Baby Cardinals on the Porch

I don’t know what it is about moving to the country that turns people into nature lovers, but it most definitely happens.  When my wife’s parent retired to their farm, the grand kids started teasing them because they had more pictures of their “critters” than they did of any of them.  Well, the same thing is now happening to us.  We recently “hatched” three baby cardinals on our back porch.  The whole process was so exciting to watch that we took about a million pictures to document it. Because of these baby cardinals our kids have started to tease us just like they teased their grandparents 15 years ago.

“Our” three cardinal eggs

The cardinal experience started when my wife and I noticed something making a nest in potted plant  on the back porch.  We enjoyed watching the progress but we had no idea what was building it.  It was truly amazing to watch a few pieces of dry grass begin to twist together and form the most perfect little nest you ever saw.

Our babies right after hatching

After about three weeks of watching the nest take shape, we came home one afternoon and found the cutest little brown speckled egg in the nest. Once that first egg arrived we began to pay close attention to the back porch.  After the second egg appeared in the nest we finally saw a lovely female cardinal sitting on the nest.  The next morning we went out and found the third an final egg.

Hungry babies!

Once we certain that we had cardinals, we decided to find out how the rest of this little drama would progress.  So, we went to Google and discovered some very interesting cardinal facts.  Cardinals typically lay 3 eggs but they can lay anywhere from one to five.  The female does all of the incubation and she doesn’t start to sit until she has finished laying.  The eggs will hatch in 11 to 13 days after she starts sitting.  Once hatched, both the male and female will feed the young.  The male gets the extra benefit of defending the territory and carrying off the little poops sacks that the young expel.  The baby cardinals are fast growing and they fledge, or leave the nest, 9 to 11 days after hatching.

Our babies are ready to leave the nest

All of these facts were proven out by our three baby birds.  They hatched 11 days after the female starting sitting.  The first brave baby left the nest on day 9 and the other two were gone when we came home on day 10.  It was so exciting to watch this avian miracle of life unfold right before us.  Watching these birds go from egg to first flight in 20 days was truly amazing to me me.  I guess this is why people that move to the country become nature lovers.  In the country you have the opportunity to get close to nature.  And, the closer you get, the more and more amazing it is to watch.

Since our kids are tired of seeing the pictures, I hope you don’t mind us sharing these with you.  Enjoy!

145 thoughts on “Baby Cardinals on the Porch

  1. I live in Tulsa and we have birds in our garage!! They made the nest in a basket behind my granddaughters’ bike helmet. They think they own the garage and fuss at us when we come close or close the garage!! We have seen the adult but have yet to identify it–small, curved beak–brown head with a white stripe around the eye-rusty breast. I had the “bird” book out today trying to find it! So you don’t have to live in the country—-It can happen in a neighborhood. We haven’t gotten any good pictures–They are yelling at us or flying at us when we are near enough to photograph. I’m ready for them to move on!! I keep telling them-It’s MY garage!

      • I was looking for some information about red birds since i have a nest in a flower vine on my deck. I can see it from my living room window. I watched her build the nest and the male is close by part of the time. I think there are just two eggs in the nest but she has started sitting now. It rained yesterday and she never moved. It is truly fascinating and I am so afraid something is going to bother her. I will just let nature do its thing and leave her along except to observe from the living room.

  2. Dear Whites: Thanks for sharing the cardinal pictures. I have a pair of them who have come to my back yard feeders since last year, but I have never seen their nest. My trees are low and full -youpon, fig, bay and redbud. I am not very agile in my old age but this inspires me to use my opera glasses to watch them more closely now that my old tom cat is dead. Nothing excites a former biology teacher like nature up close!

    • So glad you like them! My wife has been teaching for 27 years. In my opinion there are no better people in the world than school teachers! So glad you are enjoying my blog!

  3. We’ve had cardinal nests the past two years in a ficus tree on our patio. I performed a hatchet job on the ficus last fall and apparently, when the cardinals were real estate shopping, they didn’t care for the old neighborhood. They briefly checked out the schefflera “next door” (next pot) but after just a little effort at building a nest there decided it wasn’t quite sturdy enough (good call!). In the past when we’ve had a nest to watch I’ve closed the blinds and gotten a kitchen stool and binoculars out to watch the activity. I missed all that this Spring! Thanks for the post. I really enjoy your blog.

  4. I have a question; I have a cardinal nest right by my kitchen window in a metal lantern. The nest has 4 eggs in it and the female cardinal layed the eggs around the 10th of April and she is still sitting on the nest and none of the eggs have hatched. Will they hatch anymore after this long?

    • I am not a bird expert by any means. I did ask a friend of mine that is more familiar with this kind of thing. He said there is a 50/50 chance you may get some little birds. He said that sometimes she does not start incubating as soon as the eggs are laid. Give it a few more days but you are quickly running out of time for the eggs to be viable.

      • Well I will keep my fingers crossed for mama cardinal I do feel sorry for her as she has logged a lot of hours on that nest.

  5. I also had a nest by my vegetable garden. The five babies were pretty crowded in the small nest, and when I checked on them yesterday, the nest had fallen a bit, and all the birds were gone. I am hoping it was time for them to leave the nest, and not that a predator killed the sweet things.

    • I can’t imagine 5 in a nest. Our three were so crowed once they started to grow. When ours left we had the same worry about the predators. However, we now see two young females and young male quite often, so we are pretty sure they really did leave that soon.

  6. Wow, thanks for posting this. I just found a nest while trimming some bushes in the front of my home the other day. First, one egg, then two, three, four and FIVE! Just like you said, I have noticed after the fifth egg that mom is doing her best job sitting on those eggs. She hates when I go and take my peek everyday. We had a robin’s nest by our front door a few years ago. I never removed it, hoping we would get someone else to move in and use the birthing center. I am excited to see these baby cardinals. 🙂

    • That is so exciting. Once they hatch, watch them very closely as they will be gone in a flash! Best of luck and thanks for reading.

