The 5 BEST Bird Feeders For Cardinals (That Work in 2022)

What are the BEST bird feeders for cardinals?

types of northern cardinal bird feeders

It’s a common question asked by both experienced and beginner bird watchers.

 

But why?

 

Well, in my opinion, it’s because the Northern Cardinal is one of the most stunning birds you will find in your yard. In addition, it’s arguably the most popular bird native to North America.

 

And personally, cardinals have a VERY IMPORTANT role at our house.

They are my daughter’s favorite birds! (See video below)

 

Today, I am going to share FIVE bird feeders that attract cardinals the best in my yard.

 

Then at the end, I will provide FIVE tips for feeding Northern Cardinals! (Click the link to jump straight there)

 


#1. Absolute II Cardinal Bird Feeder

 

This is one of the best overall feeders in my backyard! Northern Cardinals feed on it daily and love landing on the perches to get some food.

best feeders for cardinals

View Today's Price

 

Positives:

  • This large hopper bird feeder is the centerpiece of my backyard feeding area. It is where I put my general bird seed mix (sunflower, peanut pieces, safflower, and white millet) that is designed to attract as many species as possible, in addition to Northern Cardinals.

 

  • It holds a lot of seeds; up to 12 pounds (5.5 kg) if filled to the top!

 

  • Cardinals were feeding on this feeder within the first HOUR of hanging it up. Watch the video below to see Northern Cardinals feeding on the Absolute II!

 

 

  • Very sturdy – the body is made of steel, and it should last a long time. There is also no chance that squirrels or raccoons will be able to chew through it. *I have owned my Absolute II for almost five years, and it’s still going strong.*

 

  • My Absolute II is hanging freely, but it can also be mounted to a pole. However, make sure to use a heavy-duty one because the feeder is heavy when full of seed!

 

  • Super easy to refill. The top lid unlatches easily to open.

 

  • The seed is well protected from the rain. I have had no problems with mold or seed clumping due to moisture or dampness.

 


#2. Droll Yankee Dorothy’s Cardinal Feeder

Best Cardinal Feeders

View $ on Amazon

 

Positives:

  • This feeder is versatile and has many purposes in my backyard. Northern Cardinals love it because it provides them with a big, open area to land and feed. The large tray gives them plenty of space to feel comfortable.

 

  • The dome over the feeding tray helps to keep rain and snow off the seed. And the water that does get onto the seeds will drain away though the small holes in the tray.

 

  • This cardinal feeder is constructed of sturdy and durable polycarbonate plastic. It is very tough, sturdy, and resistant to cracking or breaking. No worries if this accidentally falls to the ground.

 

  • The Dorothy’s Cardinal Feeder is made by Droll Yankees, who have a fantastic reputation for quality bird products. Made in America (as are all their products!) and backed by their Lifetime Warranty, which covers any defective part or any damage caused by squirrels.

 

Negatives:

 

  • Since it is made from clear plastic, this cardinal bird feeder is not the most decorative or aesthetically pleasing in my yard. However, this is not something that I care about because it works well and attracts cardinals.

 

  • The plastic tray doesn’t hold much food. I have to refill this feeder daily.

 


#3. Woodlink 3 in 1 Platform Feeder

tray feeder for northern cardinals

View Today's Price

 

Did you know that Northern Cardinals also enjoy feeding on the ground?

 

Because of this fact, I recommend giving them a place to eat below your feeders. I use a wooden tray feeder and it is one of the best feeders for Northern Cardinals that I own!

 

Check out the LIVE view of my tray feeder for a chance to see a cardinal right now.

 

Positives:

 

  • This is an excellent, multi-purpose tray feeder and a favorite for cardinals. Just spread their favorite foods, like sunflower seeds, on top! I usually put treats and food on the tray for other birds, such as whole peanuts, corn kernels, fruit, and mealworms.

 

  • It’s solid and well constructed – made from cedar and screwed together well. Of course, you can buy much cheaper platform feeders, but you typically “ALWAYS get what you pay for!”

 

  • The metal screen bottom provides excellent drainage. Your birdseed and food will never be sitting in standing water.

 

  • The tray can be used in three ways. It can be placed on the ground, hung with a wire, or mounted to a pole. Currently, I have this feeder sitting on the ground underneath my feeders, as you can see in the video above.

