Bird Feeder Hub is reader-supported. When you click and buy we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you.

12 Winter Birds In Ohio

Winter in Ohio brings not only frosty weather but also a variety of fascinating birds that brave the cold temperatures that this state often experiences. These winged wonders add a touch of enchantment to the season, and they often add a bit of color to a somewhat bleak winter landscape. While there can be as many as 150 different species of winter birds in Ohio, we are going to look at only 12 of these species. 

The following winter birds in Ohio each have their specific characteristics, including various appearances, diets, habitats, and migrations. Some of these birds, such as the American Goldfinch, consume nothing but seeds, while the Dark-Eyed Junco has a much more diverse diet, snacking on insects in addition to seeds. One thing that they all have in common, however, is that you can find them in Ohio during the winter months.

1. Northern Mockingbird

Northern Mockingbird
Northern Mockingbird

Scientific Name: Mimus polyglottos

Mockingbirds are well-known for their ability to imitate the songs of various bird species. If you hear a seemingly endless string of 10 or 15 different birds singing outside your window, it could be the Northern Mockingbird.

  • Appearance: The Northern Mockingbird is a medium-sized bird with a slender body, gray plumage, white wing patches, and long tail.
  • Diet: Their omnivorous diet includes insects, berries, and seeds.
  • Habitat: Mockingbirds are adaptable and can be found in urban areas, parks, and suburban landscapes.
  • Migration: Northern Mockingbirds stay in Ohio year-round. If you want to encourage these birds to visit, keep your lawn open and provide native plants, such as hawthorns, blackberries, mulberries, and other fruiting bushes and trees. While they aren’t often drawn in by bird feeders alone, if there are feeders in their territory they will try and guard them.
  • Interesting Fact: Northern Mockingbirds can add new sounds throughout their life. A male Northern Mockingbird can learn about 200 songs!

2. Downy Woodpecker 

Downy woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker | image by Shenandoah National Park via Flickr

Scientific Name: Dryobates pubescens

The smallest woodpecker in North America, the Downy Woodpecker weighs in at less than 1 ounce and calls the state of Ohio its home all year round.

  • Appearance: Downy Woodpeckers are small woodpeckers that are about the size of a sparrow. They are mostly black and white, and the males have a small, bright red spot on the back of their heads. 
  • Diet: Their primary diet consists of insects, but they can also consume seeds and suet. They are a common sight at backyard feeders, especially during the winter months when food can be scarce.
  • Habitat: Downy Woodpeckers inhabit a wide array of habitats, from forests to suburban areas. They can typically be found in just about any area where trees are abundant.
  • Migration: The Downy Woodpecker typically doesn’t migrate and can be seen in Ohio throughout the year. 
  • Interesting Fact: A male Downy Woodpecker that was first banded in California in 1985 was recaptured and released in 1996, which means the bird was at least 11 years old, making it the oldest known Downy Woodpecker.

3. American Tree Sparrow

American tree sparrow
American Tree Sparrow | Image: Fyn Kynd / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Scientific Name: Spizella arborea

Despite its name, the American Tree Sparrow spends most of its time on the ground. They both nest and forage on the ground, but were given their name by European settlers who thought they looked similar to the Eurasian Tree Sparrow.

  • Appearance: Small and plump, tree sparrows have rusty caps and matching eyeliner, gray face, and long tail. Their bi-colored bill is a good identifier, dark on top and yellow on the bottom.
  • Diet: Seeds, especially grass and weed seeds, make up a major part of this bird’s diet. During the summer months, they will also feed on various insects, such as flies, beetles, caterpillars, snails, spiders, and wasps.
  • Habitat: Tree sparrows prefer shrubby areas, hedgerows, and open fields during winter.
  • Migration: These small birds are migratory, moving south to Ohio for the winter. They leave again in spring to breed in the far northern part of the continent.
  • Interesting Fact: American Tree Sparrows need to consume around 30% of their body weight in food, and about the same amount in water, every day. Not consuming this amount could be fatal for these birds. 

