Best Cardinal Birdhouses

August 3, 2020 // 7 minute read // 3 Shares

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best cardinal birdhouses

If you start looking for the best Cardinal birdhouses, you’ll be disappointed. Cardinals do not like to next in enclosed spaces. They are considered an “open-nester” bird and will be much more at home nesting in a structure that is well protected but open. A nesting shelf is a better alternative than a traditional birdhouse for Cardinals. Below is a listing of the best cardinal birdhouses alternatives.

Best Cardinal Birdhouse Alternatives: Nesting Shelves For Cardinals

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The bright red northern cardinal is one of the most distinctive birds in the northern hemisphere. To get these birds to visit your yard, make sure that you offer a wide variety of small particle bird-friendly foods. The best cardinal birdhouses are not really a thing! This rather bashful bird would rather nest in a well-shrouded cluster of leaves, or in an abandoned feeding tray or nesting tray that offers plenty of privacy. No matter how much you want to observe the nest-building process, do not try to spy on the female during the building process. She will abandon the project.

Quality of Construction

Rather than trying to install an enclosed birdhouse that will be snubbed by this intended guest, do your best to create a spot where they can shelter and feel safe. If you have an old feeding tray, consider securing it to a spot within a dense shrub or thriving vine, such as clematis. Female cardinals tend to build between 1 and 15 feet off the ground, so you could build it at eye-level height for easy viewing from a distance.

The nests themselves are built of twigs and bark, leaves and small plants, and scrap paper. The inside of the nest is lined with hair, grass, and fine vines. While they won’t re-use a nest from year to year, it’s a good idea to leave the old nest. This nest seems to give the birds comfort and security, so they’re more likely to come back next year.

Cardinal Nesting Tray Dimensions

While these birds prefer some cover, they tend not to nest in enclosed spots, such as a birdhouse with a small hole and a roof. Skip searching for the best cardinal birdhouses and instead, create a private roosting and nesting spot for the female to turn into a home with a nesting shelf.

Their nests are quite small and are comprised of an exterior bowl of twigs with a soft lining of hair and grass. To make sure that these birds will nest and stay put, make sure that your nesting box is well secured to a solid object, and that it has a thick, leafy coverage.

These birds try to produce two sets of offspring each summer, and the baby birds are quite defenseless, both against predators and against the hot, burning power of the sun. To get a family of these birds to settle in, provide them with cover.

Appropriate Habitat For Cardinal Nesting Shelves

If possible, make your DIY nesting shelves out of a durable wire mesh that will last for years, or purchase those with a sturdy frame. Once you have a nesting box secured to a fence and tucked in under vines and other greenery, you’re going to want to ignore it. As noted above, these bards are quite shy. Too much attention and they’ll give up and move, no matter what you offer them for dinner.

Start a brush pile and toss grass clippings and weeds into it. Create a construction wonderland for your favorite red bird. Make sure the greenery is thick. Don’t get too excited about pruning back any vines; you really want the females to build tucked way back into the greenery. If you want to build a camera into the nest placement, consider

  • using a solar camera so you don’t have to worry about wires
  • installing a casing or cover the year before
  • putting up the camera in the coolest part of the spring, before the red birds build their nest

Then just leave it alone.

Best Placement And Mounting For Your Cardinal Nesting Shelf

As noted above, they need a platform to nest and prefer some cover over it. If you have a sturdy tree with a dense leaf canopy, consider mounting a nesting box with a mesh or wire base to the tree and leaving it in place for a year. Put the box close enough to the trunk that it won’t be impacted by strong breezes. If you do notice a pair of these birds checking out your real estate, ignore them and watch from afar. These birds are shy and rather slow to commit.

In addition to setting up your nesting box in a spot with some plant cover, make your yard bird-friendly. Load your Cardinbal bird feeders with their favorite seeds, including safflower seeds and black oil sunflower seeds. Suet and peanut butter will also draw them. These birds don’t migrate, so make sure to feed them all winter so they know your yard will be a great home. Then keep an eye on the nesting boxes during the following spring.

Monitoring The Nesting Shelf

These birds build high enough in the air that they’re unlikely to have to deal with too many predators unless there are feral cats in your area. Put down strong-smelling mulch, such as a thick layer of pine needles, to ward off feral cats. If you have cats that you allow outside, monitor them, and keep their claws trimmed to reduce their climbing abilities. Do not feed feral cats unless you’re planning to trap, spay and/or neuter the animal. Make your yard as unfriendly to feral cats as possible if you plan to attract wild song-birds.

One of the challenges for a nesting pair is the brown-headed cowbird. Cowbirds will parasitize the nest of your red birds by waiting for the female to leave, then removing an egg and laying one of her own. You can reduce this risk by making sure the female doesn’t have to go far to find food and water.

You can look for these birds to start nesting as early as February if you put up your nesting box the previous fall. Make sure that the birds have steady access to food and water. Use a warmer to keep water open in cold regions; again, you want the mother to be able to stay close to her nest, well-fed, and not at risk of being attacked by a cat or having her eggs destroyed by a cow-bird.

If you want to put a camera on the nesting shelf, do it in the fall, or at least put up the housing in the fall and mount the camera in January. Do not fiddle with the nesting shelf come February, or the birds may abandon the nest. Be ready to put up another nesting shelf in another tree, shrub, or against a vine-covered fence each fall.

Best Cardinal Birdhouses FAQs

What kind of birdhouses do Cardinals like?

Cardinals do not like birdhouses. Instead, they like a nesting tray attached to something sturdy that offers a lot of green cover. Try to stay under 15 feet with your nesting shelf, and be ready to put it up the previous year so the birds can get used to it.

How high do you put a Cardinal nesting shelf?

These birds will nest anywhere between 1 and 15 feet. If you have a taller tree, that’s wonderful! Males love to sing from higher branches.

How do I attract Cardinals to my nesting shelf?

Put up the nesting platform and leave it alone. Make your yard a haven for these beautiful birds. Load up your feeders with their favorite safflower seeds, sunflower seeds, and berries. Make sure that your water containers are clean and open, even on cold days.

When should you hang a bird nesting shelf?

The best cardinal birdhouses are not actually birdhouses. They are nesting shelves. And, the ones these bashful birds can trust. Put it up in the fall and leave it alone. Tuck it back into the greenery against something sturdy. Leave old nests; they won’t revisit them, but these birds seem to take comfort and feel safer if old nests are left standing.

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