  7. We were amazed and delighted this spring to have a cardinal born in our back yard, decide to pick a mate and return. His parents returned to the backyard, so the little fellow an dhis misses set up house keeping in our redbud tree in the front. This little tree is young only 5-6 years old. But we discovered while trimming that there was a nest! We would watch carefully for the next few days, and viola! we had 4 eggs! We started noticing dad coming and going a lot and the misses too, so my husband looked and found that the eggs were hatched! Last Tuesday he looked and we had 3 fuzzy babies, not sure what happened to the third. But today he looked again and all were gone. I did not realize that birds can hatch and be out of the nest in just 9 or 10 days! Amazing. I hope we will see them in the neighborhood as the summer passes.

    • I agree, it is amazing to watch nature work. We still see “our babies” around the yard. We got two females and one male. I hope you get to enjoy your new family for many years to come. Thanks for the comment.

  8. What a delight to find your photo’s I am so jeolous! For two years I have had cardinal nest’s in my rosebushes. Only they are so high & placed right up against the window. I can watch them is through my window. One had fallen out and the male allowed me to place it back in the nest. I was really greatful for that. I so badly tried to take photo’s. I have been able to watch them in my birdbath and was glad to find photo’s of the young birds-they change so quickly!
    What tyoe if camera are you using?
    Thank you again for sharing.

    • Isn’t it fun to watch the birds. I use a Canon EOS Rebel T3i. It is a great camera and takes really awesome pictures. The quality of my original photos is much better than what you see on the web as I have to “crunch” them before putting them up. If you have an DSLR camera can you get a $10 polarizing filter that will allow you to shoot through glass like it is not even there.

  9. Hello, not sure if you are still reading your comments but I have 3 cardinal hatchlings in my front hedge. it is so exciting! I’m worried they will fall out or get pushed out as they are really growing but I hope for the best. Thank you for your update and pictures.

    • I do read my comments and I enjoy each of them. My wife and i worried about the same thing when ours were growing. They got so big so fast and the nest was really small. However, by the time we were certain they couldn’t fit anymore, they all flew away. Best of luck and feel free to drop me a comment anytime.

      • We have a nest with four baby cardinals in it and were worried about them falling out so we hung an open umbrella under the planter and sure enough found one in there that same day. Will be placing him back in the nest in the morning while mom and dad are out foraging. The soft umbrella was much better than the concrete porch under it… Hoping all four make it!

        • What a great idea! So glad you saved the little guy. My experience has been that even if the fall hadn’t killed him a cat or fire ants would. Best of luck and thanks for sharing.

  10. We are watching a female build a nest only a few feet from our front door in a potted ficus here in South Austin, and every time I go in and out, I worry about disturbing her, but so far, she is hanging in there. I hate to bring up this dismal subject, but does anybody know how to help hide the nest/baby cardinals from blue jays? Other than somehow deport all blue jays? We witnessed a horrible killing of a baby cardinal a few years back and the cardinal parents were unable to stop it. This is the first nest around the house since that ugly event.

    • Hope you get a good tip. I have actually never heard of Blue Jays attacking other baby birds. I knew they were mean, but that is horrible. I wish you the best of luck and hope someone has a good idea for you.

  11. Currently watching baby cardinals develop. They are in a nest in our rose bush outside our den window. I didn’t notice the nest at first…my husband pointed them out. I’ve had the joy of watching the mother feed them and care for them. The are now standing on the side of the nest as if they are ready to takek flight. I hope I’m able to witness the first flight.

    • Isn’t it exciting! We enjoyed watching them so much. I sincerely hope you get to see them take that first flight! Thanks for commenting

      • We have had a paid of cardinals living in our backyard for the past few years. This morning we saw the pair foraging with two young birds. I have never seen a family of birds foraging together like that before. Any idea how long the juveniles stay with their parents?

        • We didn’t see our juveniles stay with their parents at all. However, we know that they hung around the yard for at least a year. After that they became so mature we could not tell them from the other cardinals on our property. What a treat to get to see the family in this way.

  12. Indeed, what a joy to watch the whole process — from the time the mother cardinal (In the latest case, I call her Cardalina) starts building her nest to the time when you find the nest all empty! You take a peek at the nest and all the babies are gone. I have been graced with the opportunity to enjoy this process for many years now.

    It may seem like a small joy of life. But what I find most beautiful about this joy is that it calms you down as it helps you wash away the daily worries of life. In fact, it feels so meditational; I just sit on the porch with a cup of mint tea and my dog — and watch Cardalina come and go with her pompous tail flapping up and down and her chirps serenading the whole backyard.

    Like I said, over the years I have watched several cardinals make nests and raise babies around our house. For instance, 2 years ago right outside our bedroom window on a bottle brush tree. This year Cardalina had the nerve to build a nest right outside the back door on a Oleander tree branch. It is right next to the porch, just about 3′ high from the ground.

    Every time, I go out to the porch or let the dog out, I have to be extra careful not to frighten her, but she does not seem to care or mind us going in and out. The mom seems so arrogant or confident — or “arrogantly confident” as I call it. The dog often walks right under her nest as she is sitting there; yet she does not even fling. She must think the dog is her body or nest guard. In fact, having seen many cardinal nests very low and close to the house, I have come to believe that they do so for the sake of security as human occupants are likely to drive away any potential predators that may attack the nest.

    Let me get to the point:

    Here is the reason why I am writing this note: Cardalina built the nest; I marveled at her artistic ability to create such a beautiful round nest bowl out of twigs. She laid 3 eggs. Finally, about 6 days ago, all eggs hatched and I saw 3 little babies. 3 days ago, I took a peek at the nest again to see if they had opened their eyes. What I noticed baffled me — and worried me. There was only 1 baby left — 2 were gone. No idea what happened to them. I looked around under the nest on the ground and saw no sign of any foul play. The nest looked entirely undisturbed; the remaining one baby looked very healthy. Didn’t know what to make of it.

