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The Cardinal's Nest

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A gorgeous male is alert for danger.

A gorgeous male is alert for danger.

From Egg to Adult: Cardinal Photo Journal

All bird watchers and most children recognize the male Northern cardinal, a Christmas symbol, but many people know nothing about its nesting and courtship habits. Through the years, we have been able to observe and photograph most of the mating behavior of our beautiful Northern Cardinal.

Here, we hope to give you some insight into what happens in a Cardinal's nest. Besides telling you how to attract this lovely bird into your own backyard with plants, bird feeders, and bird baths, we suggest some good books about Cardinals.

All these cardinal photos are copyright by Y.L. Bordelon, all rights reserved, unless otherwise noted.

Male cardinal

Male cardinal

Female cardinal

Female cardinal

Cardinal Identification and Habits

Northern cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis) were called "redbirds" where I grew up. The Northern cardinal is also known as the Virginia nightingale. It is a Christmas symbol and ranges from southern Canada south to northern Guatemala and Belize. It inhabits forest edges, thickets, gardens, backyards, shrubby areas, and orchards.

The bright red male cardinal is so beautiful and has such a lovely song that it was once trapped and sold as a caged songbird. This practice was banned in the United States by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.

Listen to the song of the Northern Cardinal from the National Park Service.

Cardinals are medium-sized birds measuring 8.3 to 9 inches. The male's crest, black mask, and bright orange beak set him apart from other birds. The more demure females are not as colorful, but are beautiful in their own right with their feathers of tan, brown, and touches of red. Their beaks are also orange. Young birds have dark beaks until their first molt.

A Photo Journal of Nesting Cardinals

Males are territorial during the breeding season and can be seen and heard singing from a prominent spot in their territory.

Male cardinal in holly

Male cardinal in holly

Courting behavior: Male feeding female

Courting behavior: Male feeding female

During courtship, the male feeds seeds to the female. She will often flutter her wings and beg like a chick.

Male cardinal feeding female

Male cardinal feeding female


After the courtship is over, the female builds a nest of twigs, vines, some leaves, bark strips, grasses, weed stalks, and rootlets, and lines it with fine grasses. She builds it in a thorny bush, thicket, or bramble, or in a dense shrub or tree. Up to six days later, she begins laying eggs, up to three or four total. They are somewhat glossy, grayish, bluish, or greenish-white, and spotted or blotched with brown, gray, or purple.

The female incubates the eggs for 11 to 13 days. A couple normally raises two to three broods each year.

Mother on nest (l); Nest with first egg (r)

Mother on nest (l); Nest with first egg (r)

Newly hatched cardinals

Newly hatched cardinals

When they hatch out, the chicks are blind and helpless, and their bodies are covered only by a little fuzz. But they grow quickly.

Pin feathers are forming on these chicks

Pin feathers are forming on these chicks

The chicks fledge in 7-13 days, but the male continues to feed the fledglings while the female builds a second nest. When the baby Cardinals leave the nest, they look almost "prehistoric," much too immature to be thought of as a fledged bird. They hide in bushes for the first few days, and the parent (or parents) feeds them.

Baby who will soon fledge (l); young fledgling (r)

Baby who will soon fledge (l); young fledgling (r)

Male feeding young

Male feeding young

The male cardinal continues to feed the young even after they have grown almost as large as he is. This male was caring for a young female and a young male. The young male was already beginning to molt into his adult plumage.

This year, the Northern cardinals have had many successful nests, so there are several immature ones at each sunflower seed feeder. Several of the pairs are on their third brood. You can tell when cardinals are on their last brood when you see both the adult male and the female feeding the young. On the first and second broods, the male feeds the fledglings while the female builds the nest, lays and incubates the eggs, and feeds the young while they are in the nest.

Cardinal mother feeding fledgling

Cardinal mother feeding fledgling

Cardinal fledgling

Cardinal fledgling

I was walking through the woods, and this little bird flew from beside the trail. It was a young Northern Cardinal and probably had only been out of the nest for a couple of days. This fledgling looked so infantile, but it flew well, going from branch to branch with no trouble at all.

The parents were chirping at me from the bushes, so they were taking good care of this baby.

Raising an Orphaned Baby Cardinal

Over 25 years ago, when we were young and foolish, we used to let our black cat, Zee, come in and out as he pleased. One night we heard a commotion outside our bedroom window and rushed out to find Zee cat with a mother cardinal in his mouth.

The nest was very low in the shrubs right by the window. There was one baby in the nest, so we brought it inside and kept it warm and safe.

At that time, rehabilitators were few and hard to find. So since we had experience with hand-raising cockatiels and canaries and we had supplies on hand, we decided to raise the little guy ourselves.


He grew quickly and soon began to show the mottled feathers of a young male. But we had to teach him how to open sunflower seeds like his bird parents would have.


When he had molted into most of his adult plumage, we released him into the backyard. He stayed around for a while, then went off to establish his own territory.


Ever since that incident, we have kept our cats inside during the breeding season and we only let them out on supervised excursions at other times of the year.

Young male, first year. Notice the red feathers coming in.

Young male, first year. Notice the red feathers coming in.

Post-Breeding Activities

During summer and fall the young birds go through their first molt. The male and female colors (however mottled) begin to show and the dark beaks begin to turn orange. The first picture shows a young male, the second a young female.

First-year female

First-year female

After the breeding season is over and the last of the young are able to feed themselves, the adults look a little ragged. They begin their fall molt, and by winter have a new set of feathers so that they will be well insulated against the cold weather.

Winter Cardinals are bright, crisp and fresh looking. The male's beautiful colors help him establish a good territory in order to attract a prospective mate. In early spring, the whole cycle begins again.

Shelter and Food Plants Cardinals Prefer

Cardinals prefer shrubs and brambles. They love evergreen trees, and these are especially good in winter to provide shelter from the cold. Besides being good for the birds, evergreens planted on the north side of your house will help save energy and lower your monthly bill.

