Along with hummingbirds, cardinals are perhaps the most beloved birds among the backyard birders and general folks alike. It is almost as if spring in North America arrives with the cardinals’ cheerful song.
That being so, it is only natural that you will want to get hold of one or two good cardinal feeder models for your backyard bird-feeding station. Now, the good thing about cardinal feeders is that many of the models often attract other birds as well and it is not uncommon to find finches and chickadees and many other small or medium-sized birds sitting beside a cardinal and feeding from the same feeder.
However, just bear it in mind that the opposite is not true. That is to say, many feeders which can otherwise hold favorite cardinal foods (seeds, peanuts and others) are not appropriate as a feeding place for cardinals. The reason for this is that cardinals are larger than most songbirds and come with strong and larger beaks (which makes getting the seeds out difficult for them, for example from a common type wire mesh feeder). Another thing is that not only cardinals are not clinging birds, but they do not like twisting their bodies when getting their food out.
So, a comfortable perch (suited to their larger size) and a larger hole located at an appropriate height are important considerations if you feed your cardinals from a tube feeder. In fact, it is due to these reasons that Hopper, Tray or Platform feeders are regarded as the most suitable kinds for feeding cardinals.
Top Cardinal Bird Feeders
1Roamwild PestOff Red Squirrel Proof Cardinal Bird Feeder
This is another of our favorite models. It is a tube feeder but designed especially for the cardinals. There are no holes or perches along the length of the tube, but only two big holes with two perches at the bottom of the feeder. The perches are weight-adjusted, so the moment a squirrel, rodent or a large bird lands on the perch, the hatch inside will move down and close access to the food. However, make sure that the squirrels have to jump on the perch. If they can support their body, from a pole or tree, while reaching the hole, naturally the weight-adjusted mechanism would not work. The UV stabilized polycarbonate construction of the tube and metal base and overhang ensure durability of the product. We especially love the large, inverted bowl-like overhang of the model that helps provide good protection for the food and for the rest of the feeder as a whole. There is also a built-in weather guard that keeps the seeds fresh at all weathers and prevents them from clogging.
Functional and durable construction
3 lbs capacity
Squirrel and critters proof
2Droll Yankees Bird Feeder with Roof Cover
This tray/platform feeder with a simple but functional design is a great choice if you want to attract a drove of other birds (think bluebirds, juncos, flickers, orioles, siskins, robins and a lot more) besides cardinals. As with any dish or tray feeder, you can put a variety of different foods on this feeder (for example, put some dried mealworms during the summer months and watch the feeder monopolized by bluebirds and jays!). The large 10-inch overhang dome (that can be slid up and down the pole to adjust the distance between the tray and the overhang) provides ample protection for the food, although the tray also contains holes for fast drainage. Both the dome and the tray are made of premium quality polycarbonate and will be able to withstand harsh weather. The smooth surface of the dome also makes brushing the dirt or the snow off it a breeze.
Durable and functional construction
The dome-shaped overhang doubles up as a squirrel guard
Somewhat smaller capacity for a platform feeder
3Droll Yankees Squirrel Proof Bird Feeder
If you want a standalone pole-mount cardinal feeder, consider this uniquely-designed model as it comes complete with everything you need for the purpose. You get a long pole auger, a threaded pole adapter and all the other required accoutremsent. As for the feeder, it comes with a large reservoir with a six-quart capacity. The reservoir, the 15″ feeder cover and the feeder tray—all of these are made of high quality UV stabilized polycarbonate. The pole-mounted tray doubles up as a squirrel baffle and there is also a port regulator that lets you rotate the reservoir so you can adjust the seed flow and type and reduce waste thereby. The threaded pole adapter also allows you to mount an additional tube feeder on top of the pole.
Standalone feeder with unique design
Squirrel and rodent-proof
Way too expensive
4Kingsyard Bird Feeder House with Triple Feeders for Cardinal
We love this feeder as much for its charming house design and all metal frame as for its overall well-though out design. The feeder contains three separate compartments that not only allow you to put different seeds and foods in the different sections, but the openings in the compartments are differently sized as well. For example, the left-hand compartment openings are somewhat small for cardinals but ideal for smaller birds. However, the bottom tray is perfect for the cardinals to sit and eat. The model also incorporates good drainage options.
