Michigan harbors a rich variety of wild bird species. This article explores some of the well-known and easily recognizable birds residing in the state. While some are permanent inhabitants, others are seasonal migrants. The focus will be on 25 backyard birds in Michigan, accompanied by brief insights into each species.
Following this exploration, we’ll delve into strategies for attracting these birds to your yard. Additionally, a guide to ten types of bird feeders will be provided, and notable birdwatching spots in Michigan will be highlighted.
Determining the exact number of bird species in Michigan, North America, or the United States is challenging. However, as of January 2023, Wikipedia records at least 456 bird species in Michigan. Various sources estimate the total bird species in North America to be between 800 and 1100, including:
- National Wildlife Federation: Over 800 species
- Ornithology.com: About 900 species
- Audubon: Over 800 species
- Wikipedia: 1125 species
For the purposes of this article, the focus will be on showcasing some of the most notable bird species in Michigan.
25 Common Backyard Birds in Michigan
The following section introduces 25 species of backyard birds in Michigan, encompassing both year-round residents and seasonal visitors. While this list is by no means exhaustive, it highlights some of the most prominent and easily identifiable Michigan backyard birds. Without further delay, let’s explore these fascinating avian residents.
Scientific name: Sialia sialis
Length: 6.3-8.3 in
Weight: 1.0-1.1 oz
Wingspan: 9.8-12.6 in
Bluebirds, as the name suggests, boast a vibrant blue hue on their upper bodies complemented by rusty reddish-orange bellies. Highly coveted as occupants of birdhouses across the U.S., they contribute to the thriving bluebird house industry. While commonly found in backyards, they are not frequent visitors to feeders. Erecting a birdhouse, such as the one available on Amazon, increases your chances of attracting a mating pair.
In Southern Michigan, Eastern Bluebirds reside year-round, while in the northern parts of the southern peninsula and the entire north peninsula, they are limited to breeding ranges. To delve deeper into Michigan’s bluebirds, consider exploring the Michigan Bluebird Society.
Although bluebirds typically steer clear of seeds, enticing them with mealworms on a tray feeder or dish can draw them to your backyard.
Scientific name: Sitta carolinensis
Length: 5.1-5.5 in
Weight: 0.6-1.1 oz
Wingspan: 7.9-10.6 in
White-breasted Nuthatches, frequenting most backyards within their range, earn their name from tucking nuts and seeds under tree bark, skillfully extracting them with their sharp beaks. Notably adept at vertical tree climbing, they feature a distinctive thick black stripe atop their heads, flanked by white on either side and on their bellies. Their wings predominantly display shades of gray and black.
Year-round inhabitants of Michigan, White-breasted Nuthatches readily visit various seed feeders. Offering mixed seed blends, black sunflower seeds, peanuts, or suet can attract these charming birds.
Scientific name: Turdus migratorius
Length: 7.9-11.0 in
Weight: 2.7-3.0 oz
Wingspan: 12.2-15.8 in
Frequently spotted in backyards, Robins engage in grass-hopping endeavors, foraging for worms and invertebrates. While they may occasionally visit bird feeders, their diet rarely includes seeds. Identified by their bright red, round bellies, and yellow beaks, Robins remain year-round residents in the lower peninsula, with a breeding range in Michigan’s upper peninsula.
Given their infrequent feeder visits, attract Robins with mealworms, native fruit-bearing plants, or a bird bath.
4. Mourning Dove
Scientific name: Zenaida macroura
Length: 9.1-13.4 in
Weight: 3.0-6.0 oz
Wingspan: 17.7 in
Approximating the size of a robin, Mourning Doves are commonplace in backyards, often perching on telephone wires or congregating in trees. While occasionally seen on tray feeders, they predominantly wander on the ground. Sporting mostly gray feathers with black spots on top and a pale peachy hue below, they add a serene presence.
Year-round occupants of most of Michigan, Mourning Doves favor ground feeding. A mixed seed blend on a ground feeder or scattered seeds on the ground can entice these gentle birds.
5. European Starling
Scientific name: Sturnus vulgaris
Length: 7.9-9.1 in
Weight: 2.1-3.4 oz
Wingspan: 12.2-15.8 in
Introduced in the 1890s, a hundred starlings unleashed in New York have proliferated across the nation, becoming invasive. Predominantly dark with white specks on their backs and wings, they showcase yellow beaks and feet. Occasionally displaying a purple and green iridescence, they can be visually striking.
