The 3 Best Bird Feeders for Cardinals in 2021

Welcome to my review of the best bird feeders for cardinals. You’re searching for the best bird feeder for cardinals and I commend you. Many people hang any old feeder out and expect cardinals to just come, but when they don’t they’re left scratching their heads. The truth is, most feeders just aren’t suitable for cardinals! This article will explain the key features that make a bird feeder ideal for a cardinal – and a feeder they actually want to visit again and again.

The 3 best bird feeders for cardinals

Best Overall

Woodlink Going Green Platform Feeder

Jump to the full review.

Best for Keeping Food Dry

Droll Yankees Dorothy’s Cardinal Platform Feeder

Jump to the full review.

Best Tube Feeder

Droll Yankees Classic Bird Feeder & Seed Tray

Jump to the full review.

When I set out to find the best bird feeder for cardinals I was disappointed to find so many completely unsuitable feeders recommended. This is why I decided to dive in and do my own research to legitimately find the best bird feeder for cardinals. 

I’ve been a backyard birder for over 20 years and had hundreds of cardinals visit over that time. I’ve watched them flock to feeders and avoid feeders so have a first-hand insight into what Cardinals like in a feeder.

I also polled over 100 experienced backyard birders across the US, all having hosted cardinals in their backyard, to have even more expert opinions to consider when determining which are the best bird feeders for cardinals.  These are recommendations you can trust.

Guide to Buying a Bird Feeder for Cardinals

There are hundreds of bird feeder options available. If you want cardinals to come to your yard, focus on these six key features when shopping for a bird feeder for cardinals: 

  1. Cardinal-Friendly Perch
  2. Holds Cardinal-Favorite Food
  3. Easy to Clean 
  4. Keeps Food Dry
  5. Easy to Refill
  6. Durable Construction

1. Cardinal-Friendly Perch

Cardinals are almost 9″ long making them relatively large perching birds compared to chickadees, another common feeder bird, which is only about 5″ long,

Because of their size, cardinals need a perch that’s further from the food than a smaller bird would need. If you’re visual like I am, check out the illustration below.

illustration of cardinal and chickadee showing the perch distance for each
Cardinals require a longer perching distance from the food than a smaller bird.

While any bird will make the perch work if they’re hungry enough, we’re interested in the best bird feeder for cardinals without them having to twist themselves into a pretzel to get at the food.

Plus, we want the wild beauties to return again and again so why not make it comfortable and easy for them to get at the food!

2. Holds Cardinal-Favorite Food

Look for a bird feeder that holds one or more of the cardinal’s favorite feeder foods. The cardinals’ favorite feeder foods in order of preference include:

  1. Black-oil Sunflower Seed
  2. Safflower Seed
  3. Hulled peanuts (unsalted) 
  4. Cracked corn
  5. Seed mixes

3. Easy to Clean

Bird feeders need to be cleaned on a regular basis in order to keep wild birds healthy and prevent the spread of disease. I’d like to share the proper way to clean a bird feeder to illustrate why it’s so important to buy a bird feeder that is easy to clean.

Steps to clean a bird feeder properly:

  1. Brush off debris off;
  2. Disassemble the feeder;
  3. Scrub in a bath of boiling water and dish soap;
  4. Soak in 1:9 water/bleach solution for 10 minutes (e.g. 1/2 cup bleach + 4 1/2 cups water);
  5. Rinse with clean water thoroughly until all scent of bleach is removed;
    • Wood is extremely difficult to remove the bleach smell after soaking and rinsing which can be toxic to birds. Also, wet wood can take forever to dry.
  6. Allow to air dry completely before refilling.  

To make cleaning easy, look for a bird feeder that can be easily disassembled and made of non-porous materials such as recycled plastic or metal.

4. Keeps Food Dry (Or, just put out enough food for a couple of days)

When bird food gets wet it can become moldy, especially in hot & humid conditions. Moldy food can cause birds to get sick. We want to avoid making our feathered friends sick because it can spread and cause more birds to get sick and even die.

An acceptable alternative to a feeder with enclosure and roof is tojust put out enough food for a day or two so the birds eat it before it has a chance to get wet and moldy. While this approach requires more diligence it’s worth it because you’ll attract more cardinals.

