Ohio proudly services as the home and/or breeding ground for a wide array of bird species, many of them featuring eye-catching red feathers. Even the state bird of Ohio is a red bird, the northern cardinal. Despite sharing a similar color, the red birds in Ohio can vary greatly in regards to appearance, habitat, and even diet, and all of this information can help you better identify these birds.
11 Red Birds in Ohio
Here are 11 red birds you can find in the state of Ohio: northern cardinal, red-bellied woodpecker, summer tanager, pine grosbeak, house finch, red crossbill, scarlet tanager, red-headed woodpecker, common redpoll, purple finch and the white-winged crossbill.
1. Northern Cardinal
Scientific Name: Cardinalis cardinalis
Cardinals are the state bird of Ohio. Males are well-known for their stunning red feathers, which are striking on their own, but look even more impressive against a snowy background. It is only the males of the species, however, that have these bright red feathers. The females are more subdued with tawny brown feathers. Both sexes have a tall head crest.
Unlike some of the other red birds in Ohio, the Northern cardinal does not migrate during colder months and can be found in the state throughout the year. They love to come to backyard feeders and their favorite seed is black-oil sunflower.
2. Red-Bellied Woodpecker
Scientific Name: Melanerpes carolinus
The red-bellied woodpecker is a common bird in Ohio that is often found in forests or other areas with plenty of trees. They are no stranger to bird feeders, and will gladly stop by for suet, sunflower, peanuts and nuts. While not an entirely red bird, their head has such bright red feathers we thought they deserved a place on this list.
The female and male of the species have a similar appearance. They both have a black and white barred pattern on their wings and red along the top of the head and nape of the neck. For males, the red goes all the way down to the beak, while in females the red stops at their forehead.
3. Summer Tanager
Scientific Name: Piranga rubra
The male summer tanager is a sight to behold, with its strawberry-red feathers that cover their entire body. The female summer tanager looks like an entirely different bird thanks to its mustard-yellow color. Immature males are and interesting mix of both, starting off yellow like the females and slowly transitioning into being fully red.
Summer tanagers breed in Ohio, and prefer open wooded areas where there are plenty of deciduous trees, such as oaks. They feast on bees and wasps, and will rub the insect on a branch before eating to remove its stinger. In the fall they head south for the winter.
4. Pine Grosbeak
Scientific Name: Pinicola enucleator
Pine grosbeaks are large, sturdy finches with thick beaks for easily crushing seeds and clipping off tree buds. Their base color is a light gray with darker wings and white wing bars. Females have a touch of yellow on their head, belly and rump. Males are more colorful, with red wash on the head, chest, back and rump.
Pine grosbeaks are not a common sight in Ohio. Their main range lies to the north, but you may occasionally spot them in the northern parts of the state during the winter months. They sometimes travel as far south as Ohio to look for good winter food crops of seeds, and will visit backyard feeders for sunflower seeds.
5. House Finch
Scientific Name: Haemorhous mexicanus
House finches are a common sight in Ohio, and they can be seen throughout the entire year. These small birds can be easily attracted to feeders, and are found on farms and along the edges of forests, as well as in backyards, city parks, and even urban areas.
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.
6. Red Crossbill
Scientific Name: Loxia curvirostra
Like other crossbills, this species has a unique beak where the upper portion crosses over the bottom. This allows the red crossbill to easily access the seeds of various conifer trees. The male red crossbill is red in color with brownish red wings.
The females are more yellow and brown in color and do not have any red feathers. Red crossbills aren’t very common in Ohio, but they do travel down into the state during the winter when looking for crops of conifer cones. So for a chance to see the, take a winter hike through a conifier forest.
7. Scarlet Tanager
Scientific Name: Piranga olivacea
Scarlet tanagers breed in Ohio, but do not stay there during the winter. Instead, they migrate south during late summer and early fall, and spend their winters in warmer climates. The male scarlet tanager is almost completely red in color except for jet black wings and a black tail.
The female is a light greenish yellow with dusky wings. Scarlet tanagers thrive on various berry species and prefer a habitat filled with shade trees. You’re more likely to spot them on a forest walk then in your backyard.
8. Red-headed Woodpecker
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 throughout Ohio.
You may be able to attract them to a backyard feeder, especially during the winter, with suet, acorns, beechnuts, pecans or fruits. They are known to hide food in caches for later, usually under bark or cracks in trees.
9. Purple Finch
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 Ohio, arriving in September and staying until late spring.
10. Common Redpoll
Scientific Name: Acanthis flammea
The common redpoll is a finch species that can sometimes be seen during the winter months, primarily in the northern regions of Ohio. These small birds are primarily found to the north, but sometimes travel further south into the U.S. to find sources of winter food.
The males also feature pinkish-red coloring on their throats and chests. During their time in Ohio, they forage in trees and on the ground. They also like to visit bird feeders in mixed flocks with other finches and small birds, especially those with thistle or sunflower seeds.
11. White-winged Crossbill
Scientific Name: Loxia leucoptera
Another somewhat rare winter visitor to Ohio is the white-winged crossbill. These members of the finch family measure 5.5 to 6.5 inches long and have compact bodies and short notched tails. Male white-winged crossbills feature red plumage on their heads and chests, while the females are yellowish brown.
Both sexes feature dark wings with two distinct white wing bars on each, which is where they get their name. Like the red crossbill, this species has a unique crossed bill adapted for extracting seeds from conifer cones.