Can you Eat Cardinals?
Is it even Legal Where You Live?

As a general unwritten rule, almost all birds are edible. However, read on to find out specifically about cardinals whether you can eat them or not.

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David A. Swanson

June 06, 2021

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What’s This Post About?

Having spectacularly beautiful ruby red cardinals in your backyards is undoubtedly a sight to behold, but have you ever gotten curious about what they would taste like if you were to eat them? Well, they’re very much edible, just like any other bird.

The Cardinal is not rare. With that said, any bird could become a rarity if it’s in the wrong habitat, but even the rarest of birds can be found in abundance in selected areas.

The Cardinal has excellent adaptability, sure, but one thing that you should be mindful of is how the laws in your country protect them.

Although it is perfectly okay to consume birds, most countries still have wildlife regulations that prohibit the hunting of birds like cardinals. In the United States, for example, all the wild birds are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act including cardinals.

a cardinal songbird adult male

Where Do You Find Northern Cardinals?

Cardinals do not migrate and are commonly found in regions with warmer climates like the U.S, but in the past few years, they have expanded their common range to colder regions like Canada.

The Northern Cardinal is native to the southeastern region of Canada, the Eastern part of the United States from Maine to Texas, and south through Mexico, Belize, and Guatemala. They’re an introduced species in locations like Hawaii and Bermuda.

They’re primarily prevalent in the central areas of cities. In the east, they are usually found in semi-open environments such as forest margins, suburban gardens, towns, city grounds, parks, and backyards, and everywhere there are thick shrubs for nesting.

a female cardinal

How Can You Attract Cardinals to Your Backyard?

Use feeders designed specifically for cardinals. As cardinals are medium-sized birds, they prefer feeders large enough and substantial enough to enable them to sit, perch, and, most essentially, eat.

The Northern Cardinal is hard to miss, especially with its bright red plumage. Cardinals eat just about anything.

They aren’t picky eaters, which is why it’s easier to attract them to your backyard compared to most other species of birds. They’re the first at the feeders and almost always are the last to leave.

All you need to do is keep your feeders full at all times with the right treats, including seeds, nuts, or even fruit and watch them flock to your backyard slowly.

You should also consider keeping a water source for them since it’s essential for cardinals.

a cardinal in backyard

Are Cardinal Birds Rare?

Did You Know?

Northern cardinals have a remarkable ability to adapt to their surroundings which is one reason they keep growing in number.

Cardinal birds are not rare. Their population trend is predicted to increase over the years, thanks to bird-friendly landscaping and these birds’ outstanding adaptability to their surroundings.

They are naturally shy and elusive; one of many reasons why these birds are growing in number.They are mysterious and quick. They run away fast if they detect anything suspicious in their surroundings.

This is why it is suggested to take proper measures to keep the predators away from these birds if you want them to visit the feeders in your backyard.

Most wild and backyard birds live pretty long lives if not harmed deliberately.

Cardinals enjoy longer lives because they prefer to live at higher elevations, which, when combined with their aversion to people, helps them live longer.

Cardinals are omnivores, making their survival a little easier in an ever-growing concrete jungle that they have started to inhabit; they love to eat seeds, fruits, and insects.

Countless efforts have been made to put bird protection laws in place to stop people from hunting and killing them.

Keep The Predators Away


Keep an eye out for potential predators roaming about your backyard! Cardinals are attacked and devoured by a wide range of predators, including giant birds, mammals, and reptiles.

It’s essential to understand the potential dangers of predators out there that could hunt these birds down. There are so many mammals, birds, and reptiles that eat them for survival.

But how exactly do you keep these ruby-colored birds safe?

The solution is relatively simple; you must consider the placement of your feeders before installing them. Here’s a post you can read on choosing the right kind of bird feeders.

How to Choose the Right Kind of Bird Feeder: Types, Location, Size, etc.

Are you here searching for a suitable bird feeder for your garden? Well, you're at the right place because here we will discuss various bird feeders.