    However, deeply concerned about the fate of the remaining baby, I sat by dining room window — just about 8′ from the nest — and kept an eye on the nest the whole time. Finally, about 30 minutes later, Cardalina showed up with her tail flapping pompously as always and fed the baby. Shortly after dad came and fed the baby as well.

    At least, I was relieved that the remaining baby was fine and safe. It is growing fast and fat (why not — don’t have to share any food with any siblings). I already see wing feathers growing. Soon will be ready take a hike. Hope I get to catch that moment.

    But I still don’t have any clues as to what happened to the other 2 babies. Ever since, I have been racking my brain about this question. Today, I decided to do some web search to see if I could find an answer to the question — and, fortunately, came across this website.

    So, my friends, if you have any clues to my question, let me hear.

  13. Thank you so much for this story! I had a cardinal family right outside my window and three babies hatched about 11 days ago. Yesterday they were hopping around in the bush, this morning they were gone. I was so worried until I read your story. They sure do grow quick! Loved watching them, too, and live in the burbs!

    • Your story is exactly why I wrote the article. We came home and found ours missing too. We were so disappointed we did the research hoping that they had flown away. I was truly releaved to know that they were most probably O.K. Thanks for the comment!

  14. I, too am relieved to find this site because a strange and sad thing happened earlier today. I was waiting for a violent storm to arrive during the early evening hours. Finding safe places for my hanging plants I heard a strange sound that I had heard before when robin babies left their nest and the parents called back and forth to them. We have no robin babies now, however, I was aware of a cardinal nest in a pine near the pond with very young hatchlings. At this time I couldn’t get a fix on where the sound was coming from. Just before the rain began I saw this little fluffy chick on the ground near the steps, calling for all it was worth. I hoped the parents would come to his aid, but even as the rain came I could hear him still calling. Feeling helpless, (I have no experience in wildlife rescue or baby bird tending) after the rain stopped I ran to the spot where the chick was last seen. At first I didn’t see him and the calling had stopped. Then, I saw him, small and wet and still sitting in the same spot. The parents did not come back and he was hungry, begging for food with his beak open wide. Probably doing the wrong thing, I found some tiny earthworms and cut them into very tiny pieces. when his beak opened I put one in. Then another and he seemed to like them. I made him a dry ‘nest’ and ran to the computer to see if it was possible to raise an orphan cardinal baby. Apparently many people have done it successfully. I made up some ‘mash’ as described and put him in a more appropriate container, still hoping that the parents would return I left it near the spot where the baby was first seen. After dark I began worrying about warmth and predators, so he is now in the very warm garage, his nest inside a fluffy larger nest of straw and a makeshift ‘tent’ over the top. Again, don’t know if any of this is correct. He loved the ‘mash’ and ate ravenously. I feel we’re already very good friends. Just thinking about him gives me a feeling I haven’t felt for a very long time-kind of like extremely warm fuzzies. Yet, the realist in me cautions that all may not end as I’d wish and hope for the cardinal baby. I have questions: Robin parents spend a great deal of time teaching their offspring how to fend for themselves. How would a cardinal adolescent learn those things without mom and dad?How would he know to find food and what kind of food he’s supposed to eat? How can a domesticated cardinal exist on his own? Can you help me with these questions? I would also appreciate any guidance from those who have raised orphans. Thank You for any help you can give.

      • I am very sad to say that the baby didn’t make it through the night. Had I been better informed about what to do, if anything, maybe I’d be telling you some good news. Feel very sad today.
        Here’s what I learned since: Cardinal babies stay in the nest just a few days, as you stated. They leave unprepared for independence and live on the ground for the next approximately 10 days. The parents care for them and try to protect them until they have gained full flight capabilities.
        I did absolutely the wrong thing by ‘saving’ the baby. However, the little bird was soaked and cold and had already missed several feedings due to the storm. The parents couldn’t have towel dried him and tucked him into bed so I guess my rescue was the best chance he had. Even though that is my conscience speaking in the last sentence, this morning I heard the same sound from secret locations in the yard and the parents were responding. The other babies that were in the same nest must have survived. If another opportunity arises I will mind my own business where cardinal babies are concerned. It is probably the parents are still standing by.

        • You did the right thing. It would have died outside, as most baby birds do. My granddaughter found a baby cardinal on the ground about 2 months ago. It’s sibling was dead beside it, covered in ants. This baby had only fuzz. From past experiences trying to save baby birds, I prepared my granddaughter by telling her the baby bird would probably die. However, I searched the web diligently looking for info. I found the most informative article, which gave detailed instructions on caring for a baby. We followed them, and our baby bird is now a beautiful juvenile female cardinal. The plan is to release her soon. I plan to hang her birdcage in a bush, with the door wired open, and keep food there until she is completely independent.

          The most important info I learned is as follows, condensed for you who may need this:

          Never attempt to water a baby bird. You will drown it. They have an undeveloped muscle that keeps water from their lungs, so baby birds get all of their fluids from their food.

          When you find a baby bird, you may not know if it is a grain feeder, an insect feeder, or both. A baby bird has a very high metabolism, since it grows so quickly. It needs a high protein diet. Dry cat food, soaked in water, fed by tweezers, is the best food for a baby bird. It must be fed very often. Ours ate at least every hour during the day, and slept all night long. The cat food needs to be completely soft and somewhat watery.

