When someone tells you the red bird, the first bird that comes to your mind is the northern cardinal. These medium-sized, stout birds have bright red plumage, a sharp red crest on their heads, a large, long tail, and a short bill.
Now, the question is, where do cardinals build their nests? Cardinals, in general, nest in woodlands and backyards of the eastern and southern United States. They prefer thickly covered foliage, shrub thickets, and small trees, like clematis, dogwood, grapevine plantings, and hawthorn. Cardinals can nest in nesting boxes if they’re open.
This article is a supplement to our previously published article on attracting northern cardinals to backyards. We recommend you take a look at that article to learn pro tips about inviting these red birds in your home garden.
Cardinals’ Common Nesting Spots
Cardinals usually nest in the woodlands of the eastern and southern United States. These birds are very territorial and don’t migrate south to overwinter. Typically, they nest in the same woodland where they spend the winter months.
Like other wild songbirds, cardinals may build nests in human backyards. If you’re willing to encourage cardinals to make nests in your yard, your backyard should have thin twigs, grasses, plant fibers, and bark strips.
#Thickly Covered Foliage
Cardinals are shy birds. They like to nest in thickly covered foliage to protect eggs and offspring from predators, like house cats, crows, jays, and raccoons. Another reason is cardinals prefer making nests in secluded areas to protect themselves from the afternoon sun.
#Anywhere Between 1 to 15 Feet From the Ground
You might be wondering how high cardinals make nests from the ground. These birds build their nests somewhere in between 1 to 15 feet from the soil. However, their nests are usually found 4 to 5 feet high above the ground.
#Near a Water Source
Cardinals are water-loving birds. That’s why they try to build nests near a water source. If you want to allow cardinals to build nests in your backyard, you should place a birdbath for them. The Byers’ Choice Bird Bath from Amazon is highly recommended.
Do Cardinals Use Nesting Boxes?
Cardinals don’t use enclosed nesting boxes because they’re open nesters. These birds love to nest in well-protected but open structures. However, they may use nesting shelves or 3-sided nesting boxes if their females like the location.
Here are a couple of cardinal nest boxes from Amazon, which can equally be used for American robins.
Once cardinals nest in your nesting platform, they might reuse it later in the next year or even the same season. If you put the nesting shelves out at the beginning of the winter, cardinals may use your nesting shelves in early spring.
Do Cardinals Build Nests in Trees?
Cardinals build their nests in trees, although trees are not preferable for cardinals. In order to make nests in trees, they always choose trees not high up 15 feet. Now, a question might be lingering in your mind, what kind of trees do cardinals nest in?
Here’s a list of cardinal-friendly trees and shrubs:
- Blackberry brambles
- Blueberry shrubs
- Box elders
- Elderberry bush
- Grapevine plantings
- Red cedar
- Rose bushes
- Sugar maples
Will Cardinals Reuse Their Nests?
Northern cardinals don’t reuse their nests but may nest near old ones if the area has plenty of foliage, food sources, and water. Although they remain quite busy all year round, they don’t save energy and time to use their old nests.
The best part is parent cardinals always make a new nest for each brood (they usually attempt to have 2 broods in a season). If they find your backyard a good spot with plenty of food, water, and safe shelter, why will they look for a new location?
Above all, northern cardinals build their nests in woodlands and human backyards. They prefer dense foliage and shrub thickets to make their nests in order to protect their eggs and offspring from predators. They don’t build nests high up 15 feet from the ground.
However, we hope you have learned a lot about the places where cardinals usually nest. If any cardinal family ever nests in your backyard, let us know your experience. If you like the article, share it with your friends on social media.