Do you love birds? Michigan is a beautifully diverse state with a variety of habitats and ecosystems, making it home to many unique and incredible bird species.
From tiny songbirds to huge vultures, there are birds of all shapes, sizes, and colors present in the Great Lakes region.
Michigan has a variety of birds in its backyard, boasting over 300 species of small and large birds that call the state home. From hummingbirds to woodpeckers, finches to petite wrens, there’s something for everyone.
A closer look reveals that 15 of these bird species are among the more common varieties of backyard birds in Michigan. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced birder, it’s likely you’ve spotted some of these species flitting about.
In this blog post, we’ll explore 15 of the more common types of small birds that can be found in Michigan backyards like yours.
With our guide on these feathered friends, you’ll be able to identify different species next time you peek outside your window to see what types of birds are visiting your bird feeders.
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- 15 Small Birds of Michigan – the short list
- 1 | American Goldfinch
- 2 | Carolina Wren
- 3 | Downy Woodpecker
- 4 | Eastern Bluebird
- 5 | House Finch
- 6 | House Sparrow
- 7 | House Wren
- 8 | Marsh Wren
- 9 | Northern Cardinal
- 10 | Red-Breasted Nuthatch
- 11 | Ruby Throated Hummingbird
- 12 | Scarlet Tanager
- 13 | Tufted Titmouse
- 14 | Yellow Bellied Flycatcher
- 15 | Yellow Warbler
- Conclusion: Small Birds of Michigan
15 Small Birds of Michigan – the short list
If you’re in a hurry to see the species of small birds in Michigan that make it their home, here is a quick list. We’ll discuss each of these birds in Michigan in more detail below:
- American Goldfinch
- Carolina Wren
- Downy Woodpecker
- Eastern Bluebird
- House Finch
- House Sparrow
- House Wren
- March Wren
- Northern Cardinal
- Red Breasted Nuthatch
- Ruby Throated Hummingbird
- Scarlet Tanager
- Tufted Titmouse
- Yellow Bellied Flycatcher
- Yellow Warbler
1 | American Goldfinch
Have you ever seen a small, yellow finch with black stripes and a white patch on its wings? If so, chances are you’ve spotted an American goldfinch—a species of a small bird that is commonly found in Michigan. Let’s take a closer look at this interesting bird.
What Does It Look Like?
The American goldfinch is bright yellow with black and white streaks on its wings and tail feathers. The males can be identified by the bright yellow that covers their entire body while the females have more subdued colors. During winter months, the male’s feathers will turn to a brownish-gray color as they molt.
Adult males usually measure between 4 and 5 inches in length, making them one of the smaller species of birds.
When Does It Nest?
American goldfinches typically nest from late May through early August each year in Michigan. They build their nests near the tops of trees or shrubs using soft grasses, bark strips, seed heads, feathers, and hair for padding.
Their nests are symmetrical cup-shaped structures lined with thistledown or other fine materials. Each nest takes about 2 weeks to construct and can produce up to 6 eggs per breeding season.
How Does it Sound?
The American goldfinch has a distinctive call that sounds like “perchickory” or “potato chip” when startled or alarmed. Its song is a complex series of notes that include whistles and trills, but it is not as loud or powerful as many other songbirds’ calls.
In addition, this species is known for its “flight song” which consists of several high-pitched notes repeated over multiple flaps of its wings while soaring through the air.
Where Can I Find It?
The American goldfinch can be found in open woodlands and meadows throughout Michigan during the summer months when they migrate south from Canada and northern states to breed here in our state. They also frequent backyards where they feed on seeds from sunflower plants or thistle feeders placed out for them by bird enthusiasts.
2 | Carolina Wren
If you’re a bird enthusiast in Michigan, you may have noticed a small, brownish-red bird with white bars on its wings flitting around your backyard. That’s the Carolina Wren—a species of bird that is native to Michigan and other parts of the eastern United States. Let’s take a closer look at this interesting species!
