What is the Best Cardinal Bird Feeder? Top Picks and Tips

The best bird feeder for cardinals is one that caters to their larger size and seed preferences.

best bird feeder for cardinals

A feeder that will attract cardinals will be:

  • Wide perching areas that accommodate cardinals' larger feet
  • Easy access to seed without having to perch sideways - if using a tube-type feeder make sure it has a cardinal ring
  • Large and stable feeder with comfortable eating space
  • Feeders that can dispense cardinals favorite seeds such as black oil and striped sunflower seeds, safflower seeds, white proso millet, cracked corn, crushed peanuts, suet (winter)

Cardinals prefer platform feeders or those with wide perches (such as on hopper and tube feeders) where they can easily access the seeds without feeling cramped.

Best Types of Bird Feeders for Cardinals

We will review the three types of feeders that are best for cardinals.

Do Cardinals Prefer Platform Feeders?

Since cardinals spend most of their time foraging on the ground, platform feeders are one of the best for attract them to your backyard since eating the seed from an open platform mimics their ground-feeding habits.

Platform feeders are also great for offering cardinals a variety of favorite food types, such as sunflower seeds, safflower seeds, nuts, and even fruit pieces.

Most platform feeders are made from wood, but we really like the Woodlink Going Green Platform Feeder.

best cardinal bird feeder woodlink going green

We like the Going Green Feeder because:

  • It is made from recycled plastic that won't fade or warp like wood does wet weather
  • Won’t absorb water, is less likely to attract mold and is easy to clean away dirt and bacteria. 
  • Has a durable, powder-coated metal screen bottom allowing drainage
  • Includes hook and cable for hanging

View the Going Green Platform Feeder

If you're interested in the outdoor camera in the video above, you can get more details here:

View the Blink Camera

Tube Feeders

Cardinals don't like to perch as much as other birds and because of their larger size.

And when they sit sideways on a perch next to a tube seed port there isn't a lot of room and it's not as comfortable for them to eat.

Therefore, I would suggest only getting a tube feeder if it has a cardinal ring or dish area vs one that only has small perches.

We really like this feeder that includes a cardinal ring: Squirrel Buster Plus.

squirrel buster plus feeder with cardinal ring

Cardinals prefer this type of tube feeder since instead of perches it has an area at the bottom of the feeding tube where they can perch facing forward towards the seed.

You can go here to read our complete Squirrel Buster Plus Review.

View the Squirrel Buster Plus Tube Feeder

Hopper Feeders

The Heritage Farms Absolute II feeder is the only hopper feeder I would recommend for cardinals, especially if you have squirrel problems.

best hopper bird feeder for cardinals heritage farms absolute II
  • Hang or mount on pole
  • Weight adjustable perches
  • Easy to fill with locking top
  • Less wasted seed with baffles
  • Durable steel housing
  • Cardinals can feed from both sides

The Absolute II has feeding areas on both sides of the feeder whereas the original (lower cost) has a feeding areas on only one side.

View The Absolute II Hopper Feeder

The Perky Pet Squirrel Be Gone Bird Feeder is also a good choice as a hopper feeder for cardinals.

squirrel be gone cardinal feeder

It's a little cheaper than the Absolute II, holds 8 lbs of seed vs 10 lbs, but has some of the same features such as:

  • A weight-activated perch
  • Durable metal housing
  • Easy to refill with access through the top roof

View the Squirrel-Be-Gone II Country Feeder

Metal Mesh Cardinal Bird Feeder

Since it is named after Cardinals, we have to also mention the Red Cardinal Bird Feeder.

We like that this feeder has a durable rust-resistant, zinc-plated finish, holds up to 2.5 lbs of seed, and the perching area is wide enough and comfortable for Cardinals.

mesh red cardinal bird feeder

Choosing the Right Feeder

When looking for the best bird feeder for cardinals, there are several factors to consider.

Size and Capacity

Cardinals prefer a bird feeder with ample space to accommodate their size.

Choose a feeder with a larger feeding area or platform, allowing them to feel comfortable while dining.

