their decision to visit a specific feeder. Some popular options for attracting cardinals include sunflower seeds, safflower seeds, and cracked corn.

  • Sunflower seeds: Two main types of sunflower seeds attract cardinals—black oil sunflower seeds and striped sunflower seeds. Black oil sunflower seeds have a thinner shell and are easier for cardinals to crack open, while striped sunflower seeds have a tougher shell but still attract cardinals.
  • Safflower seeds: These seeds have a bitter taste that deters squirrels but are appealing to cardinals. Offering safflower seeds can ensure a more reliable food source for cardinals and less waste from fallen seed.
  • Cracked corn: Cardinals are also drawn to cracked corn, an affordable and versatile option that appeals to various songbirds.

In addition to seeds, cardinals enjoy fresh berries, apple chunks, and suet as part of their diet. Adding these items into your bird feeding strategy will further increase your chances of attracting cardinals.

Best Types of Bird Feeders for Cardinals

Cardinals are selective about the feeders they use. They prefer solid, medium-sized feeders where they can sit, perch, and feed facing forward comfortably.

So, pay attention to the design and size of your bird feeders when trying to attract these birds.

Here are the best types of bird feeders for cardinals:

  • Platform feeders: These flat, open feeders provide ample space for cardinals to perch and access the seeds. Platform feeders should be placed relatively low to the ground, as cardinals prefer feeding closer to ground level.
  • Large tray feeders: If using a tube feeder, opt for one with a large tray at the bottom to accommodate cardinals. This design provides adequate space for them to perch and feed comfortably.

Without a doubt, offering a diverse selection of seeds and accommodating feeders will help attract cardinals to your yard.

Cardinal Shelter and Nesting Needs

mulberries ripening on a mulberry tree

When it comes to attracting cardinals to your backyard, providing proper shelter and nesting sites is crucial.

Cardinals prefer specific types of trees, shrubs, and nesting materials to create their ideal habitat.

Trees and Shrubs

Cardinals appreciate a variety of native trees and shrubs for shelter and cover. This is especially the case during winter months when they need protection from cold weather and predators.

  • Planting evergreen trees like pines and spruces can help provide year-round cover for cardinals.
  • Additionally, planting deciduous trees such as dogwood, sumac, and mulberry can provide necessary shelter during the breeding season.
  • Shrubs are also important for cardinals, as they prefer to nest in dense thickets. Consider adding shrubs like hawthorn, clematis, and grapevine to your garden.

These plantings not only provide cardinals with cover from predators but also offer nesting sites.

Nesting Materials

Unlike some backyard birds, cardinals do not rely on birdhouses or nesting boxes for shelter. Instead, they prefer to nest in natural settings, making it crucial to provide proper nesting materials in your yard.

Female cardinals are responsible for constructing the nest, typically selecting sites within dense shrubbery.

To support cardinals in their nesting endeavors, provide a variety of materials they can use to build their nests, like:

  • Grass clippings
  • Pine needles
  • Small twigs
  • Strips of bark

Providing Water Sources for Cardinals

northern red cardinal sitting on the rim of a bird bath

One of the key factors in attracting cardinals to your yard is offering an accessible and desirable water source.

  • Cardinals, like all backyard songbirds, are drawn to water sources, especially those with moving water. A bird bath with a small fountain is an excellent choice for these beautiful birds, as they are more likely to be enticed by the sight and sounds.
  • To ensure that the bird bath provides a suitable environment, consider using a solar-powered fountain to maintain a consistent water flow. This will not only attract cardinals, but also deter mosquitoes from laying eggs in the water.
  • Keep the water in your bird bath fresh and clean. Cardinals and other birds prefer clean water sources, so regular maintenance is a must.
  • Be prepared to refill and clean your bird bath at least once a week. This will keep the water fresh, ensuring that it remains inviting to visiting cardinals.

Safety and Location Tips

If you want to draw cardinals to your home, it’s important to focus on creating a safe and attractive environment for them.

Place bird feeders in strategic locations, and you can keep these beautiful birds coming back.

Here are some best practices to follow:

  • Tip #1: Place these feeders near trees and shrubs, which serve as hiding spots for these birds and as safe perches for them to survey their surroundings before approaching the feeders.
  • Tip #2: In addition, landscape your yard with a mix of tall and medium-height trees, as well as low-growing shrubs. This diversity provides cardinals with multiple levels of perches, giving them a sense of security and encouraging them to spend more time in your yard.
  • Tip #3: Cardinals are usually more active in the morning, so placing bird feeders in areas that receive full sunlight during this time of day will make them more appealing.
  • Tip #4: Be sure to position the feeders a safe distance from windows and reflective surfaces, as these can deter birds or cause collisions.
  • Tip #5: Lastly, ensure your feeders remain clean and well-maintained. Regularly check for any signs of mold or spoilage, and change the bird food as needed to maintain a fresh supply.

Seasonal Considerations

red cardinal sitting in the snow

Cold winters play a significant role in attracting cardinals to your backyard. These brightly colored birds don’t typically migrate, so they can be seen in your yard throughout the year, especially during the fall and winter months when their vibrant red feathers contrast beautifully with the snow1 2.

