15 Popular Red Birds in Michigan (Ultimate Guide + Pictures)

Birdwatching, or birding, is a popular recreational activity of watching birds with either the naked eye or binoculars. You can practice birdwatching in person or online with live webcams. What are some popular red birds in Michigan you are going to spot ? 

Michigan is a great state to practice birding. They are home to over 450 bird species and have an abundance of birding trails, state parks, as well as outdoor recreational areas to practice birding. The most popular red bird observed in Michigan is the Northern Cardinal.   

Below we will look at the 15 different red birds you may observe while birding in the state of Michigan. 

Popular Red Birds in Michigan

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1. Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinal

The most common bird you will observe while birding in Michigan is the Northern Cardinal. Male Northern Cardinals have a bright red on their head, chest, and belly. They have a darker red on their back and wings. They have a dark black facemask around their beaks and eyes. Their beaks are bright red also.

The females in Northern Cardinal are not as brightly colored as the males. They have a slightly duller red color on their body and wings. They also have a gray facemask instead of the solid black ones found in the males.  

Northern Cardinals are medium-sized birds averaging 8 to 9 inches in length. The average weight of the Northern Cardinal is only 1.5 oz. They can be observed in Michigan at all times of the year. They feed mainly on seeds but can also feed on insects and fruit as well. 

2. House Finch

House Finch

The House Finch is another common red bird that can be observed in Michigan at all times of the year. The House Finch can be observed in settled areas and is commonly found at backyard feeders. They get their main diet from seeds, grains, and berries. They are medium-sized birds and are on average 5 to 6 inches long. They average less than one ounce in weight. 

The adult male House Finch can vary in color throughout the year depending on its diet. It can change from a bright crimson red to bright orange and even be a pale yellow depending on the season and diet of the bird. The females are not red. They have a dark brown on their top and wings and are streaked with brown and white on their underbelly. 

They are a native South American bird that did begin to migrate north until the mid-1940s. They did not reach Michigan and the midwest until the late 1980s to the early 1990s. 

3. Red Crossbill

Vermilion Flycatcher

The Red Crossbill get their names from its unique beak which crosses over each other at the tip. This bill is used to get into the closed cones. The Red Crossbill can place its beak under the cone scale and bite down to expose the seed hidden under the scale. 

These small birds are 5 to 7 inches in length. Adult male Red Crossbills are completely red with darker wings and tails. Female Red crossbills are yellowish on the bottom side, with dark brown coloring on their upper side. They do not migrate and can be observed all year long. Since they feed mostly on seeds, they will move to areas with an available food supply.

4. Red-Bellied Woodpecker

Red-Bellied Woodpecker

The Red-Bellied Woodpecker has a distinct black and white checkered pattern on its back and wings with an all-white belly with a spot of red in its center. They also have a red crown on their head and neck. It can commonly be confused with a Red-Headed Woodpecker. The female has a similar appearance, however, they will have a grey head with red on the top and neck.  

The Red-Bellied Woodpecker uses its beak to chip away at trees to feed on beetles, ants, and other insects that are found in the tree. They can pull their food out of the tree with their long tongue. They will also forage for food and will use their tongue to store food in the cracks of the tree as well. 

Red-Bellied Woodpeckers are 10 -12 inches long and can weigh 2 to 3 ounces in weight. They are non-migratory and can be observed in Michigan during each season of the year. 

5. Red-headed Woodpecker

Red-headed Woodpecker

The Red-Headed Woodpecker has a completely red head, with an all-white body and solid black wings, and a black tail. Their bill and legs are gray. The Red-Headed Woodpeckers are a non-dimorphic species, meaning the females and the males share the same appearance. 

They are the only woodpecker that can be found in Michigan with a completely red head. 

These midsize woodpeckers range from 7 to 10 inches long and can weigh between 2 to 3 oz. They live in open forests with plenty of dead and rotting trees and limbs. They will tend to use their nest for multiple years, unlike other woodpeckers that only use them for a short period. They feed on seeds, insects, berries, fruits, nuts, rodents, or the eggs of other birds.  

