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11 Red Birds in Michigan (with Photos)

Michigan, home to beautiful forests and lakes, is known for its natural beauty and outdoor recreation. This makes it a popular destination for nature lovers, and a great place for bird-watching enthusiasts to catch a glimpse of a variety of bird species. In this article we will look specifically at the red birds you can find in Michigan. 

11 Red Birds in Michigan

The 11 red bird species you’ll be able to see in Michigan include the northern cardinal, house finch, purple finch, scarlet tanager, summer tanager, red crossbill, common redpoll, white-winged crossbill, pine grosbeak, rose-breasted grosbeak and red-headed woodpecker. Let’s take a look at each one! 

1. Northern Cardinal

male northern cardinal
Northern Cardinal (male) | image by:

Scientific Name: Cardinalis cardinalis

Northern cardinals are familiar birds found throughout the eastern U.S. In Michigan they remain year-round throughout the state. The males of this species have bright red plumage with a red crest and black eye-mask.

Females are more muted brown with hints of red on their wings and tails. Cardinals are easy to attract to backyard feeders by leaving out their favorite, black oil sunflower seeds. 

2. Purple Finch

Purple finch male
Purple Finch | image by Alan Schmierer via Flickr

Scientific Name: Haemorhous purpureus

Male purple finches are beautiful birds with raspberry-red plumage on their heads, chests, and backs with brown and cream-colored streaks on their wings and tail. The females do not have red plumage but instead are cream and brown to help them blend in with their surroundings when nesting.

Like other finch species, purple finches have a short, stout beak adapted for cracking open seeds. These birds are winter visitors in lower Michigan, while in northern Michigan they may choose to remain year-round.

3. House Finch

Male House Finch
Male House Finch

Scientific Name: Haemorhous mexicanus

House Finches are year-round residents in Michigan and can be found throughout the state. The males have vibrant red plumage on their heads and chests with brown and cream-colored streaks along their wings and backs.

Females have a more subdued appearance with brownish-gray plumage and noticeable streaking, but no red coloration. Both males and females have a conical beak, ideal for cracking open seeds. They love to visit backyard feeders and can be attracted with mixed seed or nyjer.

4. Scarlet Tanager

Scarlet tanager
Scarlet tanager | image by Kelly Colgan Azar via Flickr | CC BY-ND 2.0

Scientific Name: Piranga olivacea

Male scarlet tanagers are vibrant red birds with bright red plumage all over their bodies except for their jet-black wings and tails. Scarlet tanagers are neotropical migrants, meaning they spend the winter in Central and South America and migrate to North America for breeding.

They arrive in Michigan in late spring to breed. The females lay 3-5 eggs, and 12-14 days later, they hatch. Both parents take care of the babies until they are ready to be on their own. Adult females lack the males red coloring, and are a greenish-yellow with dusky wings. 

5. Summer Tanager

Summer tanager male
Summer tanager male

Scientific Name: Piranga rubra

Similar to the scarlet tanager, male summer tanagers have vibrant red plumage. The difference is that summer tanagers are completely red. Their wings are a bit darker than the rest of their body, but only slightly. 

Females and immature males are greenish-yellow. This species is also less common than the scarlet tanager so may be harder to find. They spend their winters in Central and South America but can occasionally be seen during the summer months in Michigan. They prefer open woodland habitat, and are specialists at eating bees and wasps.  

6. Red Crossbill

red crossbill male
Red-crossbill (male) | image by Charles Gates via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific Name: Loxia curvirostra

Red crossbills get their name from their unique bill that is crossed at the tip. This allows them to easily break open conifer cones to eat the seeds. The males feature red plumage on their heads and bodies with brown wings and tails.

Red crossbills are known for their nomadic tendencies, often moving long distances in search of abundant conifer cone crops. These birds can be seen year-round in the northernmost parts of Michigan, but for most of the state they will be winter visitors. 

7. Common Redpoll

common redpoll
Common Redpoll (male) | image by Tom Koerner/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service via Flickr

Scientific Name: Acanthis flammea

Common redpolls are native to the northern parts of North America, including Canada and Alaska. During the winter, birds that spent the summer around the article circle will migrate south, and Michigan is included at the bottom of their winter range. They can be seen in Michigan between October and May.

These brown, streaky birds have yellow beaks and a red spot on top of their head. Males also sport a pink wash down their chest and sides. Like other finch species, common redpolls have specialized beaks adapted for extracting small seeds from the cones of these trees. They will often mix in with other flocks of finches and are known to visit backyard feeders.

8. White-Winged Crossbill

Male White-Winged Crossbill
Male White-Winged Crossbill | image by John Harrison via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 3.0

Scientific Name: Loxia leucoptera

White-winged crossbills are finches with stout bodies and distinct crossed bills perfect for extracting seeds from conifer cones. The males have beautiful red plumage on their heads and bodies with black wings that feature two bold white stripes.

Females and immature birds are more olive-green or yellowish in color. They also have white stripes on the wings, which is where the species gets its name. This species is primarily seen during the winter months in Michigan, but are more populous in the north of the state where some remain year-round.

9. Pine Grosbeak

Pine Grosbeak
Pine Grosbeak | image by dfaulder via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific Name: Pinicola enucleator

Another beautiful red bird found in Michigan is the pine grosbeak. The males have vibrant, rose-red plumage on their body, head, and breast, while the females and immature birds are more subdued with grayish-olive plumage.

Males and females have gray and white streaked wings. These plump birds can be seen in Michigan during the winter months when they make their way down from the northern regions of North America in search of food. They mainly eat seeds, fruits and buds of trees such as spruce, pine, birch, juniper and burdock.

10. Rose-Breasted Grosbeak

rose breasted grosbeak
Rose-breasted Grosbeak (male) | image by Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific Name: Pheucticus ludovicianus

Technically, there isn’t a lot of red on the rose-breasted grosbeak. But when describing this bird the red breast patch is usually the first thing people think of, so we thought they deserved a place on this list. Males have a black head and back, white underparts with the signature rosy-red chest patch. Females are streaky brown.

Rose-breasted grosbeaks are migratory, and only visit the U.S. during the spring and summer months. In Michigan you’ll find them all summer in most of the state. If you leave out sunflower seeds, you may be able to attract them, especially in spring and late summer.

11. Red-headed Woodpecker

red-headed woodpecker clinging to tree
Red-headed woodpecker | image by Jim Hudgens/USFWS via Flickr

Scientific name: Melanerpes erythrocephalus

This woodpecker earns a spot on our red birds list due to its entirely red head. Both male and female red-headed woodpeckers have white undersides, a black back with a large white band on the wings, and solid red head. These woodpeckers aren’t as common in suburban areas, so you may have to head toward the woods to find them. However they do reside year-round in southern Michigan, and during the spring and summer months in the northern half of the state.

You may be able to attract them to a backyard feeder with suet, acorns, beechnuts, pecans or fruits. They are known to hide food in caches for later, usually under bark or cracks in trees.