What Do Cardinals Eat? What You Need to Know


You have seen the angry birds right?? But have you ever seen them eating?? Maybe you did but you were not concerned about what they were actually eating. These Songbirds are so beautiful that you can attract them in your yard and for that you must know what we should feed them in the feeder. And as an bird enthusiast you must know which food can maintain their high protein diet, so this article is for you only. Cardinals are those birds that are not picky they will accept whatever you offer them, But if you are an bird enthusiast you may set the feeder in your backyard with their favorite black oil sunflower seed.


So our Main Concept is “What do Cardinals Eat?” We Know there are nearly 53 species of cardinals in the USA and most of them are non-fussy omnivores and they have a diet where they have both fruit, seeds, nuts, insects and other plants. Depending on the species the percentage of eating seeds and other foods can be changed. So today for the bird enthusiast we also describe what food you should include In your feeder and the nutrition facts and the varieties of food they can eat. So let’s discuss it.

What do Cardinals Eat From The Period of Baby to Adult?

Cardinals are friendly and social and they mate for life. The Male Cardinals usually search sunflower seeds for the female when they are laying eggs. The Female may need proper nutrition when they are laying eggs which cost much energy from them. Male cardinals collect food and serve them to females and when the hatchlings are born. The parents feed their babies high protein and rich foods which are insects and worms so that can help them build strength. The baby needs to be fed four times every hour to eight times per hour. When the baby’s age turns into five days they need three to four meals per day.


Adult Cardinals eat 30% of insects which contain protein and fat, 70% of seeds and plants, fruits, seeds which also contain vitamins and minerals.

Which Nutrition is Necessary For Baby Cardinals?

Baby Cardinals usually need high protein and fat which can make them more strong and help them to grow faster. The baby Cardinals can get their fat and protein from bees, ants and wasps which can provide nearly 770 grams of protein per 1kG and other bugs, dragonflies also contain proteins but the wasps, bees and ants contain the highest protein. This Simple table can explain the amount of protein per Kg.

Types of InsectsAmount of Protein (Per KG)
True Bugs740g
Crickets                                650g

Which Food Sources Are Necessary For Adult Cardinals?

Cardinals are the birds which are called non-fussy omnivorous, that’s why they eat seed and insects. They maintain the proper diet and take the proper nutrition. Now in this section we will describe what adult cardinals should eat. Let’s list out.



Seeds are the most favorite food that cardinals love to eat. The way they crack the seeds it’s really interesting. They break the shell with their strong beaks and take the bean inside of that shell. They don’t have any particular choice in choosing seed. Lets look the variety of seeds and the nutrition fact in the table :

Types of seedCalories(Per KG)Protein(Per KG)Fat(Per KG)Carbohydrate
Sunflower Seeds5710g214g500g179g
Safflower Seeds5710g162g385g343g
Squash Seeds6070g321g464g143g
Pumpkin Seeds5330g233g433g167g
Boxelder Maple Tree seeds5670g167g467g333g
Muskmelon Seeds5600g280g470g150g


Cardinals also love to eat nuts which contain high calories and high protein, especially peanuts. In winter these song birds eat these peanuts which also have high fat that can make them alive against that season. Let’s Discuss the type of nuts and see the nutrition table.

Types of NutsCalories(Per KG)Protein(Per KG)Fat(Per KG)Carbohydrate (Per KG)
Roasted Peanuts5990280g525g153g
Crushed Peanuts5220280g337g474g


When you decide to feed cardinals fruits you can slice them and put them in your feeders. You can buy various fruits from your local Bazar and cardinals’ favorite fruit is Apple. Lets list out the fruits and see the nutritional value of them.

Types of FruitsCalories (Per KG)Fat(Per KG)Protein (Per KG)Carbohydrate(Per KG)

So we have charted the nutritional value of all food which you can put in your feeder so that they can attract and stay in your yard for a period of time.

Read: Where Do Cardinals Build Their Nests?

How do Cardinals Drink Water in the winter?

Cardinals usually drink water from the ground and if you set a feeder with the seeds it would be more great for them. They usually love to eat and drink from the same place. So if you set a feeder with water that may give a chance they don’t leave your yard for 6 months.


In winter cardinals drink water from snow and the fruits and the insects which can help them to meet their needs of minerals. But it would be better if you set the feeder with water. Maybe that can save his life just because the predators can harm them when they are in the ground. So If it is possible, put a feeder in your yard.


  • What Food Should Be Fed to Baby Cardinals?

    Insects are the main food for baby cardinals because they can have a good amount of protein and fat from them.

  • Are Male Cardinals Are Responsible For Searching For Food?

    NO. Only male cardinals are not responsible for searching food. Male cardinals search for  food when the female cardinals are pregnant.


Cardinals always support their mate so they don’t have to suffer  for finding food or maintaining their family. They are so social that they are  responsible for each other. With the help from humans by getting food and water they can live from `13 to 15 years and beware to keep your pets from them so that can increase a chance to give them a healthy life.

Mosharraf Mahmud

Mosharraf is an MSC in Computer Science. He has been passionate about birds since childhood. He is the author of the blog Birds Indeed, where he regularly shares his knowledge and experience about different birds. He is passionate about helping others to understand the beauty of birds and their ecosystem.

Share this article:

Leave a Comment