About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Do cardinals use bird houses?

We’ve had a cardinal nesting in our front bushes for a couple years now. Can I buy them a house to nest in to make them safer? ~ Dimondale, Michigan

That’s a good question. Northern Cardinals, like many other birds, build open-cup nests. They aren’t cavity nesters so they wouldn’t use a bird house.

In the spring the female will visit several potential nesting sites in her mate’s territory. She has to spend a lot of time stuck in one spot while incubating her eggs so you may see the female flutter her wings to check out the space or turn around and peek through the branches to check the view and privacy levels.

Cardinals build their nests in a variety of trees and vines that offer protection and concealment. The female first builds a platform using stiff, six inch long twigs. She uses her bill to bend the twigs in several places and weave the twigs around her body. She also presses with her body and feet to force some pieces into place.

After the framework is done, a nice soft layer of leaves are applied to line the nest. Finally the female finishes her nest by adding a layer of fine grapevines or fine weed stems topped with very fine rootlets, grass stems or weed stems.

Once the nest is complete the female rocks back and forth in the nest to make it more comfortable. She usually likes to build in the morning and the nest construction can take 3 to 6 days. The male cardinal may bring the female some twigs but the female usually builds the nest all alone while the male patrols the area.

Thank you for all your good information. I love your blog and emails. We saw a commercial with a cardinal in a bird house and so I thought I better ask the “bird expert” at Wild Birds Unlimited before I did something that might disrupt my cardinals. Thank you for responding so quickly.
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