          If you can find an old nest for the baby, great. If you can’t, try to construct your own. Birds poop a lot. In nature, the nest is low enough for them to poop over the side, keeping their bedding clean. We couldn’t find an old nest, so I got my granddaughter’s plastic bug box (it had a lid, was see-through, and had air holes), put some twigs, straw & leaves together, and put the baby in it. I kept it in this box & under a light for 2 weeks, and covered it with a damp paper towel, to protect the baby and keep it’s skin hydrated. I had to reconstruct the nest daily, and clean the box out. Soon the baby was hopping up to the side of the box when I opened it, so I pulled an old parakeet cage from storage. I made natural perches from tree branches, and cut leafy branches from the tree that we found her under and attached these branches to the sides of the cage, to make a more natural habitat. I also started putting water in the cage, once the bird started becoming more active. As she is very vocal, I cover the cage at night with a light sheet, to make her sleep.

          My granddaughter (6 yrs.) told me the day that she found this little bird that she had prayed for a bird and that God had sent it to her. I believe this is true, because this little bird had brought such joy to so many people, in the last 2 months that we’ve had her. Since she has to be fed so often, I have carried her to stay with my Mom, my Aunt & my sister when I had to be away from home. My Mom has carried her to her card games, and the ladies there have thoroughly enjoyed watching her eat & listening to her chirp! My mom noticed her trying to put her head into her water holder one day, so she put some water in a shallow dish and placed it in the bottom of her cage. Sweet Tweet had the time of her life playing in that water, and my Mom & Aunt so enjoyed watching her! I now let her take her bath daily, and she gets soaked!

          We will be releasing her soon. I hope that she will make it on her own. Maybe this info will help someone down the road.

  15. I have a Cardinal story: Just outside our back screened porch, cardinals had built a little nest. I am too short to see inside, so my 6′ son got his camera and angled it in the nest. What an adorable baby bird with mouth wide open. Not sure how old they were, definitely not new born. That week we had a lot of rain, about 4 days. When my son again looked in nest, all 3 babies were gone! I am so relieved that they actually can fly in their second week of life. Amazing. I enjoyed watching the Mom and Dad come and go up the branches into the denser foliage. Saw parents take turns feeding and caring for their young. What a blessing!

    • So happy your story has a happy ending. Our pair came back and laid two eggs this year. Something promptly ate them! Very disappointing.

  16. We have a fake tree on our porch. I found a nest that had fallen out of a large tree over the winter so I stuffed it nicely into the tree. I didnt think of it till I saw a bird sitting in it. She flew away so I peeked in the nest and found 4 eggs! I covered the windows with lace so they could have privacy but we could still peek at them. My 6 year old was brightened and amazed when Iet him take a peek. He said there were babies! We take a peek every other day and one egg didnt hatch but the others are right on track. I see mom and dad back n forth at the nest and try to keep our coming and going to a minimum not to disturb them too much. We live in the city so this is a real treat. I put water bowls outfor them and bought 2 kinds of Cardinal specific food to help out the parents. :0) I loved reading all the stories..good and sad…This really helped me to prepare for them. Next year the birds will be set! What a joy to have them so close.

  17. Came across your story while researching. I have a preschool and we just found a nest in a bush at the school. I lifted all 30 or so kids up to peek in at the eggs. There are 5 total! I’m so excited for the kids to have such a cool learning experience as they will get to watch the whole process of life for a bird. Unfortunately the bush is right along the path we take to the playground so this often scares the mother out of the nest. Not sure how long it has been there but with the patience of children being short, I’m glad the whole process is pretty quick!

    • I applaud you for taking the effort to lift all of your kids to let them observe the process!!! My wife is a second grade teacher and I am always amazed at how far teachers will go to share a teaching moment with their kids! Just know that I appreciate you for making the effort. Like you said, luckily it is a quick process so you won’t have to lift all of those kids up too many more times! 🙂

  18. One day I witnessed a mockingbird chasing 3 sparrows, and I could tell that the mockingbird was very angry at these sparrows. These sparrows alighted into a group of sparrows that were eating some seeds and nuts that I had left for them, and I was watching the sparrows enjoy their eating. It appeared that the 3 sparrows were trying to hide from the Mockingbird by mixing in with the other sparrows. The Mockingbird went right into the group of sparrows singling out the three it was after, chasing them away from the others. The other sparrows seemed unconcerned with what was going on and continued their eating as if they were oblivious to what was going on. In this same scene, I watched a large crow come over to where the sparrows were eating, and he seemed to be King because the sparrows all dropped back and allowed him to have his food which was only a taste, and then he walked away and the sparrows continued their eating. I am giving this story because it appeared to me that the birds are subject to the same calamaties that happen to man when he does wrong. Just as King David did wrong and had to pay for it by losing his son, so I wonder if the cardinal parents may have had to pay for a wrong and it was paid for by the bluejay killing one of its young, just as the mockingbird was chasing the sparrows out of anger for something. It appeared that the other sparrows knew that a “wrong” had been committed by one of their own towards this mockingbird, and knew that they were not at risk and continued on with what they were doing, unafraid and unconcerned. It seems to me that God allows “bad things” to happen to the animals just as they happen to us who sin. I still have a lot to learn from all that I am experiencing and could be totally wrong in what I have just explained, but this is how it appeared to me as a possible explanation for some of what I have read in this blog.

    • you got it perfectly ! The Lord allows tragedy to happen so that we will come together to help one another and look to him to seek guidance . GIVING Thanks for what ever the outcome.

  19. I live south of Houston, close to Freeport, Tx and for the last 2 yrs cardinals have built nests in the bush right outside my front door. Always a new nest never used the old one. After the babies hatched, 2 each time, dad was the only one I ever saw feed them. They were so funny when getting close to being fledglings, they would sit on branches at the very edge and be perfectly still. Like if they didn’t move you couldn’t see them. Far as I know they all made it. Now I have another nest in the crepe myrtle in my front yard. Babies just hatched so they wont be around long. I usually sit in the shade under that tree when I finish mowing, mom and dad DO NOT like that. Don’t know how many babies this time, I just leave em alone. Parents might be offspring from last year. Didn’t know cardinals would mate this late.

