Michigan is home to a variety of amazing birds, but some of the most impressive are its largest species.
These birds are truly awe-inspiring, with wingspans that can reach up to 8 feet and weights that can exceed 30 pounds. From trumpeter swans to sandhill cranes, these birds are a sight to behold.
Michigan is home to some of the largest birds in the United States, including trumpeter swans, sandhill cranes, and bald eagles. These birds are a popular attraction for birdwatchers and nature lovers alike.
In this blog post, we will learn about the 34 largest birds in Michigan, their physical characteristics, their habitats, and their diets. We will also discuss the conservation status of these birds and how you can help protect them.
Most Giant Birds in Michigan
- Mute Swan
- Trumpeter Swan
- Wild Turkey
- American White Pelican
- Canada Goose
- Whooping Crane
- Bald Eagle
- Golden Eagle
- Sandhill Crane
- Brown Pelican
- Great Blue Heron
- Snowy Owl
- Barred Owl
- Wood Stork
- Great Horned Owl
- Black Vulture
- Great Black-backed Gull
- Great Egret
- Turkey Vulture
- Rough-legged Hawk
- Red-tailed Hawk
- Great Gray Owl
- Pileated Woodpecker
- Rough-legged buzzard
- Double-crested Cormorant
- Sharp-shinned Hawk
- Eurasian Goshawk
- Peregrine Falcon
- Long-eared Owl
- Crested Caracara
1. Mute Swan
Mute swans are found in various habitats, including lakes, rivers, ponds, and marshes. They are often seen in large flocks, especially during the winter.
Mute swans are herbivores, and they eat various water plants, including pondweed, lily pads, and algae.
They will also eat small fish and insects. Mute swans are social birds, and they often form large flocks.
They are also very territorial, and they will defend their nests and young from predators.
Mute swans are not considered to be endangered or threatened in Michigan.
However, they are deemed to be an invasive species, and they can hurt native wildlife.
Great egrets are large, white birds with long necks and yellow bills. They have black legs and feet, and their wingspan can reach up to 7 feet.
Adults grow to 3-4 feet (91-122 cm) tall and weigh 2-3 pounds (0.9-1.4 kg). Great egrets are found in a variety of wetland habitats, including marshes, swamps, and lakes.
They are often seen standing in shallow water, waiting to catch fish or other small animals.
Great egrets are carnivores, and they eat a variety of fish, frogs, insects, and small mammals.
They will also eat carrion. Great egrets are social birds, and they often form large flocks.
They are also very good at camouflage, and they can blend in with their surroundings very well. Great egrets are not considered to be endangered or threatened in Michigan.
However, their populations have declined in recent years due to habitat loss and pollution.
The Trumpeter Swan is the largest native North American swan and one of the heaviest flying birds in the world.
It has a long, elegant neck, and adults are entirely white with a black bill and legs. Trumpeter Swans are the white birds in Michigan.
They are known for their trumpet-like calls, which give them their name. Trumpeter Swans are often found in freshwater habitats such as lakes, rivers, and marshes.
Wild Turkey is a large game bird native to North America. Males, known as toms or gobblers, have striking plumage with iridescent feathers and a distinctive fleshy wattle called a snood.
They are known for their iconic gobbling calls during the breeding season.
Wild Turkeys are omnivorous and can be found in various habitats, including forests, woodlands, and grasslands.
American White Pelican
The American White Pelican is a majestic large waterbird characterized by its white plumage, long neck, and large pouched bill.
They are skilled fliers and can often be seen soaring in V-shaped formations. American White Pelicans primarily feed on fish and inhabit freshwater lakes, reservoirs, and marshes.
The Canada Goose is a familiar and widespread waterfowl species in North America.
They are well-known for their distinctive “honking” calls and distinctive black necks and heads with white cheek patches.
These geese are adaptable and can be found in various habitats, including ponds, lakes, rivers, and urban areas.
The Whooping Crane is one of the rarest and most endangered birds in North America.
It stands about 5 feet tall, making it the tallest bird in North America. With its striking white plumage, red crown, and black wingtips, it is a breathtaking sight.
Efforts have been made to conserve and reintroduce this species into the wild, and they can be found in specific areas, particularly in wetlands and marshes.