Unfortunately, European Starlings maintain a year-round presence in all lower 48 states, including Michigan. As an invasive species, attempting to attract them is discouraged, as they tend to appear regardless.
Scientific name: Spinus tristis
Length: 4.3-5.1 in
Weight: 0.4-0.7 oz
Wingspan: 7.5-8.7 in
Among the preferred feeder visitors, American Goldfinches, especially captivating in their bright yellow plumage during Spring and Summer, stand out. Transitioning to more subdued brownish or olive tones in winter, they maintain recognizable features with black-tipped wings and finch-like beaks.
Found throughout most of both the upper and lower peninsulas in Michigan year-round, except for the tips where they have breeding-only ranges, Goldfinches favor thistle feeders. Offering thistle feeders provides the best opportunity to attract them.
7. House Finch
Scientific name: Haemorhous mexicanus
Length: 5.1-5.5 in
Weight: 0.6-0.9 oz
Wingspan: 7.9-9.8 in
Despite being invasive to Michigan, House Finches are a common backyard presence. Unlike universally disliked House Sparrows, they do not pose significant issues. Attracting them might result in large flocks mobbing your feeders. Males exhibit streaked brown hues with some red on the head and chest, while females are entirely brown.
Restricted to the lower peninsula of Michigan, House Finches, similar to other finches, are drawn to thistle feeders. Additionally, they are more frequently seen at seed feeders, making black sunflower seeds an effective attractant.
Scientific name: Passer domesticus
Length: 5.9-6.7 in
Weight: 0.9-1.1 oz
Wingspan: 7.5-9.8 in
Viewed as pests, House Sparrows, legally trap-able and euthanizable, arrived in the U.S. in the 1800s and have rapidly spread. Mainly brown with black and brown streaks on their wings and a buffy chest, they exhibit aggression towards other birds, especially near nests.
Widespread throughout Michigan, though less common in the upper peninsula, House Sparrows, similar to European Starlings, are invasive. Their diverse diet includes almost anything, making them a potential threat to native species.
Scientific name: Quiscalus quiscula
Length: 11.0-13.4 in
Weight: 2.6-5.0 oz
Wingspan: 14.2-18.1 in
Despite falling into the category of bully birds, much like starlings, Grackles exhibit a certain beauty in the right lighting due to their iridescent feathers. Predominantly black, they often roost alongside other blackbirds, sometimes forming massive flocks numbering in the millions. Their solid coloring and yellow-ringed eyes make them easily identifiable.
In Michigan, Grackles are primarily present during the breeding season, with a small population residing year-round in southern parts of the state. Known for their foraging habits, they consume a wide range of food, earning a reputation as occasional pests.
10. Hairy Woodpecker
Scientific name: Leuconotopicus villosus
Length: 7.1-10.2 in
Weight: 1.4-3.4 oz
Wingspan: 13.0-16.1 in
Distinguishing Hairy Woodpeckers from Downy Woodpeckers is a challenge, with the former being larger and featuring a few key differences. Both share similar markings and are often found in the same regions. However, Hairy Woodpeckers are less frequent visitors to bird feeders compared to their Downy counterparts.
Year-round residents of Michigan, Hairy Woodpeckers may visit suet and seed feeders, though not as commonly as Downy Woodpeckers.
Scientific name: Junco hyemalis
Length: 5.5-6.3 in
Weight: 0.6-1.1 oz
Wingspan: 7.1-9.8 in
Often associated with winter, Dark-eyed Juncos spend their summers in Canada, featuring blackish-gray heads and a predominantly dark slate-gray upper half. Females and immatures may display a more buffy brown color. Common in forests and wooded areas, they are frequently observed hopping on the ground.
While present year-round in Northern Michigan, Dark-eyed Juncos have a winter range in the southern parts of the state. They occasionally visit feeders but prefer foraging on the ground, picking up seeds dropped by other birds.
