Finches in Michigan: A Beginner’s Guide to 8 Species

Are you a Michigan bird enthusiast? Are finches on your bird-watching bucket list? Are you looking for more information about the species of finches in Michigan? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then this blog post is for you!

Although it’s home to many different kinds of birds, Michigan is especially well-known for it’s varieties of finches. We’ll highlight eight of those little dudes in this post!

In this blog post, you’ll get answers to questions such as: what kinds of finches are in Michigan, and do finches stay in Michigan during the winter? Keep reading and learn all about the different species of finches that call Michigan their home.

By the way, if you click on a link and then make a purchase, we may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you.

What are Some Common Characteristics of Finches?

Finches are one of the most common backyard birds you will find. These little beauties instantly lift a garden with their cheery songs, beautiful plumage, and their generally relaxed attitude.

Finches come in many shapes and sizes, so it is easy to identify them. Their brightly colored bodies feature distinctive markings unique to each individual species such as stripes on the breast or cheeks and eye patches.

Another interesting characteristic of finches is that they often travel in large flocks and can be quite vocal when it comes to communication among themselves.

While there may be times of the year when they move on from an area in search of food and shelter, these birds are always sure to return.

8 Species of Finches That Live in Michigan

Here is the short list of eight species of finches that can be found in the Great Lakes state:

  • American Goldfinch
  • Common Redpoll
  • Hoary Redpoll
  • House Finch
  • Pine Siskin
  • Purple Finch
  • Red Crossbill
  • White-Winged Crossbill

Keep reading to learn more about each of these species!

American Goldfinch 

american goldfinch is commonly found in Michigan

Michigan is home to a vast array of wild birds—including one of the most beloved and commonly found finches in the state, the American Goldfinch. Whether you’re an experienced birder or just getting started, here’s what you need to know about this cheery little bird. 

Appearance and Behavior 

The American Goldfinch has a unique appearance that makes it easy to identify in its natural habitat. It has a small body with a rounded head and a short neck. Its wings are pointed and it has a long tail that fans out when it flies.

The male goldfinch typically has bright yellow feathers on its head, chest, back, wings, and tail while females have more muted grey-brown coloring with some yellow accents. 

The American Goldfinch is known for its cheerful chirp—a high-pitched trill that often sounds like “perchikoree” or “potato chip!”

It is a social bird that usually migrates in flocks between spring and fall but can be seen alone during winter months when it remains in Michigan year-round.

During the breeding season (late April through August), these birds typically nest in trees or shrubs near open fields or wooded areas, where they feed on thistle seeds as well as other small insects and fruits. 


In Michigan, the American Goldfinch is most commonly found around open fields, grasslands, parks, and gardens where they can find food sources such as weeds and wildflowers.

They also frequent backyard birdfeeders loaded up with thistle seeds! In all seasons, these birds tend to stay close to cover so they can hide from predators; look for them near thickets of bushes or trees with dense branches they can use as shelter if needed.

As one of the most common finches in Michigan, the American Goldfinch is an absolute delight for birdwatchers across the state! With its bright yellow plumage and cheerful song echoing through woodlands throughout all four seasons (make sure you keep your ears peeled!), there’s no denying that this beautiful bird adds plenty of color and joy to our local landscape.

Common Redpoll

common redpoll species of finch

The Common Redpoll is a finch-like bird that is native to Michigan and many parts of North America.

Appearance & Habits 

The Common Redpoll is a small songbird with a round body and stubby beak. Its wings are short and rounded, and its tail is notched at the end.

The adult male has a bright red patch on his forehead, which gives it its name. The female does not have this patch, but she does have some reddish-brown streaks on her chest. 

Common Redpolls love birch and pine trees, so they tend to nest in these types of forests. They especially like coniferous trees because they can eat their seeds year-round.

Nesting & Sounds

During nesting season (May–August), they build cup-shaped nests out of twigs, bark strips, feathers, lichens, and spider webs. 

The Common Redpoll has an active personality and loves chattering away all day long! You can usually hear them before you see them because their calls are quite loud—they sound like “tsee” or “teezy” notes repeated over and over again. They also have a distinctive flight call that sounds like “chip chip chip!”

Temperament and Migration

In terms of temperament, the Common Redpoll is quite friendly towards humans as well as other birds—they often flock together during migration season (April–October).

This species of finch will live in the northern latitudes and thrive there. In the winter months, they may move south into areas like Michigan, depending upon food sources. And yes, they will come to a backyard feeder of any type, looking for seeds!

Hoary Redpoll

hoary redpoll is a type of finch found in Michigan

Have you ever seen a Hoary Redpoll near your home in Michigan? If so, you’re not alone! These beautiful birds have been spotted all over the Great Lakes region and they make an excellent subject for bird watchers everywhere. Let’s take a closer look at what makes this species so unique. 

Appearance & Name 

The Hoary Redpoll, also known as Acanthis hornemanni, is a small finch that has an overall grayish-brown appearance with a reddish-brown crown, white rump, and dark wings. It has a black chin and bill with a red forehead.

The unique name for this species comes from its coloration; “hoar” meaning whitish-gray or hoary, and “redpoll” referring to its red forehead. 