Appearance and Size
The Carolina Wren is small but mighty! Its body length typically ranges from 4-5 inches and has a wingspan of around 7-9 inches. They are identified by their large round heads, prominent eyes, and long tails that they often hold upright while they move about in search of food.
These birds are mostly brown with reddish bars on their wings, white spots on their tail feathers, and streaks of black or gray along the sides of their heads.
The Carolina Wren typically nests between April and August in Michigan. It builds its nest near the ground in stumps or logs, as well as in man-made structures like porch railings or sheds. The nest itself is made from sticks, twigs, grasses, mosses, lichens, feathers, fur, paper scraps, or other debris lined with soft materials like feathers or hair.
The call of the Carolina Wren consists of loud chirps and trills that sound like they are saying “Teakettle-teakettle-teakettle”—hence one of its other nicknames: Kettle Bird! It also has a variety of song phrases it uses throughout the year to communicate with other wrens in its territory.
Where You Can Find Them In Michigan?
The Carolina Wren can be found throughout most of Michigan during the summer months when it migrates there from further south for the breeding season. During winter months it can be found along the southeastern coast of North America from Virginia to Florida.
3 | Downy Woodpecker
Michigan is home to a wide variety of fascinating wildlife, and one of the most interesting species you can find is the Downy Woodpecker. If you’re looking for a small bird with lots of personalities, look no further than the Downy Woodpecker! Read on to learn more about this delightful bird.
What Does It Look Like?
The Downy Woodpecker is a small bird that measures only 6-7 inches in length and weighs less than an ounce. It has a black and white spotted back, white cheeks, and red feathers at the back of its head.
The wings are mostly black but have white spots near their tips. The bill is short and chisel-like, perfect for pecking into trees in search of insects. You might also see them at your birdfeeder searching for sunflower seeds.
Where Is It Found?
Downy Woodpeckers can be found all over North America from Alaska to Mexico, but they are especially prevalent in Michigan’s forests and wooded areas.
They live in both deciduous and coniferous forests but prefer open woodlands where there are plenty of dead trees or tree stumps that they can easily access for food.
How Does It Sound?
The sound of a Downy Woodpecker can be heard any time of year—even during winter months when other birds have migrated south. They make a distinctive “drumming” sound as they peck away on tree trunks looking for food.
In addition to this drumming sound, they also make sharp “pik” calls which are typically heard when two birds come into contact with one another or when one bird is defending its territory from another bird.
When Do They Nest?
Downy Woodpeckers typically nest between March and July in cavities that they create themselves by excavating bark off of dead trees or tree stumps. The nesting season may vary depending on location—in colder regions, it may begin later in spring while warmer regions may see earlier nesting activity.
4 | Eastern Bluebird
The Eastern Bluebird is a species of small bird that can be found in Michigan. Its brilliant blue feathers, cheerful song, and bright red breast make it a beautiful addition to the Michigan avian landscape.
Let’s take a look at what makes this little bird so special, from its size and color to its nesting habits and where you can spot them in the state.
The Eastern Bluebird has a distinct look that sets it apart from other birds. It has grayish-blue wings and back, with a bright reddish-orange chest and belly. It also has white around its face, giving it an almost cheery expression.
In terms of size, adult Eastern Bluebirds measure about 6-7 inches long and have a wingspan of about 11-13 inches — making them slightly smaller than their cousins, the American Robin.
Habitat & Nesting Habits
Eastern Bluebirds are usually found in open areas with trees nearby for perching and nesting. They typically nest in cavities or holes they find in dead trees or human-made nest boxes placed around parks or other open areas.
They generally lay four to five eggs at a time and incubate them for 12-14 days before hatching. Their eggs are pale blue or greenish-white in color with dark spots on them. The young leave the nest after two weeks but may stay close by for another few weeks while they learn how to catch food and fly properly.
Sound & Sightings
The Eastern Bluebird is known for its sweet singing — they often sing loudly during mating season as well as during migration when they’re searching for new territories to inhabit. If you’re lucky enough to spot one of these birds, keep an ear out for their distinctive chirping sound!