    • That does seem late. However it has been a strange year weather wise so maybe that has them messed up. Thanks for sharing your story!

      • A few weeks ago I wrote about a productive nest in my crepe myrtle. Now there is another active cardinal nest in the same tree. Three branches over from the old one. Cat from across the street is driving momma crazy. Cat likes the shade from that tree just like I do. It was 101 here today.

  20. I live in Virginia. We have a butterfly bush by the corner of our sunroom. I was trimming the bush and discovered a nest with 3 speckled eggs. It was a cardinal! The day after Hurricane Arthur I was worried about the nest and looked out the sunroom window. The nest was in tatters and the babies were on the ground. I put on garden gloves and put the nest and babies in a strawberry basket and hung it to a branch in the butterfly bush. That was 8 days ago. The parents are feeding the babies! We have had some terrific storms with torrential rains and I have worried about the parents and babies. The female covers her babies with her wings to protect them. It is so sweet as well as sad to see her out in the rain. She is the very best Mom and my heart goes out to her. The Dad is right there feeding his babies too. Humans could take a lesson from Nature. I read they will fledge in 9-11 days after hatching. Today is day 8, they are still so tiny! I’ll wait and watch and really miss them when they are gone.

    • What a beautiful story! I am amazed that the parents came back even after you moved the nest and babies to a basket. I think that is truly incredible. I am always moved when I hear stories of the sacrifices that mother’s make for their children. You are exactly right, we could learn a lot about love and devotion by observing the examples that nature shares with us if we take the time to observe! Thanks for sharing your story!

  21. I have two hanging planters (ferns) on my front porch. Ten days ago I was ready to water the ferns and looked down to find a little nest with three eggs. I returned the fern to its hanger and have watched through the window as the mother cardinal came and went. They hatched two mornings ago and are so very, very tiny. The third egg has not hatched. She does not seem to feed them very often so I am worried. I put out some dirty rice (rice with liver) in a little bowl to see if she would eat it. I am also boiling an egg to chop up to put in her bowl. I figure if she likes it it will be good for the babies. But, only mom should feed her birds. I just leave some food and water for her. Will the third egg hatch after 2 days or is it dead? Any answers?

    • I don’t think the chances are very good for the third egg. Also, mom is not the only one that feeds the babies. Dad brings food and cleans the next by carrying off the excrement. Best of luck with your new babies!

  22. Marti, I know your intentions are very good but I think you should not put out that food. As Jay said both parents feed their babies and it is almost impossible to tell how often they are coming and going. Sometimes the human intervention is not the best idea. Good luck to you.

  23. I’m so glad I came across this! I have a cardinal nest right outside our living room window–with one little baby in it. I only learned of the nest this week…even though the parents have been around all this time–it never occurred to me that they had a nest! I’ll be watching intently through my window to see when the little one fledges. Thanks for the information!

    • You are certainly lucky to be able to watch the whole process from your window. Thanks for the comment and I hope you enjoy the porcsess as much as we did!

    • Have a cardinal nest just off my back porch. Watched momma build the nest and then sit on one egg. Had a really bad storm come through last week and since then momma has abandoned the nest and the single egg. Too bad for the unborn baby, but I guess that’s just nature at work.

      • Thanks for the story. The year after I wrote this we got another nest in the same place. The mother laid three eggs and we were excited that we would get to watch this again. Next day we came home and the plant stand was knocked over and the eggs were gone. We will never know if it was a snake or a cat or raccoon. Regardless, the eggs were gone and the mother has never come back to nest on our porch.

  24. We had 3 cute cardinal babies that were 5 days old and this morning I checked in on them and the nest was cooked and birdies gone. The nest was in my knock-out rose bush so I thought they would be safe from snakes and cats but something got them and I am very sad this morning.

    • That is sad. Something got mine two years in a row. After that they stopped trying to nest on back porch. Hope you find another nest

      • I need help. I have a cardinals nest on my front porch with three babies in it. My dog proceeded to knock the fake tree that the nest is in to get at the birds and two fell out. I shoveled them up and put them back in the nest and it’s been about six hours now and no sign of mom or dad! I am so sad and the birds have their mouths open looking for food. I can’t stop thinking about them. Any suggestions?

        • Wish I had some advice. I am afraid that if mom and dada have not been back for several hours they are in trouble. I have tried to save some babies before and been unsuccessful. Here is a good article if you want to try and save them. Sorry I can’t be of more help and best of luck!

  25. I am in Texas and am watching my 2nd time around of the same Cardinals. I was very surprised that they can back to the same spot and it was in a short time span. …maybe 2-3 months. I’m loving watching them and from my guess we are about ready to have the eggs hatch. I’m seeing the dad around quite a bit today.

    • Ours had their nest disturbed twice after the article so they moved on. We have not been able to watch this process again. What a treat to be able to see this process twice in the same year! Thanks for the comment.

  26. I have been watching a baby cardinal for the past week and a half here in Dallas. It’s nest is outside one of our bedrooms. I was worried last week when Tropical Storm Bill came through but the nest stayed tucked tightly into the holly! I noticed yesterday I hadn’t seen the parents fly in and out but it was raining and when I looked out today no baby?!?! I looked around on the ground but no sign. I started to worry that a snake or a new to the neighborhood roadrunner may have found it. I googled info and came across this site and breathed a huge sigh of relief – I will choose to believe the little one flew the nest! (it looked about the size of the last picture)

    Thank you for sharing your pictures and info – gave me peace and not to be sad about the little one! 🙂

  27. Ixed seed for songbirds. ‘ve been watching the next stage for over a week now, as the parents and three fledgling s flit in and out from my two feeders. They definitely prefer the sunflower seed one, but both parents also feed at the one with mixed seeds for songbirds. The male continues to check out the area first, then fly to a higher perch before calling the all clear. One of the young ones has the light grey feathers under his wings turning a peachy blush. As I’m in Florida, they stay here year round.

