9 Things Scaring Cardinals Away From Your Yard

Male Northern Cardinal on a tree branch.
peter weiler/Shutterstock.com

Written by Tavia Fuller Armstrong

Published: November 2, 2023

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So, you love cardinals, but they don’t love visiting your yard. Few things are more disappointing than trying to bring your favorite birds to your backyard feeder, only to be ignored. The northern cardinal is one of the most recognizable and beloved backyard birds. Some people even believe that spotting a cardinal has a spiritual significance. Maybe something in your yard has scared the cardinals away. Some of the most common deterrents to cardinals and other neighborhood birds can be addressed with a little care. Here are nine things that may be scaring cardinals away from your yard, and ways to address each one.

Pet or Feral Cats

Pretty cat lying in green grass outdoor. The Somali cat breed is a beautiful domestic feline. They are smart, very social and they enjoy playing outside. These cute cats are ideal family pets.

A cat need not belong to you to scare cardinals away from your yard.

Even if you do not own a cat, you may find it impossible to keep them out of your yard. The presence of a cat can definitely deter cardinals and other birds from visiting. If you don’t have a cat of your own, you might consider removing things that would attract neighborhood cats, such as sandboxes or places where rodents might nest. Also make sure to hang any feeders high, perhaps on metal poles, in spots that cats cannot easily access.

Boisterous Dogs

Labrador dog barking at city park

A loud and boisterous dog may scare away all the birds from your yard.

Some dogs love barking at birds. If you have a loud and boisterous dog that spends even part of its day outdoors, cardinals may be hesitant to visit. You may use landscaping or fences to try to keep a bird-friendly area separate from the part of the yard your dog uses. If you have both a front and back yard, consider placing your feeders in front of the house so your dog won’t scare the cardinals and other visiting birds away.

Children at Play

Kids Playing Cheerful Park Outdoors Concept

Children can make noises and movements that frighten away cardinals and other birds.

Young children need plenty of time outdoors to run and play. Their unpredictable movements and squeals of excitement can scare cardinals and other birds, though. The safest place for young children to play would probably be inside a fenced backyard, so you could consider using the front yard for bird feeders instead. You might also make a habit of offering fresh feed at a time when the children won’t be outside for at least an hour or two.

Moving or Spinning Lawn Ornaments

Colorful pinwheel, spinning lawn ornament

Moving or spinning lawn ornaments can scare away birds.

Many people love the look of moving or spinning lawn ornaments. These come in a wide array of styles. You can find everything from common, colorful pinwheels to ornate wind spinners made of precision-cut metal. However, anything that moves has the potential to scare away cardinals. If you love the motion of these types of ornaments, try to at least place them in a different part of the yard than your bird feeders.  

Reflective or Shiny Objects

Male Northern Cardinal on a tree branch.

Shiny or mirrored objects can reflect a cardinal’s image, potentially scaring it away.

Some companies sell reflective or mirrored objects specifically designed to frighten birds away from gardens. In addition to the shiny elements, some have decorations that resemble predator’s eyes. Any shiny surface, though, can show the bird’s own reflection and scare it away. If you want to bring cardinals into your yard, consider removing shiny objects, including mirrored surfaces, mylar balloons or tape, and other reflective, metal things.

Wind Chimes and Other Noisemakers

Backyard, tropical pergola. Full color bamboo wind chime.

Wind chimes and other items that make unpredictable noises can scare away cardinals.

Things that rattle, crackle, crunch, or clang can scare birds away. Wind chimes make random and unpredictable sounds in the wind. Although humans might find the sounds of wind chimes soothing, they can startle birds and keep them away. Place wind chimes and other noisy items away from your bird feeders.

Automatic Sprinklers

Morning is the best time to water your grass.

Automatic sprinklers can be convenient, but place bird feeders away from where they spray.

Cardinals and other birds may not like automatic sprinklers, or water features that utilize motion detectors. Make sure that you set sprinklers to avoid spraying toward any available bird feeders. Also try to make sure that birds have an easy, unobstructed path between feeders and cover, such as trees or shrubs at the edge of the yard.

Birds of Prey

A Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) perched on a pole

Cardinals and other songbirds can be scared away by the presence of a bird of prey.

Birds of prey, such as hawks, owls, falcons, or kites will frighten off many types of smaller songbirds. Of course, there may be little you can do to prevent a visiting bird of prey that has found a reliable food source. You can try moving your bird feeders to places with more cover or altering the time of day that you scatter seeds. You may even try hiding and shooing the bird of prey away when you see it approach. But birds that tend to be both smart and hungry are difficult to conquer.

Statues and Figures

Bird decoys

Even fake birds of prey can scare away cardinals from your yard.

You can avoid placing statues or figures that look like birds of prey in or near your yard. Many people use owl or hawk decoys to help keep unwanted birds off their rooftops or other surfaces. Others use silhouettes of hawks in windows to prevent window strikes. Some people just enjoy placing lawn décor that looks like owls or other birds of prey. If you notice that visits from cardinals and other songbirds have decreased after placing a statue, decoy, or other piece of decoration, you might weigh the pros and cons of moving it.


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About the Author

Tavia Fuller Armstrong is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on birds, mammals, reptiles, and chemistry. Tavia has been researching and writing about animals for approximately 30 years, since she completed an internship with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Tavia holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology with a wildlife emphasis from the University of Central Oklahoma. A resident of Oklahoma, Tavia has worked at the federal, state, and local level to educate hundreds of young people about science, wildlife, and endangered species.

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