MIchigan Birds can bring us joy any time of the year.
While getting outside to go birdwatching is a great summer activity, don’t underestimate the joy a bird outside the window in winter can bring. You may even discover that your new favorite winter activity is watching through the window as birds flock to your feeder and eating seeds while you sit cozy with a hot chocolate.
You’ll see all the birds that stay in Michigan during the winter months or even migrate from Canada as the snow falls and the air gets chilly. Your winter bird feeders and feeding stations will be a bright spot in during the cold Michigan winter. You can find more about feeding birds here.
From iconic favorites like Cardinals and Crows, to underrated cuties like Chickadees and Titmice, here are fifteen winter birds you simply must keep an eye out for this season.
Black-Capped Chickadees are a year-round resident in Michigan, but when the cold weather settles in, the flock thins and they become the most commonly spotted bird through the winter. This common Found in forests, open woods, and parks where they feed on seeds, berries, bugs, black oil sunflower seeds and suet (bird-safe beef fat).
The Black-Capped Chickadee is an adorable bird with a big head and little round body. The body is mostly gray, but they have white cheeks and a head capped in black, as the name suggests. Aside from their cuteness, these little birds are also notoriously friendly and curious. They will even feed from your hand, however, they tend not to stick around long because they like to grab a seed, then go to a perch to snack on it.
Fun Fact: Chickadees have a remarkable spatial memory which allows them to keep track of where they’ve hidden food for at least a month after stashing it.
Another winter star is Michigan’s White-Breasted Nuthatch. Their gray-blue feathers, white bellies and faces, and black cap give them a real sleek look on top, but the chestnut color on the lower belly and below the tail add a nice warm tone to the mix. They love deciduous forests and woodlands as well as parks and yards, especially ones with a feeder.
They love to snack on bugs, including beetles, their larvae, caterpillars, ants, spiders, and more, but you don’t need to stuff a feeder with insects to attract them. Like other bird species, they eat plenty of nuts and seeds.
Fun Fact: To eat large nuts and acorns, these birds will jam them into tree bark and whack them with their bills to open or “hatch” them and get to the seed – hence the name Nuthatch.
The Red-Breasted Nuthatch is much like its cousin the White-Breasted Nuthatch, however, they’re a little bit more colorful with a bright rusty-colored belly. They tend to stay all year in northern states and Canada but have been known to move south during winter depending on cone crops.
Look for Red-Breasted Nuthatches in coniferous woods feeding on the cones produced by the trees. Aside from pine cones, they love seeds, nuts, suet, and even mealworms.
Fun Fact: Nuthatches will apply conifer resin to the entrance of their nesting hole in order to protect it against competitors.
Friendly neighbors to the Chickadees and Nuthatches, Downy Woodpeckers are also year-round residents that tend to be more commonly spotted during winter. While their black and white coloration and red patch on the back of their heads makes them look a lot like their Hairy Woodpecker cousins, Downy Woodpeckers are significantly smaller.
This suburbanite can be found in woodlots, along streams, parks, and even backyards. They’re excellent help in a garden, since their diet consists mostly of bugs and pests, including beetle larvae, but they also enjoy berries, acorns, and grains.
Fun Fact: Downy Woodpeckers have special feathers around their nostrils to keep them from breathing in wood chips or dust while they peck at trees.
The Hairy Woodpecker is something like the Downy’s big brother, since they look nearly identical save for their size; Hairy Woodpeckers are a little bigger than the Downy variety. They also occupy similar spaces, enjoying the woods, forests, and parks, but not excluding the feeding opportunities found in backyards.
Like their smaller doppelgangers, Hairy woodpeckers mostly eat insects, but will never say no to some suet, sunflower seeds, or nuts. This diet often makes them a welcome guest in the backyards of gardeners, since they act as a natural pest control.
Fun Fact: The Hairy Woodpecker has more than 17 recognized subspecies across North America.
Red-Bellied woodpeckers are the second most common Woodpecker species in Michigan. They stand out strong against their Hairy and Downy cousins with a pale red belly and bright red cap and neck.
This coloration blends into the trees when looking from below, but when looking straight on or from above, the red contrasts strongly against the woods and forests where they’re often found snacking on insects and spiders. They will also eat acorns, nuts, pine cones, seeds, and fruit, but they will come to a yard for a feeder filled with suet, if you want a better view.
Fun Fact: Red-Bellied Woodpeckers are attracted to noises that resonate. You can catch them tapping on metal gutters, aluminum roofs, and other objects of similar materials to attract mates.
The Tufted Titmouse is as cute as its name suggests, with big, round eyes, a gray back, white belly, and a little gray crest that sticks up from the head. They flock often with Chickadees, Nuthatches, and Woodpeckers, but they can be a bit assertive over their smaller friends when it comes to food.
In woodlands, parks, and even backyard feeders, Tufted Titmice love to snack on all kinds of bugs, nuts, seeds, and even berries. Attract them with sunflower seeds and peanuts, but if you want to host a couple, try putting up a nest box for a breeding pair to call home.
Fun Fact: Tufted Titmice mate for life, meaning if you host a breeding pair in your yard, you can probably consider yourself something of a bird matchmaker.
Perhaps the quintessential winter bird, the Northern Cardinal’s bright red stands out beautifully against the snow, despite being a year-round resident. The females even look striking with their brown coloring with red highlights.
While they tend to stick to woodlands, the occasional Northern Cardinal may find its way into a backyard, especially if there’s a feeder filled with their favorite snacks, like black oil sunflower seeds, peanut hearts, millet, or milo. Be mindful, however, that Northern Cardinals are heavy birds, and need good support from feeders.
Fun Fact: During breeding season, Northern Cardinals may be found attacking their own reflections as they become obsessive about defending their territory.
Despite them being a bit less common in the winter, American Robins are still here as the weather gets cold. Due to them being highly common in the state, most Michiganders are familiar with the American Robin’s black bodies with bright orange or red chests.
This suburbanite loves foraging front lawns for earthworms when the weather is nice, but when it gets cold, turn your eyes up to see them roosting in trees. Try attracting them to your backyard with the snacks they love while they’re scarce during winter. Sunflower seeds, suet, peanut hearts, fruit, or mealworms should attract plenty of roosting robins to your feeder.
Fun Fact: The American Robin is Michigan’s state bird, so of course we had to give them a shout-out!
You can read more about Michigan state symbols here, as well as information about Petoskey Stones and Yooperlites.
American Tree Sparrow
About the Author-
Bella DiMascio is a Content Editor at mymichiganbeach.com. She grew up in the Detroit suburb of Westland and later attended Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo where she majored in Communication Studies and minored in English: Writing. Creative writing has been a hobby and interest of Bella’s since she was in elementary school and she is thrilled to be using her talents to highlight the Great Lakes State. Outside of writing, Bella enjoys getting outside with her two Australian Shepherds, playing video games, and binging shows on Netflix.