Scientific name: Icterus galbula
Length: 6.7-7.5 in
Weight: 1.1-1.4 oz
Wingspan: 9.1-11.8 in
Orioles, avid fruit consumers, are particularly drawn to dark-colored berries and fruits. Attracting Baltimore Orioles to your backyard becomes more likely with native fruit-bearing trees and plants. Males boast a dark hood, black backs with white wing stripes, and vibrant orange breasts, underbodies, rumps, and tail feathers. Females exhibit a more muted yellowish-orange coloring.
Migratory birds, Baltimore Orioles grace Michigan during the breeding season, making their appearance in spring and early summer. To attract them, set up an oriole feeder with jelly and orange halves.
13. Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Scientific name: Archilochus colubris
Length: 2.8-3.5 in
Weight: 0.1-0.2 oz
Wingspan: 3.1-4.3 in
Exclusive to the eastern half of the United States, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds rank as the most abundant hummingbird species in the country. The only breeding hummingbird species in the Eastern U.S, males stand out with a bright ruby-red throat, complementing their emerald-green backs, wings, and heads, while females lack the red throat feathers.
Prevalent in Michigan from spring to fall, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds readily visit backyards with nectar feeders, particularly in April or May.
14. Brown Thrasher
Scientific name: Toxostoma rufum
Length: 9.1-11.8 in
Weight: 2.1-3.1 oz
Wingspan: 11.4-12.6 in
Although not as common as other backyard birds in Michigan, Brown Thrashers can be spotted with some effort. Mainly brown, their name suggests their knack for thrashing through fallen leaves in search of insects. Known for their extensive repertoire of over 1100 songs, including mimicry of other bird species, they add a melodic touch to the surroundings.
Breeding in Michigan during spring and summer, Brown Thrashers typically forage on the ground or in bushes for insects, making them less frequent visitors to bird feeders.
Scientific name: Dumetella carolinensis
Length: 8.3-9.4 in
Weight: 0.8-2.0 oz
Wingspan: 8.7-11.8 in
Sporting dark slate-gray plumage with black caps on their heads, blackish-gray wings, and long tails, Gray Catbirds are predominantly fruit-eating birds. Their cat-like calls contribute to their name. While found in Michigan during the breeding season, they prefer habitats with native fruit-bearing trees and bushes.
Attracting Gray Catbirds may involve offering fruits, berries, and other sweet treats, but they primarily forage on the ground or in bushes for their food.
Scientific name: Colaptes auratus
Length: 11.0-12.2 in
Weight: 3.9-5.6 oz
Wingspan: 16.5-20.1 in
Medium to large-sized woodpeckers, Northern Flickers stand out as some of the most colorful birds in North America. Common in U.S. backyards, especially in the lower peninsula of Michigan, they exhibit black spots on their bellies, a solid black bib, a red patch on the back of their necks, and barred black and gray wings. Michigan hosts the “yellow-shafted” variety, characterized by bright yellow feathers on the underside of their wings.
While occasionally visiting suet feeders, Northern Flickers find their own food, occasionally enjoying bird baths if provided.
Scientific name: Cardinalis cardinalis
Length: 8.3-9.1 in
Weight: 1.5-1.7 oz
Wingspan: 9.8-12.2 in
Northern Cardinals stand out as one of the most easily identifiable and prevalent backyard birds in North America. Distinguished by bright red feathers and a black mask in males, while females exhibit paler brown tones with hints of reddish coloring. Both genders are characterized by distinctive “mohawks” and reddish-orange beaks.
Year-round residents of the southern peninsula of Michigan, Northern Cardinals also inhabit the southern areas of the upper peninsula throughout the year. Cardinals readily visit various seed feeders; entice them with mixed seed blends and black sunflower seeds.
Scientific name: Baeolophus bicolor
Length: 5.5-6.3 in
Weight: 0.6-0.9 oz
Wingspan: 7.9-10.2 in
These diminutive birds are frequent visitors to feeders and common in backyards within their range. Similar to Cardinals, they feature a small mohawk that aids in easy identification. Titmice exhibit silver-gray plumage on top and lighter tones underneath, adorned with a black patch just above their beaks.
While the Tufted Titmouse is present year-round throughout the lower peninsula of Michigan, it is uncommon or entirely absent in the upper peninsula. Titmice are known to visit various seed feeders; consider offering them mixed seed blends and black sunflower seeds.
