Birds of Michigan: A Guide to the 15 Most Common Species

Michigan, located in the Great Lakes region of North America, is home to a diverse array of bird species. With its vast forests, wetlands, and open spaces, it’s no wonder that this state attracts so many different types of birds. In this guide, we will take a closer look at the 15 most common backyard birds of Michigan and learn more about their habitats, behaviors, and unique  characteristics.

1. Red-Bellied Woodpecker

Red Bellied Woodpecker 1 Bird Watching Experts

Scientific Name: Melanerpes carolinus

Length: 9-10 inches

Weight: 2.0-3.2 ounces

Wingspan: 13-17 inches

The Red-Bellied Woodpecker is a medium-sized bird with striking black and white striped patterns on its back and wings. Despite its name, this species actually has more of a reddish tinge on its head rather than its belly. Common in both urban and suburban areas, these adaptable birds are known for their distinctive “kwirrr” call. They can often be found at backyard feeders, enjoying black oil sunflower seeds and suet.

2. Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker 2 Bird Watching Experts
Downy Woodpecker close up against golden color in the reeds at Massapequa Preserve, Long Island, NY.

Scientific Name: Picoides pubescens

Length: 5-6 inches

Weight: 0.7-1.0 ounce

Wingspan: 9-12 inches

The smallest woodpecker in North America, the Downy Woodpecker can be easily identified by its black and white plumage, with a small red patch on the back of its head. They are commonly seen in wooded areas, often pecking away at trees for insects. During the winter months, they may also visit backyard feeders for suet and black sunflower seeds.

Fun fact: the Downy Woodpecker’s tongue is so long that it wraps around its head and into its nostril!

3. Hairy Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpecker 1 Bird Watching Experts
A male hairy woodpecker (Picoides villosus) perches on a frosty log feeder containing remnants of hot-pepper suet.

Scientific Name: Picoides villosus

Length: 7-10 inches

Weight: 1.4-3.4 ounces

Wingspan: 13-16 inches

The Hairy Woodpecker is very similar in appearance to the Downy Woodpecker, with black and white stripes and a red patch on its head. However, this species is slightly larger and has a longer beak. They can be found in both deciduous and coniferous forests, using their strong beaks to forage for insects under bark. Like other woodpeckers, they may also visit backyard feeders for suet and black oil sunflower seeds.

4. Gray Catbird

Gray Catbird 1 Bird Watching Experts
Gray Catbird

Scientific Name: Dumetella carolinensis

Length: 8-9 inches

Weight: 0.6-1.1 ounces

Wingspan: 9-12 inches

The Gray Catbird is a medium-sized, dark gray bird with a black cap and tail. As its name suggests, it has a call that sounds like a cat’s meow. They can be found in open woodlands and thickets, where they feed on insects in the summer and berries in the fall. During migration, they may also stop by backyard feeders for suet and mixed seeds.

5. Song Sparrow

Song Sparrow 2 Bird Watching Experts
Song Sparrow | Location: McLeansvile, NC, USA.

Scientific Name: Melospiza melodia

Length: 5.5-7 inches

Weight: 0.4-1 ounce

Wingspan: 7-10 inches

The Song Sparrow is a common bird throughout North America, easily identified by its brown head and streaked brown and white body. They can be found in a variety of habitats, from grasslands to gardens. During the winter months, they may visit backyard feeders for black oil sunflower seeds. They are also known for their melodious song, which varies between individuals and regions.

6. Eastern Kingbird

Eastern Kingbird Bird Watching Experts

Scientific Name: Tyrannus tyrannus

Length: 7-9 inches

Weight: 1-1.5 ounces

Wingspan: 14-15 inches

The Eastern Kingbird is a medium-sized flycatcher with a black head, white belly, and gray back. They are known for their aggressive behavior towards larger birds and may even chase away birds of prey from their territory. These adaptable birds can be found in a variety of habitats, including open fields, deciduous forests, and even along roadsides. They primarily feed on insects during the summer months.

7. House Wren

House Wren 2 Bird Watching Experts

Scientific Name: Troglodytes aedon

Length: 4-5 inches

Weight: 0.3-0.6 ounces

Wingspan: 6-7 inches

The House Wren is a small brown bird with a rounded head and gray-brown back. They are known for their loud, bubbly song, which can often be heard in residential areas with dense shrubbery or gardens. They primarily feed on insects and will even use spider webs to construct their nests. In the winter months, they may also visit backyard feeders with suet or peanut butter.

8. House Finch

House Finch 2 Bird Watching Experts
House finch perched on a branch looking back against beautiful blue and green colors in Babylon, Long Island.

Scientific Name: Haemorhous mexicanus

Length: 5-6 inches

Weight: 0.7-1 ounce

Wingspan: 8-9 inches

The House Finch is a colorful bird with a red head or brown head, depending on the gender, and streaked brown and white body. They are commonly found in residential areas, particularly near bird feeders with mixed seeds. These birds are native to the western United States but have also spread to the eastern and northeastern regions due to accidental or intentional releases.