How do I know? This is what I do.

Platform feeders are truly the best type of feeder for cardinals because of the wide perch and ability to put out all of the cardinals’ favorite foods at once. However, they do not offer protection from the weather.

If you cannot commit to putting out just a couple of days worth of food at a time (i.e. using a platform-style feeder), look for a feeder with an enclosure and roof to keep the food dry.

5. Easy to Refill

Bird feeders that are easy to refill will be used more often and ultimately attract more birds. If you have to fumble while trying to refill and it spills food all over making a huge mess, you’ll become frustrated and unlikely to continue using it.

Look for a feeder with a simple opening to refill.

6. Durable Construction

Cardinals are year-round birds which means they’ll be around to experience all that mother nature throws their way. The bird feeder needs to be durable to withstand year-round conditions especially if you live in an area that experiences the extremes of the seasons (like Wisconsin where I live).

Look for a bird feeder made from one or more of these materials: metal, plastic (including recycled plastic).

Personal Preference: Other Features to Consider

Here are a few other features you may want to consider. They are not universally “key” when selecting the best bird feeder for cardinals but might be ones that are personally important to you or your circumstance. If they are important to you, add them to your list of things to consider:

  • Size & Weight: Consider the location you’ll be placing the feeder to ensure it’s a suitable size and weight.
  • Aesthetics: You may want to choose a feeder that is aesthetically pleasing to the landscape of your yard. Just so you know – the Cardinals don’t care 😉
  • Mount style: Most bird feeders come ready to hang from a hook or tree limb. If your plan is to mount the feeder on a pole make sure it is pole-mount capable. 
  • Eco-Friendly: If you’re interested in eco-friendly feeder there are several made from recycled materials to consider. Bonus: Feeders made from of recycled materials are easy to clean.
  • Made in the USA: If this is important to you, there are some feeders made in America.
  • Squirrel Proof: If you have squirrel problems I recommend getting a squirrel-proof bird feeder pole system rather than a squirrel-proof feeder. The poles are far more effective and pose less harm to the birds.

Best Type of Bird Feeder for Cardinals

Male cardinal eating from a platform feeder
Male cardinal enjoying a snack on a platform feeder. Photo by Stephanie Hines Strimple.

Without question, cardinals prefer platform feeders over other styles of bird feeders. Platform feeders offer maximum perching space for a larger-sized bird to comfortably land, lean forward, and eat.

Platform feeders also allow you to offer all of the foods that cardinals love while other types of feeders hold just one type of food or the other.

Reviews of Bird Feeders For Cardinals

I reviewed each bird feeder using a 5 point system. Each feeder was awarded between 0 and 5 points for each of the six key requirements. 0 = Poor / 3= Okay / 5 = Great

6 Key Requirements

  1. Cardinal-Friendly Perch
  2. Holds Cardinal-Favorite Food
  3. Easy to Clean
  4. Keeps Food Dry *
  5. Easy to Refilll
  6. Durable Construction

* Platform-style feeders were not analyzed as to whether they keep food dry because they are not designed for that. As I explained previously in the What to Look For When Purchasing a Bird Feeder for Cardinals section, when using a platform feeder you should only put out a couple of days worth of food whereby eliminating the wet, moldy food problem.


Woodlink Going Green Platform Feeder Review

The title of “best bird feeder for cardinals” goes to the Woodlink Going Green Platform Feeder.

Key Requirements Scores

Cardinal-Friendly Perch5
Holds Favorite Cardinal Food5
Durable Construction5
Keeps Food Dry N/A
Easy to Refill5
Easy to Clean5
SCORE5.0
Also…Eco-Friendly
Made in USA

The feeder is 12.63 x 12.75 x 2.13 inches in size which allows four large and wide sides for multiple cardinals to comfortably perch on.

Since there are no ports or holes for food to come through, you can toss any type of food, and even a combination of food, on this platform. That makes this feeder extremely versatile as well.

This feeder scores all 5’s on all the key requirements for a cardinal bird feeder. Since it’s a platform style it’s exempt from the “keeps food dry” requirement. Remember, with platform-style feeders you should only put out a couple of days of food at a time. No worries if you put a little bit too much out one day – it comes with a screen bottom for drainage. And it’s powder-coated to prevent rusting.