Nesting & Sounds 

The Hoary Redpoll typically nests in dense coniferous trees like spruces or firs and lays 2-5 eggs per clutch.

The male Hoary Redpoll is known for its sweet song that sounds like a trill followed by a buzzy note. Females will often respond with a soft warbling call when they hear their mate vocalizing nearby. 

Temperment & Migration Habits 

The Hoary Redpoll is not been seen in Michigan often. This brave little bird with a white eyebrow that stands out amongst its peers prefers cold climates and plants such as willow, birch, alder, and conifers which are often found in the Arctic.

And while some other common types of finches like goldfinches are content to remain in the Great Lakes region all year round, the Hoary Redpoll tends to leave for colder locales come winter time!

The Hoary Redpoll is one of the most distinctive bird species found in Michigan due to its unique appearance and vocalizations. With its large head, short neck, stubby bill, white patches on its back, and pale gray feathers covering its wings and back – it truly stands out among other North American birds.

House Finch

the house finch is found in Michigan

If you’ve ever caught a glimpse of a house finch, you know they are lovely and majestic birds. This member of the finch family is native to most of North America and can be seen year-round in Michigan’s urban areas.

Let’s take a look at what makes this species so special, including its appearance, nesting habits, and behavior. 

Appearance & Sound 

The male house finch has a beautiful reddish-brown color on its head, chest, wings, and tail—all accented by black feathers around the eyes and neck. Females have more muted colors of brown with streaks throughout their bodies.

Both genders have white bars on the wings that are easily distinguishable when the birds are in flight. On average, house finches measure about 5 inches long from beak to tail tip.

Their call is usually described as cheerful and musical with a “cheerily” song that may include a few notes that sound like “check-it-out!” or “hey you!” 

Nesting Habits & Temperament 

House Finches make nests out of loose grasses held together with mud or other sticky materials. They often build these homes in trees, bushes, or even manmade structures such as window ledges or mailboxes.

As far as temperament goes, House Finches are quite friendly compared to other types of birds—they don’t mind being close to humans and will come quite close when looking for food or simply seeking attention.  

Migration & Survival  

House Finches do not migrate but rather stick around during winter months when food is scarce—especially in urban areas where bird feeders provide sustenance throughout the year. That being said, House Finches usually stay within 100 miles of their original home for life; this means if you see one now it’s likely it will remain in Michigan for many years to come!                         

Whether you spot one while out birdwatching or simply enjoying nature around your home in Michigan, the House Finch is an amazing creature worth admiring and protecting. With its stunning coloring and cheerful songs, it’s no wonder why this species has won over so many hearts!

Pine Siskin

pine siskin is a species of finch

If you’ve ever spent time in Michigan’s woodlands, chances are you’ve heard the cheerful sound of the Pine Siskin. This small songbird is found in deciduous and coniferous forests in the northern part of the state most often, but it will travel south in winter months in search of food.

Appearance and Behavior: 

The Pine Siskin may be small but its colors are anything but boring! It has a brownish-olive back with yellow and white stripes on its wings, as well as white markings on its head and face. Its belly is also a bright yellow color.

The bird is typically quite active during the day, often flitting from branch to branch or flying in large groups for short distances. It’s known for being quite tame around humans and isn’t afraid to approach them if food is available.  

Nesting Habits and Sounds: 

Pine Siskins usually nest in conifers between April and August but they can also be found nesting in deciduous trees during the winter months. During these times, they can be heard singing their sweet songs which usually consist of chirps, trills, warbles, and whistles.

They communicate with other members of their flock by making soft twittering noises as well. 

Does it Stay Year-Round? 

Pine Siskins are found year-round in the northern portion of the state, but during the winter they may travel further south in the state in search of food.

As their name implies, pine siskins prefer coniferous forests, but will also appear in mixed forests of both evergreens and deciduous trees.

Purple Finch

finches in Michigan include the purple finch

Have you ever seen a bird with a crest of feathers atop its head? If so, it was likely a purple finch. This beautiful songbird is native to Michigan and can be common in some areas. Whether you’ve seen one before or are just getting to know this species, let’s dive into the details and learn more about the purple finch. 


The purple finch is relatively small, measuring around 5-6 inches long with a wingspan of 7-10 inches.

Males have a raspberry red body (not bright purple) with black streaks on their wings and white streaking on their sides. Females have an overall brownish color with streaks as well. During nesting season, both sexes have a black cap on their heads that looks like a crest when raised. 

Nesting Season 

The purple finch nests from April through June in Michigan and other parts of the United States. They prefer coniferous trees such as pine, spruce, fir, hemlock, and cedar for their homes while nesting.

The female builds the nest alone and can take up to two weeks to do so! It’s made of twigs and is lined with finer materials such as soft grasses or feathers. Once completed, she will lay 4-5 eggs which will incubate for 12-14 days before hatching. 

Singing Abilities 

Male purple finches sing during the breeding season from April through August. Their songs have been described as high-pitched “chip” sounds that last only about one second each but can be repeated multiple times in quick succession.

There are also variations between regions as they may use different notes or combinations of notes depending on what they hear in their area. 

