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If you want to observe gorgeous birds in Wisconsin, you won’t have to look far. Although the state experiences frigid winters, there are many birds you can see right in your backyard. Some of the birds are strictly warm weather residents, while others live in the state all year.
You can attract most of Wisconsin’s birds with bird feeders, but some species prefer snacking on the fruit and berries in your yard. Here are 31 birds you can try to spot the next time you’re relaxing in your backyard.
|Diet||Insects, earthworms, berries, fruit|
The American robin takes the number one spot on our list because it is the official state bird. Contrary to the rumors, all robins do not migrate out of Wisconsin during the winter. They do, however, head to wooded areas to feast on berries and shrubs.
Wisconsin robins have more vibrant coloring compared to their western counterparts. They have gray plumage, red breasts, and black heads. The robin population has slightly increased since the 1960s, but one threat to these birds is pesticide poisoning since they forage for insects and earthworms.
|Diet||Mostly seeds, but will eat fruit and insects|
The Northern cardinal is easy to spot in the wintertime. They are one of the most popular red birds in Wisconsin. The males’ bright red feathers are a stark contrast to the white snow. Adult females are copper with a red crest.
These birds especially love black oil sunflower seeds but also consume insects, nuts, and berries. Northern cardinals have been known to flock with goldfinches and sparrows. Mating pairs will stay together throughout the winter,and many will mate for more than one season.
|Diet||Insects in the summer, seeds in the winter|
The Black-capped chickadee is a stunning bird to see. When looking directly at its black head and neck, you’ll notice triangular patches of white across the cheeks. During the warmer months, the chickadee primarily eats insects. In the winter, the bird will come to the bird feeder for sunflower seeds, suet, and mealworms.
These birds do not migrate, and bird watchers can spot them all year. The Black-capped chickadee often nests at ground level, and it has been known to move into the abandoned cavities that Downy woodpeckers leave behind.
|Diet||Insects, nuts, and seeds. Rarely nestlings, eggs, and injured birds.|
You’re most likely to see blue jays on forest edges, and they favor oak trees. These birds will often congregate in parks. They have blue crests and backs, but the intensity of the color can vary.
Theyare noisy birdsand have an impressive vocal range. When mating pairs have offspring, they’re fiercely protective of their territory and unafraid to attack invaders of all sizes. Blue jays are easy to find once you become accustomed to their vocalizations. Most pairs will mate for life.
|Diet||Mostly insects, especially flies|
These diminutive birds have a blue head and back,anda cinnamon or rust colored-patch of feathers surrounds their beak and throat. The Barn Swallow is an adaptable bird that favors open landscapes,and they often nest under the eaves or inside of outbuildings like sheds and barns.
They use the same nest for the breeding season. The Barn swallow is one of the most abundant species on the planet, and unlike other swallows, they fly low while searching for food.
|Diet||Seeds, nuts, insects, food waste, carrion, other birds|
You might be more apt to see an American crow pecking through your garbage can than at a bird feeder. The birds are omnivores that eat just about anything. They will even raid other species’ nests to dine on eggs and nestlings.
Despite being aggressive towards other birds, crows live in a complex family structure. Pairs mate long-term, and their offspring often stay with them for up to two years. Although crows have a bad reputation for eating carrion, they’re considered one of the smartest winged creatures.
|Diet||Grains, seeds, discarded food, rarely insects|
The House sparrow is aptly named, as these birds are rarely far from people. For centuries, the birds have lived around humans and adapted to the changing environment. They build their nests in busy areas like street lights, signs, and in the holes of buildings.
They are social birds, and two mating pairs often build their nests next to each other. The House sparrow is one of the most prolific brown birds in Wisconsin. Males are typically cinnamon or rust, while females are lighter brown.
|Diet||Insects, spiders, and snail shells|
The nondescript House wren can pose a challenge for Wisconsin bird watchers. These tiny brown birds blend into the trees and shrubs. They congregate in areas that are mixed with trees and open areas.