19. Black-capped Chickadee
Scientific name: Poecile atricapillus
Length: 4.7-5.9 in
Weight: 0.3-0.5 oz
Wingspan: 6.3-8.3 in
Chickadees, easily recognizable with their “black cap” and bib, are petite birds with solid white cheeks, blackish-gray wings, and puffy whitish underbodies. The Black-capped Chickadee, distinct from the Carolina Chickadee, is widespread across the entire state of Michigan. Known for their agile movements, they are often the first to visit new feeders.
Regulars at bird feeders, Chickadees eagerly consume mixed seed blends and black sunflower seeds.
20. Blue Jay
Scientific name: Cyanocitta cristata
Length: 9.8-11.8 in
Weight: 2.5-3.5 oz
Wingspan: 13.4-16.9 in
The Blue Jay, a well-known species in North America, boasts a distinctive appearance with a large blue crest atop their heads, predominantly blue feathers on top, white feathers underneath, and a noticeable black ring resembling a necklace around their necks. Their wings display striking patterns of white, blue, and black bars.
Year-round residents across the entire state of Michigan, Blue Jays are common in backyards and frequent visitors to feeders. Optimal feeders include platforms, peanut feeders, and those with large perches, offering black sunflower seeds, mixed seeds, and peanuts to attract them.
21. Red-winged Blackbird
Scientific name: Agelaius phoeniceus
Length: 6.7-9.1 in
Weight: 1.1-2.7 oz
Wingspan: 12.2-15.8 in
Red-winged Blackbirds, abundant across North America, are instantly recognizable due to the vibrant red wings of the males. In contrast, females exhibit a predominantly brown hue with yellow accents. Known for their polygynous behavior, males engage with up to 15 different females for mating.
Restricted to a breeding range in Michigan, these blackbirds make their presence known during the Spring and Summer. Red-winged Blackbirds are versatile feeders, comfortable with various types, consuming both seeds and suet.
22. American Crow
Scientific name: Corvus brachyrhynchos
Length: 15.8-20.9 in
Weight: 11.2-21.9 oz
Wingspan: 33.5-39.4 in
Dressed in solid black attire, American Crows boast considerable size and intelligence, sharing traits with their clever cousin, the Raven. These birds strategically roost in treetops, displaying a collective vigilance against potential threats like owls or hawks.
Found throughout Michigan year-round, American Crows, being omnivorous, seldom visit bird feeders due to their large size.
23. Song Sparrow
Scientific name: Melospiza melodia
Length: 4.7-6.7 in
Weight: 0.4-1.9 oz
Wingspan: 7.1-9.4 in
Sporting a brown back and wings adorned with pronounced streaks on a white breast, Song Sparrows are widespread across North America. Their plumage may vary slightly by region, and the male’s melodic song serves both as a means of attracting females and defending territory.
Residing year-round in the bottom half of Michigan’s lower peninsula, Song Sparrows may occasionally grace bird feeders, indulging in mixed seeds and sunflower seeds.
24. Red-bellied Woodpecker
Scientific name: Melanerpes carolinus
Length: 9.4 in
Weight: 2.0-3.2 oz
Wingspan: 13.0-16.5 in
Medium-sized and frequenting feeders, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, despite their name, often showcase a noticeable red streak along the back of their heads. Their plain white throats feature a hint of pinkish-red lower down. Identifying characteristics include distinctive wings with black and white barring.
Found predominantly in most of lower Michigan, these woodpeckers aren’t as common in the upper peninsula. Attract them with a suet feeder, though they occasionally dine at seed feeders.
25. Downy Woodpecker
Scientific name: Picoides pubescens
Length: 5.5-6.7 in
Weight: 0.7-1.0 oz
Wingspan: 9.8-11.8 in
Downy Woodpeckers, cherished visitors to backyard feeders, hold the title of North America’s smallest woodpeckers. Their distinct features include all-white underbodies, black wings adorned with white spots, black and white striped heads, and a red spot on the back of their heads (exclusive to males).
Year-round residents throughout Michigan, Downy Woodpeckers are prevalent at various bird feeders, displaying a preference for mixed seed, black sunflower seed, and suet.