I also have it mounted to my feeder pole to give birds a large area to land and feed!

best tray feeder

 

  • The metal screen bottom is removable and slides right out. This makes the feeder very easy to clean!

 

  • It’s big and can hold lots of birds at one time. (16.4 x 13.2 x 2.4 inches or 41.6 x 33.6 x 6.0 cm)

 


#4. Woodlink Hopper Bird Feeder

woodlink hopper

View Cost - Amazon

 

  • This simple, open design allows many cardinals to feed comfortably at once and from both sides.
  • The bird feeder is easy to refill thanks to the hinged roof. It holds about 5.5 lbs (2.5 kg) of seed.
  • It’s made of 90% recycled plastic, so it will never rot or fall apart.
  • The feeder has a mesh screen bottom that provides excellent drainage
  • It’s not flashy, but it works, which is why it’s one of the best cardinal bird feeders available!

 


#5. Aspects Tube Feeder

aspects tube bird feeder

View $ on Amazon

 

In general, tube feeders are not ideal for Northern Cardinals. They typically have a hard time using the perches because they are too small and they have a tough time turning their heads to reach the food ports.

aspects tube feeder and tray

To transform this tube feeder into one that cardinals and other larger birds will use, you are going to need to buy a tray that attaches securely at the bottom.

  • 12-inch tray – Compatible with the Aspects hanging tube feeder featured above.

 

Here is a video clip of my bird feeding station. You can see a cardinal feeding from the tray of the tube feeder in the back.

 

Northern Cardinals enjoy landing and finding all the sunflower seeds that have spilled from the feeding ports above. Whenever I fill up this tube feeder, I typically throw a handful of food directly on the tray so my cardinals have something to eat immediately.

 

Between the six feeding ports and attached tray, this feeder is not only great for cardinals but, in general, is one of my favorite bird feeders and attracts a wide variety of species.

 

Lastly, it’s incredibly strong, durable, and holds quite a bit of bird food.

 

Highly recommended!


5 Tips for Feeding Cardinals At Your Feeders!

 

Tip #1. Fill your feeders with their favorite foods.

 

The bird feeder is irrelevant if cardinals hate the food inside. Imagine that you are a vegetarian and the best steakhouse on the planet is next to your house, your still never going to go!

 

So what types of food should you put in your cardinal feeders?

 

A. Sunflower Seeds

types of bird seed - black-oil sunflower

Cardinals LOVE sunflower seeds and will readily eat the three different varieties that you usually see in the store.

 

Black oil sunflower seed: These are smaller sunflower seeds with a black shell. It’s a favorite seed to use in your feeders for cardinals due to its inexpensive price and appeal to a wide variety of bird species.

 

Gray/Black striped sunflower seed: These are large sunflower seeds that humans also eat. Since the shells are larger than black oil sunflower, not as many birds can crack the seeds open. But cardinals have no problem! A good choice if you want to discriminate against other birds.

 

Sunflower kernels/chips: This sunflower seed has had the shell removed, and just the kernel is left. Sunflower kernels attract the most extensive variety of birds to your cardinal feeder because many birds love sunflower seeds but can’t crack the shell. However, kernels and chips are much more expensive than black oil sunflower and striped sunflower seed.

 

B. Safflower

safflower seed - best bird food

Grown from the annual safflower plant, safflower seed is a popular addition to many types of birdseed mixes. It’s a great food to use because cardinals like it and eat the stuff up!

 

But here’s the best part!

 

Many other birds don’t like safflower seeds and will leave them alone in your feeder. Specifically, blackbirds (European Starlings!) and squirrels usually don’t eat safflower, who are two of the most prominent bullies that show up at backyard feeders.

 

best food for cardinal bird feeders

View Current Prices

 

So if your goal is to attract as many cardinals as possible and limit the number of other bird species, then safflower is an excellent choice.

 

C. Shelled Peanuts

peanut food for birds

Cardinals are also attracted to peanuts, as long as they are already out of their shell.

 

Peanuts are an excellent source of protein and fat and can help cardinals get some extra nutrition during a hard winter.

 

But like sunflower, many other birds LOVE shelled peanuts too –  Jays, crows, woodpeckers, nuthatches, blackbirds, titmice, chickadees, doves, juncos, and more!