Food plants that cardinals use include: Maple, devil's walking stick, paper mulberry, French mulberry, ironwood, bitter-sweet, hackberry, fringe tree, camphor tree, flowering dogwood, hawthorn, gumi, fatsia, common fig, ash, huckleberry, sunflower, firebush, lantana, privet, sweet gum, Southern magnolia, red mulberry, American hophornbeam, pokeberry, pine, black cherry, pyracantha, sumac, rose, blackberry and dewberry.

Birds sharing seeds (l), Young male in bath (r)

Birds sharing seeds (l), Young male in bath (r)

Bird Feeders for Cardinals

A cardinal's diet consists mainly of grain, but they also eat insects and fruit. Cardinals will readily eat from sunflower seed and suet feeders. They prefer platform type feeders, but will use hanging feeders that have large, sturdy perches.

We feed straight black-oil sunflower seed, but special cardinal mixes are also available.

Male cardinal eating suet

Male cardinal eating suet

Cardinals in my yard use the Brome feeder, but squirrels can't

Cardinals in my yard use the Brome feeder, but squirrels can't

The cardinals, goldfinches, and most of the other seed-eating birds in our yard use the brome squirrel Buster feeder daily. The squirrels and raccoons have tried everything, but they can't get any seed out. Once, they broke the branch that it was hanging from, but only got a few kernels out.

Bird Baths and Water Features

Every creature needs a water source. Cardinals will use standard bird baths, but they seem to like water on the ground more. They love sprinklers and misters.

A young male pauses his begging for food until his father returns with a juicy morsel.

A young male pauses his begging for food until his father returns with a juicy morsel.

Questions & Answers

Question: I found a cardinal nest in a Clematis vine next to my porch. The nest had 4 eggs in it. We’ve watched her sit on the eggs of most of the day yesterday and it was very windy and rainy. The temperature overnight was in the 30s with the high for the day being 40s. The nest is empty now. Is it possible that the mother cardinal moved the eggs to a warmer location?

Answer: No, sadly the nest was probably robbed by a predator. The cold spell probably damaged the eggs. Hopefully, the pair will build another nest and the weather will be more temperate.

Question: We watched two cardinals build a nest last week but they never occupied it. It's been at least 10 days now. I'm wondering why? Did they build a decoy nest?

Answer: The female usually waits for 10 or more days to lay the first egg. Sometimes, if the nest is disturbed by a predator, they will build another one elsewhere.

Question: What happens to the eggshells after the babies hatch? We found a cardinal nest in a loropetalum bush by our pool. The mother laid five eggs in it. So far, four have hatched today. However, there are no eggshells in the nest. Do the birds eat them, or push them out?

Answer: Most birds carry the broken egg shells away from the nest and drop them on the ground. This reduces the chance of predators finding the nest. While the babies are in the nest, the parents also carry away the "poop sacks" for the same reason.

Question: How can you tell if Cardinal fledglings are male or female?

Answer: A few weeks after fledging, when the birds go through their first molt, young males will start to show red feathers in patches. Young females will molt to look like their mothers.

Question: I know at least 2 babies fledged over a week ago (one stayed in the close to the nest, the other went to a neighbor's tree. Watching the mama going from feeder to old nest area to tree trying to feed them was slightly amusing), but my husband says the nest still has 2 eggs in it. I haven't seen her going back to the actual nest. Would non-viable eggs stay in the nest, intact for that long?

Answer: Yes. The male will care for the fledglings and the female will probably build another nest and lay more eggs unless this is the third nesting. Then she will join the male in caring for the fledglings.

Question: Other birds seem to eat most the food before Cardinals join in. They seem more shy & skittish. Is there a way to curb the other birds' feeding while giving the Cardinals more opportunities to feed?

Answer: Cardinals feed early in the morning and late in the afternoon when it's almost dark and the other birds are not around. Try feeding safflower and sunflower seeds. Those will attract cardinals more.

Question: Do male and female cardinals share a nest during winter?

Answer: Male and female cardinals usually begin to pair off during the winter in preparation for the spring breeding season, but once the young leave the nest, it is abandoned by both birds. The female builds a new nest for each brood.

Question: We live on a lake. There are many cardinals, and we love them. Is the lake a good enough water source, or should I still provide a birdbath?

Answer: The lake water is an excellent water source if it is not polluted. If you'd like to get a closer look at the birds bathing and drinking, then provide a birdbath.

Question: My cardinal has hatched 5, yes, 5 babies in a tiny nest. Today is day 7 since hatching and this morning 3 were on the ground with mom & dad watching. 2 tiny ones are still in the nest. At only 7 days old will they be ok on the ground?

Answer: If the 3 older ones that have left the nest have some feathers, are able to hop around and the parents are feeding them, then they should soon move to shelter in a bush nearby. If not, then you may want to put the 3 back in the nest with the other 2. The 2 tiny ones probably hatched last and may not be able to keep up with the older 3. It is unusual for all 5 to survive.

Question: A cardinal laid four eggs in a bush next to our house. Two eggs hatched. The babies grew up and left the nest. Two eggs did not hatch, and I haven't seen the mother in two days. Are the eggs "duds," so they won't hatch?

Answer: Yes, the two remaining eggs will not hatch. This is not uncommon.

Question: One of my cats came home with a dead female Cardinal. This is May 27 in zone 7, on the North/South Carolina border. Will her chicks have been raised by now, or should I keep my cat in the house? I'm not sure when the breeding season is here.

Answer: Spring through summer is breeding season for birds. Cardinals usually raise 2-3 broods of chicks. I keep my cats inside all the time during breeding season and only let them out on supervised outings. Cats kill large numbers of birds each year.

Question: What does it mean if eggs are unhatched after three weeks but mom still incubates?

Answer: It could mean that the weather was colder than normal, slowing the development of the young. Mom will abandon the eggs if they do not hatch soon.

Question: I have a high camellia outside the bedroom window. Always have beautiful cardinals nesting and raising babies. I saw this year they are using the same nest twice. Or could this be their babies from first hatching?

Answer: It is possible fr the female to use the same nest twice.

Question: I exposed a cardinal nest with eggs while trimming some brush. I didn't know it was there. Now it has no protection from the afternoon sun. Can I or should I try to relocate it to a cooler, shadier spot nearby?

Answer: I would try to put back some of the trimmed branches to shade and camoflauge the nest.