4. Common Redpoll

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

Scientific Name: Acanthis flammea

A tiny but active bird, the Common Redpoll breeds high up in the arctic tundra, then travels south to Canada and the northern U.S. for the winter. 

  • Appearance: Common Redpolls are small finches that feature a black chin, a brown body with streaks, and a red patch located on the forehead. Males have a pink wash down their chest.
  • Diet: Redpolls feast on different types of seeds, preferring alder and birch seeds. But these birds won’t pass up sunflower, thistle, and nyjer seeds when they come across them in bird feeders. 
  • Habitat: Redpolls wintering in Ohio are often seen in open woodlands and weedy fields. 
  • Migration: Common Redpolls are migratory. They breed in the Arctic and move south for the winter, sometimes reaching Ohio.
  • Interesting Fact: Common Redpolls are considered “irruptive” in the winter, meaning their migration patterns and population numbers fluctuate irregularly and unpredictably. These birds may move into new areas in large numbers during some years and then be scarce or absent in other years. The irregular movements are often driven by changes in food availability in their wintering areas. Residents of Ohio may get a flock at their feeder one winter, then not see them again for several years.

5. Mourning Dove

mourning dove

Scientific Name: Zenaida macroura

The Mourning Dove is a common sight in Ohio. Their gentle cooing calls and tendency to visit backyard feeders for seed make them a common sight for many residents.

  • Appearance: Mourning Doves have small heads, a slender tail, and soft, muted gray plumage. They are also known for their gentle demeanor.
  • Diet: These birds primarily feed on seeds and grains. They are also ground feeders, spending most of their time foraging for food on the ground. If they visit your feeders, they will probably send most of the time pecking the ground below them for dropped seeds.
  • Habitat: Mourning Doves are adaptable birds that can be found in various habitats, including urban areas, farmlands, and woodlands.
  • Migration: Mourning Doves don’t typically migrate and remain in Ohio all year.
  • Interesting Fact: Known for their mournful cooing sound, Mourning Doves are monogamous birds and often mate for life.

6. Carolina Wren 

Carolina wren perching on wood
Carolina wren perching on wood | image by Shenandoah National Park via Flickr

Scientific Name: Thryothorus ludovicianus

The Carolina Wren is a small, cinnamon colored bird that has expanded north and made Ohio part of its home range. However, the cold temps and snowy weather experienced in the state can be hard on these wrens, and bad winters can lower the population. Their cheerful song can be heard through the year, as they continue to sing in the winter. 

  • Appearance: Small and compact, Carolina Wrens have reddish-brown plumage with distinctive white eyebrows.
  • Diet: Their diet is filled with various insects, such as crickets, spiders, caterpillars, and beetles. You can attract them to backyard suet feeders.
  • Habitat: Carolina Wrens thrive in dense vegetation, including gardens, wooded areas, and suburban landscapes.
  • Migration: Carolina Wrens are non-migratory, and stay in Ohio throughout the year.
  • Interesting Fact: If you want to encourage Carolina Wrens to take up residence in your yard, consider keeping some tangled understory and brush piles.  

7. Blue Jay 

blue jay
Blue Jay

Scientific Name: Cyanocitta cristata

The Blue Jay is a corvid, which means it is a part of the crow family and is a highly intelligent creature. They can also be a bit aggressive to other birds, and may even bully smaller birds away from feeders. 

  • Appearance: Blue Jays are well-known for their vibrant blue plumage and crest, with white and black markings along their back, wings and tail. These are rather large birds with thick bills and heavy beaks.
  • Diet: Blue Jays are omnivorous, consuming seeds, nuts, insects, and even small vertebrates. They love visiting feeders for peanuts.
  • Habitat: Blue jays inhabit forests, parks, and suburban areas, and can often be seen visiting bird feeders.
  • Migration: These large birds are partially migratory. While most will stay in Ohio year-round, some Blue Jays may travel short distances for the winter.
  • Interesting Fact: Blue Jays are capable of mimicking the calls of hawks to warn other birds of potential danger.

