A Comprehensive Guide to the Birds of Michigan

Michigan is home to an incredibly diverse array of both migratory and resident birds. With more than 400 recorded species in the state, birders have plenty of opportunities to see different types of birds within the Great Lakes region. From warblers and woodpeckers to eagles and owls, Michigan’s extensive range of habitats supports a wide array of feathered creatures.

In this guide, we’ll learn about Michigan’s most common bird species, their behavior and habitat preferences, as well as the best spots in the state to observe them. Whether you’re new to birding or an experienced birder looking for more great places to go, read on to find out all the details you need to know about birds in Michigan.

Tell me the most common bird in Michigan

1. Mute Swans

Mute Swans

The Mute Swan is a bird of freshwater wetlands, such as lakes, marshes, and riverbanks in Europe, Asia, and parts of North America. It gets its name not from being actually mute (it can make a variety of hissing, grunting, and honking noises), but from the fact that it is less vocal than other swan species.

The Mute Swan is the national bird of Denmark and is also found on the coats of arms of the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Samoa. In North America, the Mute Swan was introduced to Michigan in the 1930s for ornamental reasons. Although it is not native to the state, the Mute Swan has since become quite common there. In fact, the bird is now so abundant that it is considered an invasive species in Michigan.

The Mute Swan has a variety of predators, including humans (who may hunt it for food or sport), large mammals (such as bears or coyotes), and birds of prey (such as eagles or owls). As a result, the bird faces many challenges to its survival. However, populations have remained relatively stable in recent years due to conservation efforts.

2. Red-winged Blackbird

The red-winged blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) is a common and abundant songbird of North America. It is one of the most widespread and familiar birds in its range. Red-winged blackbirds are found throughout Michigan, inhabiting grasslands, wetlands, overgrown fields, and other open areas.

This bird is well-known for its bright red and yellow shoulder patches. The male is mostly black with a glossy greenish sheen to its feathers, while the female is duller in color. In addition to their distinctive colors, these birds are also known for their loud and varied songs. Red-winged blackbirds often sing from high perches and even in flight.

Red-winged blackbirds feed mainly on various insects and small invertebrates, but they will also eat grains and some fruits. They nest in the spring and summer months, often building cup-shaped nests made of grasses and other materials. These birds are highly social, living in large flocks made up of dozens to thousands of individuals.

Red-winged blackbirds are an important species for Michigan’s ecology, providing both insect control and seed dispersal services. They also have a positive economic impact on the state’s agricultural industry.

This bird’s bright colors and melodious songs make it a popular choice for birders and other nature lovers. Red-winged blackbirds are an iconic species of Michigan’s natural world.

3. Great White Egret

Great White Egret

The great egret (Ardea alba), also known as the common egret, large egret or great white heron, is a large, widely distributed egret. It is found on all continents except Antarctica, and it is the symbol of the National Audubon Society. The great white egret can be spotted in Michigan, traveling along its coastal wetlands, rivers, and lakes.

This long-legged bird has a white body with black legs and yellow feet, as well as a striking S-shaped neck. The feathers on the back of their head form a crest or “plume,” which is especially attractive during their mating season. They use this plumage to attract potential mates.

The great egret feeds on small fish, amphibians, reptiles, and insects found in shallow water. Its long neck enables them to feed by plunging their head underwater and striking its prey with lightning speed. During the summer months they can often be seen perched atop trees or fence posts looking for food along Michigan’s lakes and rivers.

The great egret is a protected species in Michigan and around the country, and its population is slowly increasing thanks to conservation efforts. If you’re lucky enough to spot one of these majestic birds in Michigan, take some time to appreciate its beauty and importance to our ecosystem!

4. Common Loon

The Common Loon (Gavia immer) is a species of large aquatic bird that can be found in and around the waters of Michigan. It is sometimes referred to as a “Great Northern Diver” or simply as a loon.

This species has black and white plumage, with a white belly and bright red eyes. Its bill is sharp, thin and black in color. The Common Loon is well adapted for swimming, with webbed feet and a streamlined body shape.

The Common Loon is an aquatic bird that tends to stay close to the shorelines of rivers, lakes, ponds and marshes. It feeds mainly on small fish, crustaceans and aquatic insects. It can dive up to 200 feet deep in search of its prey.

During the summer months, it nests on the shorelines or islands near water bodies. The Common Loon typically lays two to three eggs per clutch and takes about four weeks for them to hatch.

In Michigan, the Common Loon is a fairly common species that breed in the state during the summer months. They are a species of special concern in Michigan due to their declining population. The main threats to their population include habitat loss and degradation, water pollution, commercial fishing, and hunting.