Question: I have about a 2 week old cardinal that just left the nest with its parents. I've watched from afar but the baby went into another yard and is now nowhere to be seen. Will they come back to this nest? The baby can only fly a couple of feet.

Answer: Your baby has fledged and the parent(s) will find it in the other yard. They leave the nest when they can barely fly, but learn quickly.

Question: I have a cardinal that has built her nest and laid her eggs in a shrub right by our back porch. I have two dogs that I have to let out to go potty that way, and she’ll fly out of the nest sometimes. Are we disturbing her? Hopefully, she’ll finish taking care of her eggs/babies? We (adults) stay away from the porch using the side door instead.

Answer: She should be fine as long as you don't touch the nest.

Question: We had cardinals in our yard that built a nest and appeared to lay eggs. After a couple of weeks, they almost totally stopped coming back, so I got a ladder and peeked in, and there were three dead babies. What do you think happened?

Answer: There are many things that could have caused the death of the chicks such as heat or other weather conditions, poisoned food, inexperienced parents, etc. Hopefully there's still enough time for the parents to rear another brood.

Question: I found a cardinal nest with a mom in the nest. The next day I took another peek, but the mom had flown away. I went to check if she came back and now there are just two blind chicks. Will the mom come back, or did I scare her off?

Answer: The mom should be fine, but don't go close to the nest too often. Try using binoculars from a distance.

Question: We had a Cardinal build her nest in our open patio umbrella two days ago. I saw the dad watching on the fence nearby. So far there are no eggs, and it seems as though the mom and dad haven't been back in a day or so. Do we just need to be patient, or is it possible they abandoned this nest?

Answer: Be patient. The female will begin laying if she feels the nest will be safe. If not then they will find another spot for a new nest.

Question: We rescued a 3-day old hatchling 9 days ago and now he is starting to fly. I cannot contact any bird rehabilitation places due to the Covid-19 outbreak. I will have to teach him how to open seeds. How did you teach a cardinal chick to open seeds? Any advice to help him on his way to self-sufficiency would be greatly appreciated.

Answer: I provided him with shelled sunflower seeds, then repeatedly opened some unshelled ones using my fingernails while he was watching. You may want to also introduce him to safflower seeds. My wild cardinals love them and they have a skin instead of a shell. Basically I raised him as I raised our baby cockatiels. I had a book called, "Caring for the Furred and Feathered" (which is probably out of print) that was very helpful with tips about caring for orphaned wildlife. Perhaps you can find something similar online.

Question: How long can the mother cardinal be away from the nest and the eggs still be ok?

Answer: It depends on the weather. On warm days, the eggs and young won't get cold, so they can stay away for half an hour or more. On cold days, only a few minutes. As the chicks develop feathers, longer periods of time.

Question: How did you teach the fledgling cardinal to open sunflower seeds?

Answer: The cardinal sat on my finger while I opened the sunflower seeds for it. Pretty soon it figured out how to do it by himself.

Question: Our cardinal is sitting in her nest with her beak open, almost as if she’s panting. I read above males feed females when mating, but I haven’t seen the male. Is she ok?

Answer: She's probably hot. If there is water nearby, she should leave the nest for a drink and a bath to cool down when she feels the need. If this is their second nest, then the male is probably off taking care of the first batch of young.

Question: How do I get cardinals to nest nearby so I can see their eggs/chicks?

Answer: The best way to attract any bird to nest in your yard is to provide the proper habitat which has plants which provide food, shelter and nesting sites. Freshwater for bathing and drinking is essential. Bird baths or water gardens attract and sustain cardinals and are a great place to watch them. Feeding stations with sunflower and/or safflower seed will also attract them, especially in winter. In spring the parents often bring their babies to our feeders.

Question: A pair of cardinals have made a nest in a small Japanese Maple in a pot in my patio. It is not in the best place to be protected from the heat or storms. The pot is on a base with rollers. Do you think it is ok if I move this cardinal nest 3ft so it is under the eaves and protected by the side of the house from rain & wind? I don't know if there are any eggs in it - but no chicks have hatched. The nest has been in place for about a week.

Answer: Traditionally cardinals build nests in thick shrubbery or in thickets. At 1 week the female would still be laying eggs. If you move or disturb the nest they will probably abandon it. New cardinal pairs must learn by trial and error how and where to build their nests. I know you are concerned for them, but it's best to let nature take its course.

Question: The first of four eggs hatched in a boxwood right by our driveway. All four chicks are alive. An hour ago, a terrible ruckus of birds took place. The chicks are fine, but the mom hasn’t been back. Papa is around but isn’t tending to them. I think it was a hawk that scared her off, but will the mother come back if she is ok?

Answer: If the female is not injured, then she will probably come back. However, now that predators have discovered the nest the chances of success are slim. The babies are probably too young for the father to care for. It is possible to hand-raise them, but a rehabilitator best does this.

Question: Do cardinals ever use the same nest twice? The babies have been gone for about two weeks, and I would like to take the old nest out of the bush.

Answer: This is probably the last nesting that the parents will do this year. In my experience cardinals do not reuse the same nest. They build a new one in another place because of predators. Removing the nest should be okay.

Question: After baby cardinals are born, do they relocate to a new nest?

Answer: When the baby cardinals are a few weeks old, they leave the nest and go off with the parents who feed them and teach them how to fend for themselves. If this is an early nesting, the male will take care of the fledglings, and the female will build a new nest to lay more eggs.

Question: After a cardinal's babies have grown, do they stay in the area where they were born?

Answer: Yes, Cardinals often build their own nests not far away from where they were raised.

Question: We had a nest and one egg hatched - a very short time later the birds, baby and anything else that was in the nest disappeared. Will the adults move the newborn if disturbed by us?

Answer: Unfortunately birds cannot move their babies. What you describe sounds like predation to me. Snakes will eat eggs and young causing the parents will leave to start a new nest elsewhere. Larger birds such as crows and bluejays can also remove eggs and young without destroying the nest.

Question: Will a Cardinal move it's eggs? After a big windstorm her nest was tipped sideways. I saw her still sitting in it later. Again, I saw her out around the nest I was hoping they would try to repair it. This morning we looked out to see the nest was empty, and no fallen eggs or egg shells on the ground.