8. American Robin 

American robin
American Robin | Image by Veronika Andrews from Pixabay

Scientific Name: Turdus migratorius

Robins are often considered a sign that spring is just around the corner. These cheerful birds are known for their song, hopping around lawns for worms and bright blue eggs.

  • Appearance: The American Robin has a red-orange breast and dark gray upperparts. 
  • Diet: Worms, insects, and fruits make up the bulk of the American Robin’s diet. Amazingly, researchers are pretty sure robins can actually hear worms moving below the surface, helping them target their prey.
  • Habitat: Robins are found in a variety of forest environments, but prefer forest edges and areas with oak trees.
  • Migration: American Robins are partially migratory. Some do remain in Ohio throughout the winter, especially if the season is a mild one. However, they typically stay in the southern part of the state. 
  • Interesting Fact: American Robins are well-known for laying “robin-blue” eggs. The blue color actually helps protect the babies inside the egg from UV radiation.

9. Northern Cardinal

Northern cardinal perching on holly berries
Northern cardinal perching on holly berries | Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

Scientific Name: Cardinalis cardinalis

Cardinals are the state bird of Ohio, and are one of the most popular songbirds, especially during the winter when males crimson plumage starkly stands out against the white winter background. 

  • Appearance: The male boasts vibrant red plumage, while the female is adorned in subtler brown tones. Both sexes have distinctive crests and orange beaks.
  • Diet: Cardinals primarily eat seeds, including birdseed like sunflower seeds, safflower seeds, and cracked corn.
  • Habitat: Found in woodlands, gardens, and urban areas, cardinals are frequent visitors to backyard feeders.
  • Migration: These birds are listed as non-migratory, and stay in Ohio year-round.
  • Interesting Fact: Female Northern Cardinals sing while on the nest, possibly giving her mate information about when to bring her food. Very few female songbirds sing, usually the males are the songsters.

10. Dark-Eyed Junco

Dark-eyed junco perching
Dark-eyed junco perching

Scientific Name: Junco hyemalis

Dark-eyed juncos are small, round sparrows that mostly breed in the north and come down to the Unites States in the winter. Across the country there are an amazing variety of color-forms specific to geographic location. In Ohio, you are most likely to see the slate-colored variety.

  • Appearance: Dark-eyed juncos are small, with dark gray plumage and white bellies. They also have conspicuous pink bills.
  • Diet: Their diet consists mainly of seeds, and in backyards will visit for millet and sunflower seeds. They will also consume various insects, such as caterpillars, wasps, flies, ants, and beetles.
  • Habitat: Juncos prefer open woodlands, fields, and gardens, making them common winter visitors to backyard feeders.
  • Migration: Juncos are migratory birds, and move from their breeding grounds in the northern U.S. and Canada to Ohio for the winter.
  • Interesting Fact: Dark-eyed juncos are often referred to as “snowbirds” due to their presence during winter months.

11. Tufted Titmouse

Tufted Titmouse
Tufted Titmouse | Image: JackBulmer |

Scientific Name: Baeolophus bicolor

The Tufted Titmouse is a spunky little songbird that likes to express itself with a range of vocalizations and by flicking it’s head crest up and down.

  • Appearance: Small but extremely active, the Tufted Titmouse has a blue-gray back, white underparts, a buffy orange side and a distinctive crest on its head.
  • Diet: Their diet includes insects, seeds, and berries, and they are frequent visitors to backyard feeders.
  • Habitat: Titmice thrives in woodlands mixed with various species of trees. They are often seen in forests, parks, woodlots, and other areas where there is plenty of tree coverage.
  • Migration: The Tufted Titmouse stays in Ohio all year long. They do not migrate during the winter. 
  • Interesting Fact: These birds like to build nests in cavities, so you can attract them to your yard by setting up nesting boxes. It is best to do so before the breeding season starts and make sure to attach guards to the boxes to prevent predators from killing the eggs and young.