You can find Eastern Bluebirds throughout most of Michigan, especially in southern parts of the Lower Peninsula like Ann Arbor or Lansing; however, they can also be spotted during migration further north, too.
5 | House Finch
If you’re looking to add some color and song to your backyard, look no further than the House Finch. This small bird is native to Michigan and can be found in many different habitats within the state. Let’s take a closer look at this cheery, cheerful little creature!
The House Finch is a small bird that can range from 4.7-5.9 inches in length at maturity. It has a robust body and medium-length tail that is forked or slightly notched at the tip.
The male House Finch boasts bright red plumage on its head, back, wings, and rump; its breast is usually streaked with brownish stripes. The female usually has more subdued colors consisting of grayish-brown with streaks along her breast area; she may also have a hint of reddish color around her face and in her wings.
Both sexes have brown feathers around their eyes that form an eye stripe, as well as short black legs and feet.
The House Finch typically nests between April and August each year, building their nest in trees or shrubs close to human dwellings such as houses or barns. They make cup-shaped nests out of grasses, twigs, weeds, feathers, string—whatever they can find. And they may build their nests near hummingbird feeders where food sources are plentiful for them to feed their young. They like nectar!
The House Finch sings a sweet song during the warmer months of spring through summer – it’s like music to your ears! Their song consists of two or three notes repeated in quick succession—it sounds like “chee-burr chee-burr chee-burr” – with pauses between phrases lasting several seconds each. This cheerful song can last up to two minutes long!
Where Can You Find the House Finch?
You can find the House Finch pretty much anywhere within Michigan’s Lower Peninsula—from forests and fields to urban areas like parks, gardens, and backyards. That said, these birds are most commonly found near human habitation because they prefer open spaces with few trees (think yards). They will often gather near feeders which makes them easy targets for birdwatchers who want to observe them in their natural habitat.
6 | House Sparrow
The House Sparrow, or Passer domesticus, is a small but mighty bird found all over Michigan. Let’s take a closer look at this feathered friend.
Appearance and Size
The House Sparrow is a pretty little sparrow with gray-brown feathers and bright white cheeks. Males are distinguished by their black bibs, whereas females have plain throats. This species of sparrow measures up at 4-6 inches in length and has a wingspan of 8-10 inches.
House Sparrows nest in colonies near human habitations like barns, warehouses, and even city parks. These birds are monogamous and build bulky nests from twigs, grasses, paper, feathers, string—you name it!
They usually lay 5-7 eggs which hatch after 11 days of incubation. Both parents help with feeding the young for about 14 days until they fledge the nest.
The House Sparrow makes a variety of calls that range from chirping to cheeping to whistling trills. These birds aren’t particularly shy around humans either—so if you’re out for a walk in one of their preferred habitats (like an urban park), chances are you’ll hear them before you see them!
Where To Find Them
House Sparrows can be found all over Michigan—from Detroit to Lansing to Grand Rapids and beyond! These birds prefer open areas near human habitation so they can find food easily.
They often flock together near farm buildings or houses where they scavenge around for snacks like seeds and grains left behind by people or other animals.
7 | House Wren
If you’re a bird enthusiast, you may have heard of the House Wren – a small, brown passerine bird found in many parts of the United States. Let’s delve deeper into the house wren and its features and habits, with a focus on those living in Michigan.
Appearance & Size
The house wren is one of the tiniest birds that can be seen in Michigan. Despite its small size (around 4-5 inches long), it is quite noticeable due to its distinctive colors—grayish brown on top and buffy white underneat. It has an elongated bill that curves downwards and very short legs.
Habitat & Nesting Habits
House wrens are typically found in open woodlands and brushy areas, where they build their nests from sticks and twigs. They usually prefer nesting in holes or crevices in trees or buildings, but they can also be found nesting in flowerpots or birdhouses made specifically for them.
They begin nesting as early as April or May and typically lay three to five eggs at once. The female incubates these eggs for around two weeks until they hatch.