Answer: No, they cannot more their eggs. The eggs probably fell out and something ate them. She will probably have time to build another nest.

Question: Of three Cardinal fledglings, two left the nest yesterday. There is still one in the nest today and the father occasionally comes back to feed it. How many days should I wait before seeing if there is something wrong with the fledgling that isn't leaving the nest? Today it's pouring rain and I'm worried it will get too cold without its siblings.

Answer: This is normal. The last one laid/hatched is the last one to leave the nest. Dad is coming back to feed it and coax it to leave the nest and come with the rest of the family. Hopefully the third one will leave today and the rain won't cause harm.

Question: I noticed some cardinals built a nest amongst my climbing roses. They had been feeding the babies (4) There’s been a cat in our backyard so yesterday I set a ladder and climbed up to check on the baby birds only to find that they died. All that remained was their carcass. Why would these baby birds have died?

Answer: Unfortunately, cats kill many birds yearly. Chances are that the female was killed by a predator. I'm so sorry. Responsible pet owners should keep their cats inside, especially during the breeding season. At the very least the cats should be wearing a collar with bells.

Question: Will Cardinals build a nest and not leave any eggs in it?

Answer: They often will not lay the eggs right away. There usually wait for a week or more before laying the first egg.

Question: I’m worried that the cardinal parents have abandoned the nest. I’ve seen her nearby but haven’t actually seen her on the nest. The babies are a few days old. We had a lot of activity in the yard a day ago with a beehive, and I’m afraid they’ve been spooked. How long can the hatchlings survive?

Answer: Hopefully, everything is fine. When the babies hatch, the female is often off of the nest searching for food. During the summer it is warm enough for here to leave the babies unattended for longer periods of time than when it's cooler as it is in spring.

Question: Is it OK to ground a seven-day-old cardinal?

Answer: A seven-day-old cardinal is a little young to fledge.

Question: A female cardinal built her nest in a shrub off our sunroom. There were 2 eggs in it (visible from our window but not to the yard). Last evening she was on the nest as usual ( she’s been there at least 9-10 days). Today she is gone and the nest is empty. There are no shells on the ground or in the nest. What could have happened?

Answer: It sounds like a predator, possibly a snake, got the eggs. Hopefully the female escaped.

Question: How do I get cardinals to nest nearby in my yard?

Answer: Plant trees and shrubs which provide nesting sites, shelter and food. Put up a birdbath, fountain or water garden where it can be seen from the house. Keep cats inside, especially during breeding season.

Question: Are cardinals born or hatched?

Answer: Cardinals hatch from an egg, as do other birds, but you could say a new life is born into this world.

Question: My baby cardinals are ten-days-old. I went to check on them, and the nest is destroyed and I’m worried something got them. Could they just have relocated?

Answer: It does sound like a something disturbed the nest. The young usually leave the nest at around two-weeks-old. Perhaps they were able to get away. If the babies did die, the parents should start a new nest soon.

Question: Nest has been made but birds haven’t come back for four days now. Have they abandoned the nest?

Answer: Probably not, there is always a lull before the eggs are laid.

Question: Are new born cardinals safe in bad weather?

Answer: It depends on how bad the weather is. Mother cardinals will brood and shelter their young, but in high winds the nest can be blown down.

Question: There's a stray cat that comes onto my deck, near the nest. How can I keep it away form the nest? The birds fly in to the bush where the nest is, from the left side. Can I wrap the right side in some screening?

Answer: It would not be a good idea to disturb the nest by wrapping one side of the bush with screen. The cat would just access the nest from the other side. I would ask the neighbors if they know who owns the cat. You could ask the owner to keep the cat inside. If it is indeed a stray, and you want the birds to be safe, animal control will usually provide a live trap so the cat can be removed.

Question: I have a female cardinal that roosts alone on our string lights on the porch at night in 35-degree weather. Is a cardinal roosting outside in cold weather normal?

Answer: The string lights emit some heat and the porch is sheltered. The cardinal must feel comfortable there. I have had cardinals build nests in a large rose bush and Taiwan cherry tree right next to my front porch. Birds adapt to their surroundings.

Question: I found two Cardinal eggs on the ground that had fallen out of the nest. I put them back. Will the mother still incubate them?

Answer: The mother may incubate the eggs that you put back in the nest. However, it is possible that a predator knocked the eggs out of the nest. If this is true, then the mother will probably abandon the nest.

Question: I have a female cardinal that flies and chirps constantly whenever I put seed in my feeders. I think she has a nest somewhere, but not sure. Do they build their nests in strange locations?

Answer: Yes, she probably has a nest close by.

Question: A cardinal laid four eggs in her nest in a jumbo fern next to one of our porch doors. THree hatched and two survived. What happened to egg and fledgling that didn’t live?

Answer: The parents usually dispose of the egg shells and dead young. Sometimes unhatched eggs will be pushed to the bottom of the nest.

Question: What should I do about a nest that is in the garage?

Answer: I would leave the door or window cracked and let the cardinals raise their young.

Question: How long do baby cardinals stay with parents?

Answer: After baby cardinals leave the nest their parents feed them and show them how to find their own food for a few weeks until they can survive on their own.

Question: I found two small cardinals on the driveway. Mom and dad are around. The smallest one seems to have trouble hopping, while the bigger one is able to hop around easily. Should I consider relocating the smaller cardinal chick to a bush so it isn’t exposed?

Answer: If mom and dad are around, then it's best to let them take care of it. The younger of the brood is usually a little weaker, and when the babies leave the nest they look underdeveloped. It's surprising how well they can fly at this age.

© 2008 Yvonne L B

Tell us your Cardinal Stories.