12. American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch
American Goldfinch

Scientific Name: Spinus tristis

The American Goldfinch is a small finch that is found in every land habitat in Ohio, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. 

  • Appearance: American Goldfinches are small birds that feature a conical bill and short tail. Breeding males of the species have vibrant yellow and black plumage, while non-breeding males are more brown. Breeding females have a duller yellow color than their breeding male counterparts.
  • Diet: Seeds are their primary food source, and these birds are considered the “strictest vegetarians in the bird world”, according to some.
  • Habitat: Found in weedy fields, meadows, and gardens, goldfinches are frequent visitors to thistle feeders.
  • Migration: American Goldfinches are present year-round in Ohio, but some winter flocks may include migrants from northern regions.
  • Interesting Fact: American goldfinches are one of the latest nesting birds, often waiting until mid-summer to breed. They molt into much duller plumage for the winter, then molt again into bright yellow for the summer.

Ohio Winters and Bird Adaptations

Ohio winters are characterized by cold temperatures and occasional snowfall, typically lasting from December through March. Residents experience chilly conditions, with temperatures often dropping below freezing. Snowstorms contribute to a blanket of white covering the landscape, requiring locals to navigate icy roads and sidewalks.

Birds in Ohio have evolved various adaptations to thrive in the state’s diverse habitats year-round. During winter, they face challenges like food scarcity and harsh weather conditions. Many birds adapt by growing thicker plumage to stay warm and by storing extra fat reserves to sustain them through lean periods.

Migration is common among some species, while others remain and find shelter in dense foliage or birdhouses. Adjusting their diets to include seeds and berries helps birds in Ohio survive the winter months.

How Winter Birds Survive in Ohio

In Ohio, winter birds employ several survival strategies to endure the cold.

Fluffing Feathers

Birds have several layers of downy feathers they can fluff up to trap warm air against their body. Some birds may grow extra down feathers for the winter, but many birds just carefully clean and maintain their down feathers all year. Many species molt (drop old feathers and grow new ones) at the end of the summer so by the time it gets cold, they have a fresh set of new feathers in tip top shape for the winter.

Fat Storage

To sustain themselves through winter’s lean periods, many birds store extra fat reserves. These reserves serve as energy stores during times of scarcity, providing vital fuel for maintaining body temperature and surviving harsh conditions. Eating as much excess as they can manage in the fall helps them plump up for the winter. 


Migration is a widespread strategy among Ohio’s winter birds. Some species undertake long journeys to warmer regions where food is more abundant and temperatures are milder. This seasonal migration allows birds to escape the harsh winter conditions and ensure their survival until spring returns.

Dietary Adjustments

With changes in food availability during winter, birds in Ohio adjust their diets accordingly. They may shift their focus from insects to seeds, nuts, berries, and other winter-suitable food sources to sustain themselves when their usual prey or forage items are scarce. This dietary flexibility enables birds to adapt to varying environmental conditions and maintain their energy levels throughout the winter months.

Getting out of the cold

Finding places to hide from the weather can be helpful. Birds that nest in cavities are already used to looking for tree cavities and woodpecker holes, and they may use these to roost out of the wind during the winter. Some species will cuddle together and use their combined body heat. Other prefer to roost solo, and use heavy brush piles or thick evergreen shrubs as cover from wind and snow.

Why do some birds in Ohio not migrate?

Certain birds in Ohio choose not to migrate due to a combination of factors. One key factor is the availability of food resources. Ohio’s diverse habitats provide a year-round supply of seeds, berries, and insects, sustaining resident birds even during the winter.

Territorial considerations and the desire to maintain established nesting sites also play a role in the decision of some birds to stay in Ohio throughout the year. For those that stay, they don’t have to search and fight for the rights to claim territory like the other birds that return in the spring.

Leave a Comment