Sunday, December 6, 2009

Attracting Cardinals to Your Yard

What a gloomy, cold, winter day it is here. My yard has turned to mostly the muted colors of green, brown, black and gold. The cardinals are at the bird feeder and bringing their bright spot of cheerful red color. Mama Cardinal came up to the window this morning to remind me to go out and fill the bird feeder. She seems to be the designated representative of the back yard birds. For the last couple of years she reliably comes to the window to remind me that I have been remiss in my duties. She doesn't seem to care that Joe the Cat is just on the other side.
Here is a picture from last winter of Joe the Cat at the window patrolling from inside.

To add color and interest you can design your landscape to attract cardinals to enjoy their bright red color and activity. The cardinal is probably one of the most recognizable and popular backyard birds because of its brilliant red color and crested head. Cardinals will mate for life and remain together throughout the entire year. That's why you will usually see a male and female together at your bird feeders.

On the days you are home snowed in or it is just too cold to go outside, it is very entertaining to watch the cardinals at the feeders. At the bird feeder, male cardinals will take their part. They often fight other birds for the available birdseed. The male cardinal will even break the seeds out of sunflower shells for his mate, and then feed her.

You can enjoy the beautiful sights and sounds of these magnificent birds year round if you prepare an enticing habitat for them in your garden.

Cardinals in their natural habitat, live in woodland edges, grasslands, meadows, thickets, swamps, farms and urban and suburban parks and gardens. Cardinals do not migrate and don’t usually wander more than a few miles from their nesting areas. If you establish a home landscape that is attractive to these birds, the same cardinal families will live in your yard for many years.

These birds prefer their habitat to have a mixture of evergreen and deciduous trees. They will often nest in shrubs or thickets that face an open lawn. Cardinals, like all birds, are attracted to a water source. A heated bird bath will provide unfrozen water during the winter months and can be used all year long. Cardinal at the birdbath. Photo by wfrieck.

Their nests are small deep cups of twigs, leaves and plant fibers concealed in thickets. Recommended plants for nesting are Viburnum, raspberry, elderberry, hackberry, sour cherry, dogwood, grapes, burning bush and hawthorn.

Seeds form the main part of the cardinal’s diet, although insects are eaten during the breeding season. They will often come to bird feeders in the winter. Cardinals prefer to be fed from feeders that are 4 - 6 feet high. They prefer a steady stationary feeder over a hanging bird feeder. Sunflower seeds are a favorite food for Cardinals. They will usually sift through the entire mixture of seeds to get to every sunflower seed before starting in on the other seeds. They like sunflower seeds the best, but will also eat safflower seeds and white proso millet when sunflower seeds are not available. A mature hackberry tree can produce enough berries to support seven or eight cardinals for a year. The birdseed that my cardinals seem to like the best is the America's Favorite Pro Cardinal Mix which has sunflower and safflower seeds.

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