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What Kind of Bird Seed Do Cardinals Like

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what kind of bird seed do cardinals like
Cardinals are non-migratory birds native to mostly the eastern half of the United States, extending as far north as Maine. They can also be found in southern Canada and Central America. If you live in these areas, you have the hope of attracting cardinals to your yard with a feeder. But how do you attract cardinals to your yard with a feeder? What kind of bird seed do cardinals like? The short answer is that they like large seeds like sunflower seeds, cracked corn, safflower seeds, or crushed peanuts.

Let’s examine more closely why cardinals like larger seeds. Let us also see whether they will eat smaller seeds. And lastly, I will also give a few pointers on attracting cardinals to your bird feeder.


What Kind of Bird Seed Do Cardinals Like? LARGE SEEDS

Cardinals will eat most kinds of bird seed in a feeder. After all, who will say no to free food? However, cardinals will prefer larger seeds. The primary examples of larger seeds are sunflower seeds, safflower seeds, roasted and unsalted peanuts, corn, white milo, nut heart, or pumpkin seeds. In the winter, a lot of cardinals will prefer chunks of suet to tiny seeds. Aside from the nuts and seeds listed above, cardinals will never say no to berries.

Cardinals like large and hearty seeds for their meals. Provide those kinds of bird seeds, and you will see an increase in cardinal traffic into your yard.

Why Do Cardinals Like Larger Bird Seed?

safflower seeds for cardinals
safflower seeds

Cardinals have a preference for larger bird seeds over tiny seeds due to the size of their beaks and their overall size. A fully grown cardinal weighs 43 grams. Among songbirds, the cardinal is pretty large.

But the primary reason why cardinals prefer bigger bird seeds is that they have large and strong beaks. Aside from their fiery red color, the large, thick, and cone-shaped beak of a cardinal is easily recognizable. Their strong beaks are built for crushing seeds.

Will Cardinals Still Eat Small Seeds?

The thing about birds is that they will eat the best food they can find. If cardinals can’t find any other viable food source, they will settle with eating tiny seeds from a feeder. However, once they find a better food source, they will relocate there.

I Put Out Large Seeds, But No Cardinals Appear – Why?

best seed mixes for attracting cardinals

Putting out large seeds does not ensure cardinal presence, however. There are a few possible reasons why cardinals will not show up in your yard to eat the hearty meals you have preferred for them.

A potential reason is that they just don’t exist in your area. As I have already mentioned above, cardinals are non-migratory birds. If cardinals are not native in your area, the chances of them going to your yard are potentially zero. They have no reason to venture out to your yard. Unless a neighbor has a cardinal for a pet, you won’t likely ever see one.

Another possible reason why cardinals do not go to your yard is that you have the wrong kind of feeder. Getting the food right is one thing. But cardinals prefer large and sturdy feeders over hanging feeders. As I already explained, they are one of the larger songbirds. A hanging feeder will swing around as cardinals peck their way around it to get some chow. Also, because of their size, cardinals need plenty of room to move around the feeder.

Additionally, cardinals naturally stay near the ground when feeding. Occasionally, drop a few seeds on the floor for cardinals to enjoy. Make sure to put the feeder within 5 feet off the ground. The only downside to this is that squirrels or chipmunks can also make their way to the feeders.

The Best Seed Mixes for Attracting Cardinals

seed mixes for cardinals

Now you know the best kinds of seeds that cardinals will eat. And you are also aware of the types of feeders that will enhance the chances of cardinals visiting your yard. But what is the best mix of seeds that will make cardinals a regular sight in your yard?

In my experience, cardinals prefer a wide variety of large seeds rather than just one type of bird seed. And of all the big seeds, black oil sunflower seeds are the best option because they are a favorite among many birds. Other than that, cardinals also enjoy chomping on white, striped sunflower seeds. For more value, mix those sunflower seeds with safflower seeds.

Now, a lot of people with bird feeders prefer getting hulled seeds. These seeds don’t have shells, therefore eliminating the need to clean the feeders.

However, because cardinals need to use their strong beaks, I recommend getting seeds with their shells intact. Large seeds with shells give cardinals the best opportunities to use their beaks.

If you want to provide more value to your feeder for cardinals, throw in some of their other favorite foods. Peanuts, berries, cracked corn, white milo, and pumpkin seeds will get more cardinals to munch around your feeder. In the winter, chunks of suet are the ideal option.


Here’s a summary of everything we’ve discussed. What kind of bird seed do cardinals like? Cardinals prefer large seeds over tiny seeds. They like sunflower seeds, safflower seeds, peanuts, corn, white milo, pumpkin seeds, berries, and suet. Serving a wide variety of their favorite foods will attract more cardinals to your area. And once they see you serve hearty meals consistently, they will make a permanent home near your yard. Giving cardinals what they want will provide you with the most time to enjoy seeing them frolic around your yard.

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