Winter Birds of Michigan: A Guide for Bird Lovers

Michigan is a great place to be a bird lover during the winter! The “Great Lakes” state has many different species of birds that can be found here during the colder months.

Feeding winter birds is something that many bird lovers take quite seriously, and make sure their feeders are well stocked during the cold months of the year.

In this blog post, we will discuss some of the most common winter birds in Michigan, 15 to be specific, and what you can expect from them in terms of behavior and appearance. We’ll also provide winter bird feeding tips, and how you can help these wild birds through the coldest months of the year.

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Winter Birds of Michigan: The Short List

Here is a quick list of Michigan winter birds. You’ll find all the details below!

  • Blue Jay
  • Northern Cardinal
  • American Robin
  • Downy Woodpecker
  • Black-capped Chickadee
  • House Sparrow
  • House Finch
  • American Goldfinch
  • Dark-eyed Junco
  • Tufted Titmouse
  • White-breasted Nuthatch
  • American Crow
  • American Tree Sparrow
  • Mourning Dove
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker

Michigan is Cold in the Winter!

Michigan winters can be long and brutally cold, with average temperatures ranging from 20 to 30 degrees Fahrenheit. However, Michigan is also a land of contrasts, and winter weather can vary greatly from one part of the state to another.

Michigan is known for being one of the snowiest states in the country, with an average of over 100 inches of snowfall each year. That said, not all parts of the state are equally snowy. The southernmost part of the state typically sees less snow than the northern and central regions.

In the southern regions of Michigan, snowfall is typically lighter and temperatures are milder than in the north. Lake effect snow is also a factor in many parts of the state, particularly near the Great Lakes.

As a result, Michigan residents need to be prepared for a wide range of winter weather conditions. But despite the challenges that winter weather poses, there is also something magical about watching the snow fall on a cold, clear night.

And when it comes to winter activities, Michigan has something for everyone, from sledding and ice skating to cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. So whether you’re a winter lover or someone who just tolerates the season, there’s no doubt that Michigan is a great place to be during the winter months.

How Do Birds Survive in Cold Weather?

how do birds survive in cold weather

Many people are surprised to learn that Michigan is home to a wide variety of birds, even during the cold winter months. While some species migrate south for the winter, others tough it out in the blustery weather. So, how do these hardy birds survive?

One way that bird species survive the winter is by staying warm. Many birds have feathers that provide insulation against the cold.

Some birds also have special adaptations that help them to conserve body heat, such as fluffed-up feathers or extra layers of fat. In addition, many birds huddle together in groups to share body heat.

Another way that bird species survive the winter is by finding food. Some birds eat insects that are active even in the coldest weather.

Others eat berries and seeds that are still available in the late autumn and early winter. Still other birds rely on man-made bird feeders to get through the winter months.

By understanding how different bird species survive the winter, we can appreciate the amazing adaptability of these creatures. The next time you see a bird braving the cold, take a moment to appreciate its tenacity and resilience.

Feeding the Birds That Winter in Michigan

feeding the birds that winter in michigan

One of the best parts of winter is getting to see all the different kinds of birds that come to visit Michigan. If you want to attract them to your yard, though, you’ll need to know a little bit about what they like to eat.

Here are some tips for feeding winter birds in Michigan during the colder months, and the types of winter bird feeders that work well.

Most birds prefer seeds, so if you’re looking to attract a variety of species, a seed feeder is your best bet, with tube feeders and hopper feeders being the preferred method.

A tube feeder is a great choice for mixed seed, safflower seed, or black oil sunflower.

Choose a hopper feeder to attract larger birds. These feeders are good for feeding cracked corn as well as safflower/sunflower seeds.

You want to avoid throwing seeds on the ground or you might find some scavengers that you weren’t expecting!

Some birds also like suet, which is a type of fat that’s high in energy. There are many types of suet feeders available, or if you’re feeling handy, you can make your own by putting suet in a mesh bag and hanging it from a tree branch.

It is also important to provide a water source for your backyard birds during the winter months. Place the birdbath in a sunny area where the birds can see it. Heated bird baths are also an option.

With a little bit of planning, you can turn your yard into a winter wonderland for Michigan’s feathered friends.

Winter Birds of Michigan

1 | Blue Jay

blue jays are birds that winter in Michigan

The Blue Jay is a common sight in Michigan during the winter months when it can be found in wooded areas throughout the state. These beautiful birds are easily recognizable by their blue plumage and striking white markings.

Blue Jays are generally shy around humans, but they are known to be curious and fearless when it comes to other animals. In the wild, Blue Jays eat a variety of foods, including acorns, nuts, insects, and berries.

They will also take advantage of bird feeders, which helps to explain their popularity among backyard birdwatchers.