 


Tip #2. Even though cardinals are common, they are shy.

 

Try to keep your cardinal bird feeders away from windows with a lot of movement. I’ve noticed the farther my feeders get from my house; the more cardinals seem to arrive!

 

Find a quiet spot in your yard to place your feeders, preferably with trees and brush nearby for them to land and hide. Many times, cardinals will hang out near a feeder but stay hidden until they are ready to eat. This is especially apparent after fresh snow. We have counted as many as 15 cardinals within close proximity to our feeders!

 


Tip #3. Cardinals enjoy feeding on the ground.

 

Isn’t this ironic? I’m writing an article talking about different cardinal bird feeders but these birds also love feeding on the ground.

best bird feeders for cardinals

When I fill my feeders, I usually throw a handful of black oil sunflower seed on the ground too. I hope that spreading sunflower seeds on the ground will attract even the shyest cardinals to my yard.

 


Tip #4. The early Northern Cardinal gets the sunflower seeds!

 

Make sure your feeders are full every morning before sunrise. Cardinals are early risers and will be among the first birds to visit every day (and some of the last to leave in the evening).

 


Tip #5. Don’t panic if the cardinals don’t eat safflower seed right away.

 

If you try to fill a feeder with ONLY safflower seed, your cardinals may not touch it at first. It’s not that they don’t like it, but they probably have never had it before.

 

My recommendation is to mix safflower into sunflower seed. Cardinals will inevitably eat some safflower and realize that it’s tasty and edible and should soon visit a bird feeder just full of safflower.

 


Conclusion – The Best Bird Feeders for Cardinals

 

Having your backyard bird feeders full of beautiful red Northern Cardinals should not be too complicated. Just follow the recommendations in this article:

 

1. Choose a proven cardinal bird feeder.

 

2. Use food that cardinals can’t resist: Sunflower, safflower, and peanuts.

 

3. Review the other tips provided to optimize your backyard for Northern Cardinals.

 


Next Steps

 

If this article was valuable, please consider doing one of the following three things:

 

1. If you decide to purchase one of the cardinal bird feeders listed above, please use one of the affiliate links provided. At no cost to you, I would receive a small percentage from that retailer. This lets me know that you found this article helpful and covers the costs to run Bird Watching HQ. I would also be forever grateful. 🙂

 

2. Share this article! I don’t care what social network you prefer, pass it around!

 

3. Use the comments below to keep the conversation going. I would love to hear your thoughts and responses:

 

  • What bird feeders for cardinals have you had the most success using? 

  • Please share your best tips and tricks for feeding Northern Cardinals!

 

23 responses to “The 5 BEST Bird Feeders For Cardinals (That Work in 2022)”

  1. Bryan says:

    Couldn’t find Striped Sunflower seed locally, so I thought I’d try Safflower ‘seed cake’ instead. Prepared my own, based on a recipe I found for seed cylinders (seed and gelatin only). I formed the cakes to fit in a standard square cage suet feeder which I hung vertically with an empty cage attached to the underside (and perpendicular to it) to serve as a perch-platform, on both sides. I also put a catch tray underneath. And I removed my normal safflower feeder meanwhile. The cake has been out for 5 days now and really the only birds I’ve seen spending any time on it, and managing to dislodge seed, are the chickadees. The House Finches are quick to pick-up any fallen seed in the catch tray – by the time the Cardinals come around the pickings are slim. I’ve only once seen a Cardinal extract a seed from the cake and it didn’t linger afterwards. Granted, it has been very cold the last few days (down to -22 °C), so I tried breaking the frozen hard cake into smaller fragments to expose more seed, and also compressing the seeds less when forming the cake – but it didn’t make any difference. Might work for some, but I’m going back to loose seed.

  2. L says:

    Safflower on the preformed cylinders is ideal. Most any safflower eater can access it but the doves cannot, provided your base and/or perches are the correct size.

