A cardinal is a bird that is known by other names such as cardinal buntings. These are songbirds that are found in North America as well as South America.

These types of birds are very strong and hardy with very durable beaks. The beaks must be strong because of the foods they eat. What do cardinals eat? They enjoy eating seeds as well as other types of foods.


On average, a cardinal range from between almost 5 inches in length to close to 10 inches in length. The genders also have very distinct looks. The male cardinal has a unique red crest on its chest. This crest is the reason why the bird was named cardinal.

The species of bird is not currently on the endangered list. However, some classes of cardinal are considered to be threatened.


When wondering what do cardinals eat, the diet of the bird is relatively simply. The primary foods in the cardinals diet are nuts, seeds and fruit. This is why you may notice that cardinals forage a lot from tree to tree or shrub to shrub. These birds also enjoy drinking water, so you may see them by a lake, river or even enjoying the water that is in a birdbath or fountain.

You will not find cardinals flying extremely low to the ground because they do not find a lot of their food at low levels. They typically stay at least 20 feet above ground in fruit bearing shrubs or seed bearing plants.

Differences Between Northern And Southern Cardinals

Northern region:

Vervain flowers

Southern region:

Wild cherries


If you are interested in attracting cardinals to your yard or garden, you will need to display foods that are tasty and attractive to them. For example, you can install several bird feeders around your yard exclusively for cardinals. In these feeders you can add safflower seeds or sunflower seeds. Cardinals cannot resist these types of seeds.

You can also feed the birds peanuts, raisins and millet. Cardinals even enjoy eating bread.

Injured Cardinals' Diet

One part of the cardinal diet that is often overlooked is the birds’ love for insects. A cardinal will eat flies, moths, butterflies and beetles. These insects provide the birds with a high quality amount of not only fat but also a good source of protein.

Cardinals that are injured will also eat canned cat food such as salmon or tuna. If you notice a fallen cardinal, leave a small amount of wet cat food close so the bird can easily access it.

When wondering what do cardinals eat, just remember that these birds enjoy a wide variety of foods from different sources. They forage for their food during the entire year. You can provide them with a steady supply of food by adding a few decorative bird feeders to your garden. 

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