Sound & Behavior
House wrens make a distinct sound that is both chirpy and musical – a “churr-churr-churr” noise that they use while flying or perched on tree branches. They are active during the day, hopping around looking for insects and other food sources such as spiders or berries to eat before retreating back to their nests at nightfall.
They are territorial creatures and will often fight off other birds encroaching on their territory with loud calls and even physical action if necessary!
8 | Marsh Wren
One of the most interesting (and smallest!) birds found in Michigan is the Marsh Wren. If you’re an avid birdwatcher, you may have already seen this little guy—but if you haven’t, here’s your chance to get to know him!
What Does It Look Like?
The Marsh Wren is a small bird that usually measures between 4–5 inches long, with a wingspan of about 7–8 inches. It has a slender body, with a long tail and pointed wings.
The male has distinctive black and white stripes on its back and head. The female looks almost identical but is much duller and less brightly colored than her mate.
When Does It Nest?
Marsh Wrens are primarily active during the summer months, when they nest in marshy areas near ponds or rivers. The nest itself is quite unique—it looks like a large ball made up of grasses and weeds woven together!
During nesting season, look for these nests around cattails or bulrushes. They also make loud “teakettle” noises during breeding season that can be heard from quite far away!
Where Can I Find Them?
Marsh Wrens can be found all over Michigan—from Detroit down to St. Joseph and from Ann Arbor up to Traverse City. They prefer marshy areas where there are plenty of insects for them to eat but can also be found in meadows or wet fields if need be. Keep an eye out for these little birds when you’re out exploring—you never know when you might spot one!
9 | Northern Cardinal
This small bird is common throughout Michigan, and it’s easily recognizable. With its bright red plumage and black face mask, the Northern Cardinal is hard to miss! Whether you’re an experienced birder or just starting out, learning more about this species of small bird is sure to be rewarding. Let’s take a closer look at the Northern Cardinal.
What Does It Look Like?
Northern Cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis) are small to medium-sized songbirds with a body length of 8-9 inches long. Its wingspan measures between 12-15 inches across, and it weighs approximately 2 ounces.
Males are generally larger than females, although both genders have the same distinctive color pattern of bright red feathers on their bodies and wings, with black faces and crests atop their heads. Young cardinals will have brown feathers until they reach adulthood after their first molt.
When Does It Nest?
In Michigan, cardinals typically begin nesting in late March or early April each year. They build cup-shaped nests out of twigs and grasses that are lined with softer materials like mosses or animal fur.
Cardinals sometimes use man-made structures as well, such as mailboxes or window boxes. Females lay an average of three eggs per clutch which may be reused over multiple breeding attempts within the season.
How Does It Sound?
Cardinals have loud voices that can easily be heard from far away distances! Their signature call consists of two syllables “chip chip” followed by a third syllable “churr” or “purr” sound depending on context.
The male cardinal has several other vocalizations for different occasions including aggressive calls when threatened by predators or intruders near its nest territory, flight calls when flying away from danger, and contact calls used by both sexes when finding one another during mating season.
Where Can I Find One in Michigan?
Cardinals can most often be found in open areas such as fields, parks, backyards, and gardens across Michigan where there are plenty of trees providing food sources like seeds and insects for them to eat.
They live in forested wetlands but also frequent residential landscapes along river valleys where water sources are plentiful year-round in addition to having access to food sources like sunflower seeds and suet feeders provided by humans living nearby.
10 | Red-Breasted Nuthatch
This small species of bird is native to North America, and during the summer months can often be found in Michigan. But what does it look like? How does it sound? Let’s explore some more about this unique species.
Appearance & Size:
The Red Breasted Nuthatch is a small species of bird that is approximately 4-5 inches long. It has a blue-gray back with light orange underparts, and its head has a distinctive black cap, giving it an almost jester-like appearance. Its wingspan ranges from 8-11 inches wide, and it has a square tail with white feathers at the tip.