Resourceful mating pairs build their nests out of plastic waste, strings, and hair. House wrens are not monogamous,and males will displace other males throughout the breeding season. House Wrens have a massive home range that stretches from Canada to the southern tip of South America.
|Diet||Insects, wild berries, garden fruit|
The Gray catbird lives in dense areas like shrubs, vines, and thickets. They can be a pest during Wisconsin’s growing season. They often raid gardens and orchards for berries, cherries, and grapes. These birds are blue or blue-gray with black heads.
Since they’re related to thrashers and mockingbirds, catbirds are skilled musicians beloved by birdwatchers. The Gray Catbird doesn’t stick around during the winter, but it migrates Texas and Central America when cold weather approaches.
|Diet||Berries and small flying insects|
The Eastern wood-pewees you see during the summer are avid travelers. They are long-distance migrants who head to Central and South America when Wisconsin’s weather turns cold. These birds often nest on forest edges, and Eastern wood-peewees only pair up for the breeding season.
They are solitary birds during the rest of the year,and they get their name from their distinctive “pee-a-wee” call.Eastern wood-pewees are grey with fluffy crests and white feather tips.
|Diet||Mainly seeds; rarely grains, berries, and snails|
Mourning doves stay out of the deep woods. They can be spotted around urban areas, including on utility poles. They nest in gutters, eaves, and abandoned nests. Mourning doves can be vulnerable to lead poisoning, as they will eat fallen lead shot in hunting areas.
Residents in the southern portion of the state may spot these multi-colored birds all year. They typically have grey and black backs and peach bellies. Some birds will have patches of peach on their back as well.
|Diet||Insects, fruit, seeds, grain nectar, food waste|
At first glance, European starlings may look solid black. If you see one up close, you’ll note that their feathers are iridescent purple and green with small white spots. These birds are similar to the American crow in that they will eat just about anything.
In the summer, starlings survive primarily on insects, but in winter, the birds rely on seeds and berries. They’re social birds that often forage in flocks. European starlings are never far from humans and favor open areas.
|Diet||Insects, nectar, and fruit|
Some farmers regard Baltimore orioles as pests, as these birds are capable of destroying fruit crops. They are meticulous and resourceful nest builders, and it can take up to two weeks for them to build their nests out of horsehair, twine, grass, and fishing line.
Orioles have reddish-orange breasts and are easy for bird watchers to spot. They spend the winters along the southeastern coast and the Rocky Mountains. Orioles prefer eating insects, fruit, and nectar, but you can attract the birds to your backyard by hanging oranges, sliced in half, along tree branches.
|Diet||Seeds, insects, rarely small fruit|
From a distance, the Chipping sparrow resembles a Field sparrow. The two birds have similar colorings and rust-colored crests. You can identify an adult Chipping sparrow by its grey face and a black horizontal line that extends back from the eye.
They are perfectionists who often make several attempts to build the perfect nest, and as foragers, they often peck at the ground for insects. Chipping sparrows can live in Wisconsin all year, but they may migrate to Texas, Oklahoma, or Nebraskawhen the temperature drops.
|Diet||Seeds, flowers, insects, berries|
The Indigo bunting only comes to Wisconsin during the breeding season. These birds migrate to the Caribbean and Central America during the winter. Buntings travel at night when migrating, and they use the stars to guide them on the journey.
An adult male could be mistaken for a Blue jay, but the bunting is smaller and lacks a prominent crest. Adult Indigo bunting females are brown,and they build their nests low to the ground in fields, and along forest edges.
|Diet||Mainly fruits and berries, occasionally insects|
The Cedar waxwing is a colorful bird. Adults have a peachy-brown chest and bright yellow belly, and their backs may be black, grey, or brown. These birds will live anywhere they can find food, and ornamental berry trees often attract Cedar waxwings to suburban and urban areas.