Beautiful deign with an rustproof all metal frame
6-inch long rust-free S-hook included
Ideal for a large variety of birds
The tray at the bottom could have been somewhat spacious
5PETRIP Bird Feeders for Outside Wild Bird Feeder
Go for this model if you want your cardinal feeder to double up as an antique décor piece for your patio or backyard. The model comes with a copper finish vintage reservoir and a tray and has a rust-proof all metal construction. The grills and the rest of the model are coated with weather-proof paint, so you don’t need to worry about the paints chipping out, thus making the model lose its chief aesthetic appeal. Like some of the other feeders on our list, this model is also designed to attract a variety of small songbirds besides the cardinals. The reservoir has a lock and key window that you open to put in more seeds or other food of your choice. The only fault we can find with the model is the lack of an overhang, which means the food will not be protected during rain or snow.
Attractive antique design
All metal construction
Lifetime Warranty plus 40-day money back policy
S-hook and long metal chain for hanging
Lack of weather protection with no overhang
6New Creative Cardinal Mesh Bird Feeder
If you ever wanted a uniquely designed cardinal feeder, then this is it! This bird-shaped feeder features a central metal mesh reservoir accented with animal details made out of glass. The item is easy to fill and clean and if you want a somewhat flashy or wacky outdoor accent, the model is a good choice. There are, however, two things that can be said against the model. First, while the model may be alright for many other birds, it is not the best of choices as a cardinal feeder. The reason for it we have already mentioned earlier; that cardinals like a comfortable perch and don’t like to twist their body too much while eating. However, this is what they’ll have to do if they are feeding from this model. Secondly, you cannot use it during winter. There is no weather protection plus the glass details may break in colder climates. However, everything said, we don’t really recommend this (or the following two models on this list) as your main cardinal feeder but more as a garden accent or decorative piece that will also provide feeding opportunities for cardinal and other songbirds.
Innovative bird-shaped design
Rustproof metal mesh body
Not suitable for use during winter months
7Regal Art & Gift Metal/Glass Bird Feeder Stake
Just like our previous model, you may consider this bird feeder stake as a nice garden accent. The decorative stake with a minimalist design includes a small leaf, a bird resemblance and a small tray (in the shape of a leaf) that you can fill with seeds. The item is advertised as handcrafter and hand-painted and comes in four styles: Cardinal, Finch, Bluebird and Hummingbird. Of course, since we’re talking cardinal feeders, we assume that you will settle for the cardinal design! The model is also nice as a cute little gift idea.
Nice minimalist accents
Colorful metal and glass details
Colors may flake off after some use
8Exhart Cardinal Bird Feeder
This one is again pretty similar to the previous bird-shaped model discussed on the list. However, this model comes with a larger capacity and more elaborate accent details in the way of brightly painted large wings and tall tail feathers. In fact, this decorative model looks every bit worth your money thanks to its elaborate design accents and perhaps more so for the fact that it is manufactured by EXHART, which is a family-owned business operating for more than 30 years and specializing in a wide array of home décor pieces. So, when they say that the details are hand-painted and handcrafted, we may take them at their word. In fact, the model enjoys many positive reviews from the users. Also, another nice gift idea.
Attractive design with bright accents
Handcrafted and hand-painted from the House of Exhart
Decorative piece not meant for serious, all-season use
9Evergreen Cardinal Solar Birdfeeder
Another primarily decorative cardinal feeder but with greater functionality. The tray at the bottom will hold approx ½ cup of bird seed. The solar birdfeeder runs on a AA battery that is included with the model. Also the plastic and glass materials are declared outdoor-safe and unless you experience particularly harsh winters, you may keep this beautiful bird feeder hanging all year round
Beautiful design with burnt penny finish
Outdoor proof glass and plastic material
Small capacity; meant mainly as a decorative piece
10Perky-Pet C00322 Red Cardinal Bird Feeder
This is a great model from the House of Perky Pets and is another of their No/No (no plastic/no wood) all metal construction model. Please keep in mind that cardinals do not migrate, so they will be visiting their yard all year round, come rain or snow. For this reason, good construction and durability are essential features for any good cardinal feeder as you’ll keep the feeder hanging at all seasons.
As to this particular model, we like its sturdy, premium grade construction along with the large overhang. The latter does a good job of protecting the food from rain and snow. And since it’s a metal mesh feeder, the seeds will air out pretty fast even if some water finds its way into the food box. The model also contains little holes at the bottom for better drainage. And the spacious tray at the bottom ensures comfortable feeding for the birds.
