The Trees to Plant to Attract Cardinals

As a Portland tree service company, it’s our job to help you maintain your landscaping all year long.

As a homeowner, it’s your job to carefully consider the best plants and trees to add to your landscaping, to make your home beautiful and give it added value, too. And for many people, landscaping isn’t just about the visual pleasure; it’s about attracting wildlife.

Northern Cardinals are probably the most desired of any backyard-visiting birds. They are beautiful in every season with stunning songs to match their vibrant plumage. Fortunately, they are also one of the easiest birds to attract to your backyard if you have the right feeders, bird baths, and nesting areas in place.

What Makes Cardinals Special

Cardinals are one of the most recognizable birds around. With their brilliant red plumage, they stand out from the landscaping in both summer and winter.

The Trees to Plant to Attract CardinalsEven the females have lovely red highlights contrasting with their fawn-colored feathers. 

Cardinals typically do not migrate. If they have what they need in the area – food, water, and nesting grounds – they have little desire to move from a location they find safe and secure.

Are you originally from outside of the Pacific Northwest area? You may recognize the cardinal from other areas. They can be found in the north as far as Maine. Even parts of southern Canada have been known to attract the cardinal. Here in the States, they are native all over the west, as far as South Dakota and Texas.

They’ve also been introduced to Hawaii and Bermuda. To find them here in Portland is fairly easy to do.

How To Attract Cardinals To Your Landscape

As with all living things, Cardinals look for food, water, and shelter to survive. By meeting all of these needs, you can easily make your backyard a favorite habitat.

Choosing The Right Food
Like any creature, birds are motivated by food. If you have a food source Cardinals love and crave, they’ll visit your backyard again and again.

Northern Cardinals have a strong, thick beak, which means they can easily handle large seeds and other hearty foods. They love safflower seeds, sunflower seeds, and white milo. In addition, they’ve been known to enjoy crushed peanuts, cracked corn, berries, and apples. In winter, you can include crumbles or shreds of suet.

Cardinals prefer to eat in the early morning and late evening. Be sure to check your feeders regularly and ensure they are filled. Once Cardinals realize your backyard is a good source of food year round, they are more likely to take up permanent residence.

Using The Proper Feeder
In addition to having the right food, it’s also important to have the right feeder to suit a Cardinal’s needs. Your feeders need to be sturdy enough to support birds while they eat. The average Cardinal weighs approximately 1.5 ounces, which is actually on the heavier side for a bird. Lightweight, hanging bird feeders are best avoided because they swirl and sway under a Cardinal’s weight. Instead, invest in a platform feeder or a bird feeder with built-in trays that can provide enough space for a Cardinal to perch while he eats. A Cardinal has a broader, full-breast when compared to other birds, so they do require more space to eat and move around while visiting the feeder.

Provide A Water Source
Cardinals need access to water both for drinking and bathing. A birdbath is a perfect way to accomplish both. As with bird feeders, a birdbath is necessary to accommodate the size of these larger birds. Make sure the birdbath has a depth of two to three inches at its deepest point. Cardinals also prefer moving water, so installing a dripper might be a good choice to have a consistent flow. Keep in mind that no matter what method you choose, nothing is better than developing a regularly scheduled cleaning into your routine. Water should be changed, and the bath should frequently be cleaned to avoid algae and dirt buildup.

You should also ensure that the water is always available, even on the coldest days. If it freezes up, it may force the Cardinal to move to a more reliable area to meet its needs.

Offer Shelter
Cardinals prefer secluded areas where they can surround themselves with thick foliage and lots of trees and shrubs. Planting trees and bushes of varying heights will help these songbirds feel safe and secure as they make your backyard home. Be sure to plant evergreen trees and other plants that stay thick and green during the winter months to ensure they have enough coverage while other plants are dormant.

Thickets of dense vines and shrubs are a good idea to provide cover while closer to the ground. Grapevines, clematis, and dogwood are great choices for nest sites. Cardinals also prefer plants including sumac, mulberry, and blueberry – all of which can provide double duty for both shelter and food.

They also prefer to build their nests in the midst of shrub thickets. Providing nesting materials of small twigs, pine needles, and grass clippings will encourage Cardinals to build nests nearby. Cardinals don’t use birdhouses, however. Save them for attracting other kinds of birds. And while Cardinals won’t reuse existing nests, they may raise several broods each year, so providing the right landscaping and materials can encourage them to continue making your backyard their home.

What You Should Avoid

Adding things to your landscape isn’t the only thing you should do to attract Cardinals. There are also a few things you can avoid to ensure they stay in your yard for the long term.

Reflective Surfaces
Cardinals are very territorial. They can be aggressive and will attack their own reflections in large windows. Though this behavior isn’t usually fatal, it can damage or break their beaks, as well as cause stress. You can prevent this by eliminating reflections of windows or mirrors near the nesting and feeding areas. Use screens to deter them. Cover or add distractions to help them feel safer on your property.

Harmful Chemicals
Insecticides, herbicides, and many fertilizers can contaminate your food and water sources. As a Portland tree service, we understand that you have more than one goal with your landscaping needs. We can help you keep your trees healthy without the use of unnecessary chemicals. A little extra TLC each year can keep them healthy and strong all year long.

Predator Areas
Do you have pets? If they go outside on their own, you should devise ways to keep them away from Cardinal feeding areas. Avoid scattering seed near low shrubs and bushes where predators can easily hide and attack them with little warning.

Do you have additional questions on keeping your landscaping safe and secure for Cardinals in your area? Are you in need of a tree service for your Portland home? We’d love to hear your stories and help you with your needs.


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