Michigan Birds – Best Species To Watch For

michigan birds

Michigan is a really great state for bird watchers. With the list of Michigan birds standing at around 450 species, including an incredible 11 species of owls, there is plenty to see in the Great Lakes State. In this article, I’m going to highlight 15 great-looking and interesting Michigan birds that you can spot. So without further ado, let’s dive right in and get to know them.

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Michigan Birds – Best Species To Watch For

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1. American Robin

birds of michigan

The best bird to start off our list is none other than Michigan’s state bird, the American Robin. These are common birds in Michigan and can be found just about anywhere, often in suburbia. 

These common backyard birds of Michigan are easily identified by their orange undersides and dark grey back. Other obvious features that help with identification are the yellow bill and white ring around the eye. 

2. Sandhill Crane

michigan birds

Sandhill Cranes are the tallest and arguably the most elegant Michigan birds. These birds can be found in open wetland and marshy areas, but they will also feed in agricultural lands. Sandhill Cranes feed mostly on seeds and grains but will also feed on berries, insects, and small animals. 

These wonderful birds occur throughout Michigan in the summer months where they also breed. Sandhill Cranes mate for life, usually raising only a single chick per year.

3. Rose-breasted Grosbeak

backyard birds of michigan

Rose-breasted Grosbeaks are beautiful migratory birds that breed in Michigan in the summer months. These small birds are quite a sight with their bold black and white body and bright red chest.

Rose-breasted Grosbeaks can be found in forests and well-wooded suburban areas throughout Michigan. They eat insects, especially during the breeding season, as well as seeds and berries.  


4. Wood Duck

birds in michigan

If you thought ducks couldn’t be pretty, think again. The wood duck is an amazing American waterbird that can be found on and around freshwater bodies throughout the Great Lakes State. These Michigan birds definitely seem to prefer water bodies with plenty of cover, like water plants, brush piles and fallen trees. 

Wood ducks have a varied diet of seeds, fruits and insects that they seek out on the water or land. Wood ducks nest in cavities in large trees, and can even be encouraged to nest in back yards by putting up a nest box.  

5. Eastern Towhee

birds of southeast michigan

Eastern Towhees are sparrow-like birds native to Michigan. These birds are quite attractively marked with black backs, brick red sides, and pure white bellies. The females look very similar to the males but have chocolate brown coloring on the back.

These birds like dense, overgrown areas where they feed on the ground, seeking out seeds insects, and fruits to feed on. Eastern Towhees are common backyard birds in Michigan

6. Canada Warbler

list of michigan birds

With its back towards you in the undergrowth of a mossy forest, the Canada warbler does not stand out very well. Should it turn around to face you, however, its beautiful golden yellow face and underparts will immediately catch your eye. 

Male birds have black speckling on the throat and chest, and this is far less bold in the females. These birds breed in northern Michigan but can be seen right across the state. Canada Warblers undertake an incredible migration for such a small bird, traveling all the way from Canada and the northern states of the USA to South America and back each year. 

7. Ruffed Grouse

common birds in michigan

The Ruffed Grouse is excellently camouflaged to blend in with its surroundings on the forest floor, making this quite a challenging Michigan bird to spot. These birds are mostly vegetarian and eat mostly twigs, buds, and leaves. These are food sources that most other birds aren’t able to digest.

Interestingly, these ground birds are known to bury themselves in soft snow to roost in the winter. These birds can be found throughout most of the Great Lakes state where they are resident throughout the year. 

8. Winter Wren

birds of northern michigan

These active little birds breed in Michigan and can be found singing away as they scamper around in the dense brush. Even though they don’t have any bright colors, these are still great-looking birds with fine markings in shades of brown and black. 

These little birds tend to hop around, looking for their insect prey, with their tails held straight up in the air. Look out for these interesting small birds in Michigan in deciduous and evergreen forests.   

9. Horned Lark

birds native to michigan

Horned Larks are neat little birds of open habitats like fields where they scour the ground, looking for their favorite foods of insects and seeds. For the most part, these are pretty drab little birds, but surprisingly, their faces are very interestingly marked in black and yellow and it’s pretty obvious how they got their name when you see the little tufts of feathers on the sides of their heads. 

Horned Larks breed in Michigan where they select a nesting site on open, bare ground areas and feed their chicks on a diet of insects. These birds can be seen throughout the state but are better known as birds of southeast Michigan

10. Bohemian Waxwing

michigan bird identification

Bohemian waxwings are some of the neatest-looking little birds in Michigan. These fruit-eating travelers are present in the Great Lakes State in the non-breeding season. They can be seen in just about any habitat, as long as there is something fruiting in the area. 

These are usually birds of northern Michigan, but they are pretty unpredictable and can turn up just about anywhere within the state. 

11. Northern Saw-whet Owl

michigan bird identifier

The Northern Saw-whet Owl is the smallest owl found in Michigan. These little beauties occur throughout most of the Great Lakes State in a wide range of well-wooded habitats, although they prefer mature forests. 

These owls have excellent camouflage and huge, piercing yellow eyes that they use to spot their prey of rodents, birds, and insects after dark. 


12. Snowy Owl

small birds in michigan

In contrast with the previous species, the Snowy Owl is huge, being the largest owl in North America. These magnificent birds visit Michigan in the winter months after breeding way up north in the Arctic. 

Snowy owls like open habitats like fields where they can often be seen perched in prominent places like fence posts or on the ground. Snowy Owls often hunt in the daytime taking mammals like rabbits and squirrels as well as larger birds like ducks and seabirds.

13. Northern Harrier

birds of michigan

Northern Harriers are slim, hawk-like Michigan birds with bright yellow legs and eyes. These birds of prey eat a variety of small animals like rodents and muskrats, reptiles, frogs, and other birds which they hunt by flying low and slowly over open habitats like marshes and meadows.

Interestingly, harriers raise their chicks on a nest built on the ground in thick, tall grass. These birds are present throughout the year in Michigan where they are also known to breed. 

14. Trumpeter Swan 

michigan birds

The Trumpeter Swan is hands-down one of North America’s most impressive birds. These elegant waterbirds can weigh well over 20lbs and can be seen throughout most of Michigan. These birds are most often found in and around shallow, freshwater sources like ponds and lakes, although they can also be found foraging in agricultural lands. 

These graceful giants of the bird world mostly eat plant matter but will sometimes take fish as well when they can. Trumpeter Swans build their nests on structures that protrude from the water and beaver and muskrat dams are often their preferred choices.  

15. Red-headed Woodpecker

backyard birds of michigan

The Red-headed Woodpecker is one of the most outstanding woodpeckers in all America. These birds can be seen throughout Michigan, although the northern parts of the state can get a little too cold for them in the winter months.

Red-headed Woodpeckers live in various different woodland areas and they eat both insects and plant matter like seeds, nuts, and berries.

Final Thoughts

After reading through this list, I’m sure you’ll agree with me that Michigan is home to some pretty neat birdlife, isn’t it? Well, that’s just 15 of the birds you can spot in the Great Lakes State and there are over 400 other good reasons to start practicing your Michigan bird identification, so get out there and make some memories. Happy birdwatching!

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