What could be more amazing than watching wild birds, particularly northern cardinals, build their nests, lay eggs, hatch babies, and raise their young in your backyard? But, cardinals usually build their nests in secluded areas, like dense foliage and thick shrubs, to protect them from potential predators and other aggressive birds.
Now, the question is, do cardinals use birdhouses? The answer is no. Cardinals don’t use birdhouses and even any man-made enclosed structures to nest in, though they prefer densely protected vegetation in trees, bushes, and shrubs. Basically, cardinals don’t feel safe and comfortable making nests in birdhouses.
This post is a supplement to our recently published article on where cardinals make nests. Once you finish reading here, we suggest you take a look at that article to know about cardinals’ common nesting spots in woodlands and backyards.
Why Don’t Cardinals Like Birdhouses?
There are many reasons why cardinals don’t like to nest in birdhouses. Some of them are as follows:
#1. Birdhouses Are Too Enclosed
Northern cardinals are open nesters, making cup-shape nests with a lot of items, like grass, bark, hair, fur, twigs, etc. These red birds prefer open branches of trees, shrubs, and bushes covered with densely protected vegetation. Making nests in enclosed birdhouses is against cardinals’ natural nesting habit.
#2. Birdhouses Usually Have Much Narrower Entrance for Cardinals
Typically, most birdhouses are designed with a much narrower entrance that only allows small songbirds, like sparrows, finches, juncos, towhees, nuthatches, chickadees, etc. This is one of the reasons why cardinals don’t like birdhouses.
#3. Birdhouses Won’t Make Cardinals Able to See Predators’ Approach
Cardinals are always aware of potential predators. They need to be prepared to avoid predators’ attacks. If cardinals use enclosed birdhouses, they won’t see predators’ approaches and can’t go anywhere to protect their families.
#4. Birdhouses Feature Only One Exit
Typically, most birdhouses have only one way to go in and out. It’s not ideal for cardinals to protect themselves from predators, like squirrels, raccoons, cats, and even snakes. This could be another reason why these red birds don’t prefer birdhouses.
#5. Birdhouses Are Not Typically Placed in Ideal Locations for Cardinals
As birdwatchers, we want birdhouses to be right outside our windows to observe cardinals’ activities, like building nests, laying eggs, and hatching babies. But, the fact is cardinals may not feel comfortable making nests in birdhouses placed in inappropriate locations.
Why Are Cardinals Found in Birdhouses?
It’s now obvious that cardinals don’t care for enclosed birdhouses. However, why are they sometimes found in birdhouses? They’re actually nesting shelves, three-sided enclosures (two-sided in some cases) without any roof.
The nesting shelves allow cardinals to nest on sturdy foundations without feeling enclosed. Since the nesting shelves are usually open on one or two sides, they enable cardinals to keep an eye on predators’ approaches.
Which Nesting Shelves Can Attract Cardinals?
Cardinals will probably be willing to nest in nesting shelves, which are open on 2 or 3 sides. If cardinals get the shelves clean all the time, they might be nesting there again and again (in the same season, the next year, and even year after year).
As birdwatchers, you want cardinals to nest in your backyard. For that, you need to offer them attractive nesting shelves. Various nesting shelves are available at your nearby pet stores or online. Here are a couple of options for you from Amazon.
- Uncle Dunkels Premium Cardinal Nesting Shelve (check the latest price)
- Cedarnest Cardinal Nesting Shelves (see more)
01. Uncle Dunkels Premium Cardinal Nesting Shelve
- Solid Pine Lumber Construction
- Handmade in the USA
- 3-Sided Open Design
- Ethnically Sourced Front Tree Bark
- Rust-Proof Nails and Screws
The Uncle Dunkels Nesting Shelve is made of solid pine lumber. It’s assembled with waterproof glue and rust-proof screws. Basically, this nesting box is made by hand one at a time, ensuring the highest quality, excellent design, and experienced craftsmanship.
Besides, the cardinal nesting box is manufactured according to the specifications of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. This unit comes with the right dimensions to let cardinals make nests. Not only cardinals, but robins, doves, and swallows can also make nests there.
The manufacturer states that the front tree bark has been legally sourced from waste forest products of the United States. To attract cardinals, you need to place the nesting box under sheltered places, like arbors, porches, soffits, eaves, and gazebos.
#Flaws But Not Deal-Breakers
- The price is a little high
- The hangers could have been better
02. Cedarnest Cardinal Nesting Shelves
- Seasoned Western Red Cedar
- Well-Constructed and Sturdy
- Handmade in the USA
- Right Dimensions for Cardinals
- Suitable for Other Large Songbirds
The Cedarnest Nesting Shelves are manufactured with seasoned, weather-proof, western red cedar. The nesting boxes come with rough-sawn cedar, which is handmade in the USA and ensures excellent quality and a natural design.
The nesting shelves feature rough surfaces that help cardinals hold the shelves with their sharp claws. Not only cardinals, but other large songbirds, like robins, doves, and blue jays can make nests in this nesting box.
Besides, the nesting boxes come already assembled with nails (the nails don’t seem to be rust-proof). The dimensions of the nesting boxes are 7 × 8 × 12 inches, which will allow cardinals to make 5.75 × 5 inches nests.
#Flaws But Not Deal-Breakers
- Open in only one side
- The nails don’t seem to be rust-proof
How Can You Help Cardinals Use Nesting Shelves in Your Backyard?
- Since cardinals usually make more than one nest to let the predators know there are many cardinal families out there, you should place multiple nesting shelves in your backyard.
- Install the nesting shelves at least 6 feet high off the ground so that predators, like raccoons and house cats, cannot reach there.
- Place the nesting shelves in a shady location, like thick shrubs or dense foliage to keep them safe and secure.
- Don’t disturb cardinal families when they’re on the nesting shelves. Just see them from afar, if possible, from your window.
- Once the offspring have left the nesting shelves, thoroughly clean the shelves to attract cardinals to nest there again and again.
After all, it’s obvious that cardinals don’t use birdhouses because of their enclosed structures. However, they use 2 or 3-sided open nesting shelves to keep an eye on potential predators and other aggressive birds.
Anyway, if you really want to help cardinals build their nests, set a nesting platform for them in your backyard. Your yard should be available with enough grass, bark, hair, fur, and twigs so that cardinals can easily get essential nesting materials.