Cam on July 30, 2020:

A pair of cardinals made a nest in my climbing roses next to my screened in patio so I could see them from a distance through the wire mesh of the screen. At day 8 or 9 after being hatched, we had a huge storm and I saw that it knocked one of the fledglings out of the nest. But after the storm passed, the male cardinal was swooping down to feed it. I saw it perched on a tiny branch about 8" off the ground, but it was certainly not developed enough to fly. The next morning, all the fledgings were gone? This includes the one on the ground and the 2 left in the nest. It would only have been day 9 or 10 after being hatched. I worry that a predator has gotten them. Maybe an owl? I have never seen any snakes and there are no neighborhood cats. It was a good place for a nest because it is a small fenced in area. I have seen the male & female flying about constantly chirping but they do not go to the ground. This makes me think the fledglings are gone. :(

Hope Kahan from Fort Worth, TX on July 20, 2020:

Hi I have a cardinal nest in the rose bush by my back door and the babies have just hatched. Mom and dad come by frequently to feed them. I don't know how many there are, but I'm worried about what happens when they leave the nest. I have two dogs that go in and out a lot and I'm wondering how careful I need to be to watch for the babies on the ground before they can fly. After they leave the nest, how long do they hop around before they can fly?

Ellen bozzi on July 16, 2020:

A female made her nest I. A potted plant on a stand by my front door. She doesn’t move when the door opens or closes but when I try to look she flys out. Now I see one egg for the last 3 or 4 days but the egg isn’t inside the nest when she flew out I put some apples and nuts in the pot so she can eat. Do you think this egg is ok? Nest isn’t wide it looks like a cone shape and deep. The mom is in there do you think she will have more. Is this all normal will she get to trust me ty

Yvonne L B (author) from Covington, LA on July 04, 2020:

The cardinal pair will probably not reuse the old nest, especially if the babies are dead. To prevent predation a new nest will be built in another spot that may be close by. Good luck.

Deb on June 30, 2020:

We had a nesting pair with two babies. I the weather got really rainy and cold around the time they hatched but Mama hung on and we had two open moths and squeaks. Three days later they abandon the nest. We haven't looked to see if there are dead babies or not. They've been in the area for years and I want them to come back. Should we remove the nest?

Yvonne L B (author) from Covington, LA on June 19, 2020:

If a nest is compromised in any way, the mother will abandon it and build in a safer place.

Yvonne L B (author) from Covington, LA on June 19, 2020:

Cardinals usually build nests in shrubs and trees. The place you describe, "behind a knot of a wooden shingle" sounds more like a cavity nesting bird or possibly a robin. Are the parents still around? If so and if the painters are not using spray paint and can carefully work around the nest, then just monitor things. If parents aren't caring for the young, then find a rehabilitator to take them to. I'd also double check the species of the baby bird he found.

CERINAWITHASEA on June 19, 2020:

My boyfriend is a house painter. He found a a cardinal nestling on the ground and he put it back in the nest. I’m concerned about it and the other nestlings because of the painting. The nest is built behind a knot on a wooden shingle. What should we watch for, when is it appropriate to take over and try to save them? Thanks btw i do have a couple pictures

Jeanne on May 29, 2020:

Cardinals built a nest by my door in a plant, never used it. It was empty gor a few weeks. Now its all closed up. Whats up with that.

Ashlyn B on May 27, 2020:

I have neighborhood cats that I take care of and they like to catch birds.I once saw one of the cats with a bird in their mouth but since i saw it all the time I didn't really think much of it I just thought that it was a sparrow.Later on my sister saw a baby bird fall out of it's nest it was trying to get up but then another cat came and swooped up the bird. It was struggling to get out but then the cat punctured it.we tried to save it but it was too late.My sister was crying because when she picked it up it was limp.Then our father told us that cardinals push their baby out of the nest to see if they survive for a few days.imagine dropping little timmy out leaving and then coming back and being like hmm where did timmy go oh well jimmy time for you to go and the process goes on and on in my neighborhood.But sometimes they don't get caught and it is the best moment ever.I will always remember those two little baby birds.

Linda Franza on May 17, 2020:

I was so happy to see a pair of cardinals building their nest right outside my bedroom window and two weeks later I was sure they were ready to hatch I saw her in the nest at dusk but every morning I check to see if the eggs hatched this morning I didn’t see her so I walked around looking for them I saw two pieces of a shell on the ground I pulled the branch down and the nest was empty I was devastated I checked on them every day I saw the male bird and he was following me around squawking but no female Later I was in my dining room and saw a male and female cardinal looking right at me in the bush outside What could have happened to my nest of eggs? I keep my bedroom door open to listen for a commotion of other birds trying to steal the eggs but nothing I miss them I became so attached watching the male feeding her in the nest and now I can’t relax wondering what happened

Charlene Forsyth on May 13, 2020:

It's been a year and a lot of trial and error with buying different cages along with bird food but let me tell you it's been worth it. It all started last may my furry bestfriend passed away and I was broken beyond repair. However I still have my other dachshund and I started thinking well what's he feeling like and I started to notice that not only was i sad but he to was sad. Months went by and when I took my furry bestfriend outside to do his stuff I kept nothing a bright red cardinal every day

Then my husband came home from the store with our first bird feeder and food, before I knew it the family's of cardinals were coming to visit to..i like the blue Jays to but they are so much bigger than my cardinals so between them and the doves it was getting out of hand..however the next type of birds that showed up was a family of red belly woodpeckers and now they are adults and i can see all this flirting going on..the next set of birds started flying around but they have not landed on the feeders or water areas that's the downy woodpeckers i didn't even know we had them here in southwest Florida. The family of pileated woodpeckers of three come into the area in the empty lots on each side of our home we built in 1981.they used to be way more of them i remember but i wish they would stop building around my's still somewhat secluded area. Now I only have a new bird that is coming to our feeders and water area and it's a red headed woodpecker but only one..sure hope he or she can find a mate. I'm noticing a lot of bird flirting going on right now..well i miss my furry bestfriend however i now have so many birds to fill my heart because it's taken along time for me to heal...i just really wanted to say thanks for this great post you wrote i learned something new today..thx Charlene

Annette Y on May 10, 2020:

The mama Cardinal (Red Bird) OH builds her nest in the same bush every year. Yesterday this morning there were 3 eggs. I just checked and now there are only 2 eggs? Do mama birds move eggs? That's never happened before?