Conservation efforts are underway to protect this species and its habitats throughout Michigan, such as restoration projects, education programs and research initiatives.

The Common Loon is an important species to Michigan and its waters. It enriches the state’s biodiversity and contributes to healthy aquatic ecosystems.

It also serves as an important indicator of environmental health, as it is sensitive to changes in water quality. This species is a valuable resource that should be protected for future generations to enjoy and benefit from.

5. Northern mockingbirds

Northern mockingbirds

The northern mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) is a medium-sized bird that is native to Michigan. This species of songbird can be found in dense thickets, open woodlands, parks, and suburban areas.

They are characterized by having grayish-brown upper parts with white wing patches and white underparts. Northern mockingbirds are known for their loud and melodious songs, which typically consist of three to six notes. They use a variety of vocalizations to advertise their presence during the breeding season.

Northern mockingbirds feed mainly on insects and spiders, but also eat fruits and berries in the winter months. During the summer months, they may supplement their diet with small lizards and frogs. Northern mockingbirds often travel in pairs during the breeding season and may be seen chasing away potential predators.

In Michigan, northern mockingbirds are most active from April to October. During this time, they can be heard singing throughout the day and night. They typically nest in shrubs or small trees, but may use man-made structures such as street lights or telephone wires for nesting.

Northern mockingbirds are an important component of Michigan’s avian diversity, and their presence adds to the vibrancy of our state’s natural landscapes. They are a great species to observe and appreciate, and their vocalizations can bring joy to any outdoor experience.

6. Common Redpoll

Common Redpolls are small, sparrow-sized finches found in open areas of coniferous forests and farmland. Though they live year-round in Michigan, many migrate south during the winter months to seek food.

These little birds have a black cap on their head that extends down along their neck, giving them a unique appearance. They also have a reddish-brown breast and a white belly, with bars of black on the wings and tail feathers. During the breeding season, males can be identified by their bright red forehead and cheeks.

Common Redpolls feed mostly on small seeds, including those found in weeds like dandelions and pigweed. They also like to eat thistle, and they’ll take advantage of feeders filled with sunflower seeds or nyjer seed.

When looking for a mate, Common Redpolls sing a sweet song that sounds like “chirpity churp churp” over and over. Breeding occurs in summer, and the female builds a nest of twigs, grasses, and other plant material. The average clutch size is 3-7 eggs.

Common Redpolls are relatively common in Michigan during the winter months. Keep your eyes peeled as you’re out birding – if you’re lucky enough, you might spot one!

7. Barn Owls

Barn Owls

Barn owls are a species of owl most commonly found in Michigan. They tend to live in open fields and grasslands, but can also be found near wooded forests and wetlands. Barn owls have distinctive yellow eyes, white underparts, and grayish-brown backs.

These birds are known to make loud screeching sounds at night to communicate with each other. In Michigan, barn owls are known for their fierce hunting skills. They hunt small rodents such as mice, voles, and shrews as well as fish and insects. They have excellent vision and hearing that helps them locate prey in the dark

Barn owls also have long wings which allow them to fly silently in order to surprise their prey. Barn owls build their nests on the ground in shallow depressions or cavities, often beneath tree roots and stumps. They often nest near farms and other open areas that provide abundant food sources for them.

In Michigan, barn owls are a species of concern due to declining populations. Conservation efforts are in place to help protect these beautiful birds.

8. Piping Plovers

Piping Plovers are small shorebirds that breed in Michigan during the summer months. They are only 4-7 inches long with a wingspan of 12-14 inches. The adults have a pale sandy-colored back, white belly, and two black bands on their necks.

Their feathers also have a unique speckled pattern. Piping Plovers have adapted to Michigan’s changing climates, tolerating both cold and hot temperatures.

They are listed as threatened species due to habitat loss and human disturbance. They typically breed in areas with large expanses of beach along the Great Lakes, like Lake Huron or Lake Michigan. The eggs and chicks need to be protected from predators and humans.

To help protect the Piping Plovers, it is important to keep pets away from the nesting area and be mindful of your footsteps when near their nesting grounds.

Michigan is a great place to watch these birds during their breeding season in May through August. The best time to visit is typically early morning or just before sunset. If you’re lucky, you may even spot a plover foraging for food in the wet sand.

They like to eat small invertebrates like insects and crustaceans. It can be quite a spectacle to observe them running around in the waves while they search for food!

The Piping Plover is a species of conservation concern and is listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in Michigan. It is therefore important we do our part to protect their habitat and nesting grounds.