2 | Northern Cardinal

northern cardinal can be found in Michigan in the winter

The Northern Cardinal is a well-loved winter bird in Michigan. It’s easy to identify with its red body and black mask, and it’s often seen in backyards and parks across the state.

While cardinals are mostly seed-eaters, they will also consume small fruits, insects, and even frogs. In the winter, when natural food sources are scarce, they are especially attracted to bird feeders.

Cardinals are also known for their beautiful songs, which they use to attract mates and defend their territories. So if you’re looking to add a little color and musicality to your yard this winter, keep an eye out for the Northern Cardinal.

3 | American Robin

you'll find american robins in Michigan year round

Michigan is home to a wide variety of birds, and many of them can be found in the state year-round. One of the most common birds that inhabit Michigan during the winter is the American Robin, which is also the state bird.

These robins are easily distinguished by their bright red breast, and they can be found in both urban and rural areas.

American Robins are omnivorous, and they will eat anything from worms and insects to berries and fruit, as well as suet in the colder weather. In Michigan, American Robins can be found in a variety of habitats, including forests, fields, and gardens.

These birds are relatively easy to spot, and they are a welcome sight during the cold winter months.

4 | Downy Woodpecker

downy woodpercker

The Downy Woodpecker is a small bird that is common in Michigan during the winter months. These birds are most often found in woodlands, but they can also be found in suburban areas and even in cities.

Downy Woodpeckers are small, only about 6-7 inches long, with black and white plumage. The males have a red patch on the back of their heads, while the females do not.

These birds eat mainly insects, but they will also eat fruits and berries. In winter, when insect populations are low, Downy Woodpeckers will often visit backyard bird feeders in search of food.

If you live in Michigan and want to attract these interesting little birds to your yard, be sure to put out a bird feeder and fill it with black oil sunflower seeds – a favorite food of the Downy Woodpecker!

5 | Black-capped Chickadee

black-capped chickadees live in Michigan in the winter

The black-capped chickadee is a small, round bird with a black head and white cheeks. It is found in woodlands throughout Michigan during the winter months.

Chickadees are very active birds, constantly searching for food. Their diet consists primarily of insects and seeds. In the winter, they often eat suet, which is a type of fat that helps them to stay warm.

Chickadees are also known for their cheerful songs, which they often sing while searching for food. When they find a good feeding spot, they will often share it with other birds.

Chickadees are social creatures and usually live in small flocks. This makes it easier for them to find food and avoid predators. The black-capped chickadee is a common sight in Michigan during the winter, and its cheerful song is a welcome sound in the cold months.

6 | House Sparrow

house sparrows during a Michigan winter

The House Sparrow is a small bird that can be found in many parts of the state of Michigan during the winter. These sparrows are very adaptable and can live in a variety of habitats, including urban areas.

House sparrows primarily eat seeds, but they will also eat insects and other small invertebrates. In winter, these birds often form flocks and can be seen foraging for food in open areas, such as fields and parks.

The house sparrow is an important part of the Michigan ecosystem and plays a role in controlling insect populations.

7 | House Finch

the house finch remains in Michigan year round

The House Finch is a small, social bird that is commonly found in Michigan during the winter months. These birds are easily distinguished by their red heads and chests, and they typically measure between 4 and 6 inches long.

House Finches can be found in a variety of habitats, including woodlands, suburbs, and even urban areas. These birds are primarily seed eaters, but they will also consume insects, berries, and other fruits.

In terms of preferred food items, House Finches seem to prefer sunflower seeds and thistle seeds. During the winter months, these birds will often form large flocks in order to find food and shelter.

8 | American Goldfinch

american goldfinch in winter

The American Goldfinch is a beautiful little bird that can be found in Michigan during the winter months. These cheerful little birds are a welcome sight on a cold, gray day.

American Goldfinches are mostly yellow, with black caps and wings. They have a little black band across their white belly. Male and female goldfinches look alike. Some people call the American Goldfinch the “wild canary” because of its bright color.

These small birds are about 4 to 5 inches long. They have short legs and short tails. Their beak is short and slightly down-curved. They use their beak to crack open seeds.

American Goldfinches eat mainly seeds, but they will also eat insects, especially in the summertime when they are feeding their young. You can often find goldfinches at bird feeders, eating sunflower seeds or thistle seeds. In the wintertime, goldfinches sometimes eat berries and fruits.

You can find American Goldfinches all over Michigan during the winter months. They are common in woods, hedges, weedy fields, and gardens. They prefer open areas where there are trees nearby for them to perch in.

In the wintertime, goldfinches often flock together in groups of 10 to 20 birds. These small flocks help the goldfinches stay warm on cold days. 

