Cardinals will eat a variety of foods, ranging from seeds, plant matter to insects and even small vertebrates like lizards and frogs.
These birds are striking with their bright red plumage and black faces. But do cardinals eat worms?
The answer is yes, cardinals do eat worms! But contrary to popular belief, the northern cardinal does not have a diet that is wholly comprised of worms.
It’s a bit more complicated than that.
To understand what makes up a northern cardinals diet, let’s take a look at the different types of birds that fall under this species umbrella:
- the red cardinal (North America)
- the black-headed cardinal (South America)
- and all other birds that are collectively known as “cardinals” or “redbirds” (which include both North American and South)
Which Species of Cardinal Eats Worms?
Generally, most species of cardinals are not fussy eaters and eat most things as they are omnivorous birds.
The most common cardinal species – the Northern cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) – gets the majority of its food from grains, seeds and fruits.
Worms are quite low down the hierarchy for these birds, mainly because they’re not as easy to find as berries and seeds for the cardinals.
Do Baby Cardinals Eat Worms?
Baby cardinals initially are fed undigested insects or soft berries by both the adult female and male cardinal, as the baby birds can’t digest foods that are too hard.
It takes about one to two weeks before they can eat insects and worms on their own.
But even after that time period, chances are high that they’ll still ask for insects and worms from their parents in order to supplement their diet until they can fully find food on their own.
Baby cardinals generally eat the same things as adult cardinals.
It’s unlikely you’ll see baby cardinals emerge in the wild until they’re old enough but if you have one in captivity for whatever reason, then you can feed your baby cardinal worms, as well as put the following on your feeders
- plant lice
- weed seeds
- alfalfa sprouts
- cotton cutworms
The above foods are also an option for a healthy diet for cardinals.
Cardinal babies tend to be very territorial of their food source—even more so than adults!
So when you first introduce a new feeder to them in captivity, you may notice that the baby cardinals aren’t eating the worms on your bird feeder or tube feeder.
This is because when they see seeds, cardinals want to keep eating those!
To get around this issue, simply remove all other types of birdseed from your yard or tube feeder except for where you have placed a few worms (or fruit flies).
This will ensure that only these little guys have access and can eat all their preferred food without any competition from other birds or animals like squirrels trying to find out what the little cardinals are up too!
Though remember, cardinals like seeds and fruits, so don’t deprive them of these foods for too long.
Do Cardinals Eat Mealworms?
This is a question that many people ask me. The short answer is yes, Cardinals will eat mealworms but it is far from their favorite food.
Cardinals prefer to eat sunflower seeds and safflower seeds
But many people assume cardinals love to eat those little black and red striped worms because they like to eat earthworms.
That isn’t necessarily the case and it’s very important to understand these cardinal facts.
Mealworms are a great source of protein and fat. They provide a good amount of vitamins, minerals and fiber as well. Mealworms have a high protein content and contain amino acids which will help with the birds growth.
Cardinals will eat mealworms if they can find them in their environment, but it is not likely that they will actively seek out mealworms as food sources because they can find other sources more easily.
Do Cardinals Eat Tomato Worms?
Yes. Cardinals cardinals eat Tomato Worms,
In fact, if you want to save your tomato plants from the tomato hornworm, then cardinals are a must have. They will eat through the tomato worm population quickly and protect your plants.
Bird watchers can put sunflower seed (or other seed types) in their bird feeders to attract cardinals to their back yard.
From there, the cardinals will do the rest and add tomato hornworms into their eating habits from your plants.
Cardinals make for great backyard birds in this case.
But they are not the only type of birds out there that will eat Tomato Worms.
Depending on the food supply in your neighborhood, you may find a lot of different birds eating Tomato Worms in your garden.
Some of these birds include Blue Jays, robins, orioles, scarlet tanager and towhees.
Do Cardinals Eat Army Worms?
If you have ever wondered if cardinals eat army worms, you are in luck because I am going to go over what they like to eat and how you can make sure you are getting the perfect food for cardinals and your other birds.
One of the main issues people run into when feeding cardinals at their bird feeder is that they will take advantage of all of the food they prefer and not just the army worms that are intended for them.
Cardinals eat army worms in the spring, summer, fall and winter. Army worms are one of the types of caterpillar that have black stripes on their bodies.
While they prefer seeds and insects, they eat army worms too because they’re hungry and they like to eat worms.
Cardinals eat these tasty treats but there isn’t much food available during winter so they will eat any kind of bug!
What Else Do Cardinals Eat Besides Worms?
It might seem a little strange to see a cardinal feasting on bugs, but it’s quite common.
The most common misconception about cardinals is that they’re fussy eaters. They are actually quite easygoing about their diets.
Cardinals can be rather diverse in their diets, consuming seed, nectar, berries, tree sap and fruit as well as insects and worms.
The cardinal has even been known to eat small eggs and fledglings!
Do Other Birds Beside Cardinals Eat Worms? Read Our Other Guides:
Watching cardinals eat is a delight, and they can be a wonderful sight on the bird feeders in your back yard.
These birds, like the indigo bunting, tree buds etc are omnivorous birds, which means they will eat just about anything like black oil sunflower seeds, safflower seed, sunflower seeds, squash seeds, and yes, worms!
But worms aren’t the only food on this birds menu. Cardinals prefer seeds and nuts over insects.
So if you want to attract cardinals to your backyard or garden this spring, don’t just put out worms on your bird feeder, platform feeders or tube feeders.
Place some sunflower seed or safflower seeds (or try other seed types) on your backyard feeders instead and watch those gorgeous red feathered birds fly in for lunch!
Hopefully, you learned a bit more about cardinals and their affection for worms in their diet.
Fun Fact: The northern cardinal is a popular and beloved backyard bird.
In fact, they’re so commonly viewed that they’ve become the official state bird of seven states: Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, and West Virginia.