  3. Bryan says:

    Started back-yard birding last year. Have a dedicated feeder for safflower seed, with 2 ports and adequate perches. The cardinals love it, but so do the House Finches, and they occupy it for most of the time, leisurely selecting the ‘perfect’ seed and throwing out the rest. Tried putting a catch tray under the feeder, which helped save seed, and attracted grossbeaks in the process, but now in the winter the House Finches are depleting the safflower at a phenomenal rate. I’ve switched from Nyjer only to a Nyjer-Sunflower fine chip mix in the finch feeders (Tube and Mesh), which relieves some of the burden on the safflower feeder, but I’m thinking of switching to Striped Sunflower. Good quality safflower seeds are becoming increasingly difficult to source locally anyway. My usual bulk supplier went bust. Question is – can House Finches crack Striped Sunflower. Cheers.

  4. matthewyang20 says:

    DO NOT SHOOT MOURNING DOVES! THAT IS INHUMANE!

  5. matthewyang20 says:

    Add a tray feeder. Fill that feeder with safflower and fill the rest of the feeders with sunflower. The mourning doves will crowd out the tray feeder and leave the sunflower-filled feeders alone.

  6. matthewyang20 says:

    Don’t change to safflower. Let them eat. Instead, build an extra birdhouse for them.

  7. matthewyang20 says:

    I built a hanging tray feeder. It is currently inside for repair, but whenever I put it outside, the cardinals crowd it. I love the cardinals, but whenever the wind blows, the rubber bands holding up the tray give away. Then the feeder falls to the ground and the cardinals fly away. Any ideas to keep the rubber bands from giving away? Thanks!

  8. Candice Gibbons says:

    I find that Wagner’s hot pepper seed (Home Depot or PetSmart) attracts cardinals like crazy. Its a mixture of peanut, safflower seeds and other seed. I have too many squirrels to not use this formula. I could not believe the amount of cardinals, blue jays and of course the sparrows.

  9. Mary says:

    The cowbirds are a Nuisance. There are also parasitical and I don’t want them at my feeders. I switched to just safflower seeds in order to discourage those horrible things. Any other hints or feeder advice to prevent them from feasting in my yard?

  10. Dawn Ordus says:

    My biggest problem are the deer. Although I love watching them on my property they empty out all of my feeders. Any tips? I do have a pair of Cardinals but just those two. I use the right food but I can’t seem to attract anymore Cardinals. Perhaps a new bird feeder will work.

  11. Larry J Robichaud says:

    They can crack just about anything,,,very powerful beaks.

  12. Linda Lee says:

    I’ve tried everything. Anywhere mourning doves can get a foothold, they monopolize the feeder.

  13. Linda Lee says:

    Thanks for the suggestion!

  14. Bonnie Cryer says:

    I have the exact one (looks like a big red barn) I can’t get ANY bird to eat from it. I’ve moved to multiple different locations, they won’t eat from it ????

  15. Martha edgin says:

    I bought the absolute feeder that holds twelve pounds when filled.
    Now, a pole about five foot came with it. Is that the best pole for it or should I invest in a different, taller one? If so, please recommend one
    Martha

  16. Bodie says:

    I have 3 bird feeders, all with the same seed mix, but the one that absolutely attracts the most cardinals (and almost exclusively so) is the one that looks like a big red barn!

  17. Charlotte McLravy says:

    Having a terrible time with pigeons! They are eating everything. Do you know a good feeder that would keep my cute cardinal couple, but get rid of the pigeons? Thank you.

  18. JRiley says:

    I have several pairs of mourning doves but I find they prefer eating from the ground. They occasionally visit the hanging tray but it’s not their first choice. I have many, many cardinals and they eat from all my feeders but the one dedicated to the finches. My bluebirds eat from the hopper but their favorite is the fly-through feeder – it’s blue – maybe they prefer blue. The bluebirds are nesting. I wish I could make myself buy worms live instead of freeze-dried but I can’t stand the thought living worms in my fridge. Is there anything you know of that bluebirds really like besides mealworms?

  19. Fred Van Atta says:

    Mourning doves mate for life, just like the cardinals

  20. Pat says:

    But will the Cardinals be able to crack the striped sunflower seeds?

  21. Pat says:

    Linda, same here (SE Mich). If I could shoot every Mourning Dove in my yard for doing that, I would.

  22. Linda Lee Williams says:

    Every feeder the Cardinals like is taken over by Morning Doves, which crowd out all the other birds–and the voracious eaters love safflower. I can’t keep trays on the bottom of any of my feeders due to the dove problem. Any suggestions?

Leave a Reply