Are Cardinals Territorial?
There's A Good Reason Why

Are you trying to find out if cardinals are territorial or not? Keep reading to find out the truth about them.

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David A. Swanson

May 30, 2021

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What’s This Post About?

It might be surprising for a lot of people who are avid bird lovers, especially cardinals to know that these lovable and gorgeous-looking birds are human-friendly. The animated character of cardinals is pretty much misinterpreted as Angry Birds.

However, these red-colored birds are nonaggressive despite their angry outlook. Not only are these birds pretty but they are also famous for their decent tunes which can be heard from both males and female cardinals.

Yes. In particular situations, male cardinals are territorial. Cardinals become territorial in their breeding or nesting season to protect their future offspring and mates from predators. The main purpose is to protect their nests from other male cardinals during the nesting and breeding periods.

a male cardinal

Why are Cardinals Territorial?

Cardinals get territorial for a very short span which lasts only a few months between April to September; however, their reason to become territorial is quite justifiable.

These attractive-looking birds become territorial and extremely vigilant in these months to make their breeding season safe and healthy throughout.

For these months, the male cardinal tends to make aggressive advancements to show that it can fight off any other male cardinal or predator that tries to approach its territory.

The male cardinal makes sure that no one disturbs the paired female cardinal while she makes the perfect nest for their broods.

## Are Cardinals Aggressive?

Cardinals are extremely non-aggressive throughout the year except for when their nesting period begins. They are very nice and sociable once their mating and breeding stage passes away.

However, once they mate and start to become parents, their aggressive side comes out to protect their territory from predators and other male cardinals.

Hence, if you’re planning to put a bird feeder for these beautiful birds to have a good meal throughout their mating period, then you might also witness how rude and aggressive they can become for this short period while raising their hatchlings.

It would also be suitable if you didn’t go near their nests, in case they have made a nest nearby.

What is the Basic Description of Northern Cardinals?

Cardinals are one of the most attractive birds. They are a treat to look at for everyone regardless of whether they are bird lovers or not. The style and the elegance of this bird are extraordinary. The beautiful red shade can make it difficult for you to take your eyes off them.

a male cardinal on wire

The female cardinal which is brown also has reddish accents and sharp crests. In females, the red color is only found on head wings and tail.

These birds are not very big and they only measure eight and a half inches. Unlike most birds, cardinals do not migrate every season. Hence, you can find them round the year regardless of whether it’s summers or winters.

They can look extremely attractive in your snowy winter backyard. However, in summers, their soothing tune can be the perfect morning gift to wake up to.

Interesting Fact

Female cardinals sing more often than any other songbird. They sing to give the message to their male counterparts to bring food and supplies to the nest because these mated pairs communicate through song phrases.

What are their Mating Habits?

a northern cardinal bird

If you have a bird feeder then you might notice one of their mating habits called mate feeding. You might be able to see that the male bird will pick seeds from the bird feeder and supply it to the female sitting in the nest.

The female spouse will take the seed with both of them exchanging it through their beaks. This phenomenon continues throughout the nesting and breeding period.

This behavior can also be observed in many backyard birds where the male bird will offer food to the female counterpart while incubating eggs.

This feeding of the male birds can be a part of the pair-bonding process that these birds go through. Through this process, the female birds find out how good the male bird is at supplying food.


If you live near the cardinal's nesting area then you must cover your windows with some colored sheets. The aggressive hormones of cardinals increase during the breeding season which causes them to attack at their reflection in the windows.

Do Cardinals Live with the Same Mate Throughout Their Lives?

Cardinals are loyal to their partners and they do remain together until one of them dies. These birds can be found together throughout the year however their bond might get relaxed in winters.

After winters, they do get together again in the mating season as a pair. In certain cases where one of the cardinals dies within a pair, the surviving bird will look forward to a new mate before another mating season.

What are their Nesting Habits?

Cardinals might not be the largest birds in the world however, they can be aggressive when they have to protect their territory through their nesting period.

The breeding season can start from March to last until late September. In this period, the female cardinal will be nesting with about 2-5 eggs. The color of these eggs will be a buff white color having a few dark marks on it.