9 | Dark-eyed Junco

dark-eyed junco winters in Michigan

The Dark-eyed Junco is one of the most common birds in Michigan during the winter. These little birds can be found all over the state, from the Upper Peninsula to the southernmost part of the Lower Peninsula.

Dark-eyed Juncos are grayish-brown on top with a white belly and a dark tail. They have a white stripe above each eye, which gives them their name (junco means “eye-shadow” in Spanish). These birds are usually about 6 inches long.

Dark-eyed Juncos eat mostly insects and seeds. In the winter, they often eat berries and fruits. You can attract Dark-eyed Juncos to your yard by putting out bird feeders with black-oil sunflower seeds or suet. You may also see Dark-eyed Juncos at your backyard birdbath in the winter.

10 | Tufted Titmouse

the tufted tiltmouse winters in Michigan

The Tufted Titmouse is a small gray bird with a white belly and chest, large black eyes, and a distinctive black tuft of feathers on its head.

It is a common sight in Michigan during the winter months when it can be found in woodlands and suburban areas throughout the state.

The Tufted Titmouse is an opportunistic feeder, eating a variety of foods including insects, berries, and nuts. In winter, it often relies on backyard bird feeders for its meals.

If you’re hoping to see a Tufted Titmouse in your own yard, try putting out a feeder with sunflower seeds or suet.

11 | White-breasted Nuthatch

white-breasted nuthatch can be found in Michigan during the winter

The White-breasted Nuthatch is a small, sparrow-sized bird with a blue-gray back and wings, a white breast, and a black cap. It is one of the few birds that can walk headfirst down tree trunks.

The White-breasted Nuthatch can be found in deciduous and mixed forests throughout the state of Michigan. These birds are year-round residents in Michigan and do not migrate.

They eat insects and nuts and are often seen searching for food on tree trunks and branches. In the winter, these birds will form flocks with other nuthatches, woodpeckers, and chickadees to forage for food together.

If you spot a White-breasted Nuthatch in Michigan this winter, be sure to enjoy watching this little bird go about its business.

12 | American Crow

american crows winter in Michigan

The American Crow is a common sight in Michigan during the winter months. These medium-sized birds can be found in wooded areas and open fields throughout the state.

Crows are omnivorous, and their diet includes everything from insects and small mammals to berries and nuts. In the winter, they often scavenge for food, and they are known to steal food from other birds’ nests.

Crows are highly intelligent birds, and they are known for their problem-solving abilities. American Crows are black with shiny feathers, and they have a wingspan of about three feet.

These birds are social creatures, and they often travel in large flocks. If you spot a flock of crows in Michigan this winter, you’re sure to be impressed by their numbers and their striking appearance.

13 | American Tree Sparrow

The American Tree Sparrow is a bird that winters in Michigan

The American Tree Sparrow is a regular winter bird visitor in Michigan, especially as cold weather sets in.

It’s a small, sparrow-like bird with impressive coloring – its upperparts are silvery-grey and heavily streaked with rusty brown or black, while it has a plain grey breast and face. Its bill is yellowish and its tail is short but sharply pointed. 

The small, four-and-a-half-inch sparrows can be spotted in areas of wooded seasonal marshes and can even wander into backyard habitats in search of food.

They eat mostly grass seeds, grains, and insects; however, they will take advantage of backyard feeders with readily-available seed mixes or suet blocks.

14 | Mourning Dove

mourning dove in the wintertime

The Mourning Dove is possibly one of the most recognizable winter birds found in Michigan.

This grey and brown feathered bird has a long narrow tail that usually sports white outer feathers. It is also known as the Turtle Dove since its call is often compared to a low, prolonged, mourning cry.

In fact, it was designated as the official Michigan state bird of peace in 1959. This plump bird with its small beak loves looking for sunflower seeds or cracked corn which can often be found scattered from local bird feeders during winter months.

15 | Red-bellied Woodpecker

red bellied woodpecker in the winter

Michigan winters can be tough, but the winter months can also offer a unique opportunity to observe some beautiful backyard birds. One of the more recognizable winter birds is the Red-bellied Woodpecker.

This cheeky bird sports an elongated blackish body, white and gray spotted wings, and—as its name suggests—a brilliant red head!

The Red-bellied woodpecker prefers suet and other high-fat feeders during the chillier months, supplementing their diet with acorns, walnuts, and sunflower seeds.

Conclusion: Winter Birds of Michigan: A Guide for Bird Lovers

It can be a joy to feed winter birds, knowing that your efforts are helping the birds in Michigan stay alive and flourish when it’s cold outside.

Keep those backyard feeders well stocked, whether it’s a suet feeder, a hopper feeder, a platform feeder, or another type of feeder. All the birds in your area will sing their thanks!