They are social birds that flock and even nest together. The birds can stay in Wisconsin all year, but they have been known to migrate as far as Central America.
|Diet||Most plant material, black oil sunflower seeds|
House finches have a year-round presence in Southern Wisconsin, but sightings can occur throughout the state. These finches live in flocks that can number as many as 50 birds. The House finch lives up to its name by frequenting residential areas.
Adult males have a red head and belly, while adult females are brown and black. Unlike other backyard species, House finches feed primarily on plants, seeds, and berries. Although they’re abundant in North America, House finches have been in decline since 1996 due to a respiratory condition called mycoplasmal conjunctivitis.
|Diet||Mostly seeds, some insects|
The Dark-eyed junco will come to your bird feeder if you offer millet, and you won’t have to look too far to find a nest. The junco builds its nestunderneath buildings, on window ledges, and in light fixtures. You might even spot a breeding pair in a hanging plant.
The Dark-eyed junco is unique in that its coloring varies widely throughout the U.S. In Wisconsin, you’re most likely to see a grey junko. The bird’s calls can be heard several hundred feet away, and its song are similar to the Pine warbler’s calls.
|Diet||Insects, suet, black oil sunflower seeds|
The Downy woodpecker has distinguishing black and white checkered wings. Adult males have a red stripe along the back of their heads. These woodpeckers are year-round residents who appreciate bird feeders filled with suet and sunflower seeds.
They nest and forage in dead trees. In warmer weather, you may see them in open areas as they hunt for insects. Downy woodpeckers are relatively quiet in the winter, but they enjoy singing and drumming on trees during the spring and summer.
|Diet||Seeds, food waste, fish, frogs, mice, other birds|
|Lifespan||Up to 17 years|
The Common grackles breed throughout Wisconsin. They are short-distance migrants during the winter, but you may see them all year if you live along the Illinois border. Grackles forage in flocks and typically search for meals on the ground and in shallow water.
An adult female could be mistaken for a lanky crow, but males, on the other hand, have stunning, iridescent feathers. They have teal heads and bronze bodies, and theirwingtips can appear purple, peach, and blue.
Adult male American goldfinches are a vibrant yellow, with black wings and a distinctive black patch above their beaks. Adult females are a more subdued yellow with white, grey, or brown mottling. Outside of their breeding season, these finches will forage in flocks and search for seeds, tree sap, and insects.
They are also frequent visitors to suburban birdfeeders. Young American goldfinches leave the nest as early as two weeks old, but they’re fed by both parents before making their first flight.
|Diet||Insects, seeds, grain waste, sunflowers|
The Red-winged blackbird breeds throughout Wisconsin and residents who live along the Illinois border may catch a glimpse of these birds in the winter. Adult males are all-black except for a red and yellow patch on their shoulders.
Adult females look vastly different, with brown and white streaked bodies. Their typical diet includes caterpillars, spiders, snails, seeds, and berries. Red-winged blackbirds tend to congregate around marshy areas.
|Diet||Insects, seeds, nuts, corn|
The White-breasted nuthatch will flock to feeders with peanuts, suet, and peanut butter. The bird has a unique habit that involves wedging acorns into tree bark and pecking the shell to release the nut.Adult males and females look alike, with grey backs and white chests. Males have a black stripe down the middle of their heads. In females, this stripe is grey. When they nest, they often take over abandoned woodpecker cavities. In the winter, you can spot a nuthatch in a multi-species flock with woodpeckers, titmice, and chickadees.
|Diet||Insects, seeds, fruit, grains|
You’ll most likely see a Song sparrow in open habitats and suburban areas. The Song sparrow breeds in Wisconsin during the warmer months, and year-long sightings have been reported in the far southwestern tip of the state.
These sparrows are not picky eaters, and their diet varies by season and geographical location. Adults are cream and sandy brown with prominent rust-colored stripes. In the arid regions of the southwest, sparrows have pale plumage, but their feathers are more vibrant in Wisconsin and other midwestern states.
|Diet||Insects, plant material, seeds, nestling birds, lizards, minnows|
Red-bellied woodpeckers nest in dead trees, and sometimes they even build homes in fence posts. You may want to observe these woodpeckers from a distance, as they can be territorial. At feeders, they often scare off all other birds except blue jays.