I love that this feeder is made from thick, strong recycled plastic (90-percent post-consumer recycled plastic). Not only is it eco-friendly but extremely durable as well. It’s screwed together for maximum durability in all weather and lasts for many years.

You can’t beat a platform-style feeder for ease of refilling. Toss the food in – done!

Cleaning is super simple too. This feeder can literally soak in a bath of bleach/water to fully disinfect it. Unlike wood platform feeders, recycled plastic does not absorb liquids so will air dry quickly.

Aesthetics is not a key requirement but I think the dark green color of this feeder looks sharp!


Droll Yankees Dorothys Cardinal Platform Feeder 15″

The next best bird feeder for cardinals is the Droll Yankees Dorothy’s Cardinal Platform Feeder 15“. This feeder comes in 2 other smaller sizes but I recommend the larger one (15”) for maximum space.

Key Requirements Scores

Cardinal-Friendly Perch5
Holds Favorite Cardinal Food5
Durable Construction5
Keeps Food Dry N/A
Easy to Refill5
Easy to Clean5
SCORE5.0
Also…Made in USA

This feeder also scored high for all of the key requirements.

Multiple cardinals and other birds can congregate together on this feeder. The round shape and large diameter allow cardinals to perch comfortably.

I like that this feeder comes with a dome to provide some protection in wet weather. I commend this effort and particularly love the fact that the dome is clear so you can see the activity beneath it. The dome height can be adjusted but likely needs to be kept high to accommodate larger birds like cardinals.

As a platform feeder, it’s super simple to refill. Toss a couple of day’s worth of food in and you’re done for a couple of days!

Cleaning is simple as well. The dome unscrews from the base and it all can be soaked in bleach/water for ultimate disinfecting.


Droll Yankees Classic Bird Feeder + 10.5″ Seed Tray

Everyone loves a good tube feeder. But they weren’t really designed with cardinals in mind. Sure, they all claim a cardinal can perch on the 1.5″ perches but I disagree – and so do my backyard birding friends.

Then I discovered that Droll Yankee had an attachment for its classic tube feeder that functioned as the perfect cardinal perch. Oh, happy day!

The best tube-style bird feeder for cardinals is the Droll Yankees Classic Bird Feeder when combined with the Droll Yankees 10.5″ Seed Tray.

The Droll Yankees tube feeder itself is durably made of metal (top) and a polycarbonate tube for easy-to-clean parts, and a feeder that will last for years. Its solid enclosure keeps the seed dry so food doesn’t get moldy and make birds sick.

It holds sunflower and mixed seeds, both are cardinals’ favorite foods.

This tube feeder is a product of Droll Yankees – a company that’s been around since the 1960s. They’re not a fly-by-night company or one that designs 100 different items made from plastic. They’ve spent 60 years studying and perfecting products for backyard birding enthusiasts like us. This means their products are built to work and built to last. It’s evident in their designs as well.

For example, this tube feeder was designed with an internal baffle allowing the seed to empty seamlessly so you won’t have a buildup of yucky, wet, moldy seed and save money because you won’t be wasting food.

I also liked that it holds up to 1.5# of seed for less time refilling and more time enjoying the cardinals.

If you choose this bird feeder for your cardinals make sure you buy the cardinal perch (referred to as the “seed catcher”) to go with it. This is key!

Key Requirements Scores

Cardinal-Friendly Perch5
Holds Favorite Cardinal Food5
Durable Construction4
Keeps Food Dry 5
Easy to Refill5
Easy to Clean5
SCORE4.8
Also…Top-Mount Capable
Made in USA

Woodlink Absolute II Squirrel Resistant Bird Feeder

The Woodlink Absolute II is a highly-rated feeder with many fans. Cardinals will use this feeder but compared with the platform-style feeders, this feeder’s perch is not as deep.

That said, this feeder ranked strong on all the other key requirements for a cardinal feeder. It’s fully enclosed to keep the seed dry, holds two of the cardinals’ favorite foods (sunflower & safflower seeds), is made of strong and durable metal, has easy to refill and easy to clean capabilities as well.

