Discover 12 Red Birds in Michigan (2023)

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Michigan is home to a variety of beautiful red birds, from the vibrant scarlet tanager to the stately cardinal. These birds can be found in a variety of habitats, from forests and fields to backyards and parks.

Redbirds are a popular sight in Michigan and for good reason. They are not only beautiful, but they also play an important role in the ecosystem. Redbirds help to control insect populations, and they also provide food for other animals.

Michigan is home to a variety of red birds, including the Northern Cardinal, Scarlet Tanager, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Pine Grosbeak, Common Redpoll, and Two-barred Crossbill.

These birds can be found in a variety of habitats, including forests, fields, and backyards. They play an important role in the ecosystem by helping to control insect populations and providing food for other animals.

In this blog post, we will take a closer look at some of the most common red birds in Michigan. We will also provide tips on how to attract these birds to your own backyard.

Red Birds in Michigan

There are many different types of red birds found in Michigan, each with its own unique appearance and behaviour. Some of the most common red birds in Michigan include:

  1. Northern Cardinal
  2. Red Crossbill
  3. Scarlet Tanager
  4. Red-headed Woodpecker
  5. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  6. Ruby-throated Hummingbird
  7. Summer Tanager
  8. White-winged Crossbill
  9. Rose-breasted Grosbeak
  10. Pine Grosbeak
  11. Common Redpoll
  12. Two-barred Crossbill

Let’s explore these bird’s diet, behaviour, habitats, appearances, etc.

1. Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinal
Image: Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinals are one of Michigan’s most recognizable birds. They are red with a black mask around the eyes and a black throat.

Females are reddish-brown with touches of red on their wings, tail, and crest. Both sexes have a crest on their heads.

Cardinals can be found in a variety of habitats in Michigan, including woodlands, suburban gardens, parks, and forest edges. They are year-round residents of the state.

Cardinals eat seeds, fruits, and insects. In winter, they rely on bird feeders for food.

Cardinals start nesting in late spring and may have two to three broods per year. The female builds the nest, which is typically located in dense shrubs or low tree branches. She lays 2-5 eggs per clutch.

Cardinals are known for their distinctive song, which is often described as a series of clear whistles. They are relatively territorial and defend their nesting areas vigorously.

Cardinals are active throughout the year and can be seen foraging for food or flying among trees and shrubs.

2. Red Crossbill

Red Crossbill
Image: Red Crossbill

Red Crossbills are birds with a unique bill that crosses at the tips. This allows them to extract seeds from conifer cones. They are red in colour, with males being brighter than females.

Red Crossbills are nomadic birds, meaning they move around in search of food. They are more likely to be seen in northern Michigan, where there are more conifer forests.

Red Crossbills eat the seeds of conifer cones. They pry open the scales of the cones with their crossed bills and extract the seeds.

Red Crossbills can breed throughout the year, but they are more likely to breed during years when there is a good supply of food.

3. Scarlet Tanager

Scarlet Tanager
Image: Scarlet Tanager

Scarlet Tanagers are birds with bright red plumage and black wings and tails. Males are more brightly coloured than females.

Scarlet Tanagers prefer deciduous and mixed forests, particularly those with dense canopies. They are usually found in Michigan during their breeding season in the spring and summer.

Scarlet Tanagers eat insects, including beetles, bees, wasps, and other small arthropods. During migration, they may also consume some fruits.

Scarlet Tanagers arrive in Michigan in late spring for the breeding season. The female builds a cup-shaped nest in a tree, and the pair may have one or two broods.

4. Red-headed Woodpecker

red cockaded woodpecker

Red-headed Woodpeckers are birds with striking redheads, necks, and upper breasts. The rest of their bodies are black and white.

Red-headed Woodpeckers prefer open woodlands, savannas, and forest edges. They are less common in Michigan than they once were, due to habitat loss and other factors.

Red-headed Woodpeckers have an omnivorous diet, feeding on insects, nuts, seeds, and fruits. They are known for storing food in tree crevices or the ground.

Red-headed Woodpeckers typically breed in Michigan during the summer months. They excavate their nests in dead trees, and both parents share incubation duties.

Red-headed Woodpeckers are agile and acrobatic climbers, often seen hopping along tree branches or clinging to trunks. They are also known for catching insects in mid-air during flight.

5. Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-Bellied Woodpecker
Image: Red-Bellied Woodpecker

The Red-bellied Woodpecker is a medium-sized woodpecker with a bright red cap and nape, and black and white barred back and wings. Males have a red crown, while females have a black crown with red at the back of the head.

This woodpecker is found in woodlands, forests, parks, and suburban areas across the eastern United States. It prefers mature trees, especially those with deadwood, as it feeds on insects and tree sap.

The Red-bellied Woodpecker’s diet includes insects, fruits, nuts, and seeds. It has a unique ability to store food in crevices and even bury items under loose bark.

Breeding takes place in the spring, and these woodpeckers excavate nesting cavities in dead trees or limbs. Both parents participate in raising the young.

6. Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Ruby-throated hummingbird
Image: Ruby-throated hummingbird (pixabay)

The Ruby-throated Hummingbird is a tiny jewel-like bird with a vibrant ruby-red throat (gorget) that shines brilliantly in the sunlight. The rest of its body is covered in iridescent green plumage, which helps it blend into its surroundings.

These hummingbirds are commonly found in Eastern North America, from southern Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. They prefer open woodlands, gardens, meadows, and areas with abundant nectar sources.

The Ruby-throated Hummingbird’s diet consists mainly of nectar from flowers. They also consume small insects for protein, essential for their energy-intensive hovering flight.

During the breeding season in late spring and early summer, males perform impressive aerial displays to attract females. The females build tiny cup-shaped nests on tree branches using materials like plant fibres and spider silk.

7. Summer Tanager

Summer Tanager
Image: Summer Tanager

The Summer Tanager is a striking bird with entirely red plumage, though the shade can vary from bright scarlet to a more subdued reddish-brown. Adult males are usually more vibrant, while females and immatures tend to be paler.

Summer Tanagers can be found in the southern and eastern parts of the United States during the breeding season. They inhabit open woodlands, forest edges, and river corridors.

These tanagers primarily feed on flying insects, which they catch in mid-air during swift and agile flights. They may also eat some fruits and berries.

During the breeding season, males sing from prominent perches to attract females. They construct their nests in the forks of tree branches, often selecting trees with dense foliage for better protection.

8. White-winged Crossbill (Loxia leucoptera)

The White-winged Crossbill is a unique bird known for its strong, crossed bill that helps it extract seeds from conifer cones. Males are bright red, while females have an olive-brown colour with red streaks.

These crossbills are wanderers, moving around North America to find coniferous forests with plenty of cones. They prefer spruce, pine, and fir trees.

White-winged Crossbills mainly eat the seeds inside conifer cones. Their special bills allow them to open the scales and reach the nutritious seeds.

Because they are nomadic, their presence can be unpredictable for birdwatchers as they travel in search of food, which varies from year to year.

9. Rose-breasted Grosbeaks

Rose-breasted Grosbeaks are striking birds with black and white plumage and a bright red patch on the breast of males. Females have a more subtle pattern with streaks of brown and white.

They live in deciduous forests, woodlands, and well-vegetated areas with access to open spaces.

Rose-breasted Grosbeaks primarily feed on seeds, fruits, and insects. They use their powerful beaks to crack open seeds and eat a variety of plant materials.

During the breeding season, males sing melodious songs to attract mates and establish territories.

10. Pine Grosbeaks

Pine Grosbeak
Image: Pine Grosbeak

Pine Grosbeaks are robust finches with a plump body and a distinctively curved bill. Males have bright red plumage, while females have more muted greyish-olive feathers with touches of red.

Pine Grosbeaks live in boreal forests, coniferous woodlands, and mountainous regions with abundant berry-producing trees.

Their diet mainly consists of berries, especially those from mountain ash, juniper, and other fruit-bearing trees. During the breeding season, they also consume insects to supplement their diet.

Pine Grosbeaks are generally not shy around humans and can be observed foraging in trees for berries. They often move in flocks during the winter when food resources are scarce.

11. Common Redpolls

Common Redpoll
Image: Common Redpoll

Common Redpolls are small finches with a chestnut crown and a rosy wash on their breast. Males and females have similar appearances, with the males displaying slightly more vibrant colours.

Common Redpolls inhabit the Arctic tundra and boreal forests during the breeding season. In winter, they may migrate southward in search of food.

Common Redpolls primarily feed on seeds, particularly those from birch and alder trees. They are known to visit bird feeders offering nyjer (thistle) seeds.

Common Redpolls are often seen in flocks, moving together in search of food. Their social nature and charming appearance make them a joy to watch.

12. Two-barred Crossbills

The Two-barred Crossbill is similar in appearance to the White-winged Crossbill. Males have bright red plumage, while females display olive-brown colours with a tinge of red. Both sexes have two distinct white wing bars.

These crossbills are mainly found in northern boreal forests and coniferous woodlands.

Their diet primarily consists of conifer seeds. Their specialized bills allow them to pry open cones and extract the seeds efficiently.

Like other crossbills, the Two-barred Crossbill’s movements can be unpredictable, as they follow the availability of their primary food source: conifer seeds.

Attracting red birds to your yard

There are a few things you can do to attract red birds to your yard:

  • Plant native trees and shrubs that provide food and shelter for red birds.
  • Put out bird feeders that offer seeds, fruits, and suet.
  • Keep your yard clean and free of predators.
  • Provide water for birds to drink and bathe.

By following these tips, you can create a backyard oasis that will attract red birds and other wildlife.


Michigan is home to a variety of beautiful red birds. These birds are a source of joy and wonder for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts alike. It is important to preserve these precious birds and their habitats. Habitat conservation, protection of breeding grounds, and responsible birdwatching practices are all essential to ensure the continued existence of these species in Michigan.


Hindustan Times, All About Birds

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