Red Birds in Minnesota (11 types with Photos)

Minnesota is home to a vibrant tapestry of red birds that captivate both birdwatching enthusiasts and casual observers alike. Join us in this article for a look at 11 interesting red birds in Minnesota, including both year-round residents and those that visit just for a season.

11 Red Birds in Minnesota

11 red birds you can find in Minnesota include the northern cardinal, scarlet tanager, summer tanager, purple finch, house finch, common redpoll, pine grosbeak, red crossbill, white-winged crossbill, rose-breasted grosbeak and red-headed woodpecker.  

1. Northern Cardinal

male northern cardinal
Northern Cardinal (male) | image by: birdfeederhub.com

Scientific Name: Cardinalis cardinalis

The northern cardinal is a year-round resident of Minnesota found in forests, parks, gardens, and backyards. The male cardinal is easily recognizable, with bright red feathers on most of its body. The males also have a black mask on their faces.

The females are brown with shades of deeper red along their wings and tails. Both sexes have a distinctive crest on the top of their heads and an orange beak. Cardinals are easy to attract to backyard feeders by leaving out their favorite, black oil sunflower seeds. 


2. House Finch

male house finch
House Finch (male) | image by NPS | N. Lewis via Flickr

Scientific Name: Haemorhous mexicanus

While not completely red, the male house finch still presents obvious red coloring on his head and chest. The shade and intensity of this red color varies by individual. Females have more subdued plumage with streaks of brown and gray, and lack any red hues. 

House Finches congregate in parks, backyards, and along forest edges. They are year-round residents in Minnesota and very common birds to see.


3. Common Redpoll

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

Scientific Name: Acanthis flammea

One of several red birds in Minnesota that you can spot in winter is the Common Redpoll. These redpolls are streaky brown with yellow beaks and a red spot on top of their head. Males also sport a rosy red hue on their chest and sides. They may be the only bird species in the U.S. that makes tunnels in deep snow for shelter at night.

If possible, Common Redpolls will eat nearly 45 percent of their body mass each day. Their esophagus provides a flexible section in which they can store seeds for later consumption. In the spring, they’ll head north to breed around the arctic circle. 


4. Scarlet Tanager

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

Scientific Name: Piranga olivacea

This beautiful red bird can be found statewide in Minnesota during the summer months. Male scarlet tanagers have bright red plumage on most of their bodies with black wings and tails, while the females are yellow-green. 

You’ll have to search the forest canopy if you wish to spot a Scarlet Tanager in the wilds. Minnesota bird lovers attract Scarlet Tanagers by planting raspberry, strawberry, and mulberry bushes in their backyards. By fall they are heading south again to winter in tropical weather.


5. 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

Male white-winged crossbills are nearly all red and have black tails and black wings enhanced by white wingbars. Females also have white wingbars but their bodies are mostly brown and yellow.

Both female and male white-winged crossbills have crossed beaks that work well to break open seeds in spruce forests. They tend to fly in large flocks and will continue breeding all year as long as sufficient food sources are available. In the northeastern corner of Minnesota these crossbills remain year-round, while in the rest of the state you’ll be more apt to see them in the winter. 


6. Purple Finch

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

Scientific Name: Haemorhous purpureus

Similar to the house finch, these birds are mainly brown and cream with streaky breasts. Males have raspberry red coloring on their head, breast and back. They tend to be more heavily colored on more of their body than the house finch, especially their head.

Breeding primarily in coniferous and mixed deciduous woodlands, purple finches supplement their forest food sources in winter by visiting backyards and shrublands. Bird feeders filled with thistle and sunflower seeds may attract purple finches during the winter when they can no longer find insects and berries to eat. In northeastern Minnesota they remain year-round, but are mainly found in the winter in the rest of the state. 


7. Pine Grosbeak

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

Scientific Name: Pinicola enucleator

Spotted in northern Minnesota over the winter months, pine grosbeaks are a finch species that is slower and larger than most finches. Males are red with gray-dappled tails and wings. Females are mostly gray, with dusky orange backsides and heads.

Pine grosbeaks live in fir, spruce, and pine forests, eating fruit, seeds, and insects. Northern Minnesota residents can attract Pine Grosbeaks to their backyards by putting out suet feeders and black oil sunflower seeds.


8. Summer Tanager

Summer tanager
Image: RonaldPlett | pixabay.com

Scientific Name: Piranga rubra

Count yourself lucky if you live in and around Minneapolis and think you’ve spotted a summer tanager. They are rarely seen this far north, but several recent sightings suggest climate change may be responsible for the summer tanager venturing further north during the summer. They’re small but have loud birdsong that sounds a bit like the song of the American Robin.

Males are bright red all over, while females are more of an olive-yellow. Capable of snatching wasps or bees in mid-flight, the summer tanager rubs the insect against a tree branch in a way that pulls out the stinger.


9. Red Crossbill

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

Scientific Name: Loxia curvirostra

This unique looking bird is seen between October and March in Minnesota, except for the northeast corner where some remain all year. The red crossbill is a chunky, medium-sized bird with a bill that criss-crosses at the tip. Males are red with dark dusky tails and wings. Females are smaller and have brown and yellow feathers.

Foraging in large flocks among conifer trees, red crossbills can break open closed conifer cones with their powerful, crossed beaks.


10. Rose-breasted Grosbeak

rose-breasted grosbeak
Male Rose-breasted Grosbeak | Image: theSOARnet | pixabay.com

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 triangle chest patch. Females are streaky brown.

Rose-breasted grosbeaks are migratory, and only visit the U.S. during the spring and summer months. In Minnesota 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. You’ll mainly see them during the spring and summer in Minnesota, especially in the southern half of the state.

About Jesse

Jesse enjoys bird watching and feeding birds in his backyard, learning about the different species, and sharing his knowledge and experiences.