The Red Breasted Nuthatch typically nests in conifer trees such as spruce or pine—so if you want to spot one in your backyard make sure there are plenty of evergreens nearby! They usually make their nests in cavities within these trees and line them with moss and fur for insulation. They will lay between 5-10 eggs during this time.
The Red Breasted Nuthatch has a distinctive call that is often described as “yank-yank” or “chink-chink” depending on who you ask. In addition to this call, they also communicate by drumming on tree trunks which sounds similar to tapping your fingers on a tabletop.
Where to Find Them:
During the winter months, you can find these birds throughout much of Canada and parts of the United States including Michigan. If you live near wooded areas, especially those with plenty of evergreen trees such as spruce or pine, then chances are there’s at least one Red Breasted Nuthatch living nearby.
11 | Ruby Throated Hummingbird
Have you ever seen a tiny bird with a brilliant, iridescent green or blue-green back and throat? Chances are it was the Ruby Throated Hummingbird. This species of hummingbird is native to Michigan and can be found in many parts of the state.
Appearance and Size
The Ruby Throated Hummingbird is a small, colorful bird that stands out from other species due to its vibrant colors. The upper parts of this bird are usually a brilliant green or blue-green color, and the throat is bright red. It has white underparts with some black streaks toward its tail.
It has a pointed bill and long wings for hovering around flowers for nectar. The adult male has an emerald green back, while the female has more of a bronze coloration on her back. These birds measure 3 1/2 inches long with a wingspan of up to 4 inches wide.
The Ruby Throat Hummingbirds generally nest in late April or May, but they may arrive as early as March if the weather conditions are right.
Females build nests out of moss, spider webs, and twigs lined with down feathers, lichens, and rootlets on low shrubs or trees up to 8 feet off the ground. She will lay two eggs that both parents will take turns incubating until they hatch in 12-14 days. The young fledge (leave the nest) after 18-22 days after hatching when they are fully grown and able to fly on their own.
Sounds & Habitats
These little birds make high-pitched chirps that can range from squeaks and chips to twittering songs depending on their moods or mating habits at any particular time. They tend to live near woodlands but can also be found in residential areas near flower gardens for food sources such as nectar from flowers like columbines, honeysuckles, petunias and lilacs, among others.
In Michigan, they have been identified from Alpena County northward along Lake Huron through Mackinac County as well as throughout much of southern Michigan’s Lower Peninsula including Detroit down through Hillsdale County near Ohio State line.
12 | Scarlet Tanager
This small, beautiful songbird is found in North America and is commonly seen during the summer months in Michigan. Let’s dive into what makes the Scarlet Tanager so special.
Appearance and Size
The scarlet tanager is a strikingly colorful bird with a brilliant red body, black wings, and white wing bars on its feathers. They have short tails and black bills.
Males tend to be more brightly colored than females, with their heads being nearly all-black during the breeding season. Female tanagers are usually pinkish-brown or olive green. Adults can range from 5 to 6 inches long and weigh between 0.5 and 0.8 ounces.
Habitat & Migration Patterns
Scarlet tanagers prefer deciduous forests with dense canopies of trees such as oak, hickory, or maple trees. During the summer they are most commonly found in Michigan but they migrate south for the winter months to Central American countries like Costa Rica or Panama. When migrating they travel in large flocks, sometimes numbering up to 100 birds!
Sound & Nesting Habits
The males sing a loud melodious song that sounds like “chur-wee” combined with warbles and whistles; it’s one you won’t forget after hearing it once!
On average these birds nest 4 times during the summer months of May through August; each nest contains between two to five eggs that hatch after 12-14 days of incubation by both parents.
13 | Tufted Titmouse
The Tufted Titmouse is a small bird native to Michigan and much of the eastern United States. With its distinctive grey feathers, bright eyes, and tuft of feathers on top of its head, it’s easy to spot in your backyard or at the park.
Appearance & Size
The Tufted Titmouse has gray-brown upper parts and gray underparts with white sides. Its head is crested and has a black forehead and face. It also has two white stripes above the eyes which extend over the top of its head. This tiny bird measures 5 ½ inches in length, making it one of the smallest birds found in North America.
