Why Do Cardinals Come Out in the Snow




Why Do Cardinals Come Out in the Snow

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Have you ever wondered why cardinals seem to come out more frequently in the snow? The Northern Cardinal, a non-migratory bird species, stays in the United States year-round, even during the cold winter months. They are known for their bright red feathers, which stand out against the white snow, and they often flock together to defend food sources and roost for extra warmth. But how do cardinals survive the cold? Through roosting together, fluffing up their feathers, shivering, and building up a layer of fat, these clever birds have adapted strategies to keep warm and thrive in winter weather. In this article, we will explore the fascinating ways cardinals stay warm and how you can attract them to your backyard during the winter season.

Cardinals in Winter – Do Cardinals Like Cold Weather?

When the temperature drops and snow blankets the ground, you may wonder how birds are able to survive the harsh winter conditions. One bird species that is known to thrive in the cold weather is the Northern Cardinal. These beautiful birds with their bright red feathers are a delight to see against the white snow. But do cardinals actually like the cold weather? While we can’t get inside their minds to know for sure, we do know that cardinals are non-migratory birds that stay in the United States year-round. They have adapted to the cold and have developed various strategies to keep warm during the winter months.

How Do Cardinals Keep Warm in Winter?

Cardinals have a few tricks up their feathers to help them stay warm during the winter. One strategy they use is roosting/nesting together. Just like humans, birds find comfort in cuddling up with others when it’s cold outside. You might be lucky enough to spot a small group of cardinals roosting together in the winter. By huddling close together, they are able to share body heat, which helps them conserve energy and stay warm.

Another way cardinals stay warm is by fluffing their feathers. Have you ever noticed that birds look puffier when it’s cold outside? Cardinals intentionally fluff up their feathers to trap warm air between their feathers and their body. This layer of trapped air acts as insulation, keeping them warm even in the coldest temperatures.

Shivering is another way cardinals generate heat and stay warm. Similar to how humans shiver when they’re cold, cardinals shiver to raise their body temperature. The muscle movement from shivering increases their energy use, which is released as heat. So, if you see snow falling from a branch or bush, it might be caused by a shivering cardinal.

Additionally, cardinals prepare for winter by building a “winterbod.” During the fall months, cardinals eat to build up a thicker layer of fat in their bodies. This fat acts as insulation, protecting them from the harsh cold of winter. Providing a bird feeder in the fall can help ensure that cardinals have access to the food they need to build up their energy reserves and stay warm throughout the winter.

How to Attract Cardinals in Winter

If you want to attract cardinals to your backyard during the winter, there are a few steps you can take. First, make sure to provide a winter bird feeder. Cardinals tend to live in larger groups during the winter and having a reliable source of food can help attract them to your yard. Place the feeder somewhere calm and near places to hide, such as thorny bushes, since cardinals like to feed in areas where they feel safe.

In addition to a bird feeder, you can also create a bird-friendly habitat. Planting shrubs and trees that provide shelter and include berries or seeds can be appealing to cardinals. Offering fresh water in a heated bird bath can also be a draw for cardinals and other winter birds.

Why Do Birds Come Out in the Snow?

You may have noticed that some birds are more visible in the snow. It’s not necessarily because they are attracted to the snow itself, but rather because their colors contrast against the white backdrop. Birds like cardinals also tend to live in groups during the winter, making them more noticeable because there are more of them in one place. They gather together to protect food sources and increase their chances of survival.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Do Cardinals Like the Snow?

While we can’t be sure if cardinals actually like the snow, it is common to see them in snowy conditions. Their bright red feathers stand out against the white snow, making them easy to spot. Additionally, cardinals tend to live in larger flocks during the winter, so you may see more of them at this time.

Why Do I Only See Cardinals in the Winter?

Cardinals are non-migratory birds, which means they stay in their habitat year-round. However, you may notice them more in the winter because their bright red feathers contrast against the snow, making them easier to spot.

Do Birds Feet Get Cold in the Snow?

Birds’ feet can get cold in the winter, but this is generally not a serious problem. Smaller birds like cardinals have a fast blood circulation, so the blood that flows through their feet doesn’t cool down too quickly. Their feet are also dry and scaly, which prevents moisture build-up. Moisture can freeze in the snow, so by keeping their feet dry, birds also keep them warm.


Cardinals are resilient birds that have adapted to survive in cold winter conditions. While we can’t know for sure if they enjoy the cold weather, we do know that they have developed strategies to keep warm. Cardinals roost together, fluff their feathers, shiver to generate heat, and build up fat reserves to insulate their bodies. To attract cardinals to your backyard in winter, provide a winter bird feeder and create a bird-friendly habitat. Enjoy the beauty of these bright red birds as they navigate the snowy landscape.

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