  28. For the first time we as having the same experience in our gardenia bush right outside our back door and are loving it and getting great pics and videos on the smart phone. What happens to the nest after the babies leave? Is it abandoned? Am I safe to pull the weeds under my bush after they leave? Do they ever reuse the same nest?Haha. I don’t dare do it now. The babies are four days old.

  29. Thank you for putting this information out there as I have a nest also. It is in my rose bush! I am so excited to come home everyday to see the progress and to talk to mama.So far I have two babies that look exactly like your babies. It is adorable to see their little mouths wide open. The mother and the father take uch good care of their babies.

    What is amazing is that mama and Dad do not mind me sitting on my patio but I always keep a safe distance and I think they can sense I would not hurt them

    • My wife and I enjoyed watching ours so much. We have been very disappointed that we haven’t had the opportunity to see it again. Enjoy watching and thanks for sharing!

  30. I want to say thanks for the information. I was cleaning up the yard and was moving my grill when I noticed the grill lid propped open 4-5 inches……so I lifted the lid to see why it was not closed all the way down…….to my surprise, found 5 cardinal eggs in a nest located inside my out door grill. I looked, but did not touch the nest. I put the lid back to where it had the 4-5 inch gap. When I went back inside and looked out the window….saw two grown cardinals in the tree right beside the grill but they did not go inside the grill to the nest. I have been curious to know if I disturbed the nest area in which the parents might have o banded the nest. I know now at least 12 days for hatching and another 13 days for the babies to leave nest. So, I am waiting anxiously to see if I will find empty nest or if the parents o banded nest. I have yet to see parents go back and forth to nest…..but at the same time never even seen them go back and forth to build nest. I find myself wanting to skip work just to sit all day to see if I can spot the parents….have to wait until weekend to bird watch. I also know better timing on when there will be more action which is after the eggs hatch/if they hatch? I feel I have a mystery on my hands and I am the detective. I just appreciate all the information from timing to all the do and do nots. Thanks You once again.

    By the way…buying my first bird feeder : ) I think I am hooked : )

    • Thanks so much for the story! Good news is I do not think the parents will abandon the nest. I have read a lot about this and most sources say that birds do not just walk away from their babies because they have been discovered by humans. Also have to laugh about the bird feeder. We just got into the whole feeder thing a couple of years ago. it is addicting and very enjoyable. We get all of our stuff from Wild Birds Unlimited. They have a great selection of stuff and it is not too expensive. Thanks again for the comment and happy birding!

      • Just inherited a baby Cardinal 15-20 days old from a neighbors driveway. Wife is feeding it every 2 hours. How long until it’s mature and we can release it into the wild?

        • It is 9 to 11 days after the hatch. So depending on how old the little guy was when you started, it should be ready to leave pretty soon.

  31. I am anxiously awaiting the birth of cardinals that nested in a fake tree that I placed on my patio under an awning near my back door. It has been a few weeks but I think Mommy is finally going to start nesting , so hopefully we will have babies soon.

    • I have heard of them nesting in odd places before but never in a fake tree. Must be good one! Thanks for the story and hope watching them is as much fun for you as it was for us.

      • Mommy has been nesting for about 4 days so hopefully by next week the babies will be here. I hate to go into my back yard but I need to attend to my plants as well. As long as I do not go near the nest I hope that all will be well with my new family. Any thoughts on this? Thanks Gail

      • Hi, Jay and friends! We are in coastal SC and had been hearing a beautiful peeping duet of baby cardinal hatchlings in a hedge nest right outside our front door after 11 years of busy activity and then abandoned nests and unhatched eggs in that hedge!. How exciting to now hear life affirmed! I took a photo the other day when their parents were off getting food and was able to snap an aerial picture of two gaping mouths! Here is our question: Mama has been sitting on the edge of the nest every time I go by over the last two days (I’m trying to have another quick opportunity to take another picture) and I talk gently to her, she is just above my eye level and I use reassuring tones and keep my visits brief. Where she is sitting on the edge of the nest and not on the nest, we’re just wondering, is it possible that the hatchlings are still in there? I haven’t heard them in a few days and I’m growing very concerned, but the mother is still and unmoving on the nest and will not leave the nest, it seems. If the babies have fledged, will Mama continue to sit at the nest even if it’s empty? I’m praying that the babies are just fine! Thanks for your help, all!

        • I am no expert but my experience has shown me that the mother and father abandon the nest as soon as the babies are gone. We had some a couple of years ago that a cat or something else ate the eggs. The cardinals never came back to that nest. So, my feeling is, if she is still hanging around their is a high probability the babies are still there. Perhaps you are not hearing them because mother has taught them to be quiet when they hear something out of the ordinary. I feel that there is a great chance the babies are fine as long as mom and dad are staying close.

  32. We had a nest form right outside out kitchen window in Melbourne FL. The eggs hatched on Mother’s Day and they last bird left the nest on day 8. So beautiful to see the whole cycle. I hope they’ll use the nest again!

    • I hope so too. While this has not happened to us several people have said that they have had cardinals come to the same nest in spring and fall.

    • Not sure. They have not at our house but I have been told by others that either the cardinals or another type of bird reuses their nests each year. Sorry i don’t know for certain.

  33. I have cardinals that have made a nest in a low tree in my backyard the last 2 years. Last year I watched them until they were just about ready to leave the nest. The next thing I knew my dog had pushed the small tree, dislodged the babies, and killed them. Almost gave the dog away. Same thing is happening this year. Anybody have any ideas about ways to keep the dog away until the babies have gone? Also when they fledge do they stay on the ground around the nest?

    • Can you put some sort of fencing around the tree temporarily? Or I’d keep that dog leashed until the babies leave.

