Fishin’ Hole Nature: Cardinal Rules

Article and photos by Bronwyn Clear, Certified Texas Master Naturalist

“When Cardinals Appear, Angels Are Near.” The Northern Cardinal…what a beautiful bright red bird! Some believe cardinals are a little bit of heaven on earth, and some believe they symbolize loved ones who have passed on. Whatever you believe, they are absolutely delightful to see during the dark days of winter.

We can enjoy these bold scarlet birds up close all year around because they do not migrate, and are tolerant of humans. They are territorial, and if you have a pair nearby, you can encourage them to stay. These birds will love to come to your feeder if you fill it with sunflower and safflower seed. And please scatter a good amount of seed on the ground outside your windows because they are ground feeders that hop through the leaf and twig clutter looking for food.

Mates sing together, stay together for life, build nests and raise families together. They are admirable birds. But because they are not rare and we see them in all months, perhaps we take them a bit for granted. Remember that these songbirds are bright spots on cold drab winter days, and they love to sing their songs in the mornings and the evenings. Indeed, they are a little bit of heaven on earth.

Learn more about the incredible nature in our area by joining a chapter of the Texas Master Naturalist organization. To find a chapter close to you, or to read about the state program, go online to Volunteer and get involved!


Sunflower and safflower seeds will bring cardinals to your feeders, but don’t forget to spread seed on the ground where they often prefer to feed.


This pretty little lady will never be as bright red as her man. Her dull colors will provide more safety while raising chicks. Many birds eat more berries in winter because they need the energy that the sugars give them.


A cardinal chick is still growing out her feathers. Because they don’t have teeth most seed eating birds swallow grit, sand or small stones to help grind up the food in their stomachs.


This large batch of cardinal youngsters feast together on safflower seed.


Sunflower seeds or cherry tomatoes? Sunflower seeds it is!! This fellow has some tasty choices.