Would Cardinals Make Great Pets? What you need to know!

Cardinals, also known as Virginia Nightingales or Northern Cardinals, are popular birds known for their red color and cheerful melody. One of the most recognizable birds in North America, it is the state bird of seven US states—Illinois, Indiana, Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, North Carolina, and West Virginia.

Once pet birds were prized for their amazing colors, it is now illegal to own, harm, or kill any of these birds in the United States. Northern cardinals are now protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, which also prohibits the sale of cardinals as caged birds. In addition, they are also legally protected in Canada under the Convention for the Protection of Migratory Birds.

If you’re a bird lover looking for a suitable pet to keep, the cardinal may not be the best choice if your state’s laws prohibit it.

While you can’t keep cardinals in a cage, there are ways to attract them to your yard and keep them as outdoor pets. This article will cover how to do that and what you’ll need to attract these attractive birds.


Original Name


Cardinals hail from North America. Apart from being the state bird in some states, this bird is often used as a mascot for sports teams and schools.

Its bright red color and range influenced the name Cardinal North. This bird is stuck with the term Northern because it is the northernmost cardinal species. It is one of 19 subspecies of the Northern Cardinal, which can be distinguished by its coloration.

Religion also contributed to the naming of these birds. The origin of the name dates back to when European settlers occupied the US.

The cardinal’s red fur bears a resemblance to the red robes of a Catholic cardinal. In addition, the coat of arms bears a resemblance to the headgear worn by prominent Catholic officials.



Globally, the cardinal population is estimated at 120 million, with most of them living in the eastern part of the United States. They are also found in large numbers in areas such as Mexico and Southern Canada. Due to human intervention, these birds have been introduced to Hawaii and Bermuda as well.

Due to the urbanization of the area, the cardinals stay in their birthplace as they can find food even during winter. Cardinals make use of bird feeders; therefore, you are more likely to attract one to your page by installing that feeder.

READ ALSO:   Poogle (Poodle & Beagle Mix)

Their natural habitat is in thickets, forests, gardens, and wetlands.

How to Attract Cardinal North to Your Page

Since keeping and having cardinals as pets is prohibited in most countries, you’ll need to find creative ways to attract these vibrant red birds to your yard. Cardinals are easy to attract if you have a safe and ideal habitat where they can access plenty of food, water, and shelter. You will need to install bird feeders, bird baths, and nesting and shelter areas.

Here are some tips on how you can do this.

bird feeder

cardinal at bird feeder_Piqsels

Cardinals will be the first to visit the feeders in the morning and the last to leave at night. Therefore, when choosing a feeder, make sure the bird will have a solid place to perch.

Because they are large creatures, small feeders and tube feeders would not be ideal. They are heavier than most birds; therefore, they go to places with a secure footing.

When setting up your feeder, place it about 5-6 feet above the ground and near trees or shrubs. You can also leave food under the feeder as cardinals are also ground feeders.

To keep the birds coming, make sure you refill the feeder on time and avoid it being empty for too long; otherwise, these creatures will look for food elsewhere. Also, hang your bird feeder in a convenient place where it is easy to reach and refill.

Diet and Nutrition

Striped sunflower seeds_Csaba Nagy, Pixabay

Cardinals are omnivores. A typical diet consists mainly of whole grains, seeds, and fruits. Adults eat mostly seeds while chicks are fed insects and insects. Generally, these birds are not picky eaters; Therefore, you can serve various foods from this group to them.

To attract them to your yard, you can offer sunflower seeds, safflower seeds, or peanuts. If you fill your feeders with these foods all year round, you will have a cardinal longer.

You can also diversify your snacks and include mealworms, apple slices, fresh berries, and grapefruit. Cardinals like to snack on fruits.

READ ALSO:   11 Most Popular Cat Breeds

As a supplement, you can plant some berry-producing trees that will attract cardinals to perch and eat their fruit.

  • See also: What Do Baby Birds Eat? Feeding Tips & Dietary Needs

Bird nest

cardinal's lair_Michaela Wenzler_Pixabay

The cardinal is shy and introverted; Therefore, they will look for areas with dense growth to build their nests. If you want to attract these birds into your home with their bright colors and melodious singing, you must make your yard conducive to living in.

During winter, these birds will tend to stay in one area. This is a great time to provide shelter for these creatures and attract them to your yard.

Providing Nesting Material

female cardinal_GeorgeB2_Pixabay

Cardinals do not use bird cages for nesting. The female bird builds a nest; therefore, you can provide the necessary materials to keep them close at hand.

You can put a few strands of yarn, dog hair, twine, or other light material. You can place these ingredients in an empty suet feeder.

Plant a Fir Tree

To attract cardinals to your yard, consider planting trees with heavy shade and dense greenery. Birds will come to this protected area to nest.

Providing Clean Water

cardinal at the bird bath_GeorgeB2_Pixabay

Bird baths are essential for bathing and drinking. These creatures love water; Therefore, having a birdbath in your yard is a surefire way to keep them coming.

Due to its size, it is preferable to have a birdbath 2 to 3 inches deep. To make it more comfortable, you can also add a small stick or two to your birdbath to step on.

You will also need to change the water several times each week. If they can’t get water in your home, the cardinals will go to fetch water from a local pond, stream, or river.


5 Facts You Should Know About Cardinals

This amazing bird has unique characteristics. Let’s look at some of them.

1. Red Cardinal is Male

cardinal in the tree_Piqsels

Both males and females have recognizable orange beaks, black masks, and distinctive crests. However, there is a clear difference with color.

While males have red fur from head to paws, females have tan and pink hues. Therefore, if a cardinal was really red, it was probably a boy.

2. Some Cardinals are Yellow

cardinals_Tuprae Doe_Pixabay

On rare occasions, red cardinals can produce yellow offspring. This yellow plumage is caused by a genetic variation known as xanthochromism. Despite those differences, these creatures share the same characteristics as their red counterparts.

READ ALSO:   Why Is My Horse Rolling Over? Here's the Answer!

3. Females Build Nests

cardinals_Steve Wilkins_Pixabay

Female cardinals usually build nests. They place them in dense areas, up to fifteen feet off the ground. They take about ten days to build a nest. During this process, men help by providing building materials which include twigs, leaves, and other plant fibers.

4. They Are Very Vocal

perching cardinal_GeorgeB2_Pixabay

Cardinals are loved for their sweet tweets. Both female and male birds are quite vocal.

The male makes a whistling sound from the treetops, while the female prefers to sing in seclusion. Cardinals sing during courtship to defend their territory, warn other birds of predators, or alert their mates that they are bringing food.

5. Cardinals Don’t Migrate

cardinals_Miles Moody_Pixabay

Unlike other songbirds, cardinals do not migrate, even during winter. The most they could do was fly a mile away from their home. Since their diet consists of whole grains and legumes, they can access food all year round.bird-divider


Cardinals make great backyard birds. As a wild species, they are protected by state laws in the US and Canada from captivity.

Therefore, if you are considering keeping them as pets, you can only find a way to attract them to your backyard by providing them with a few basic necessities. You can attract them by providing sturdy feeders, food, and a place to nest.

These stunning birds love their privacy and go to places with dense greenery and shade to build their nests. Once these birds have a steady supply of food, water, and shelter in your yard, they will keep coming back, and you will have your pets outdoors.

Featured Image Credit: GeorgeB2, Pixabay