At one time the Red-Headed Woodpeckers were the most common woodpecker found in Michigan but their population has seen a significant decline. They are now considered a rare sight when birding. 

6. Scarlet Tanager

Scarlet Tanager

The male Scarlet Tanager has a bright red color with dark black wings and tail feathers. The females do not contain any red. They are yellow on their bellies with olive coloring on their wings and tail feathers. Adult Scarlet Tangiers are on average 6 to 7 inches long and weigh about 1 oz. 

They are only found in Michigan during the warm summer months. They will migrate to Central and South America during the winter months. They prefer warm weather and will arrive late in the spring and leave early in the fall when the temperature begins to drop. Despite their migration schedule, they are the only Tanager that actively breeds in Michigan.

Scarlet Tanager mainly feeds on insects, but is opportunistic and will feed on fruit if it is plentiful. They employ a sallying method of feeding. They swoop out from their perch to grasp a small insect such as a bee, fly or beetle out of mid-air, often returning to the same perch after capturing their prey.  

7. Summer Tanager

Summer Tanager

Summer Tanager is a medium size bid that ranges in size from 6 to 7 inches and weighs just about 1 oz. It is rare to spot a Summer Tanager in Michigan but they can sometimes be found along the coast of Lake Michigan and in the south of the state during the late summer and early fall season. 

The Summer Tanager males are a bright red color. The females are orange on their undersides and an olive color on their wings and tails. They are the only completely red bird in all of North America. They were placed with the true tanager families but are now considered part of the cardinal family. 

They mainly feed on bees and wasps. They catch their prey in mid-flight and beat them against the branches of the trees to kill them. They will also rub the bees against the rough bark to remove the stinger before they consume them. 

8. Ruby-Throated Hummingbird

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird

The Ruby-Throated Hummingbird is a tiny bird of only 2 to 3 inches in length and up to.7 oz in weight. They are migratory birds and spend the winter months in Central  America. Some even cross the Gulf of Mexico during their migration, which is a non-stop 900-mile flight. 

Hummingbirds have exceptional ability during flight. They can rotate their wings almost 180 degrees and can forward, backward, and even hover in midair. During hovering they can flap their wings up to 80 times in a single second. They also can breathe up to 250 times a minute and their hearts can beat 1,260 times a minute. 

Adult male Red-Throated Hummingbirds have a grey underbelly with a metallic green top and all-black wings. They are named for the red patch on their throat. Hummingbirds mainly feed on nectar from trees or flowers and small insects and spiders.

9. Purple Finch

Purple Finch

The Purple Finch are small songbirds that average 5 to 7 inches long. They weigh about 1 oz. Adult males have brown tails and wings, with dark red on their heads and chests. They have a mix of red and black on their tails. They have grey or white on their underside also. Most of the Purple Finches that are spotted in Michigan will have a grey underside.

The female Purple Finch has a white and grey undercarriage, with grey and brown covering the top of the bird’s wings and tail feathers. They also have a white line on their head just above their eyes. 

Purple Finches are foragers and their diet consists of insects, berries, and seeds. They spend the months of May to August breeding in the upper parts of Michigan, the northern parts of the United States, and the eastern parts of Canada. During the winter season, they migrate towards the south and spend the colder months in the eastern parts of the United States. 

10. Vermilion Flycatcher

Vermilion Flycatcher

The Vermilion Flycatcher is a small bird with a bright red on its underside and the top of its head. It has a black streak that comes off its eyes and extends downward covering the wings of the bird. The females are gray and brown on top with white and pink bellies. They are between 4 ½ and 5 ½ inches in length and weigh half an ounce. 

Vermilion Flycatchers are not usually found in Michigan. They are found all year round in the southwest portion of the United States but they have been known to migrate and have been spotted in the lakes around Michigan. They have even been spotted as far north as Maryland and Minnesota. 

Their diet, as their name suggests, consists mostly of insects that they pluck out of the air. It will spend most of its time perched at the top of a shrub or fence line until it can swoop down and pick off its prey.