Temperament & Habits                    

The Purple Finch is generally considered timid but bold when it comes to protecting its territory during nesting season – even chasing away larger birds if necessary!

These birds prefer wooded habitats with plenty of foliage for nesting and protection from the elements, but can occasionally be found in open fields too. They remain throughout Michigan during all four seasons, with most migrating southward during the winter months—but not always!

It depends on how harsh the winter is and if food sources like berries remain plentiful enough for them to survive without having to fly south for extra sustenance. 

Red Crossbill

red crossbill finch species

The Red Crossbill is a small species of finch found in northern lower as well as Upper Michigan and across North America. These birds are quite unique; from their physical characteristics to their behavior, there is plenty to learn about them.

Physical Characteristics 

The Red Crossbill has a distinctive look that sets it apart from other birds. They have a long, pointed beaks with crossed tips that give them their name. They are usually around 5-7 inches in length, with red-brown feathers on the back, wings, and tail.

The underside is typically yellowish or whitish in color. Males tend to be more brightly colored than females and juveniles may have brown streaking on their wings and backs.  

They also have distinctive calls that sound like “kip-kip-kip.” 

Nesting Habits 

Red Crossbills primarily nest in coniferous trees such as spruce, fir, pine, larch, hemlock, and cedar trees. They make their nests at the base of branches or in cavities high up in the tree canopy.

These birds prefer large stands of conifers for nesting which makes them especially common in northern regions of Michigan including along Lake Superior shorelines and places like Isle Royale National Park.  


Red Crossbills are quite social birds who travel in flocks year round — so if you spot one there’s likely more around! They’re also quite curious birds when it comes to humans – so don’t be surprised if they land nearby while you’re out birdwatching. 

If you want to attract red crossbills to your backyard, be sure to place some black oil sunflower seeds out for them.

Stay Year Round? 

No–Red Crossbills migrate seasonally within North America rather than staying year-round in one location.

During winter months they can be found in southern parts of Canada and northern states such as Michigan but during warmer weather, you might find them further south into the United States or even Central America depending on food availability.

Because these birds feed mainly on seeds from conifers they tend to follow these trees’ migratory patterns set by climate change throughout North America each year. 

White-winged Crossbill

white-winged crossbill

Have you ever seen a White-winged Crossbill? This beautiful bird can be found in Michigan, and if you’re a fan of birds, this is one you’ll want to keep an eye out for. Let’s learn more about this unique species. 

Physical Characteristics 

The White-winged Crossbill is a medium-sized finch with a length of 4.7 to 5.9 inches and a wingspan between 7.5 and 9.8 inches. It has a bright red body with black wings and tail feathers, while its head is grayish-white with two distinct white wing bars that give it its name.

Its bill is crossed at the tips and adapted for extracting seeds from conifer cones—a trait shared by all crossbills! 

Nesting Habits 

White-winged Crossbills nest during the summer months between May and August in coniferous forests throughout northern Europe, Asia, Canada, Alaska, and parts of the US including Michigan. Their nests are typically built low to the ground near the trunk of a tree or shrub and are made up of twigs lined with mosses or grasses. The female lays two to four eggs that are pale pinkish white with dark streaks or spots on them; these eggs will hatch within 13 days after being laid. 

Sounds & Temperament 

While many birds have melodic songs they use to communicate and express themselves, the White-winged Crossbill’s vocalizations consist mainly of loud calls such as “plee-plee” or “tsee-tsi” that sound like short whistles.

They are generally quite sociable birds but can also be quite aggressive when defending their territory or when competing for food sources with other birds in the area. They are not afraid to confront much larger birds such as crows or hawks if they feel threatened!  

Does it stay in Michigan year-round? 

The White-winged Crossbill stays in upper Michigan year round; however, some may migrate south during particularly cold winters depending on food availability at higher latitudes further north.  

How to Attract Finches to Your Birdfeeder

To attract finches to your backyard bird feeders, it’s important to use the right types of seed.

Finches love small seeds such as thistle, millet, and canary grass seed; they also go wild for sunflower chips!

Not to be forgotten is Nyjer seed, a favorite of Goldfinches in particular. Depending on what type of finch you’re trying to attract, make sure to choose the ideal seed blend.

Another helpful tip is keeping your feeders clean and full—finches remember where a reliable food source is located and will return time and time again if their needs are being met!

Lastly, it’s best to hang up several different kinds of feeders or vary their positions so that you can appeal to various types of finches in Michigan. With these tips in mind, you should have no problem drawing flocks of finches into your backyard!

Conclusion: Finches in Michigan

Michigan is home to a wide variety of finches, from the Red Crossbills and White-winged Crossbills that migrate seasonally in search of food sources, to smaller species like Purple Finches that may remain year-round.

Each breed has its unique behaviors and characteristics, making them all interesting birds for birdwatchers to observe.

Whether you’re looking for an aggressive species or one with more melodic vocalizations, there’s sure to be a Michigan finch that fits your fancy!

With so many different breeds present here in our great state, it’s no wonder why Michiganders are so passionate about their feathered friends. So get out into nature and explore the wonderful world of these magnificent creatures – you won’t regret it!