Top 5 Bird Foods For Cardinals - Natural Seed Mixes For Feeders & Ground-Feeding

cardinal eating birdseeds

Last Updated: June 17, 2021

The best way to attract cardinals to your backyard is to feed them their favorite birdseed. 

That's right!

These birds are not very picky about the type of feed you provide.

As you will see on this list, their taste varies widely. So what is the best bird food for cardinals? I vote Wagner’s Greatest Variety but read on to find out if you agree.

Let’s dive right into it.

5 Best Bird Seed For Cardinals - 2021 Review

1. Wagner’s Greatest Variety - Best Overall

Wagner's birdseed

bird seed mix is designed to appeal to wild birds. However, 40% of the mix is made up of black oil sunflower seeds. These are widely considered by birders as the best seed for cardinals.

The mix also contains sunflower chips and striped sunflower seeds which makes it even more appealing to these birds.

This premium blend of carefully selected ingredients contains hulled and shelled varieties of seeds in all shapes and sizes.

Although the mix has a broad variety of components designed to attract all types of wild birds, I like that it also contains safflower seeds, which are loaded with nutrients and strongly preferred by cardinals.

Wagner’s mix also contains peanut pieces, tree nuts, and raisins, raising the bar on nutritional value. Should you need more than 6 pounds of cardinal feed, the 16-pound bag will be more than enough to keep your visitors full and healthy. 

Pros

  • Contains a variety of nutrient-rich seeds
  • Comes in a 6-pound or 16-pound bag
  • Highly recommended by Wagner’s as a seed mix curated especially for cardinals

Cons

  • Doesn’t come in larger sizes
  • Appeals to bully birds

Takeaway

Wagner's Greatest Variety often attracts more cardinals than other wild birds. The feed may be appealing to a few other visitors but you can easily remedy this by using the mix in bird feeders designed for cardinals.

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2. Wagner’s Four Seasons Sunflower Seed - Best All-Natural

Wagner's Four Seasons Seed

Birders who’ve fed cardinals know they love black oil sunflower seeds. If you haven’t... Well, now you’ll do, too.

Wagner’s Four Seasons 100% black oil sunflower seed is one of my favorite cardinals birdseed mixes. The 20-pound bag is filled with 100% authentic black oil sunflower seeds. If you live in an area whose bird population has mostly cardinals you’re in luck.

On the downside, I find this seed mix attracts other wild birds, too.

However, my home area has plenty of cardinals so I get plenty of them with this mix. Black oil seeds are rich in nutrients and the cardinals get through them quickly with their strong beaks.

Pros

  • Comes in a large 20-pound bag
  • 100% natural
  • Easy for birds to feed on

Cons

  • The bag may contain small twigs and bits of wood

Takeaway

Wagner’s Four Season 100% Black Oil Sunflower seed is all-natural. I like it because it gives the cardinals a natural experience that’s close to what they enjoy in the wild.

Another interesting feature in this feed is the small twigs and bits of wood. I think playing with them keeps the cardinals busy in between meals.

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3. Wagner’s Cardinal Blend - Best Cardinal Blend

Wagner's Cardinal Blend birdseed

Wagner’s Cardinal Blend contains a spicy mix of seeds that will attract cardinals. Combining safflower, striped sunflower, and black oil sunflower seeds, the Cardinal Blend is the perfect mix to attract these birds to your yard.

This nutritious blend will ensure your yard is filled with the cheerful sounds of cardinals. I love that the mix is designed for use in feeders but you can also just spread it on your lawn and let the birds forage for the rich, high-energy seeds.

The thoughtful bird lovers at Wagner’s also made the bag resealable, so the feed stays fresh.

Pros

  • Blend includes high oil content seeds to keep cardinals energized
  • Up to 60% black oil sunflower seeds and 40% safflower seeds
  • Convenient resealable bag

Cons

  • May attract other wild birds

Takeaway

If you live in an area with plenty of cardinals, then Wagner’s Cardinal Mix is the perfect choice for you. I love that the mix contains plenty of high oil content seeds which will keep the cardinals energized and singing around your yard for most of the day.

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4. Wild Delight Nut N’ Berry - Best Nutrition-Packed Feed

Wild Delight Nut n' Berry

As you can probably tell from the name, Wild Delight Nut N’ Berry bird feed mix contains nuts and berries that enhance flavor. The berries also give the cardinals essential minerals, vitamins, and other nutrients that they need to stay healthy.

I am also a big fan of all-natural ingredients. So, the Wild Delight mix is one of my top choices because it has no chemical preservatives. Major components in this mix include sunflower kernels, safflower seeds, dried raisins, dried cranberries, and hulled pumpkin seeds.

If you worry about buying feed that contains fillers such as millet, the Wild Delight mix will put your mind at ease.

The bag contains no fillers so you won’t have to worry about the wasted feed.

The feed also comes in a sizable 20-pound bag as well as a smaller 5-pound option.

Pros

  • Highly nutritious
  • Fortified with essential minerals and vitamins
  • No fillers
  • No chemical preservatives

Cons

  • May contain higher crude fat content than all-seed cardinal mix varieties

Takeaway

Wild Delight has outdone themselves with this nut and berry mix. Not only is it packed with nutrients, but it is also a tasty mix for the cardinals.

If you are concerned about the high crude fat content, you can alternate this feed with an all-seed bird feed such as Wagner’s Four Seasons 100% Black Oil Sunflower Seed.