Despite its name, the Red-bellied woodpecker’s red cap and nape are more prominent than its belly,but its chest and stomach can be pink or even pale orange. Sightings may be rare in the northern third of the state, but the bird’s numbers are increasing, after a brief decline in the early 20th century.
|Diet||Insects, fruit, seeds|
Rose-breasted grosbeaks frequent parks, gardens, orchards, and suburban areas. Adults males are easily visible, with a splash of red on their otherwise white chest and bellies, but the rest of their bodies are black. Females are mainly brown, with yellow striped bellies.
These birds migrate, but they may only go as far as southern Illinois or Indiana. Their preferred breeding spots include forested areas with pine, spruce, and pinyon trees. Grosbeaks often have to fight off their natural predator, the Blue Jay.
|Diet||Seeds, insects, snail shells, other bird eggs|
As their name denotes, adult male brown-headed cowbirds have cinnamon-colored heads. Their bodies are iridescent green, purple, and blue. Females have unremarkable coloring, with grey bodies and light brown heads.
Their migration range varies, butthey often spend the winters as close as Illinois or as far away as Mexico. The Brown-headed cowbird has some interesting family dynamics. Hens lay their eggs in other birds’ nests, and they don’t stick around to hatch the eggs or care for their young.
|Diet||Caterpillars, other insects, fruit, flowers, seeds,|
Red-eyed vireos act as foster parents to other nestlings. Female cowbirds who don’t raise their young will often abandon their eggs in vireo nests. Male Red-eyed vireos are true Wisconsin songbirds. They may wake you up first thing in the morning, as they’re known to sing before sunrise.
Vireos subsist on insects in the summer but also consume seeds and berries. The birds are named for their prominent red irises, and they have cream bellies and olive-green backs.
|Diet||Insects, seeds, berries|
Despite its name, the Northern flicker belongs to the woodpecker family, it nests in dead or diseased trees. The Northern flicker’s large beak curves slightly downward, and this physical characteristic allows them to hammer into the ground to find burrowing ants. The flicker will even peck through cow patties to find insects.
Their presence in Wisconsin may increase during the winter as Canadian flickers travel short distances to spend the winters here. Flickers are multi-colored birds with unique feather patterns, but their most distinguishing feature is their cream or light-brown bellies with black spots.
|Diet||Insects, fruit, seeds, suet|
The Hairy woodpecker can be found anywhere there are medium to large size trees. You can lure this otherwise insect-loving bird to your feeder with suet or peanut butter. A sudden presence of these birds can signal tree infestations because the Hairy woodpecker will take up residency to eat pest larvae.
This bird’s most distinguishing feature is its black and white striped face. You can see these woodpeckers all year, as they do not migrate out of Wisconsin.
|Diet||Mostly carpenter ants, rarely nuts, fruits, and berries.|
The Pileated woodpecker is easy for new bird watchers to spot. Adult males and females both have a cherry red crest, but the males also have a red stripe across their cheeks. These birds leave behind large rectangular holes when they forage in tree trunks and limbs.
They typically nest in woodland areas but favor dead trees. The Pileated woodpecker has a year-round presence in the state but isn’t typically seen in the greater Milwaukee area.
Wisconsin songbirds and woodpeckers are abundant throughout the state. However, your exact location and terrain will dictate which birds you see in your backyard. Bright red Northern cardinals are spotted everywhere, even in the heart of winter, but you’re more likely to spot woodpeckers if you live near larger, dead trees.
American crows are easy to identify, but novice bird watchers may have difficulty finding a camouflaged House wren. Wherever you are in Wisconsin, there are a variety of birds to see.
Featured Image Credit: Bonnie Taylor Barry, Shutterstock
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Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.
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