Yvonne L B (author) from Covington, LA on April 09, 2020:


It is not uncommon for females to nest in the same area each year. Cardinals prefer to nest in shrubs or small trees that provide good cover. I hope your cardinals raise healthy young this year and beyond. Happy spring.

Kiddsmom on April 09, 2020:

It seems that I have the same mama Cardinal making her nest on my patio every April Do Cardinals come back to the same nesting areas year after year? I would like to have a proper home for her next year if that’s the case

Elizabeth L on August 05, 2019:

I live in a townhouse and do not think I have any cardinals nesting in my yard. However, I have seen so many juvenile cardinals in my fenced back yard - on the ground and at the feeders. I've never noticed so many as I have this year. I don't know if I've seen any that are newly fledged but have seen many that still have their black beaks and muted feather colors. This seems to have been a very good year for baby birds, especially the cardinals in my area. I've also had a family of four young squirrels and a family of three young raccoons consistently at my feeders (with their moms, I think) this year.

mary beth woods on June 04, 2019:

i have my second brood of babies just hatched and they are only a day or 2 old. we are supposed to have really bad storms in the next couple days - anything i can do to protect them?


Love 4cardinals on May 29, 2019:

I have new baby cardinals in the nest outside we are having a bad storm with wind and rain etc..are they going to be safe ?

Billy on May 12, 2019:

They actually nest in my neighbors trees but feed in my yard daily. We live on the outskirts of the city but we have maybe 6-10 in my yard.

Karen Meghreblian on December 26, 2018:

I have a young male who is hanging out by himself.. he has been her 4 days, trying to get in the house and now staying under my carport.

I dont think he has a nest. Strong winds took a big limb out if a pine tree, and he has been here since. We have feeders and he seems to be eating. But what do i do abouth my car?he's living on it

Yvonne L B (author) from Covington, LA on December 02, 2018:

By now (December) all parental links between mother and son should be finished. I would tend to think that the mature male and female are a pair and the young male may be viewed as a rival. This may also be food related. A second feeder wouldn't hurt.

Diane on December 02, 2018:

I have what looks like a young male cardinal with its mother. It has an injured eye and a more mature male is chasing it away. Should I set unother feeder further away? Do the male parents attack their offspring?

Yvonne L B (author) from Covington, LA on August 24, 2018:

Hopefully the mother will come back. Try to give it a wide berth for a while. The chicks should fledge in 10 days to 2 weeks.

Kirk H on August 17, 2018:

I found a cardinal nest in my portch umbrella but couldnt see inside of it. I went to move it and found 3 blind chicks inside so i promptly put it back. Will the mother return or have I just unwittingly killed those baby birds?

Todd S. on August 08, 2018:

I have watched a pair of cardinals raise a pair babies and here it is 6 weeks after the babies started to fly, they still hang out with their parents. I see them everyday at the feeding bowl together. What was funny, after they were big enough to fly, dad was still mouth feeding them seeds for a couple of weeks.

Yvonne L B (author) from Covington, LA on August 08, 2018:


After the young birds fledge, the parents continue to feed them for several weeks as they teach them to forage for themselves. They will be fully feathered with some adult plumage coming in before they can totally feed themselves.

Monica on August 07, 2018:

I was hiking in GA and came across a ~7 day old bird attacked by ants on a trail, I couldn't find nest so decided to give him a 2nd Chance. I raised cockatiels in 4-h and worked in parrot bird rehibilutation when I was a teenager. It's been 10 days, I have millet and seed in the cage and I would expect it to start picking, any advice?

Lydia Boylan on June 16, 2018:

A cardinal built a nest in a flowering bush right outside my home office window. I was washing the window and had it tilted inside when I noticed my cat was sitting on the edge of my desk. She saw the nest before I did. I quickly closed the window so as not to frighten the female away. I closed the blind for the same reason. The cat soon lost interest since she couldn't see the nest any longer. I watched for several weeks and finally saw the last of the three babies on the edge of the nest. The male came and began to teach the baby to leave the nest. He would hop from branch to branch and the baby would follow. Eventually, the male flew away towards the feeders and the baby followed. I could not believe it. It was very exciting but I soon got depressed and realized truly what "the empty nest" means. I went through that emotion with my five children and then again with my nine grandchildren. Now the flight of the cardinals brought all those emotions back again!. A great experience. I hope I get to share it again with the male and female cardinals in my yard. Even my coffee mug has cardinals on it, so it was a dream come true to see them up so close that I could have touched them from the window, but of course I didn't. I gave them their safety and privacy. Mother Nature at her best in my yard!

Sharyn Harlow on June 10, 2018:

I exposed a cardinal nest with eggs, I didn't know existed, while trimming brush. Now the nest gets too much hot, direct sun exposure. Can I or should I try to move it to a cooler, shadier spot?

SusanR on June 02, 2018:

I have two cardinals sharing a nest with 5 chicks in the nest. The females come to the nest alone and together. Have you seen this before?

Laurie H on May 31, 2018:

Will the 2rd and 3rd nests be close to the first nest? Same bush or maybe one next to it?

Yvonne L B (author) from Covington, LA on May 19, 2018:


If the mother was not injured or killed, the baby may survive, but now that predators have discovered the nest, the parents may abandon it and build a new nest in another location.

Yvonne L B (author) from Covington, LA on May 19, 2018:

If you prune the bush, perhaps you could hold off on doing that until later in the spring. If you don't prune it, then I would think that this pair is probably building a second nest in a more secure location and hopefully rearing young there.

D Raimey on May 14, 2018:

I have a pair of Cardinals who nest every year in the same bush, right outside our dining room window. However, although I’ve seen the eggs, I never see the chicks hatch. I’m afraid something is stealing the eggs every year as they suddenly disappear shortly after being laid. Is there any way to help protect them? We don’t have a cat, but in South Florida, we have iguana and lizards galore.

Sue on May 09, 2018:

A female cardinal built a nest in a fern hanging on my back porch. She has been sitting in it for several days. Today I saw two baby birds on the porch floor below the nest, and the mother and father birds have been flying around the porch. I picked up the one bird that was still moving and put it back in the nest. The other one was not moving so I threw it away. Could the baby I put back in the nest survive?