The Bald Eagle is the national bird and symbol of the United States.
It is a large raptor with a distinctive white head and tail, contrasting with its dark brown body. Bald Eagles are skilled hunters and primarily feed on fish.
They inhabit a wide range of habitats near water bodies, including lakes, rivers, and coastal areas.
The Golden Eagle is another large raptor species found in Michigan.
It is known for its powerful talons and golden-brown plumage on the back of its head and neck.
Golden Eagles are skilled hunters and primarily prey on small to medium-sized mammals and birds.
They can be found in various habitats, including open and mountainous areas.
The Sandhill Crane is a large, long-legged bird with a distinctive red cap on its head.
They are known for their loud, resonant calls and unique courtship dances.
There are only 2 types of cranes found in Michigan, including Sandhill Cranes and Whooping Cranes.
Sandhill Cranes are commonly found in wetlands, grasslands, and agricultural fields, where they forage for seeds, insects, and small vertebrates.
The Brown Pelican is a coastal bird with a characteristic long bill and a large throat pouch used for catching fish.
They are known for their spectacular plunge-diving technique to catch prey from the air.
Brown Pelicans are found along the coasts and estuaries of North and South America.
Great Blue Heron
The Great Blue Heron is a tall wading bird with a long, S-shaped neck and a dagger-like bill.
They are skilled hunters and can be seen standing motionless in shallow waters, waiting for fish or other small aquatic animals to pass by.
Great Blue Herons are widespread and can be found near lakes, rivers, marshes, and coastal areas.
The Snowy Owl is a large, striking owl species with beautiful white plumage, yellow eyes, and a black beak.
They are well-adapted to cold environments and are known for their nomadic behaviour, migrating southward in search of food during harsh winters.
Snowy Owls primarily hunt small mammals like rodents. Also, Snowy Owls are the types of birds that you can easily find in winter in Michigan.
The Barred Owl is a medium-sized owl with a rounded head and distinctive vertical barring on its chest and belly.
They have a recognizable call that sounds like “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all?”
Barred Owls prefer mixed woodlands and can be found in various regions of North America.
The Wood Stork is a large wading bird with white plumage, a bald head, and a long down-curved bill.
It is the only stork species that breed in the United States.
Wood Storks inhabit freshwater and brackish wetlands in the southeastern United States, where they search for fish and other aquatic prey.
Great Horned Owl
The Great Horned Owl is a powerful and adaptable owl species with prominent ear tufts on its head.
They are skilled hunters and have a diverse diet that includes small mammals, birds, and sometimes even larger prey.
Great Horned Owls are found throughout North and South America, often in various habitats, from forests to urban areas.
The Black Vulture is a scavenging bird with entirely black plumage and a short, hooked bill.
They are often seen soaring in groups and can be identified by their distinctive silhouettes in flight.
Black Vultures feed on carrion and can be found in a wide range of habitats, including forests, open areas, and near human settlements.
Great Black-backed Gull
The Great Black-backed Gull is the largest gull species and is characterized by its dark black back and wings. They have a varied diet that includes fish, small mammals, and scavenged food. Great Black-backed Gulls are primarily coastal birds and can be found along shorelines and in marine habitats.
The Osprey, also known as the fish hawk, is a large bird of prey specialized in catching fish. They have unique adaptations, including reversible outer toes and barbed pads on their feet, which help them grasp slippery fish. Ospreys are commonly found near bodies of water, including lakes, rivers, and coastal areas.
The Turkey Vulture is a large scavenging bird with dark plumage and a red, featherless head. They have an exceptional sense of smell, which helps them locate carrion to feed on. Turkey Vultures can be found in a variety of habitats across North and South America.
The Rough-legged Hawk is a medium-sized bird of prey with feathered legs, giving it its name. It is well-adapted to cold climates and often migrates south during the winter. Rough-legged Hawks can be found in open areas, including tundra, grasslands, and agricultural fields.
The Red-tailed Hawk is one of the most common and widespread raptors in North America. They are characterized by their broad wings and reddish-brown tail feathers (adults). Red-tailed Hawks are versatile hunters and can be found in various habitats, including forests, grasslands, and deserts.