I liked the capacity of this feeder, but only if you go through the birdseed fast. You don’t want old seed just sitting in the feeder for months on end. Remember, always clean your feeders every 2 weeks 🙂

I recommend this feeder if a squirrel-proof feeder is high on your priority list and/or you’re looking for a feeder that functions well for cardinals and other birds.

Key Requirements Scores

Cardinal-Friendly Perch4
Holds Favorite Cardinal Food5
Durable Construction5
Keeps Food Dry5
Easy to Refill5
Easy to Clean5
SCORE4.8
Also …Squirrel-Proof
Top-Mount Capable

Perky-Pet® Squirrel-Be-Gone® II Wild Bird Feeder

The Perky-Pet Squirrel-Be-Gone II Feeder comes in two colors – red and green. The red model also comes with a cardinal weathervane on top. Aesthetically, this feeder looks sweet!

Cardinals will visit this feeder but the perch is much shorter than the feeders determined to be the best. The relatively short perch makes it difficult for cardinals to use it without standing sideways and twisting around to get the food.

The birds will make it work, but there are better bird feeder options specifically for cardinals.

This model feeder is also deemed to be squirrel-proof.

Key Requirements Scores

Cardinal-Friendly Perch3
Holds Favorite Cardinal Food5
Durable Construction5
Keeps Food Dry5
Easy to Refill5
Easy to Clean5
SCORE4.7
Also…Squirrel-Proof
Top-Mount Capable

Squirrel Buster Plus

This is an amazing squirrel-proof bird feeder. If the cardinal ring were a couple of inches bigger it would be in the top 3 best bird feeders for cardinals. Despite the bottom perch’s name “cardinal ring”, there are better options for cardinals to comfortably perch and feed without twisting to the side.

There are several things I like about this feeder including:

  • A patented seed-ventilated system that keeps the seed dry and fresh so the birds in your yard stay healthier.
  • System disassembles easily and is made of materials that can be easily cleaned (including soaked in bleach) another big plus for the birds.
  • Made from a chew-proof material “RoxResin” so you fee the birds not the squirrels.

The limited perch space kept this pretty awesome feeder out of the running for “best” bird feeder for cardinals.

Key Requirements Scores

Cardinal-Friendly Perch3
Holds Favorite Cardinal Food5
Durable Construction5
Keeps Food Dry (N/A for platform feeders)5
Easy to Refill5
Easy to Clean5
SCORE4.7
Also…Squirrel-proof
Pole-Mountable (adaptor sold separately)

Perky-Pet® Red Cardinal Wild Bird Feeder

Given the name of this feeder, it appears Perky-Pet designed it specifically for cardinals. It sure is cute but the perch could be larger for a cardinal which is why I gave it a “4”.

Another reason it wasn’t included in the “best” is its limited ability to keep the food dry. Unlike platform feeders that allow you to toss food out every couple of days, that approach wouldn’t be easy with this design. You would have to take the feeder down, open it up and add food. Not impossible – there are just better options.

Key Requirements Scores

Cardinal-Friendly Perch4
Holds Favorite Cardinal Food5
Durable Construction5
Keeps Food Dry 3
Easy to Refill5
Easy to Clean5
SCORE4.5

Woodlink 3-in-1 Platform Feeder

By now you should know platform feeders are the best type of bird feeder for cardinals. It provides multiple sides to perch on and over 10″ of space to lean forward and eat comfortably.

This platform didn’t make the best list because it received a low “easy to clean” score. Since it’s made of wood which is not great for properly cleaning the bird feeder. remember, feeders should be cleaned every 2 weeks including a 10-minute soak in bleach/water.

If you don’t mind waiting several days (or weeks) for the feeder to dry after cleaning it, this may be the perfect feeder for you to host cardinals in your yard. Otherwise, check out the Woodlink Going Green Platform Feeder I recommend above. It’s made from recycled plastic so super simple to clean.

Key Requirements Scores

Cardinal-Friendly Perch5
Holds Favorite Cardinal Food5
Durable Construction5
Keeps Food Dry (N/A for platform feeders)N/A
Easy to Refill5
Easy to Clean2
SCORE4.4
Also…Top-Mount Capable
Made in USA

Roamwild Squirrel Proof Wild Bird Feeder

This is another feeder that scored low on the “cardinal-friendly perch” key requirements. With only a “2” in this category, the final score deems this feeder less than ideal for a cardinal bird feeder. Many of the customer reviews support this as well.

