Can You Have a Cardinal As a Pet? Understanding Wildlife Laws

With their red feathers and beautiful songs, cardinals have always fascinated bird enthusiasts and observers. The mere glimpse of a cardinal can brighten a dreary day, making it a creature many wish to keep close. However, the question arises: Can you have a cardinal as a pet? This article explores the legal, ethical, and practical aspects of keeping cardinals and suggests responsible alternatives for bird enthusiasts.

Can You Have a Cardinal As a Bird Pet?

Keeping cardinals as pets in the U.S. is both illegal and morally wrong. A bird treaty protects Cardinals, and that is why. Instead, enjoy cardinals in their natural habitat through birdwatching or setting up feeding stations in your yard.

Legal Aspects of Owning a Cardinal

In the United States, the legal framework governing the ownership of cardinals is clear-cut. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) protects cardinals and numerous other native bird species.

This legislation prohibits owning, capturing, killing, or selling cardinals, as they consider them rescued wild animals. This act aims to protect bird populations and ensure their freedom and survival in their natural homes.

Ethical Considerations

Beyond the legalities, there are compelling ethical reasons to reconsider the desire to keep a cardinal as a pet. Cardinals do well in their natural habitats, where they can fly, find food, and be part of their ecosystems.

Confining such a bird in a cage restricts its natural behaviors and can lead to stress and health issues. Respect their role in nature and let them live freely without humans wanting to be friends with wild animals.

Cardinals’ Care Requirements

Understanding the care requirements of cardinals sheds light on why they are not suitable for life in captivity. These birds have specific needs that are difficult to meet outside their natural environment.

Cardinals require ample space for flying. They also have a varied diet, consuming seeds, fruits, and bugs. Additionally, they engage in natural behaviors such as nest-building and socializing with other cardinals. No matter how well-intentioned a domestic setting is, it cannot provide the complex ecosystem cardinals need to thrive.

Why People Love Cardinals

The allure of cardinals is undeniable. Their bright red feathers symbolize beauty and joy, making them a delightful sight in any backyard. Their beautiful songs make them a symbol of joy and peace in the bird world. This natural beauty and the joy they bring to everyday life make people wish to keep them close.

Alternatives to Having a Cardinal as a Pet

To appreciate cardinals without hurting them, there are options available.

  • Birdwatching:¬†Birdwatching allows you to appreciate cardinals in their natural habitat. Equip yourself with binoculars and enjoy these magnificent birds from a distance.
  • Feeding Stations:¬†Setting up feeding stations in your yard can attract cardinals, providing them with food and water. It can be rewarding to observe cardinals up close without confining them.
  • To have a pet bird, opt for canaries or parakeets, as they thrive in homes and make great companions. These birds can live happily and healthily with humans when humans adequately meet their needs.


Having a cardinal as a pet is tempting, but it’s against the law and morally wrong. Cardinals are beautiful birds. We can enjoy them by watching them, making our yards bird-friendly, or having pet birds that can live with us.

We can appreciate these lovely birds without harming them by respecting nature and its creatures. Let’s cherish and protect our feathered friends by allowing them to remain free and wild.