11. Pine Grosbeak

Pine Grosbeak

The Pine Grosbeak is one of the largest species that is part of the finch family. It is 7 to 10 inches in length. They weigh 2 to 3 oz in weight. They are easy to spot if one does happen to make its way into your backyard feeder since they are larger than most of the other birds that visit. 

The adult males are mostly red with black and white tails and wings.  They have black circles around their eyes and black beaks. The females are mostly gray with brown heads and black and white wings. 

They mainly feed on seeds, insects, and berries. They are a northern bird and are mostly spotted in the northern part of the state as well as across Canada. They are non-migratory but may move further south during the winter months if their food supply becomes scarce. They are willing to travel long distances when in search of food bringing them to different areas where they would usually find habitat. 

12. White-Winged Crossbill (Two-barred Crossbill)

White-Winged Crossbill

The White-Winged Crossbill, known as the Two-Barred Crossbill are non-migratory birds that can be found in Michigan all year long. They will however migrate south to find a new source of food.

As with other crossbills, the White-Winged Crossbill, they have a crossed beak. They use their beak to feed mostly on conifer cones. Their unusual beak shape allows them to reach the seeds inside the cone. They will also eat grit found on the ground and any insects they find during the summer months.  

Most males have a redhead, back, and chest. Their wings and tail feathers are black. Their wings also have two distinct white marks on the wings as well. The female has a gray underbelly and a yellowish accent on the top of her chest and head. 

13. Rose-Breasted Grosbeak

Rose-Breasted Grosbeak

The Rose-Breasted Grosbeak is 7 to 8 inches long and can weigh between 1 to 2 oz. The males have a red spot on their chest just below their neck giving them the nickname cutthroat. Their heads are all black which extends down their back and wings. They have white spots on their wings and a completely white belly. 

The upper part of the female Rose-Breasted Grosbeak is dark gray mixed with brown. They have an all-white underbelly with yellowish linings on the wingtips and upper chest area. Their heads are mainly brown, with gray spots around their eyes. They have the same white markings on their head and tails as the males. 

Rose-Breasted Grosbeak forages in the shrubs or trees for berries, seeds, and Insects. They mainly stay at the tops of the trees and rarely travel down to the ground. They are migratory birds and spend the colder months in Central America. They can be spotted in Michigan between May and August. 

14. Common Redpoll

Common Redpoll

The Common Redpoll is a member of the finch family and measures 4 to 5 inches long. They can weigh around half an ounce. The adult males have a mostly grey head with streaks of brown through it. Their bellies are mainly white with patches of red on their upper chest and a red forehead. The females aren’t as colorful but have the same red forehead as the males. 

They are non-migratory birds and are very resistant to the colder temperatures of the winter. They have been known to tunnel into the snow to keep warm in the winter months. They only migrate south in search of a plentiful food supply. Its main diet consists of birch and alder seeds in the winter months. 

15. Red-Winged Blackbird

Red-Winged Blackbird

The Red-Winged Blackbirds are the most common blackbirds found in Michigan. The males are completely black and derive their name from the red patches found on their wings. The females are mostly brown and have a white streak and some gray on their heads. They also have a crimson red on their wings but it is not nearly as visible as the one found on the males.  

The male Red-Winged Blackbirds are between 8 to 9 inches in length, while the females are slightly smaller at only 6 to 7 inches. They are short-distance migratory birds and only travel a short distance to spend their winter months in the southern states. The Red-Winged Blackbirds are omnivorous and feed on both seeds and insects. 


Michigan has a variety of different landscapes which lends themselves perfectly to both native and migratory birds. There is a large and wide range of different bird species you may find when hiking or birding in the state. Some of the common red birds that call Michigan home include the Northern Cardinal, the Scarlet Tanager, the Red-Winged Blackbird, the Summer Tanager, and the Red-Headed Woodpecker.   

I hope you can spot one of these beautiful red birds the next time you are birding in the state of Michigan. 

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