Both partners in the pair will work for the nesting season as the female will build the nest and the male will keep a check on the surroundings.

a female cardinal in nest

The male partner will make sure that there are no predators and other intruding males in their territory. However, once the nest is built, the female will be the only partner that will incubate these eggs.

The egg-laying period can start after 1-8 days once the next is completed. These females will start incubating their eggs once they lay the last egg.

Quick Fact

The oldest cardinal to have ever lived was a female cardinal and her age at that time was 15 years 9 months. It was found somewhere in Pennsylvania.

Do Cardinals Use Birdhouses?

No. Cardinals refrain from using birdhouses; however, they can be found on various abandoned bird feeders that might be giving off a good cover to them. One of their most favorite nesting locations is small tree branches.

However, they also like dense and shrubbery locations to build their nest that too 1 to 15 feet above the ground to protect from on-ground predators.

Instead of using birdhouses, cardinals make their nest from paper, grass, hair, twigs, and bark strips. They also use vine leaves, rootlets, and other materials to make their nest more dense and durable to last until the period is over.


You can feed cardinals in your backyard if you happen to live near their preferred region by putting more sunflower seeds in your bird feeder. You may also attract them if you leave your backyard with undergrowth.

a cardinal on a twig

How Long Do Females Incubate Their Eggs?

The female cardinal will incubate eggs for about 12 to 13 days however it can last up to half a month. This incubation period can be the most dangerous for their eggs as when the female partner leaves the nest, the eggs are at stake.

Since the duty of male partners is to feed the female and protect the territory, they keep on feeding the female.

So, when the male partner gives a call to the female for feeding, the female will leave the nest with eggs behind and that is the most crucial time for these eggs.

Once the eggs have hatched, both of the partners start to feed these babies. However, these young birds can leave the nest in about 10 days after hatching.

northern cardinal brood

Do They Reuse the Same Nest for the Next Time?

Cardinals make new nests for every brood and they refrain from using the same nest repetitively. In one season, cardinals attempt to raise about two broods but with different nests without using the same one.

After raising one brood, the cardinal pair will make another nest going through the same procedure where the female will collect all the material and the male will guard her throughout.

Once the first brood leaves the nest, the male keeps on feeding them for about two weeks and the female will start making the new nest. Meanwhile, the male gets back on his job of guarding the female as well.

What are the Predators of the Cardinal?

a cardinal predator

Just like most birds, their most common threat on the ground is cats and dogs. However, grey squirrels, loggerhead shrike, and Cooper’s Hawk are some of the known predators of cardinals.

These animals are the predator of adult cardinals, however, there are different predators near the nest and eggs which include snakes, raccoons, blue jays, opossums, squirrels, and Eastern Chipmunks.

Keep Reading!

Cardinals indeed are one of the most interesting birds with a very attractive and eye-catching appearance. However many people who want to keep hearing their attractive tunes most often search if they are territorial or not.

Cardinals can be very territorial throughout their nesting period, however, unlike common territorial birds, they do not remain such throughout the year. They will only adopt this behavior during the breeding period.

Hence, it justifies how the famous northern cardinals are territorial to protect their broods and females from intruders. I hope, this blog helped you in learning why cardinals are territorial and if you wish to learn more about bird watching, read our blog.

How to Start Bird Watching? A Fantastic Guide for An Enthralling Experience!

Is the trend of birdwatching catching onto you? Are you looking to amplify your birdwatching experience? Don’t miss out on reading this fantastic guide.

David A. Swanson Picture

By David A. Swanson

Bird Watching USA

My name is David and I'm the the founder of Bird Watching USA! I started Bird Watching with My father-in-law many years ago, and I've become an addict to watching these beautiful creatures. I've learnt so much over about bird watching over the years that I want to share with the world everything I know about them!

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David A. Swanson Picture

David A. Swanson

Bird Watching USA

My name is David and I'm the the founder of Bird Watching USA! I started Bird Watching with My father-in-law many years ago, and I've become an addict to watching these beautiful creatures. I've learnt so much over about bird watching over the years that I want to share with the world everything I know about them!



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