Place the feeders away from dense bushes, high walls, roofs, windows, trees, and anything that would enable the predators to attack these precious birds.

Instead, you can elevate these feeders to place them 10-12 feet high off the ground and away from dense bushes since many predators hide in them.

a cardinal on feeder

This enables the cardinals to keep an eye out for predators hidden in plants and trees. It also creates a safe place that is close enough for birds to take cover quickly if they detect danger.

You can even put protective wire fencing around the feeders so that your precious backyard birds remain safe.

Cardinal birds will be able to go through it and get to the food, but larger predators will not get to the protected birds on the feeder.

Are Cardinal Birds Edible?

The Cardinal, just like any other bird, is edible. Just make sure you’re consuming the ones that aren’t feeding on garbage— lookout for the ones that frequent your backyard and eat sorted seeds. However, this would again depend from one country to another and what the laws state.

Cardinal birds, just like other domesticated birds, can be consumed, but for that to happen, you must consider why you would want to consume such a bird.

Is it simply because you’re curious? Or is it because you want to give it a try at least once in your life?

Whatever your reason may be, you must know that there are no guarantees whether it tastes good or not. Because there’s not much information available on the internet, some say it tastes bland, and others say that these birds make a good stew.

How Exactly Do You Hunt These Birds?

Hunting these birds isn’t a hassle once you obtain a permit since they are backyard birds that live in peoples’ backyards all year round.

But one must keep in mind that hunting birds isn’t easy since most species are protected by laws set in place in various countries.

In the United States, it is prohibited to hunt most bird species under the migratory bird treaty act. Only a few birds are not legally protected, and the Cardinal isn’t one of them.

If you wish to continue hunting unprotected birds on your land, you must get a permit or a license from your local conservation officer.

After you obtain your permit, you can legally hunt them. The Cardinal is a shy backyard bird, and these flashy birds are not that difficult to attract.

All you need to do is, install a few birdfeeders with seeds in them and watch them swarm your backyard.

a cardinal perched

How Can You Legally Hunt Cardinals?

  1. Be a registered hunter in the state where you intend to hunt.
  2. If necessary, have a permit for the exact species you plan on hunting, for example, cardinals.
  3. The best thing to do is hunt on grounds where you are authorized to hunt, like your backyard or maybe a hunting ground. Hunting on public land may require an extra permit which isn’t worth the trouble since cardinals mostly show up in all backyards.

Consequently, as long as you follow all of the prevailing legal requirements, you can lawfully hunt in the United States.

Learning what, when, and where you can hunt is crucial for receiving your hunting license.

a legal permit

What Weapons Can You Use to Hunt Cardinals?

Once you have your stamp of approval or have obtained a permit from your conservational officer, you must be wondering what weapon exactly must you use to hunt these birds.

Well, you might also ask this question from the officer who gave you the permit.

Although there aren’t many options to choose from when hunting a small bird-like Cardinal, you can still pick one from whatever limited options you have at hand, such as a pellet gun or an air gun.

BB guns are another alternative; however, various states have different regulations controlling the use of BB guns; yet, when used against birds, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act still applies.

However, shooting birds with a BB gun is not unlawful as long as you are shooting at birds not protected by law.

It is typically suggested not to use BB guns when hunting since they do not make a clean, humane kill.

Keep Reading!

To sum it all up, if you want to find out whether cardinals are legal for you to consume, just visit your local conservational officer and ask them if hunting and consuming cardinals are okay.

If they tell you that it is lawful to eat cardinals, then there shouldn’t be much trouble but if you’re notified otherwise, then make sure you ask them to let you in on what procedures you must follow to obtain a permit that allows you to hunt and consume cardinals.

Read more about the cardinals here to find out whether they are rare or not across different states within the United States.

Are Cardinals Rare? Here Is a State-By-State Comparison

The famous, ‘Winter Red Bird’ may not be as rare as you may think! Read on to find out in which states can you spot cardinals.

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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