All-metal construction with zinc-plated finish
2.5 lbs capacity
Easy to fill and clean
Some users have complained that the metal mesh is not strong enough to for squirrels’ teeth. If that is the case, you may have to attach a squirrel guard or baffle to the feeder.
Selecting a Cardinal Bird Feeder
When it comes to cardinal feeding models, you may have noticed that a majority of these models are advertised not solely as Cardinal Feeders, but as “Finch, Cardinal Feeder”, “Cardinal, Chickadees, Finch Feeder”, etc., or simply as Bird Feeder.
The reason for this is that cardinals prefer a varied diet and will eat most other common types of bird foods used at backyard bird feeding stations. So, we are talking a variety of bird seeds, nuts, cracked corns, berries, dried fruits, shelled/unshelled peanuts, and also dried mealworms. And since a lot of other birds prefer these foods as well, it is only natural that you’ll like to have a feeder that can feed a variety of birds.
That is all fine. However, there are a couple of things that you need to take note of in this regard. First is that although cardinals eat the same kind of foods as many other birds, especially songbirds, the Northern Cardinals, the species native to North America, are significantly larger than most common songbirds.
Average weight of a northern cardinal is 1.8-2 oz and the birds are normally 7.5- 9.5 inches long. Now, compare this to, for example, with an American Goldfinch (weight- 0.5 oz, length- 5 inches) or with many common species of Chickadees (weight- 0.4 oz, length- 5.5 inches) and you’ll know the difference.
Also, if you’ve ever noticed a cardinal’s beaks, you’ll know they have wide, thick, strong and large beaks and those beaks are meant to break open shells and husks of the seeds. Not that they won’t accept shelled seeds, etc., but ideally you would like to offer cardinals shelled seeds. This is good for keeping their beaks in good shape and for preventing them from getting weaker.
Now, if you only have one or two cardinals visiting your yard, you may not want to dedicate a feeder solely for them. However, if you have a good number of these songbirds, the Northern Cardinals, the species native to North America are significantly larger than most common songbirds.
Now, if you only have one or two cardinals visiting your yard, you may not want to dedicate a feeder solely for them. However, if you have a good number of these wonderful birds at your backyard, we strongly recommend that you get a dedicated cardinal feeder and use it only for the sake of feeding cardinals.
It is for this reason that we have, for the most part, included feeder models designed specifically for cardinals in the above list.
Now, as to further selection tips…
First of all, remember well that common tube or wire mesh/screen feeders are a strict no-no for cardinals. There are two reasons for this. One is, as we have already mentioned, cardinals have larger beaks and they won’t be able to get the foods out of the tube holes or the small mesh openings. Secondly, not only cardinals are not clinging birds, but they do not even like to twist their body too much to get their food (which is what they will need to do to get food from tube or mesh feeders). Also, the birds like to perch comfortably while eating their food and the perches attached to these types of feeders are not large or comfortable enough for cardinals. However, if you still decide for one of these feeders (for lack of space or other reasons), make sure they have a bottom tray attached to them so that the cardinals can perch on the tray and eat the seeds that have fallen out there. (Or, better yet, you may settle for a tube feeder that is designed specifically for cardinals. An excellent choice is the Roamwild Squirrel-proof feeder included at no.2 of our above list.)
Durability: This is an important factor when choosing your cardinal feeder. Note that cardinals don’t migrate. So, if you have them at your backyard, the birds will keep coming all year round. Therefore, you need to have a feeder that can stand harsh winter months, snow, rain, sleet as well as intense heat during the peak of summer. Try to settle for a model that is backed up by comprehensive warranty. Some manufacturers offer Lifetime Warranty for defective parts as well as for damages perpetrated by squirrels, rodents or other critters.
Weather-proof: On the same note, you need to have a feeder that will shelter the foods well during snow or rain.
Couple of other factors to keep in mind…
1. Cardinals are known as ground eaters. For this reason, a simple wooden tray or platform feeder that can be placed on the ground is often a good choice for feeding cardinals.
2. For pretty much the same reason, cardinals don’t appreciate feeders that are hung too high above the ground. However, the problem with low-hung feeders is that they are more susceptible to squirrels, etc. So, either you’ll have to get a squirrel resistant feeder or think up some way of getting the critters out of the feeder.