There are better options for feeding cardinals, such as the 3 best bird feeders for cardinals I mentioned above.

Key Requirements Scores

Cardinal-Friendly Perch2
Holds Favorite Cardinal Food5
Durable Construction5
Keeps Food Dry5
Easy to Refill5
Easy to Clean5
SCORE4.5
Also…

Perky-Pet Triple Tube Feeder (Copper)

This Perky-Pet feeder came in with an overall score of 4.3. This is one of the lowest scoring feeders I reviewers so could not recommend for one of the best cardinal feeders. Like many of the other feeders reviewed, the perch is insufficient for a cardinal to perch and feed comfortably.

The “durable construction” score also hurt the overall rating. Digging into customer reviews revealed quite a few complaints about the construction quality and parts falling off. Also, reports that the seeds either dribble out or flow out – no in between.

I really like the idea of putting multiple types of food in the same feeder. Hopefully, the next generation of this model will show some improvements.

Perky Pet triple tube copper bird feeder

Key Requirements Scores

Cardinal-Friendly Perch3
Holds Favorite Cardinal Food5
Durable Construction3
Keeps Food Dry5
Easy to Refill5
Easy to Clean5
SCORE4.3
Also …Top-Mount Capable

How to attract Cardinals?

Offer Food Cardinals Love

The type of food you offer is key. Cardinals love black-oil sunflower seed. Start with this seed to attract them initially.

They also love safflower seed but sometimes don’t know it yet. Once you get them coming with black-oil sunflower seed, add some safflower into the mix for them to try. Then they’ll be back for the safflower seed.

Bonus: Many other birds, and squirrels, do not like safflower seed.

Where to Place the Cardinal Bird Feeder

As they say in real estate, location, location, location. The same is true for attracting cardinals.

On the spectrum of social birds, cardinals are on the shy end. If you can place the feeder further away from the house you are likely to attract more of them.

I have feeders closer to the house and feeders about 50 feet from the house. My cardinals come to both locations but more come to the ones further away.

Save for later on Pinterest!


FAQ

Do cardinals need special feeders?

Yes. Cardinals are relatively big perching birds so need ample space to perch and bend over to reach the food.

Do cardinals like platform feeders?

Yes. Cardinals love platform feeders. Platform feeders offer the space a cardinal needs to perch and feed. These types of feeders also enable you to put out all of the foods cardinals love.

How high should you hang a cardinal feeder?

The height of a cardinal bird feeder is not important. In fact, since they are ground foragers you can even use a ground-style platform feeder and they will come to it.

What color feeder attracts Cardinals

The color of the bird feeder doesn’t attract cardinals. Instead, the type of food and style of feeder is more important. Feeders with large perches and that contain their favorite foods, such as black-oiled sunflower seeds, will attract them.


Next Steps

Decide whether you are a platform or tube-style feeder person. Remember, platform-style requires you to put just a couple of days worth of food out at a time rather than pile it with all the food it can take. This is for the health of the birds so consider it carefully. If you want the most cardinals possible go with the Woodlink Going Green Platform Feeder or the Droll Yankees Dorothy’s Cardinal Platform Feeder 15“.

If you’re more of a set it and forget for a while person (except for cleaning your feeders every 2 weeks) then go with the best tube-style bird feeder for cardinals: theDroll Yankees Classic Bird Feeder combined with the Droll Yankees 10.5″ Seed Tray.

Once you’ve got your cardinal bird feeder it’s time to consider the best bird feeder pole system to hold it. They are not all created equal! Check out The 3 Best Bird Feeder Pole Systems (Squirrel-Proof, Strong & Stable).

Get that feeder and start enjoying the cardinals!

Happy Birding!

Photo of author

Tammy Poppie

More than 20 years ago, Tammy put her first bird feeder outside her kitchen window. Since then she learned how to attract wild birds to her back yard (and repel others). In her free time, she can be found in nature kayaking, hiking, and biking always hoping to see a bird in the wild.