9. Yellow Warbler

Yellow Warbler Bird Watching Experts
American Yellow Warbler (Setophaga petechia) perched in an apple tree, Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada

Scientific Name: Setophaga petechia

Length: 4-5 inches

Weight: 0.3-0.4 ounces

Wingspan: 7-8 inches

The Yellow Warbler is a small, brightly colored bird with yellow feathers and white wing bars. They are found in a variety of habitats, including forests, wetlands, and even golf courses. These migratory birds spend their winters in Central and South America before returning to breed in North America during the summer.

10. Red-Headed Woodpecker

Red Headed Woodpecker Bird Watching Experts

Scientific Name: Melanerpes erythrocephalus

Length: 7-9 inches

Weight: 2-3 ounces

Wingspan: 16-17 inches

The Red-Headed Woodpecker is a striking bird with a black and white body and bright red head. They are known for their acrobatic feeding behavior, often catching insects in mid-air or using their strong beaks to excavate holes in trees for food. These birds are found in the eastern and central regions of North America and can be seen year-round.

11. Eastern Bluebird

Eastern Bluebird 1 Bird Watching Experts
The Eastern Bluebird is a small thrush with a big, rounded head, large eye, plump body, and alert posture. The wings are long, but the tail and legs are fairly short

Scientific Name: Sialia sialis

Length: 6-8 inches

Weight: 0.7-1 ounce

Wingspan: 12-14 inches

The Eastern Bluebird is a beautiful bird with bright blue feathers and rusty red breast. They are found in open habitats such as fields, meadows, and golf courses where they can easily hunt for insects. These birds are also known for their ability to adapt to nesting boxes, making them popular among bird watchers.

They can be found in the eastern and central regions of North America during the breeding season.

12. Brown Thrasher

Brown Thrasher Bird Watching Experts

Scientific Name: Toxostoma rufum

Length: 9-12 inches

Weight: 2-3 ounces

Wingspan: 11-13 inches

The Brown Thrasher is a medium-sized bird with brown feathers and a long, curved bill. They are known for their loud and repetitive songs, often mimicking the calls of other birds. These adaptable birds can be found in a variety of habitats, including open woodland, thickets, and suburban areas.

13. House Wren

House Wren 3 Bird Watching Experts
House wren feeds bug to baby birds in backyard birdhouse

Scientific Name: Troglodytes aedon

Length: 4-5 inches

Weight:  0.3-0.4 ounces

Wingspan: 5-6 inches

The House Wren is a small, brown bird with a rounded head and short tail. They are known for their lively and energetic behavior, often singing from dawn to dusk. These birds can be found in deciduous forests and suburban areas throughout North America during the breeding season.

14. Chipping Sparrow

Chipping Sparrow 1 Bird Watching Experts
Chipping sparrow on branch

Scientific Name: Spizella passerina

Length: 5-6 inches

Weight: 0.4-0.5 ounces

Wingspan: 7-9 inches

The Chipping Sparrow is a small, brown bird with a rusty cap and black eye stripe. They are commonly seen foraging on the ground for seeds and insects. These birds can be found throughout North America, with some populations also found in Mexico and Central America.

15. White-throated Sparrow

White throated Sparrow 2 Bird Watching Experts
White-throated Sparrow | Location: McLeansvile, NC, USA.

Scientific Name: Zonotrichia albicollis

Length: 6-7 inches

Weight: 0.8-1.2 ounces

Wingspan: 7-9 inches

Scientific Name: Spizella passerina

Length: 5-6 inches

Weight: 0.4-0.6 ounces

Wingspan: 7-9 inches

Best Bird Feeders to Attract Birds in Michigan

In addition to knowing the most common backyard birds in Michigan, it’s important to know how to attract them to your yard. Providing food and water sources is a great way to bring birds close for observation.

Here are some tips for choosing the best bird feeder and types of food for different species of birds:

  • Black oil sunflower seeds: This type of seed is high in fat and protein, making it a popular choice among many bird species.
  • Mixed seeds: A blend of different types of seeds can attract a variety of birds to your feeder.
  • Black sunflower seeds: These smaller seeds are easier for birds with smaller beaks to crack open, such as House Finches and Chipping Sparrows.
  • Suet: This high-energy food is especially helpful for birds during the cold winter months.
  • Peanut butter: Smearing peanut butter on tree trunks or in a feeder can attract insect-eating birds like Downy Woodpeckers and Eastern Bluebirds.
  • Nyjer (thistle) seed: This small, black seed is a favorite among finches and other small songbirds.
About the author

James Avian : Birds captivate us with their magnificent presence and hold a significant place in cultures worldwide. These enchanting creatures play a vital role in maintaining the balance of land-based ecosystems. They serve as a constant source of inspiration and represent a precious living treasure on our planet. Read more about us here.

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