  34. Well I just came across this article about cardinals. I found out that I have a nest of cardinals in one of my rose bushes.
    I was trimming all my rose bushes and when I got to the last one I thought I saw a bird fly out. So I sat back to see if it would come back. About ten minutes later it did. The bird is a female cardinal. I thought cool there must be a nest in the rose bush. So I waited until the next day to check it out. Did not want to stress her out. Sure enough there is a nest. I read on this blog that cardinals usually have 3 eggs. The most I saw was 5 eggs. Well I have a total of 6 eggs. Yes you read it correctly, 6 eggs. I would like to post a pic but can not see how. If I figure in out I will most definitely will. I wall also try to up date the event.
    If someone knows how to post a pic, please let me know, thanks !!!

    • That’s so exciting! Here is a suggestion: when the mother leaves the nest, gently put your phone in between the branches and sneak a quick picture of the nest & eggs, being careful not to touch or jostle the nest in any way. That’s how I got my shot of recently hatched babies with gaping mouths fully open! I also wish there was a way to post a picture here! I had not seen the babies or parents since they left the nest a couple of weeks ago, but was so excited to see the completely feathered-out and fat fledglings yesterday, this time in the backyard, Dad is feeding mom and mom is still feeding the babies and every time she approaches, their whole bodies vibrate on the branch, it is absolutely hysterical!

  35. We live in the country, our nest was made in our umbrella on our deck, when I moved it I angered the upcoming parents and she dropped an egg on our patio table. I returned the nest and woke up to a new and second egg now as we wait for Marion and Miller who live in the Park I built in our yard for 8 GRANDCHILDREN we are enjoying the joy of country living.

  36. We watched as a mama Cardinal built her nest in fiscal tree on our deck next to a window. This morning there were two little eggs inside. This evening they are GONE without a trace. So disappointed!

      • So the other day I was trimming my lilac bush, I looked down saw a nest and 3 baby cardinals all over the ground! I was horrified. I picked them up put them back in the nest and back in the bush. Mother and father came with worms over and over again. I never actually saw them go into the nest but they were in the lilacs. So I watched and watched. The next morning I sat waiting to see the mother and father and nothing! All day I watched and no parents. So I climbed up on porch looked into the nest and the birds looked pecked at bloody and dead. It broke my heart. I had no idea they were living in the lilacs. Now the babies are dead( I buried them) and the parents are gone. Any idea what went wrong?

        • So sorry to hear that. I have read quite a bit about this and I have not found anything that said the parents would kill their own young. In fact, everything I have read said that what you did was just fine. The whole “abandon the nest” thing when they smell humans seems to be a myth. While I cannot tell you what happened to the babies I think it would be a real anomaly if the parents killed them. I assume the parents abandoned their nest because some other predator killed their babies.

          • Thank you for responding. I am thinking you are right. I did research as well and it seems the parents shouldn’t have hurt them. I’m wondering if the fall caused way more injuries then I could see. They were tiny maybe only 2-3 days old.

  37. We had the same wondrous experience!! We had a nest up high behind a light fixture on our bank porch. I spent alot of time waiting and watching. It was all worth it! I was privy to only one fledgling taking flight but I will never forget it. I see the parents gathering food but only saw the babies twice. Would love to know how long they hang out w parents. I think until they have all their feathers. Thanks for sharing your experience. Georgia Skuro Va. Bch. Va.

    • Thanks for sharing! I will be interested to hear how long they hang around their parents. I watched after ours fledged and it seemed like they stayed together for quite a while. Be interested to hear what your observations are.

  38. We live in Fort Worth, Texas, and had a virtually identical experience in our large knock off rose bush on our covered back patio. So glad to hear your story! Ours were 3 and one day quickly after they were born they were gone when we came home from work. God and His amazing creatures are incredible to watch! Thanks for your story and God Bless!!!!

    • Well I think that is what they do. A few days after the birds are hatched they fly away.
      I had six eggs in a nest. A few days after they hatched, they were gone. I thought that a predator might have gotten them. A friend told me that he thinks that is the nature of cardinal’s.
      I do not know……

  39. Thank you for all the info. This is my second group this summer. I have pics also. The eggs were laid Sat, Sun, & Mon. She is sitting and staring at me. I only go near when she leaves to peek inand take pics. I’m afraid something happened to my first crew on the 8th – 9th nights. I would love to think that they flew, but have my doubts. They had just begun to feather. I shall protect the lower part of the door to my screened-in porch to prevent the nest from being robbed. I can only hope they flew while I was in church.

    • Let’s hope the first batch flew away! I had the same sinking feeling when I discovered our gone. I was lucky that we have a feeder very close to the nest and i saw mom and pop with the babies the next day. It was very fun to watch them finish growing up. If the babies I observed were the ones we hatched we got two males and female. The males hung around a few weeks but the female hung around until she was grown.

      • Hi, I’ve had 3 baby cardinals in a nest in one of my front bushes for about 8 days now. This afternoon when I came home from work the patents were flying around the bush tirelessly and chirping like crazy. I got up on a chair and looked in the nest – no babies. I looked everywhere around on the ground but no sign of them. It’s now 8 hours later and the parents are still doing the same thing. I’m so worried about the babies. Do you think that the parents cannot find them? Or do you think they are around and ok if the parents are still around??

        • I am just not sure. We had a similar situation here last week. I found a baby on a fence. Mom and dad were going crazy. Sounds like your parents were doing the same. Hope it turns out well for you.

  40. My niece brought us a baby Cardinal, which she thought had been injured, as it was on the ground. We’ve had baby birds before and knew to feed it NO water, only wet cat food, using tweezers. We alternated between wetting it with pedialite and water. “St. Louie” had one bad night, but turned herself around the following day. She has been raised by my daughter, feeding her cat food mash every hour throughout the day and every 4-5 hours at night. She’s been here for 10 days. My daughter plans to take her outside in her little nest, for brief periods daily, and eventually let her stay outdoors, when we know the weather will be good for several days. If anyone finds a baby on the ground, the best thing to do is watch for awhile, and see if the parents are keeping up the ace of baby. If not, hang a basket on a branch with a “nest” you make, inside the basket. Watch carefully and hopefully, the parents return. Otherwise, take it in or do a nature preserve. There are 100’s of sites online, telling step by step how to care for baby birds.

