Why Do Cardinals Come Out in the Snow?

why do cardinals come out in the snow

The Northern Cardinal is a non-migratory bird which means they do not move to warmer climates in fall and winter. During the cold weather, cardinals tend to flock together to defend the food sources in the area and might even roost together at night for extra warmth.

The bright red feathers of male cardinals are easy to spot against the white snow. But how are these birds able to survive the cold? This is what you want to know about cardinals in winter weather.

Cardinals in Winter – Do Cardinals Like Cold Weather?

The Northern Cardinal is a bird species that stays in the United States year-round. Many bright colored birds are tropical species but cardinals are one of the exceptions.

Northern Cardinals may be small birds but they show a lot of strength surviving cold winters. In fact, one of the reasons why their populations are so stable is that more and more cardinals make it through the winter months.

We cannot take a peek inside their thoughts so we can’t really know if they enjoy the cold weather. What we can say is that it does not deter them.

How Do Cardinals Keep Warm in Winter?

Like other winter birds, cardinals have a few tricks up their feathers to keep warm during the winter. We list them below.

  1. Roosting/Nesting Together

Many people like to cuddle together when it is cold and birds are no different. With some luck, you might be able to spot a small group of cardinals roosting together in the winter.

Huddling close together helps them to keep warm. It lets them share body heat which in turn allows them to conserve much needed energy.

  1. Fluffing Feathers

Ever wonder why birds look a little puffier when it is cold outside? Cardinals do this on purpose.

They fluff up to trap warm air between their dry feathers. To be able to do this, cardinals have to keep their bodies clean.

  1. Shivering

Shivering is another similarity humans share with birds. It is a natural reaction to our bodies cooling down.

The muscle movement triggers 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 Northern Cardinal.

  1. Building a Winterbod

Feeding is essential during the fall months because this is when cardinals pack on the pounds (figuratively, because they are very small birds). Essentially, they are eating to build a thicker layer of fat in their body.

Fat acts as an insulator which protects them in the winter cold. That is why it is a good idea to already place a bird feeder in the fall.

How to Attract Cardinals in Winter

Would you like to see a bright red bird in your backyard this winter? Winter is actually an excellent time to attract more cardinals to your garden.

As mentioned, cardinals tend to live in larger groups during the winter. Instead of protecting a smaller area with their mate, they protect a larger area together with their flock.

The larger flock is better equipped to chase away competition, after all, cardinals are small birds. Food sources are scarce in winter which makes it even more important for them to be territorial.

You can try to make your backyard part of their territory by placing winter bird feeders in the yard. They like to feed somewhere calm and near places to hide such as thorny bushes.

Why Do Birds Come Out in the Snow?

Some birds are able to survive the winter. You might notice a few birds outside in the snow but it is not necessarily the snow itself that attracts them.

Winter birds might be easier to spot because their colors contrast against the white backdrop. Many bird species, like cardinals, also choose to live in groups during the winter. Thus, they are more noticeable because you see more of them in one place.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Do Cardinals Like the Snow?

We don’t know if cardinals like the snow but it is quite common to see them in the snow. This is because they tend to live in larger flocks and their bright red color stands out against white snow.

Why Do I Only See Cardinals in the Winter?

Cardinals do not migrate so you can spot them year-round. However, some find it easier to spot them in winter because of their color.

Do Birds Feet Get Cold in the Snow?

Birds feet can get cold in the winter but generally this is not a serious problem. Smaller birds like cardinals have a very fast blood circulation so the blood that flows through their feet does not cool down too fast.

Their feet are also very dry and scaly which prevents moisture build-up. Moisture can freeze in the snow so by keeping dry birds are also keeping warm.


Cardinals are commonly seen in the snow because they stay in their habitat during the winter. Male Northern Cardinals have very bright red feathers which is easily seen when it is snowy outside.

This bird species also groups together during winter to better protect the food sources in their shared territory. Come springtime, when food is more abundant, they split off from the group with their mate.

Staying in a group also provides the opportunity to roost together. By huddling together, cardinals can conserve energy and share body heat.

Have you spotted something red flying around the bird feeder in winter?

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