Elsa narimani on April 26, 2018:

i have about three my life sadly.i am writing a report about them i mean the northern cardinal.i have to show my class at fergus falls MN PWLC.i hope they like it!!!!!!

Stacy in Broward County, Florida on April 21, 2018:

I watched a mating pair build a nest about 4 days ago in my backyard. However, I just went out to check on the nest and it was empty. Not sure if she laid her eggs as the nest is too high for me to look from above.

I last saw the male early morning but do not see the female.

Will the female leave the nest after it is built?

Hoping she didn’t feel threatened by my vocal Caique. My two dogs also roam as they please in our backyard.

Emily Menzies on April 18, 2018:

I had a cardinal nest in my rose bush. So far all the normal activity I have read about has occured. 3 eggs were laid and mom finally started incubating. She would be in the nest on and off. We had a really bad storm but she never left the nest. As I recall I feel like she sat in the nest as much as she did previously maybe a bit more, but that night was the last I saw her. Today marks 3 days without seeing her. What could have happened? Could she possibly come back? Are the eggs still viable? Did we possibly scare her off? We have tried to be very careful not to disturb her. I have been unable to find how long females can stay away from their nests during the incubation stage.

Jennifer Fish on June 25, 2017:

We have a wrought iron hanging basket that we mounted just outside our back door. It used to hold sunscreen and bug spray, but I threw the old containers away this spring, and within a couple of weeks, a female Cardinal was building her nest in it. So she was just about 18 inches from the door, and she and I were eye-to-eye as I went in and out. Amazing. I was quiet and told her every day what a good mama she was being... she laid 3 eggs, and 2 hatched, although I saw the 3rd egg moving and trying to hatch but for some reason didn't. Then the male started coming around and being very attentive. When it was close to time for "flight school" I started using another door to get outside as the male and female became very territorial and would fly up to the door, flapping their wings to scare me off. I kept my dogs inside for several days to give the babies a chance. Both of them made it. They fly very closely together and are fun to watch. Right now the male is feeding the female, so they may have another nest close by. They are very attentive parents, and as I write this are both feeding at one of my feeders in the back yard. A few feet away, two robins are tending to their new is good...

Raeann Ball on June 23, 2017:

I like baby Cardinals because I am learning a lot about the cardinal's. they are cute.

Alice Pascucci on May 26, 2017:

My cardinals build their next on my deck in our hibiscus tree. Our tree is in the cellar for the winter and when we see the cardinals landing on our deck we know it's time to put the tree out. We put the tree out by April 15 and sure enough she started building her nest. Today we watched the babies fly away. Amazing to watch live....

ben and Alice Pascucci on April 26, 2017:

Add Your Comment..our cardinals come back every year and build their nest in our hibiscus tree on our deck(except for last year - the robins got there first). They arrived today and started to build their nest. This is our fourth year waiting and watching the babies grow and fly off. We actually saw them flying around looking for our tree. We put it outside and they arrived. Nature is magical.

Yvonne L B (author) from Covington, LA on March 02, 2017:

I have never seen a Cardinal use last year's nest. In fact they usually build a new nest for the 2nd and 3rd broods of the year. That way it is more difficult for predators to find the nest.

Susan on March 01, 2017:

Cannot find info re cardinals coming back to use a nest made in the previous year.

Yvonne L B (author) from Covington, LA on November 24, 2016:

I don't think a few outside Christmas lights would disturb them. This time of year they are not nesting. Putting out some suet cakes or sunflower or safflower seeds would help them get through the winter and would invite them to stick around your place. on November 23, 2016:

I have many cardinal families living in my yard year round and making nests everywhere. I would like to put some outside Christmas light out this year but do no want the cardinals to leave. Any suggestions?

Patty Lyvers-- kentucky on August 05, 2016:

Cardinal birds built a nest in our Crepe Myrtle and hatched 3 babies. The tree is right next to our kitchen window where we had great viewing at the inside of the tree and the nest. After a while, the male noticed us watching them and he came to the window and cocked his head and looked, but then went about his business. I was surprised to see him feed the chicks as well as Mom bird. A month and a half later, one of the male babies came back to the tree and sat on a branch near the nest inside the tree, preening his feathers and taking a snooze. Was wondering if the babies typically will return to same tree they were born in?

Doc_Holliday on December 06, 2013:

I am surrounded with birds but not a single cardinal.

seodress on September 16, 2013:

Great photography.

marktplaatsshop on June 08, 2013:

This is a loveley and great lens, i learnd a few things, thanks for sharing

blestman lm on June 06, 2013:

Awesome lens. Cardinals are great birds and somewhat aggressive when I have sunflower seeds in the bird feeder. I love seeing them

donjohnsonis lm on May 24, 2013:

Great lens, I love to watch Cardinals out my window, just a few feet from my computer.

myspace9 on January 04, 2013:

Very beautiful lens.

coolaunt on October 04, 2012:

Thank you for publishing this lens. I look forward to getting a feeder that will keep the squirrels out of it.

MarieWilliamsJohnstone on September 01, 2012:

The cardinal is a beautiful bird - one of my favorites. You've done it some justice here with this lovely lens.

ismeedee on August 25, 2012:

I came here researching information for my book (it's a novel but I mention the cardinal) and I got everything I need and much more! What a beautifully made lens, loads of stunning photos, and love the youtube vid with sound of cardinal's song!

pheonix76 from WNY on August 04, 2012:

Nice lens about a beautiful bird! Interestingly, female cardinals will also sing and I have witnessed this on several occasions in the spring. I have had the "pleasure" of banding many Northern cardinals and they are notorious for having a painful bite -- no doubt about the seed-cracking strength of those bills! Thanks for sharing, great lens.

cassieann on July 31, 2012:

Absolutely beautiful lens. I love watching the cardinals and blue jays in my yard. Thanks for sharing.

poorwendy lm on July 17, 2012:

I love the lens, especially the pictures.

Onemargaret LM on July 07, 2012:

There is a Cardinal that flies into the window outside of our home each day. There something about that window. Nice lens.

anonymous on July 06, 2012:

Love your lens, have some building a nest in a tree right outside the door right now!