A feeder with a larger capacity is also beneficial for attracting more cardinals, as they are social birds that usually feed in groups, and is beneficial for you since you don't have to refill it as often. ;-)

Perch Options

Northern cardinals enjoy having places to perch as they feed.

When selecting a bird feeder, look for options with multiple perches, preferably at different angles and levels.

This allows cardinals to feed comfortably and provides them with a sense of security while they enjoy their meals.

Moreover, pay attention to the design of the perches and ensure they are wide and sturdy enough to accommodate the larger size of cardinals.

Best Bird Seed for Cardinals

As a cardinal lover, you'll want to know the best seeds and foods to attract these beautiful birds to your backyard.

Sunflower Seeds

Cardinals absolutely love sunflower seeds, particularly black oil sunflower seeds.

These seeds are high in fat and protein, providing the necessary energy and nutrition for cardinals.

You can offer sunflower seeds in platform or hopper feeders, making them easily accessible for cardinals to snack on.

Safflower Seeds

Another favorite of cardinals is safflower seeds.

These seeds have a slightly bitter taste, which can deter squirrels and other unwanted visitors from raiding your bird feeder.

Safflower seeds can also be offered in platform or hopper feeders, ensuring a steady supply for visiting cardinals.

Cracked Corn

Cracked corn is an all-around favorite among various bird species, including cardinals.

It provides essential carbohydrates for energy and can be a more cost-effective food option.

To incorporate cracked corn into your bird-feeding routine, simply mix it with other seeds or offer it separately in a platform feeder.


Cardinals also have a taste for nuts.

Nutritious options like peanuts, pecans, and walnuts can be a great addition to your bird-feeding menu.

You can offer nuts whole or crushed, depending on the size of the cardinal's bill.

Place them in a platform feeder or mix them in with other seeds for added variety.

Squirrel-Proofing Your Cardinal Feeder

There are several things you can do to deter squirrels from your feeders.

Squirrel-Proof Bird Feeders

One of the best ways to protect your cardinal feeder from squirrels is to choose a squirrel-proof bird feeder.

A popular option is the Brome Squirrel Buster Plus Bird Feeder which I like as a tube feeder because it includes a larger perching ring specifically designed for cardinals.

Another effective option is the Woodlink Absolute II Squirrel Resistant Feeder.

Both these feeders are designed with a weight-triggered mechanism, it closes access to seeds when a squirrel tries to feed.

Baffle Techniques

Incorporating baffles into your bird feeder setup is another effective method to deter squirrels.

Here are a few baffle options:

  • Pole-Mounted Cone Baffles: Place a baffle below your feeder on the pole, which will prevent squirrels from climbing up to access the seeds.
  • Hanging Baffles: If you have a hanging bird feeder, use a baffle above the feeder to block squirrels from reaching it.
  • Torpedo Baffles: This missile-shaped baffle mounts below the feeder on the pole and moves up and down when the squirrel tries to climb on it.

Here is also a DIY Squirrel Baffle you can make with a mixing bowl.

Feeder Placement and Providing a Backyard Environment That Attracts Cardinals

Near Trees and Shrubs

To create a welcoming environment for cardinals, place your bird feeder close to trees and shrubs.

These areas provide natural cover for the Northern Cardinal, allowing them to feel safe while they feed.

Additionally, having a nearby perch gives them a place to rest and take shelter from the elements.

Safety from Predators

Cardinals, like all backyard birds, need protection from predators such as cats and larger birds.

To keep them safe, consider placing your feeder at least 6 feet above the ground.

This helps prevent predators from easily accessing the birds while they feed.

Backyard Feeding

Here are some quick tips to help make backyard feeding an enjoyable experience for both you and the cardinals:

  • Use a quality seed mix that includes sunflower seeds, which are a favorite of cardinals.
  • Offer fresh water to attract cardinals and other birds; it's especially important during the winter months when natural sources might be scarce.
  • Keep feeders clean and filled to ensure backyard birds consistently visit your yard.
  • Be patient and give them time to discover the feeder. It may take a few days to weeks before cardinals become regular visitors.

In summary, providing a well-placed bird feeder near trees and shrubs, ensuring safety from predators, and offering comfortable feeding options will help create an attractive environment for cardinals to thrive in your outdoor space.