As ground-feeding birds, cardinals prefer areas with easy access to food sources, especially during the chilly winter months.

Keep these things in mind when supporting cardinals throughout the year:

  • To accommodate these winter visitors, scatter birdseed on a clear patch of ground or on a ground-feeding platform. Remember to choose a spot that offers safety and shelter from predators, such as close to shrubs, hedges, or brush piles3.
  • Cardinals also appreciate a thick layer of natural materials, such as leaves and sticks, to provide a safe and comfortable place for foraging during colder months. You could create a small brush pile to offer protection from wind and cold, attracting even more cardinals to your yard4.
  • In addition to providing a suitable environment for cold weather, maintain these backyard features throughout the year for cardinals’ continuous enjoyment. If you offer ample food, safety, and shelter, you’ll likely be rewarded with the delightful sight of cardinals all year round.

Enhancing Your Landscape for Cardinals

Integrating specific features in your landscape can increase the chances of attracting beautiful cardinals to your yard.

Planting Berry-Producing Plant Species

  • One of the main components of their diet is fruits, especially various types of berries.
  • Planting berry-bearing plants like holly, dogwood, and elderberry can be a superb choice. Another excellent option is including fruit-producing plants such as grapevines.

Planting Trees and Shrubs

Having a natural space for these wild birds to reside nearby can make them feel more comfortable and encourage them to frequent your garden.

  • Planting trees and shrubs in layers will give cardinals ample space to nest, seek shelter, and find food sources.
  • Native species such as pine, juniper, and cedar trees create an ideal atmosphere, replicating their natural habitat.
  • Moreover, growing plants like dill, fennel, hollyhock, snapdragons, and mustard greens can attract butterflies, enriching your yard’s ecosystem.

Keeping the Environment Clean

Maintaining a clean and healthy environment is a huge factor for attracting cardinals to your yard. Keeping the feeding areas, bird baths, and nesting locations tidy will invite cardinals and make them feel secure in your outdoor space.

  • First and foremost, ensure that your bird feeders are regularly cleaned and filled with fresh seeds. This not only prevents the spread of diseases among birds but also attracts cardinals with a readily available food source. A mixture of sunflower seeds, safflower seeds, and cracked corn is a popular choice for these red beauties.
  • In addition to food sources, providing a clean water source is crucial in attracting cardinals. A well-maintained bird bath will offer these birds a place to drink and bathe, especially during warmer months. Make sure to clean your bird bath regularly, removing any debris or algae, and refilling it with fresh water.
  • Another important aspect of maintaining a clean environment is the proper disposal of waste materials, such as fallen seeds, uneaten food, or bird droppings. Clearing these away from your yard will minimize the chances of attracting pests and predators, which can pose a threat to cardinals and other bird species.

All said and done, a clean and well-structured landscape will give cardinals the comfort and resources they require, increasing the likelihood of them visiting your yard.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I attract cardinals to my yard?

To attract cardinals to your yard, provide them with a variety of food sources, such as seeds, nuts, berries, and insects. Planters for seeds and fresh fruit like grapes and blackberries can be particularly appealing to Northern cardinals, while pyrrhuloxia species prefer nuts and seeds.

Ensure you have a bird-friendly area with plenty of shelter, nesting spots, and a water source, like a birdbath.

Which bird feeder colors are best for cardinals?

There isn’t a specific bird feeder color that works best for attracting cardinals.

What’s more important is choosing a sturdy, cardinal-friendly bird feeder that provides a firm foundation for these stocky birds to avoid any difficulties in sitting on them.

Do cardinals prefer certain colors for birdhouses?

Cardinals don’t have specific color preferences for birdhouses. The key to attracting them is providing birdhouses that are safe, have appropriate dimensions, and are placed in locations that provide suitable cover.

Since cardinals prefer open nesting spots, a platform or shelf-like design might be more appealing than a traditional birdhouse.

What plants are best for attracting cardinals?

Plant a variety of native plants to provide food and shelter for cardinals. Focus on plants that produce seeds, berries, and nuts, such as sunflowers, blackberries, and elderberries.

Native trees and shrubs, like dogwoods and sumac, can also provide good nesting spots for cardinals.

What seed blends are most appealing to cardinals?

Cardinals love black oil sunflower seeds, making them an excellent choice for attracting these birds to your yard.

You can find black oil sunflower seeds at local pet stores or online. In addition, cardinals will appreciate a mix of other seeds, nuts, and berries that cater to their diverse diet preferences.

Do cardinals share color preferences with other bird species?

While there isn’t a direct link between specific colors and cardinals’ preference, it’s important to note that birds do behave differently with various colors. Thus, it’s possible that cardinals might share some color preferences with other bird species.

However, the primary focus should be on creating a welcoming environment for them with the right food, shelter, and water sources.


  1. https://www.thespruce.com/how-to-attract-cardinals-386245
  2. https://www.wikihow.com/Attract-Cardinals
  3. https://www.bhg.com/gardening/design/nature-lovers/how-to-attract-cardinals/
  4. https://www.bobvila.com/articles/how-to-attract-cardinals/

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