Monica Lobenstein from Western Wisconsin on July 04, 2012:

Excellent & informative lens! I didn't know much of the details of their mating brooding.

WriterJanis2 on July 02, 2012:

A wonderful tribute to Cardinals.

SteveKaye on June 23, 2012:

Thank you for publishing this lens about these beautiful birds. Wonderful!

CoeGurl on June 22, 2012:

Cardinals are my favorite birds. Thanks for a deeper look into their lives.

magictricksdotcom on June 22, 2012:

Wow, what a great lens! Cardinals are plentiful on our property, and their sounds are indeed beautiful. The flashes of color, especially in the winter, are magical.

sherioz on June 16, 2012:

I would always be thrilled as a kid in Canada when I would see a cardinal, which was not very often. Beautiful lens.

bikerministry on June 12, 2012:

Great lens, thanks for all the work behind pulling this information together. Blessings.

bwet on June 10, 2012:

learned a lot about cardinals from this lens. thumbs up!

Laraine Sims from Lake Country, B.C. on May 21, 2012:

We have cardinals in the Okanagan Valley for part of the summer. I've never seen them building a nest but I love to hear them sing. Beautiful lens and very informative. Angel blessing!

JustRelax LM on May 17, 2012:

Great lens, I love it and cardinals too! Thank you!

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on May 13, 2012:

This is one of the beautiful lenses I have seen. Good info, too.

grega85 on April 23, 2012:

Very nice lens. I don't have any stories about Cardinal.

BestRatedStuff on April 23, 2012:

Great lens with a lot of useful information. Cardinals are beautiful, and it was wonderful reading more about them.

mel-kav on April 14, 2012:

Lots of great information. Terrific lens!

TravelDiaries on March 30, 2012:

Great lens. I adore cardinals, they come often around my yard in Florida. Great info. I have been looking for bird feeders idea that would keep the squirrels away because they seem to eat most of the bird food.

Yvonne L B (author) from Covington, LA on March 23, 2012:

@anonymous: As a rule is not legal to keep a Northern Cardinal or any other native bird as a pet, but special licenses and permits can be obtained by people who rehabilitate wildlife. Also, in the case of nests, abandoned eggs and such, similar permits can be issued to individuals by state agencies.

anonymous on March 23, 2012:

@anonymous: (May have responded on wrong page a moment ago.) Per Federal Law, governed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Agency, personal ownership is not legal of even a mere feather from a bluejay. Check with that Agency for verification, but I am fairly certain ownership of wild songbirds is unlawful.

anonymous on March 23, 2012:

I do not anything about the State Law in Florida, but have been aware that by Federal Law (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service being regulatory Agency in question) it is not legal to own a mere feather from a bluejay (for example). Check with those folks. Am fairly certain this is not own any wild songbird. But I am not the expert, ask the appropriate Agency.

anonymous on March 23, 2012:

Can a person keep a Red Cardinal legally as a pet in the State of Florida?

Bananko on March 13, 2012:

Hello, is it possible i saw Cardinal bird in Grand Canaria Islands? Im almost sure its almost the same, like its on the picture. Lovely lens!

SteveKaye on February 26, 2012:

I'm going to have to visit the Eastern part of the US so that I can see (and photograph) cardinals. Thank you for this lens.

flicker lm on December 28, 2011:

Nice lens! I especially enjoyed the videos.

anonymous on December 08, 2011:

Can anyone tell me where to find a cardinal tablecloth which accurately renders these jewels. I do not care about "Christmas" theme with holly, etc. Would LOVE multiple birds, but cardinals are my favorite. Searched online, but none of the cardinals looked 'real.'

NYtoSCimjustme on September 16, 2011:

Absolutely wonderful! You have so much information and great stories to go with it - Thank You for Sharing.... love the fact you got to raise the fledgling - too cool ;)

Lee Hansen from Vermont on September 14, 2011:

Love cardinals and feed them all winter. They stick around for summer and enjoy the wild grapes and berries in our garden, nest in the shrubs right near my bedroom window. Blessed by a visiting angel in search of lenses about "birds" ...

anonymous on August 14, 2011:

Absolutely beautifully done, I enjoyed every moment of my visit....well, maybe not the part about mamma Robin. 90% in your quiz, missed the number of brood when I went with 3-4. I so enjoyed listening to the Cardinal's song, it reminded me of home. Its always a special treat to see Cardinals and lucky you got to even raise one!

anonymous on August 12, 2011:

Hi naturegirl7,

Great lense about Cardinals, I enjoyed reading it very much. I wish we had them to visit our feeder, but I guess we live to close to the marsh, and they would rather be nearer to the woods.


Lisa Auch from Scotland on August 11, 2011:

As a Squid Quest for Squidoo. the angels are visiting more neighbourhoods! Blessed by a visiting squid angel

ForestBear LM on July 04, 2011:

Beautiful lens. Thank you for sharing

pimbels lm on June 18, 2011:

A very interesting lens. I enjoyed read it, thank you.

Tolovaj Publishing House from Ljubljana on June 17, 2011:

Beautiful creatures!

Stacy Birch on May 26, 2011:

This is my favorite bird, great lens.

efriedman on May 24, 2011:


Really enjoyed this lens. I grew up in NE Texas and loved to see cardinals. Now I live in the west, and I miss them. Loved your pitchers of raising the adorable and goofy little hatchling.

pawpaw911 on May 11, 2011:

Nice lens. We have had cardinals nest in our trees several times. It is fun to watch them grow.

Renaissance Woman from Colorado on May 06, 2011:

Really enjoyed this lens. I love cardinals and really miss them. Had them on my nature sanctuary in Texas, but do not have them here at my mountain home. They are such a favorite of mine.

poutine on April 02, 2011:

Lots of info on cardinals.

My husband and I just love those birds so much.

sukkran trichy from Trichy/Tamil Nadu on March 31, 2011:

very interesting read with great info about cardinal. ~blessed~

anonymous on March 31, 2011:

Nice Squidoo. Very enjoyable to read. Chris

Philippians468 on March 30, 2011:

this is a wonderful lens! thank you for sharing this with us all! i love the cardinal plush toy - the hairstyle is so funny! cheers