Cardinals do not use birdhouses or nesting boxes. They look for shrubs and small trees for shelter, building their nests less than 15 feet from the ground—sometimes as low as only 4 or 5 feet. Nests are fashioned from grasses, bark, plant fibers and other materials into a cup shape. They do not reuse old nests, so the more shelter options you give them, the more likely they will hang around the yard all year.
Cardinals raise two broods a year. They nest from May to July in the northern portion of their range; April to August in the middle part; and March to July in the south. The female takes the lead in building the nest with some help from the male. They will often take advantage of nesting materials that you set out in the yard in the spring. The incubation period for their eggs is 12 days, for three or four eggs per nesting. The male helps raise the young and occasionally cardinal couples mate for several years. Cardinals live from 4 to 12 years.