Do Cardinals Migrate? You Won’t Believe It
but It’s True!

Interested to learn more about cardinals and their migration plans? Read the post below for some interesting facts and information.

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David A. Swanson

May 30, 2021

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What’s This Post About?

Cardinals, also known as the red birds, are long-tailed songbirds often found in backyards, shrubby forests, and woodlots. They are attractive creatures with bright red coloring and are on a constant hunt for places to nest in.

If you are interested and eager to observe cardinals in your backyard, you may install cardinal feeders and place sunflower seeds around for them to visit. To learn more about cardinals and the fact of whether they migrate or not, keep reading.

Cardinals do not migrate. They stay in the same area and place throughout the year, even during winters. They seek shelter in the winter months in the existing shrubs and thick trees. These non-migratory birds prefer to live near areas they are born in, where a good supply of food is available.

a cardinal male red bird

What Are Northern Cardinals?

Some basic insiders on the structure of Northern cardinals.


Common Name Cardinals
Common Color Red
Scientific Name Cardinalis cardinalis
Diet Omnivore
Weight 1.5-1.8 ounces
Size 8-9 inches
Average Lifespan 15 years

How Do Non-Migratory Birds Survive?

Most birds migrate, but those that don’t need to take certain measures to survive to stay back. Read ahead to find out about those measures.

male red cardinal

Non-migratory birds like cardinals need to adapt to the different seasons to survive. Since they do not migrate, they stay in the same area all year round which is why they need to change their actions and consumptions accordingly.

What can they do instead of migrating?

  • Change food consumed
  • Cache food
  • Molt

Read on to learn more about this in detail.

1. Change Food Consumed

Since northern cardinals do not migrate to areas where rich sources of food are available, they must adapt to the food available in their vicinity in different seasons.

They may consume insects, seeds, and berries throughout summer and spring, but as the season changes, they may have to survive on other food sources like fruits and nuts in winters and fall.

2. Cache Food

Seasonal changes may require cardinals to cache food for the future when food availability might be uncertain.

Non-migratory birds may cache food in the late autumn or summer and hide them in secure and protected areas. The cached food can then be utilized at a later date, preferably in winters when nuts and seeds are not widely available.

3. Molt

Cardinals and other birds that do not migrate, usually molt in the late summers. Molting is when the bird develops an extra layer of feathers that insulates the bird’s body and helps them keep themselves warm during the winter season.

This extra layer of feathers protects the cardinals from extreme cold. They may molt again in the spring season where they shed all the excess feather, preparing them for the warm summer season.

Interesting Fact

Some cardinals may suffer from bird baldness where their heads shed off all the feathers due to an unusual molting period.

northern cardinal redbird

How To Attract Cardinals to Your Backyard?

If birdwatching fascinates you, then read below to attract these pretty creatures to your backyard.

red northern cardinal bird resting on snowy fir branch

Cardinals are attractive birds that can add to the beauty of your backyard. Since cardinals do not migrate, they look to nest in areas that provide them with an ample supply of food, clean water, and a safe shelter.

Here are five useful tips and tricks that can help you attract cardinals to your backyard:

1. Use the Right Variety of Seeds

Seeds for birds are what candy is for a child! Nuts, seeds, and fruits are what attract cardinals the most. They have a strong beak that enables them to husk on their favorite seeds.

Cardinals are most attracted by sunflower and safflower seeds. Black-oil sunflower, also available on Amazon, can attract these pretty creatures to your yard.

Kaytee Wild Bird Food Black Oil Sunflower

Oil sunflower is the most popular food source for seed eating birds. The high oil content provides birds their necessary year round energy

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Apart from seeds, cardinals also like to munch on nuts and fruits with a hard husk. In this case, shelled peanuts and corns can also serve as a treat to them.


Place a mixture of sunflower and safflower seeds in your cardinal feeder. This mixture is a favorite meal of the cardinals.

2. Cardinal Specific Feeders

There are different kinds of feeders available, according to individual requirements. If you talk about cardinals, then there are feeders available that are specifically created to attract cardinal species.

If you place a random feeder in your yard, it may fail to attract these birds. Why is that? Because cardinals have their preferences. They choose feeders that are sturdy and spacious for them to sit, perch, and eat facing forward. For this purpose, you can purchase the Buster Cardinal Feeder.

Buster Cardinal Feeder

The Buster Cardinal Feeder comes with a free cardinal ring to attract Northern Cardinals

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To select the best cardinal feeder, you can set out two or three different kinds of feeders to see which type attracts the cardinals more.

3. Clean Water Source

Cardinals not only need food to survive, but they also require a good source of water. A reliable water source is extremely important to all kinds of birds. They need to stay hydrated throughout the year.

They need water, not just to drink, but to bathe too. The water provided should be clean so that it is free of any algae and should be available in a deep dish. The deep-dish will help the bulky birds to bathe in.


Adding a dripper to the birdbath is a great way to attract the cardinal’s attention.

4. Providing A Shelter or A Safe Nesting Place

Cardinals like many other small birds enjoy an area rich with shrubs and trees. Planting trees and bushes with different heights will create a safe environment for the cardinals.

A dense green coverage in your backyard, especially during the winter season will create a sense of security and privacy for the birds to perch and nest in.

Not only shelter, but if you are looking for cardinals to be permanent residents in your backyard then you can also provide them with nesting materials. These materials will help them build a place for themselves to live in for the rest of the year.


Light-weighted materials such as strings, fur, broken hair strands, and hay can be hung near feeders so the birds can create a nest out of them for themselves to live in.

5. Place the Feeder at The Right Location

Placement of feeders is one of the most important steps when you decide to hang a feeder to attract birds in your backyard. Cardinals are shy birds; they prefer feeders that provide a protective cover to them.

This is why cardinal feeders should be placed in places that have dense trees and shrubs. If the cardinals’ figure that these places are safe to perch on, they will visit your backyard.


Place a plate or tray below the feeders to provide cardinals the opportunity to feed on the ground. This gives medium-sized cardinals a safe and open space to feed.

cardinal perched on feeder

Keep Reading!

This post consists of all the necessary information that you need to know about cardinals and their migration habits. Some basic tips to attract cardinals to your backyards are also mentioned, along with interesting facts that you may have never heard before.

Not migrating may benefit the cardinals by giving them extra energy to defend their territories or raise their babies. If they can adapt to their existing area even during the migration season, they may live up to 15 years.

Cardinals are beautiful bright red birds that can attract you from a distance. If you are interested to know about other red birds, you can read my post on birds with redheads.

13 Astounding Birds with Red Heads With Pictures! (Backyard Friendly)

Wondering what type of red-headed bird just fluttered by you in your backyard? It’s not as easy to figure out as you’d think. There are quite a few!

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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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