Feeder Maintenance and Cleaning

Bird feeder maintenance is crucial to keeping your cardinal visitors healthy and coming back.

In this section, we'll discuss feeders that are easy to clean and those with seed ventilation systems.

Easy-to-Clean Feeders

Look for models with removable parts or trays that give you easy access to all surfaces.

Feeders with smooth surfaces will also be easier to clean.

Make sure to use a mix of warm water and mild soap when cleaning your feeder to avoid damaging it.

Dry the feeder thoroughly before filling it with fresh seeds.

Remember, a clean feeder can help prevent the spread of illness among birds, so maintaining cleanliness is essential.

Seed Ventilation Systems

Feeders with seed ventilation systems allow airflow through the seed reservoir, reducing the buildup of moisture so that your cardinals have fresh, dry seeds to enjoy.

This is particularly important for preventing the growth of mold and mildew on seeds, which can be harmful to cardinals (and all birds of course).

Look for feeders with built-in ventilation systems, such as the Squirrel Buster Plus.

Best Cardinal Bird Feeders by Type

Here are our picks for the best bird feeders for cardinals:

Frequently Asked Questions

What type of feeders do cardinals prefer?

Cardinals are known to prefer platform or tray feeders that offer a large, sturdy perch area for them to land and feed on.

They also enjoy tube and hopper bird feeders if the perches are large enough for them so they don't have to sit sideways to the feeding port.

How can I attract cardinals and bluejays to my feeder?

To attract cardinals and bluejays to your feeder, use feeders that provide a generous perch area, such as platform or hopper bird feeders.

Offer a variety of seeds, such as black oil sunflower and safflower seeds, which both species enjoy.

Ensure the feeder is visible, and consider placing it near natural cover to provide them with a sense of security.

Which bird seed mix is best for cardinals?

Cardinals are particularly fond of black oil sunflower seeds, safflower seeds, white proso millet, nuts, and cracked corn.

A bird seed mix containing these ingredients will likely be the most appealing to cardinals visiting your feeder.

Having a variety of seeds will also attract a wider variety of other bird species as well.

Are there squirrel-proof feeders suitable for cardinals?

Yes, there are squirrel-proof feeders that cardinals can use.

For example, the Squirrel Buster Plus (tube feeder) Absolute II Cardinal Bird Feeder (hopper feeder) are designed to accommodate cardinals while offering protection from squirrels.

When a squirrel attempts to access these feeder, its weight triggers a mechanism that closes the feeding ports, preventing them from reaching the seeds.

At what height should I place a feeder for cardinals?

To accommodate cardinals, place your bird feeder at a height of around 5 to 6 feet above the ground.

This height allows cardinals and other songbirds to easily access the feeder while providing some protection from ground-dwelling predators.

I know of some who place the platform feeders directly on the ground which is fine if you don't have cats, dogs, and wildlife predators active near the feeder.

Additionally, placing the feeder near natural cover, such as shrubs or trees, will offer them a safe place to hide if needed.

Cardinal Bird Feeder Summary

By providing a diverse range of food (seeds, nuts, fruit, etc.), you can create a friendly and welcoming environment for cardinals in your backyard.

Remember to keep up with regular feeder maintenance and cleaning, and always look for designs that prioritize your bird's health and well-being.

By choosing the right type of feeder and providing the preferred food for cardinals, you'll increase the chances of these colorful birds visiting your yard.

So, whether you opt for a tube feeder, platform feeder, or hopper feeder, your efforts will be rewarded with the joyful sight of cardinals enjoying their meals.

Cardinals are the best! Their vibrant color and melodic song are always a joy to see and hear in our backyards.

Happy birdwatching!

Related Cardinal Pages

Best Bird Feeders - Best bird feeders of all types.

Squirrel Proof Bird Feeder Review- Which squirrel proof bird feeders actually work?

Best Wild Bird Seed- How to choose the best bird seed for your feeders.

Northern Cardinal Life History- Fun facts about Northern Cardinals.

How To Attract Cardinals- How to attract cardinals to your backyard.

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