BIRD WATCHING IN MICHIGAN
Michigan proves to be an enchanting destination for bird enthusiasts, extending beyond the confines of your own backyard. With 35 chapters, the Michigan Audubon Society facilitates various birding activities, including meetups, workshops, field trips, and birding tours, providing ample opportunities to deepen your involvement in this captivating hobby.
For Michigan residents aspiring to expand their life list with new avian species, here’s a compiled list of popular birding locations in the state.
MICHIGAN BIRDING LOCATIONS
Explore the unique offerings of each location by visiting birdwatchersdigest.org
HOW TO ATTRACT BIRDS TO YOUR YARD
Keen on bringing the beauty of birds to your backyard? Consider these 5 straightforward tips, starting with the most obvious.
- PUT OUT BIRD FEEDERS The most effective and straightforward method is to introduce bird feeders to your yard. Start with a simple tube feeder, hopper feeder, platform feeder, or a window feeder. Tailor your choice based on the types of birds you wish to attract.
- ADD A WATER SOURCE Enhance your backyard with a water source, such as a pedestal birdbath or a humble terra cotta flower pot saucer. Birds not only enjoy bathing but also need water for drinking. Consider a solar fountain to add movement, further enticing feathered visitors.
- OFFER BIRDHOUSES Invite avian residents by strategically placing birdhouses. Certain bird species, like Eastern Bluebirds, readily adopt these shelters, especially when positioned correctly and at the right time of year. Providing suitable nesting spots can attract a variety of birds to your yard.
- PROVIDE SHELTER Ensure your yard incorporates trees, bushes, and shrubs, offering birds safe retreats from potential predators. The presence of these elements enhances the overall safety of your yard, making it more appealing to birds seeking refuge.
- ADD NATIVE PLANTS Opt for native plants that produce nuts, berries, and seeds, catering to the dietary preferences of many bird species. Avoid invasive and non-native plants, as they can pose risks to native birds unfamiliar with these species.
Attracting a diverse array of birds to your yard can be a rewarding and enjoyable experience.
10 VARIETIES OF BIRD FEEDERS
Presented below are ten commonly used bird feeders that people install in their yards.
- Hopper Feeder: Named for the central compartment or hopper holding bird seed, this feeder features perches on the sides for birds to land and feed. Many resemble houses and have top covers to protect the seed from rain. Ideal for black sunflower seeds or mixed birdseed, some designs are also squirrel-proof.
- Platform Feeder: Also known as tray feeders, these open-top feeders can be hung from trees or poles. They are versatile for feeding various bird types but are fully accessible to any yard animals. Suitable for black sunflower seeds or mixed birdseed, platform feeders are easy to set up.
- Tube Feeder: Comprising clear plastic tube-shaped containers, these feeders come in various sizes, preserving seed freshness and allowing easy refilling. Suitable for black sunflower seeds and mixed seeds, some brands like Squirrel Buster are renowned for their squirrel-proof designs.
- Suet Feeder: Designed for suet cakes, these feeders typically consist of a metal wire cage. Common during winter, they attract woodpeckers seeking high-fat foods. Opt for a suet feeder with a long tail prop to attract larger woodpeckers.
- Window Feeder: Compact feeders that attach to glass windows using suction cups, they are similar to tray feeders. Ideal for those with limited space, window feeders are popular among various bird species and easy to start with.
- Thistle Feeder: Specifically crafted for thistle seeds, these feeders attract finches like the American Goldfinch and House Finch. Often tube-shaped with tiny holes along the sides, they allow birds to extract thistle easily.
- Ground Feeder: Similar to tray feeders but at ground level, they are favored by birds like Mourning Doves and Juncos, as well as ground animals like squirrels and raccoons.
- Oriole Feeder: Tailored for orioles, these feeders are often orange and feature plastic or glass dishes for holding jelly, a favorite of orioles. Some also accommodate orange halves.
- Hummingbird Feeder: Designed for hummingbirds to extract sugar water, these simple and inexpensive feeders also attract other birds like Downy Woodpeckers.
- Peanut Feeder: Tube-shaped with a metal wire mesh, these feeders allow the passage of whole unshelled or shelled peanuts. Attracting birds like Blue Jays, they can be squirrel-proof for those wanting to deter squirrels.