Finally, since cardinals like to eat a variety of foods, a ‘compartmentalized feeder’ (such as the Kingsyard Bird House model mentioned in our list) is another good option for feeding cardinals.
Types of Cardinal Feeders
Some common types in cardinal feeders include
Dedicated Cardinal Feeders (refer to the first two models on our list)
Tray/Dish Feeders (such as the Droll Yankee transparent dome-cover model we’ve discussed on our list)
The platform feeders are a good option if you want to put the feeder on the ground (cardinals are known as ground eaters). The feeder also gives you the option to place a variety of foods on a single place. However, make sure that the feeder has good drainage properties and preferably comes with a removable metal sheet attached to the bottom of the tray.
The hopper feeders are also a good option as most of these models come with a weight-adjusted feature to keep out the squirrels. However, the downside with this feature is that if several birds perch on the feeder at the same time, the weight-adjust mechanism will shut off access to the food. So, if you’ve a lot of cardinals visiting your yard regularly, the hopper feeder may not be the best option.
Top Cardinal Feeder Brands
Both Droll Yankees and Perky Pet enjoy fantastic reputations for their bird products and both brands have a number of great cardinals models on offer as well. However, if you want a hopper or a platform feeder, Woodlink offers some great platform and hopper feeder models. We would especially recommend their wooden platform feeders.
Average Cardinal Feeder Pricing
Decent quality cardinal feeders that are both durable and functional come in the $20-$35 range or thereabouts. Anything under $50, in our opinion, is a fair price as long as you are getting a decent model that comes with good functional properties and t will last for years to come.
Feeding the Cardinals : Questions & Answers
How do I attract cardinals to my feeder?
To begin with the obvious, you need to provide them with their favorite food. (Find later what cardinals like to eat)
Next, since the birds are relatively shy, make sure that you position your cardinal feeder as far from the house and, if possible, right next to shrubs, thickets, etc. The birds will feel more secure if there is a hiding place nearby.
Cardinals are known as ground eaters, i.e., they like to eat off the ground. Therefore, it is a good idea to sprinkle some sunflower or other seeds on the ground near your feeding station. This will help attract the birds initially and will help them recognize more food sources that are available at the feeding station above.
Cardinals are known as early risers and they are also some of the last birds to visit the feeding station in the evening. So, make sure that your cardinal feeder is already full early in the morning and also refill it if the feeder is emptied out before sunset.
Finally, provide the birds with a Ground Water Bath. As with most other birds, cardinals like to drink frequently enough. So, make sure that you provide them with a fresh and clean water source. The common pedestal bath would work, too. However, to reiterate, since the birds are somewhat shy by nature, they will appreciate a separate water source. Also make sure to invest in a bath with HEATING option. This will come handy in cooler temperatures.
Where is the best place to hang a cardinal feeder?
Try to hang the feeder in a quiet spot and if possible, next to some brush and trees so they have a ready place to hide if they feel threatened in any manner. In fact, many have noticed that cardinals have a habit of staking out a feeder for a good little time before they actually come to feed off it.
How do you clean a cardinal feeder?
Different feeders come with different cleaning requirements, so carefully read the cleaning/washing instructions provided in your feeder manual. Some feeders (or parts of them) are dishwasher safe, but most are not. Commonly, you may use a water and vinegar solution (4 parts water to 1 part vinegar) to clean different parts of a feeder. Next, you should wash the parts again with hot water, preferably 2-3 times and then air dry the parts before putting them back again.
What do cardinals eat?
Cardinals’ favorite food is sunflower seeds, especially Black Oil sunflower seeds and Striped sunflower seeds. The latter is a better option since it comes with a harder husk than the Black Oil seeds and not many songbirds have the ability to crack open the husk to get to the seed. Some other foods that cardinals like include shelled peanuts, cracked corn, raisins and mealworms.
However, by far the best food to offer the cardinals is Safflower. The reason for this is cardinals enjoy this food but most other birds don’t, including larger birds such as grackles and starlings. What is more, even squirrels give them a wide berth!
Finally, you may also try a sunflower and safflower mix or a mix of safflower and white proso millet.
Do cardinals eat mealworms?
Yes, they will eat mealworms, too. It is a good option to use some mealworms in a platform feeder along with some other foods.
Where do cardinals go in the winter?
Northern cardinals do not migrate. So, if you have them at your backyard, they will be coming everyday during the winter months as well.