By STEVE WHITE
The cardinal is relatively new to this area of New England. Prior to the popularity of backyard bird feeding, the northern most boundary of this brilliant red bird was the Connecticut and Rhode Island regions.
As more homeowners enjoyed this hobby of feeding wild birds in the last two decades, attracting the cardinal has almost become an obsession. The chase was on. Just how do you keep this majestic bird in your area year round?
Attracting cardinals to your backyard is not a difficult task if you have the right habitat to start with. Unfortunately, most backyards have eliminated the environment necessary for maintaining nesting cardinals.
Cardinals are basically ground birds. They enjoy the comfort and safety that natural cover provides. Brambles, briar patches, and thickets are standard cardinal territory. You may witness cardinals singing from the tallest branches of trees, but for nesting purposes, this species prefers the lower levels of your area.
Many people choose not to have these natural plantings in their backyard and may have a difficult, if not impossible, task of attracting northern cardinals. Nesting birds are feeding birds. The cardinal is very aggressive in defending its territory from other birds. They are extremely loyal as well. It’s one of the few species of wild birds that allow the offspring to stay for the first year after hatching. It is not uncommon to witness large flocks of cardinals during the winter months as they forage for food
Large, airy bushes, like the rhododendrons, serve well as cardinal habitat. You can create your own cardinal friendly environment using a simple brush pile. Choose a suitable area at the edge of your property and commence the process of gathering large tree branches that have fallen to the ground in neighboring woods. Place these loose branches on top of one another until you have a rudimentary brush pile approximately 6 feet wide at the bottom and 4-5 feet tall. Do not compress this new site and leave plenty of airy, open areas for the cardinals to fly into. Viola, instant cardinal habitat!
Cardinals prefer bird feeders that imitate their natural feeding area, the ground. These birds are not clingers, like chickadees or finches. Perches are very difficult for large birds to use for feeding purposes. Traditional style tube feeders are not cardinal friendly. Consider adding a tray on the bottom so that cardinals will feel comfortable during feeding.
Properly designed hoppers can be the most optimized solution to attract feeding cardinals to your yard. Open tray feeders are another solution. Sunflower and safflower seeds are the two favorite ingredients in the eastern region of the United States for attracting northern cardinals. Of course, water is also a key element to serve in order to maintain your population of cardinal families.
Enjoy your birds!!
Wild Bird Depot is located on Rt 11 in Gilford, NH. Steve White is a contributing author in major publications, a guest lecturer at major conventions in Atlanta and St. Louis as well as the host of WEZS 1350AM radio show “Bird Calls” with Lakes Region Newsday @ 8:30AM. Wild Bird Depot has donated over $5,000 to local rehabilitators and local nature centers since 1996. Be sure to check out our website www.wildbirddepot.com. Like us on Facebook for great contests and prizes.