Where Do Cardinals Nest at Night?

Where Do Cardinals Nest at Night?

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Even the most avid bird watchers struggle to catch glimpses of their favorite birds when they’re sleeping.

Each bird has a specific nesting style, and cardinals are no different.

So, where do cardinals nest at night?

Cardinals tend to nest in safe and protected, elevated locations, as well as spots that are convenient to them. These birds prefer nooks and crannies, such as dense bushes, within treetop branches, inside of vacant birdhouses, chimneys, and some hollowed-out parts of trees. 

Let’s take a look at the following aspects of where cardinals nest at night:

  • What type of environment do cardinals nest in at night?
  • What sorts of places do cardinals nest in at night?
  • Do cardinals nest in different locations based on the season?
  • Where do breeding cardinals nest at night?
  • Do cardinals nest in the same spot every night?
  • What specific types of foliage do cardinals nest in?

What Type of Environment Do Cardinals Nest in at Night?

There are a few necessities when it comes to a cardinal’s preferred nesting environment, including:

  • Safety
  • Peace and quiet
  • Easy exits
  • Good view

Because safety is so important to cardinals, they will assess potential nesting spots, prioritizing ones that are at a high elevation.

Do Cardinals Nest in Different Locations Based on the Season?
Cardinal nest location at night

Usually, high nesting spots create distance between cardinals and their predators.

Female Northern Cardinals will actually sometimes sing while nesting, so being in a safe spot is essential while singing draws attention to their nest. 

High elevation nests also provide the ideal view for cardinals to be on the lookout for food and predators.

It’s important, however, that these safe spots aren’t too cramped since cardinals need to be able to make a swift exit should they be in danger.

For Example: Cardinals also value peace and quiet because they value their sleep, which is why they’ll choose locations that aren’t frequented by other wildlife or nearby noisy human activity.

What Sorts of Places Do Cardinals Nest in at Night?

It’s no secret that cardinals nest in the wild, but on occasion, they will opt to nest in a manmade structure, such as a chimney, high rooftop nook, or an empty birdhouse that they deem safe.

Aside from these locations, though, cardinals often look for:

  • Dense shrubbery (usually to avoid harsh weather conditions)
  • Large tree cavities
  • Covered branches
  • High in the treetops

Thick or dense foliage with multiple easy exits is the ideal setting for a cardinal.

They typically settle their nests between about 3-15 feet off of the ground. 

Do Cardinals Nest in Different Locations Based on the Season?

Cardinals will consistently go back to the same nest. However, as the seasons change or harsh weather settles in, they will find new and more protected places to nest. 

When the weather becomes more intense, such as rain, snow, or high winds, cardinals will find denser vegetation to nest in, where they can achieve greater protection from the elements.

What Sorts of Places Do Cardinals Nest in at Night?
Cardinal sunset

This is especially the case when it comes to mother cardinals nesting with their young since they need to keep them warm to survive. 

Key Takeaway: Convenience also plays a part in shifting weather, as cardinals will look for safe spots that are most convenient if there is a sudden change in the weather that they need quick protection from. 

Where Do Breeding Cardinals Nest at Night?

Additionally, cardinals may change their nesting spots when they have entered breeding season to accommodate the conditions needed for roosting. 

While in the breeding season, cardinals will maintain their current nest and defend it as their territory. However, once they’ve completed the breeding process, they will often find a new nesting spot. 

Do Cardinals Nest in the Same Spot Every Night?

As previously mentioned, cardinals won’t stay in the same nest forever. Factors such as weather, the seasons, noise, lights, and the presence of predators may cause a cardinal to nest in a different spot on certain nights.

For example, since they value a peaceful rest at night, if humans are creating noise or light too close to a cardinal’s nest at night, the cardinal might pick up and move to a different nest.

What Type of Environment Do Cardinals Nest in at Night?
Cardinals nest for the night

Or, if the location of a nest gets compromised by another animal or the weather (i.e.: a tree branch breaks or a predator finds the nest), then the cardinal will likely find a new nest. 

What Specific Types of Foliage Do Cardinals Nest In?

Cardinals obviously like dense vegetation for ultimate protection in their nests.

But what sorts of trees, shrubs, and bushes make the ideal spots for these birds? 

Cardinals will often nest in foliage such as:

  • Honeysuckle shrubs
  • Red cedar trees
  • Elm trees
  • Dogwood trees
  • Pine trees
  • Blackberry brambles
  • Sugar maple trees
  • Hemlock trees
  • Spruce trees 
  • Elderberry bushes

The reason that these bushes and trees work so well is that they often provide thick and dense protection from the elements and predators, and they also provide a solid vantage point for the birds. 


Above all else, cardinals prefer a safe, elevated, and easily accessible location to nest at night.

These birds typically make their nests in dense vegetation, such as bushes and trees (elms, blackberry bushes, honeysuckle shrubs, etc.), as well as man-made structures like birdhouses and chimneys on occasions where something convenient is necessary. 

Cardinals will move to a new nest as the seasons change, when breeding has come to an end, and when necessary to find greater safety from their surroundings. 

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