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5. Lyric Cardinal Sunflower & Safflower Mix - Best Premium Mix

Lyric Cardinal birdseed

Lyric Cardinal Premium will keep these fiery red birds coming back to your yard. The premium blend of nutritious seeds is easy to digest and contains plenty of large seeds that these birds love to crush in their strong, short beaks.

This high-quality brand is known for its careful selection processes which maintain high standards of cleanliness and nutritional value.

Lyric premium blend is a mix of golden safflower, black oil sunflower, buckwheat, and more. The mix is truly a high-protein diet for cardinals which is the ideal blend for wild birds.

Pros

  • Designed to attract cardinals
  • Packed with cardinal-friendly sunflower and safflower seeds
  • High-protein diet
  • Resealable bag
  • No filler seeds

Cons

  •  Pricy

Takeaway

This is one of the more costly cardinal blends I’ve reviewed. I love its high-protein content which mimics the cardinal’s diet out in the wild. I would recommend this to anyone looking to splurge on a premium feed that is packed with nutrients as a treat for the cardinals.

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How To Choose The Best Cardinal Bird Food

In my opinion, the best bird seed for cardinals will be packed with seeds that these fiery red birds love. From the above review, you may already be familiar with the kind of seeds cardinals eat.

Cardinals particularly enjoy safflower and sunflower seeds. If you look closely at the cardinal’s beak, you will notice it is best suited for husking and hulling seed shells.

Both safflower and sunflower seeds have hard shells which keep other birds out of the feeder making more room for your cardinals. Another benefit of including safflower seed in your bird mix is that other birds and squirrels dislike it which keeps them out of your feeder.

My cardinal feeders will typically contain a mix of safflower seed and black oil sunflower seed. This mix is pretty easy to maintain as most feeds with a mix of the two are generally inexpensive.

However...

If you are looking to treat your cardinals, I recommend one of the premium blends. These blends typically contain fruits and nuts. Some manufacturers such as Wild Delight even include fortified minerals to make the feed more nutritious.

If you are a die-hard DIYer inclined to make their feed at home, it is also doable and not too costly. I recommend mixing black oil sunflower seeds, safflower seeds, shelled peanuts, peanuts, and dried fruit such as raisins and cranberries.

How To Select The Best Bird Seed For Cardinals

I highly recommend navigating your search toward bird feed blended specifically for cardinals. Check through the ingredients list keeping an eye out for filler seeds such as corn and millet which usually have no nutritional benefits.

Birders looking to attract a variety of wild birds will typically choose a bird feed mix with a variety of ingredients. However, purchasing bird feed that mainly contains the seeds that cardinals love will keep these faithful birds flocking to your feeders.

Some feeds include freeze-dried larvae which also increases their nutritional value.

Overall, I would advise you to go with a cardinal bird seed mix that has high nutritional value.

Ensure the mix is packed with ingredients that the birds love to reduce the chances of your cardinals getting overshadowed by other wild birds.

How To Attract Cardinals To Your Yard

Now that you have the right mix of bird feed, how do you attract these naturally shy birds to your yard?

Cardinal-Friendly Feeders

red cardinal on bird feeder

A good strategy to attract cardinals is to use feeders that they can feed on as naturally as possible. In the wild, cardinals eat facing forward. Packing all that delicious, nutritious feed into a feeder that would force them to twist their bodies will only deter them from using it.

Cardinals also prefer to perch as they feed, so consider investing in a feeder with a large platform where they can land. Avoid feeders with small perches and small feeding ports. I recommend using tray feeders and platform feeders or simply tossing the feed on the ground.

Timely Feeding

Cardinals are punctual birds. Keeping your feeder full early in the morning and late in the evening will ensure these birds are around at the same time every day.

Water

Northern cardinals are larger than songbirds and prefer feeding areas where they can easily access drinking and bathing water. You can use this to your advantage by providing a consistent supply of fresh, clean water and plenty of food.

red cardinal with water

Pro-Tip

A friend who is an advanced birder recommends adding a mister or dripper to your water source.

This creates the illusion of a water source which is especially attractive to cardinals who are used to living in warm conditions. I haven’t tried it yet, but I’ll bring an update with the results.

Shelter

Most birds prefer to have discreet areas where they can take shelter. The cardinal, being a brightly colored bird, needs shrubbery and trees, even more, to hide from predators.

Provide a cardinal-friendly environment in your yard by planting varied layers that will ensure these birds have a thick cover.

Singing cardinals also enjoy high perching areas, so consider leaving open branches when trimming your trees. Check out this video of a male cardinal singing his heart out.

Nesting Areas

In addition to providing shelter and cover, the layered landscaping also offers cardinals excellent nesting areas. You can also go a step further and provide nesting materials such as twigs, grass clippings, and pine needles.

Following these few tips, you should be able to keep the cardinals attracted to your feeders throughout the year. Cardinals also tend to stay in the same area year-round with minimal migration.

Provide plenty of feed especially during harsh winters to get them accustomed to a consistent supply of food.

Remember to cover windows, mirrors, and any other reflective surfaces. Like other birds, cardinals also fight their reflections which can cause stress and lead to them abandoning the feeding site.

Summary

If you ask me, you’re likely to attract more cardinals with Wagner’s Greatest Variety. The mix includes safflower seeds, black oil sunflower seeds, peanuts pieces, as well as raisins and tree nuts which pack a ton of nutritional value and give it a spicy, delicious flavor.

This Wagner’s mix is also ideal for ground feeding, which cardinals love best. The mix also comes strongly recommended as a cardinal blend.

Whichever feed you choose, make sure you provide a consistent supply of it and you can enjoy the company of these stunning birds all year long, including winter.

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