The Gyrfalcon is the largest falcon species, known for its powerful flight and hunting prowess. They have a circumpolar distribution, inhabiting arctic and subarctic regions. Gyrfalcons primarily feed on birds and are adept at catching them in mid-air.
Great Gray Owl
The Great Gray Owl is one of the largest owl species by length, although not necessarily by weight. It has a striking facial disk and is primarily nocturnal. Great Gray Owls prefer dense coniferous forests in northern regions and are skilled hunters of small mammals like voles.
The Pileated Woodpecker is a large woodpecker with a striking red crest and black body. They are known for their loud drumming and excavating large cavities in trees for nesting and foraging for insects. Pileated Woodpeckers can be found in mature forests across North America.
The Rough-legged Buzzard is a large raptor found in northern regions of Europe and Asia. It is closely related to the Rough-legged Hawk mentioned earlier. Rough-legged Buzzards have a variable plumage, but they typically show a mix of light and dark patterns on their wings and tail.
Sternidae is a family of seabirds that includes various species of terns. Terns are medium-sized birds with slender bodies and long, pointed wings. They are known for their elegant flight and plunge-diving to catch fish. Many tern species have a circumpolar distribution and can be found near coastlines worldwide.
The Double-crested Cormorant is a waterbird with dark plumage and distinctive double crests of feathers on its head. They are skilled swimmers and divers, using their webbed feet to propel themselves underwater in search of fish. Double-crested Cormorants can be found in both freshwater and saltwater habitats across North America.
The Sharp-shinned Hawk is a small hawk with short, rounded wings and a long tail. They are agile and swift in flight, allowing them to navigate through dense forests in pursuit of small birds and other prey. Sharp-shinned Hawks are found in various forested habitats across North America.
The Eurasian Goshawk is a powerful and robust bird of prey found in Europe and parts of Asia. They have a well-developed hunting strategy, using surprise attacks to catch birds and mammals. The female goshawks are significantly larger than the males.
The Peregrine Falcon is one of the fastest animals on Earth and is known for its spectacular stoop, diving at incredible speeds to catch birds in flight. Peregrine Falcons have a global distribution and can be found on all continents, except Antarctica.
Grebes are a family of freshwater diving birds known for their excellent swimming and diving abilities. They have lobed toes and are often seen on lakes and ponds. Grebes are found in various regions around the world.
The Long-eared Owl is a medium-sized owl with distinctive ear tufts, which are actually just feathers. They are mostly nocturnal and primarily hunt small mammals, birds, and insects. Long-eared Owls can be found in forests and woodlands.
The Crested Caracara is a large bird of prey found in the Americas. They have a striking appearance with a black crest, white neck, and orange face and legs. Crested Caracaras are opportunistic feeders and eat a variety of food, including carrion, small mammals, and reptiles.
6 Ways to Protect Large Birds in Michigan
Sure, here are some simple ways you can help protect large birds in Michigan:
- Support conservation organizations: Donate money, volunteer, or spread the word about organizations working to protect birds in Michigan.
- Avoid using harmful pesticides: Choose “least toxic” products and follow the directions carefully when using pesticides to avoid harming birds.
- Dispose of trash properly: Properly dispose of trash to prevent attracting predators and polluting bird habitats.
- Don’t feed birds: Avoid feeding birds as it can lead to dependency on humans and spread diseases.
- Support sustainable forestry: Back sustainable forestry practices that protect bird habitats in Michigan’s forests.
- Be a responsible birdwatcher: Stay on trails, use binoculars, avoid disturbing nests, and report injured birds to wildlife rehabilitation centres.
By following these easy steps, you can contribute to the well-being of large birds in Michigan and ensure their continued existence for the future.
Michigan’s large birds are a testament to the state’s beauty and play a crucial role in the ecosystem. For birdwatchers seeking to witness these magnificent creatures, there are some fantastic spots to visit.
To observe trumpeter swans, head to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. For sandhill cranes, the Au Sable River State Wildlife Area is a great option.
Remember, when observing these birds, always respect their habitats. They are a valuable part of Michigan’s natural heritage, and it’s our duty to protect them. Enjoy the experience and appreciate the wonders of nature!