The 5 BEST Bird Feeders For Cardinals (That Work in 2023)
What are the BEST bird feeders for cardinals?
It’s a common question asked by both experienced and beginner bird watchers.
Well, in my opinion, it’s because the Northern Cardinal is one of the most stunning birds around. It’s arguably the most popular bird native to North America.
- RELATED: Watch the two LIVE cameras in my backyard! (You may see a Northern Cardinal right now)
And personally, cardinals have a VERY IMPORTANT role at our house.
They are my daughter’s favorite type of bird! (See video below)
Here are 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.
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- 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!
- It is “squirrel resistant.” The feeder is designed to close if there is too much weight on the feeding perches (such as a squirrel). So far, it’s working, and the squirrels have not figured it out.
- 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
- 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 through 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.
- 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.
- 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
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.
- 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 feed!
- 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
- 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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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!
Since March I’ve been using a selective Cardinal feeder – ‘The Unique Cardinal Feeder’ – made and sold by Nature Expert (formerly the CCFA: Centre de Conservation de la Faune Ailée de Montreal) in Montreal. It uses a clever counter-balance lever and spring mechanism for opening and closing the feeding port so that only Cardinals and birds of similar size and weight (e.g. can access the seed. Safflower is the seed of choice. It definitely works and solved the problem with House Finches devouring and wasting seed on my old feeder. The only limitation is that it allows just one bird to feed at a time. Still, this makes for entertaining interactions.
I’ve posted a number of videos on YouTube demonstrating the feeder, several of which are shown on Nature Expert’s product page also. Can’t share the URL links here, but the the video titles are:
Northern Cardinals on ‘Unique Cardinal Feeder’ 3rd April 2022
Northern Cardinals on the ‘Unique Cardinal Feeder’: A Compilation
Male Cardinal feeding a juvenile on the ‘Unique Cardinal Feeder’
Juvenile Cardinal on the ‘Unique Cardinal Feeder’ : Update
Juvenile Cardinals On The ‘Unique Cardinal Feeder’: Update #2
I have been remiss in keeping some rise bushes trimmed (yes, actual bushes, rather than the stalk style; prettier than holly bushes in front of the house), and a cardinal family has moved in.
1. When will it be best to cut the monstrosities down? I assume very late summer or early winter after the chicks have grown.
2. It’s next to my front porch, and I have a book for hanging plants in that side. What should I put out for them? Same as recommended above? Anything special for the chicks?
Have you found a solution? I have the same problem! My 6 doves are fat as chickens! They take over the feeders!
Wondering if anyone else have cardinals that peck on your patio door when they want food? This happened at our old house and it has started happening at our new house. My husband thinks our cardinals have followed us. It is usually the female that pecks on the patio door. My husband has named her Ruby. She only pecks when the food is gone.
I left the (two) safflower cakes out anyway because the Chikadees seemed to like it – probably because my loose safflower seed feeder (which is hung under the deck pergoda in the winter) is constantly occupied by House Finches. Also, over time I saw more House Finches on the cakes, and catch tray placed under them, for the same reason. Suffice it to say, after two weeks both cakes were depleted. As for the two loose safflower feeder – what I’ve done since is change the existing plastic spill tray (a frisbee), which was attached directly to the base of the feeder, for one a bit larger and suspended it (with plastic ties) below the feeder so there’s enough room for the Cardinals and House Finches to comfortably get at all of the fallen seed underneath, whilst excluding larger birds (i.e. Doves). The cardinals seem happy with that arrangement, as long as there is seed to eat. Then, every couple of days, I’ll empty the contents into the larger catch tray that I put under the seed cakes out in the yard. That has started to attract Mourning Doves and House Sparrows, which I’m not particularly bothered about – except that today I saw a Coopers Hawk attack it and take a House Sparrow (I think it was) which it subdued in the hedge close by. Might be best to put a wire cage over it. Last thing I want is a hawk targeting the feeders. I was under the impression that they are less likely to attack feeders under canopies, but have just watched a video where one did, and frequently. That could also partly explain why the Cardinals have not been attracted to the Safflower cakes – too exposed out in the yard. I’ve seen hawks attacking birds in a wooded area at the end of the yard before. This is the first time I seen one attacking targeting a feeder close to the house.
Its amazing the lengths we go to for our birds, making your seed cake is evidence of such dedication. Its true, what works for some doesn’t work for others. In our backyard safflower rules with our large population of cardinals, up to 18 at top sighting, but the small birds love it too. I now see the squirrels have also stepped in tho. Fortunately the blackbirds don’t/can’t eat it. Because of them we had to move to safflower and sunflower only, with a platform feeder of shelled and unshelled peanuts. This has completely reduced the blackbird numbers and we can once again enjoy our backyard. We’ve kept the woodpeckers and bluejays with the peanuts.
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.
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.
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.
DO NOT SHOOT MOURNING DOVES! THAT IS INHUMANE!
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.
Don’t change to safflower. Let them eat. Instead, build an extra birdhouse for them.
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!
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.
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?
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.
They can crack just about anything,,,very powerful beaks.
I’ve tried everything. Anywhere mourning doves can get a foothold, they monopolize the feeder.
Thanks for the suggestion!
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 ????
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
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!
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.
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?
Mourning doves mate for life, just like the cardinals
But will the Cardinals be able to crack the striped sunflower seeds?
Linda, same here (SE Mich). If I could shoot every Mourning Dove in my yard for doing that, I would.
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?
Don’t use safflower. Try striped sunflower. It should be too big for doves to eat. Hope that helps!