The Tufted Titmouse builds nests in natural tree cavities or nest boxes from April to June. The female typically lays five to six pale blue eggs and incubates them for 12-14 days before they hatch. Both parents help feed the young until they fledge (leave the nest) after about two weeks.
Sound & Calls
Listen for the Tufted Titmouse’s loud whistled “peter-peter-peter” call throughout woodlands across Michigan from late February through early September!
In addition to their signature call, they also have several other vocalizations including trills, whines, chips, scolds, and growls as well as a song that consists of high-pitched whistles with buzzes at the end.
Where To Find Them In Michigan
Look for these chirpy pals all over Michigan! They are most common in deciduous forests but can also be found in residential areas near trees.
The best way to spot them is by listening out for their calls or searching the dense foliage of oak trees for their activity during spring nesting season.
14 | Yellow Bellied Flycatcher
If you’re a bird enthusiast living in Michigan, then you’ve probably heard of the Yellow Bellied Flycatcher. They are small birds, usually measuring between 5 and 6 inches in length, with yellow bellies and distinctive grayish-brown wings.
Appearance and Diet
The Yellow Bellied Flycatcher is distinguished by its pale yellow belly, as well as its wings which feature a combination of grayish-brown and white feathers. It has a short, stout bill that is perfect for catching flying insects like flies, mosquitoes, midges, and gnats.
During the summer months, they can be found nesting near rivers or streams in deciduous forests throughout Michigan.
Sounds and Mating Habits
The Yellow Bellied Flycatcher produces a variety of calls ranging from soft chirps to louder songs. The males sing loud melodies to attract females during mating season. The female will lay 3-5 eggs per clutch and both sexes share incubation duties until the young fledge after 2 weeks.
Habitat and Migration Patterns
The Yellow Bellied Flycatcher nests primarily within deciduous forests near rivers or streams in Michigan during the summer months. During fall migration, they take flight southward towards Mexico where they will spend their winter before returning northward again in early springtime.
15 | Yellow Warbler
This small songbird is easy to spot in fields and open woodlands across Michigan, and its cheerful chirp can be heard throughout the summer. Here’s what you need to know about this delightful little bird.
A Look at the Yellow Warbler
The Yellow Warbler stands out thanks to its bright yellow feathers, which cover its entire body except for a reddish-brown streak down its chest. It’s an impressively small bird—measuring only five inches long—which makes it even easier to identify when you see it flitting through the trees.
The male warblers also have bright yellow caps on their heads, while females tend to have a more muted yellow hue.
When Does It Nest?
Yellow Warblers prefer large trees with plenty of foliage for nesting, so they are often found near lakes and rivers in Michigan. They typically lay their eggs between late April and early June, so if you’re out scouting for these birds during that time period, keep an eye out for nests tucked away in branches or leaves.
What Does It Sound Like?
The Yellow Warbler has a distinctive call that sounds like “sweet sweet sweet” repeated twice or three times in succession followed by an abrupt end punctuated by a low ‘chip’ sound. Their song usually consists of high-pitched squeaky trills that often include mimicry of other birds’ calls too!
You can recognize them easily when you hear them calling out around nesting sites during dawn or dusk hours when they are particularly active.
Where Is It Found?
Although they migrate south during winter months, Yellow Warblers are most commonly found in western and central Michigan between April and August each year. Keep your eyes peeled when walking through open woodlands or meadows; they’re surprisingly easy to spot once you know what you’re looking for!
Conclusion: Small Birds of Michigan
Michigan is home to a number of small birds that make it a delightful place for bird lovers. From the Yellow Bellied Flycatcher to the Yellow Warbler, there are plenty of opportunities to observe these lively creatures (and common backyard birds) in their natural habitats.
With a little patience and knowledge, anyone can enjoy the beauty of these tiny birds and appreciate their unique features and behaviors. As a result, bird watching in Michigan is becoming increasingly popular and is sure to be enjoyed by many for years to come!