  41. There was a baby cardinal on tree outside my bedroom window. Seemed to be learning to fly flitting from branch to branch. Then I saw a bird chase it. For several days afterwards the mama cardinal kept making a chirping noise and it looked as if the parents were searching for the baby. Made me sad. But then I saw the Cardinals with the baby a few days later. But, here is the strange thing. The baby is now almost as big as her mother and is still with them. The 3 are never far from each other. And, today, I saw the male feeding the young bird some squirrel food I throw in the yard. I just don’t understand why the baby is still with the parents. It flies very well. But I love seeing them together. Makes me feel happy.

    • Our experience was similar. After they left the nest they hung out in our yard with mom and dad for quite a bit of time. Thanks so much for sharing your story!

  42. I’m a country girl transplanted in the city but am lucky enough to have cardinals and other birds nesting all around me. I feed them all and have tracked their progress the best I can from my apartment patio. I have seen last spring’s cardinals offspring growing up and it is amazing to watch. But I have never had the “birds eye view” you got! I loved the article and photos you posted and have never seen better anywhere! They are definitely “wall worthy”! Thanks so much for sharing!

    • Thank you so much for reading and thank you for the compliments! My wife took those pictures and she is so happy you liked them.

  43. Loved your post! We have a cardinal nest with 2 eggs in a low hanging mango tree branch in the backyard. Its been 15 days since the first egg was laid, not sure how long after she laid the second. Momma bird has been sitting the nest for at least a week and a half, only leavng for short periods at a time. On Saturday night we had people over and I noticed sunday morning Momma was not in the nest, but poppa bird was nearby. I had blocked off right below the nest from walking but the sitting area with small fire pit is still only 10ft or so from the nest branch, im worried that the commotion scared them away. Have not seen either parent bird since. Is it safe to say the parents have abandoned the nest? How long can the eggs go without incubation near the end of the sitting cycle? Should I intervene and put the eggs in an incubator? We live in Florida so the days are warm but the past week the temperatures in the nights and mornings have been anywhere between 45-65. Any advice appreciated!

    • Have you been able to peek into the nest? My experience has shown that it is very hard to get them to abandon a nest. Generally it means the eggs have been eaten or broken. When Papa is hanging around but not mother, I generally assume the babies have been forced out of the nest. This would be bad in your case because they babies would be too small to survive for long outside the nest. As for the incubation, generally 24 hours is stretching how long they can go with out incubation. Let me know how this works out.

      • Yes, I’ve been able to look into the nest from above and both eggs still appear to be whole as of this morning. I haven’t touched them so if they have damage that is not visible from above then i wouldnt know. Still no sign of the parent birds.

  44. Hi! I found this post while searching for cardinal habits after finding an empty nest in our rosebush and then a few days later one egg. I first saw the egg yesterday morning. No sign of mama bird or other eggs when I’ve peaked in. I was so glad to read that mama doesn’t start sitting until all eggs are laid. My question is, do you know how long the process of laying all eggs can take? I’m hopeful she’ll be back to incubate soon!

    • Glad you found us! I am not sure of the exact number of days but it goes fairly quickly. The ones I have observed basically laid an egg a day.

  45. HELP! A cardinal family nested on my porch but sadly, one of the hatchlings fell into my pool and drowned:( The birds have nested here before. How do I prevent this from happening again??

    • Not sure I can help you. The birds will not tolerate much interference. The only thing I can suggest is keep a close eye on them and try and rescue any that fall out of the nest as soon as possible. If you find one on the ground you can generally put it back in the nest and the parents will accept it.

  46. I found 3 baby red cardinal in my rose bush and I have seen both mother and father. Came home and the nest was empty I don’t think they were big enough to leave the nest so I of course as a mother my self am worried if they are okay. Do the parents love them at any point?

    • I am not an expert, but my observations is they show love in some of their actions. Last year we had a cardinal fall out of the nest before it could fly. The dad stayed with the baby for a whole day. This kind of commitment to me looked a lot like love.

  47. Thank you for posting the pictures and narrative! Cardinals are my favorite, and we have many in the country. I have never found a nest, though. You are fortunate!!

    • It was very fortunate. We have had plants on the porch years and never had them nest there. Do not know why they chose to build their nest there that year but we were truly blessed and appreciative of the opportunity it gave us! Thanks for reading!

  48. Mine was a 16 day process from hatch to flight! 3 baby Cardinals were born 4/08/17 and took flight 4/24/17 they grew so fast!!

    • I completely agree! Truly amazing how quickly they are able to go from egg to flight! Thanks for sharing your comment and thanks for reading!

  49. I just ran across your article… We to have Cardinals on the Front Porch! We are super excited. I noticed her building the nest in the bird feeder on out front porch this Saturday. Today my husband called me on my way home from work and told me there are 4 eggs 🙂 I’m home now and she is sitting on them. We have a nice view from our living room to that bird feeder. I hope our luck is as good as yours! Thank you for your blog.

  50. Thanks for your photo and the story. Obviously this is a popular story after so many years! Did your cardinals ever reuse the nest? Have you seen them in a new nest? I’m asking because I have a new with 3 babies in a tree near my window. I want them to return, either to this old nest or a new nest. Should I remove the nest after the babies fledge so the parents wil build a new nest?

    • Glad you found it. We left the nest right where it was. Sure enough, next Spring they used it again. Unfortunately something found the nest that year. It really disturbed the nest and ate the eggs. They never returned. I am not sure but perhaps they will reuse the nest as long as they feel it is a safe place to raise their young.

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