The best way to help them is by following all the regulations set out by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, such as keeping pet animals away from their nesting areas, not disturbing the birds, and respecting all signs placed around the habitat. With our help, we can keep these amazing birds thriving in Michigan for years to come!

9. Snow Bunting

The Snow Bunting (Plectrophenax nivalis) is a songbird of the family Emberizidae, native to arctic and subarctic regions of North America, Europe, and Asia. The species breeds mainly in northern Canada, Alaska and Siberia. In winter they can migrate south into the Great Lakes region of the United States and northern Europe.

In Michigan, they typically breed in the Upper Peninsula and winter in the Lower Peninsula. The Snow Bunting is a small bird, approximately 15 cm (6 in) long. It has a bright white body with black streaks on its wings and tail feathers.

Snow Buntings are usually found in open habitats such as tundra, grasslands, and fields. During the breeding season they feed mainly on insects, spiders and seeds. In winter, they feed mostly on weed seeds. They are surprisingly hardy birds that can survive temperatures as low as -40°C (-40°F).

Snow Buntings have a melodious song which they sing during courtship. They also make a distinctive ‘tchip’ call which they use as an alarm call when threatened by predators. Snow Buntings form flocks in winter, often numbering in the hundreds or thousands of birds.

These flocks can be seen gathering at bird feeders and other open habitats in Michigan during the winter months. These birds are an exciting sight for bird watchers as they are rarely seen in large numbers outside of winter.

Overall, the Snow Bunting is a beautiful and resilient species that can be seen in Michigan during the colder months of the year. They make a lovely addition to any backyard, and their presence serves as a reminder of just how special Michigan’s wildlife can be.

10. American Robin

American Robin

The American Robin is a migratory bird that is common in Michigan. It is a member of the thrush family and is easily recognizable by its orange breast. The American Robin breeds in open woodlands and makes its nest in trees, shrubs, or on the ground. It feeds on insects, earthworms, berries, and fruits.

The American Robin is active during the day and can often be seen perched on telephone wires or foraging for food on lawns. In winter, it forms large flocks and can often be seen in residential areas raiding bird feeders. The American Robin is an important part of the ecosystem as it helps to control insect populations. It is also a popular bird with birdwatchers and is considered to be a sign of spring.

11. Belted Kingfisher

The Belted Kingfisher is a large, chunky bird that can be seen in parts of Michigan. It has a distinctive crest on the head, and its plumage ranges from blue-gray to rusty brown. The adults are easily identified by their bright white chest and belly with a broad black stripe across it, as well as a rufous band around the neck.

Their diet consists mainly of small fish, which they capture by diving from a perch into the water. They also feed on insects, frogs, and even small rodents. The Belted Kingfisher is usually seen perched on low branches overhanging streams or lakes. It can be found in wooded areas near water, making it a common sight in Michigan.

12. Short-eared Owl

Short-eared Owl

The short-eared owl is a bird of prey that is found in Michigan. It has a wingspan of about two feet and is brown with white spots. The short-eared owl is nocturnal, meaning it is active at night. It feeds on small mammals, such as mice and voles.

The short-eared owl nests in trees or on the ground. During the day, the short-eared owl perches in tree branches or on fences. At night, it hunts for food. The short-eared owl is a Michigan bird of prey that is nocturnal and has a wingspan of two feet.

It is brown with white spots, and it feeds on small mammals, such as mice and voles. The short-eared owl nests in trees or on the ground, and during the day it perches in tree branches or on fences. At night, the short-eared owl hunts for food.

13. Golden Eagles

The golden eagle is a large bird of prey found in Michigan. It has a wingspan of up to 8 feet and is brown with white spots on its head and neck. The golden eagle feeds on small mammals, such as rabbits and hares, as well as birds. The golden eagle nests in trees or cliffs, often at high altitudes.

During the day, the golden eagle perches in tree branches or on cliffs. At night, it hunts for food. The golden eagle is a Michigan bird of prey that has a wingspan of up to 8 feet and is brown with white spots. It feeds on small mammals such as rabbits and hares, as well as birds.

The golden eagle nests in trees or cliffs, often at high altitudes. During the day, it perches on tree branches or cliff edges, and at night hunts for food.

14. Cerulean Warbler

The Cerulean Warbler (Setophaga cerulea) is a small songbird of the New World warbler family. It is one of Michigan’s smallest breeding warblers and can be found in hardwood forests across the state from April to August. The Cerulean Warbler males have light blue tops, white bellies, and thin white stripes on their heads.

Females have duller colors of grayish-blue on the back and yellowish-white bellies. The Cerulean Warbler breeds primarily in mature deciduous forests with a wide range of tree species, including oak, beech, maple, hickory, and tulip poplar. As a migratory species, the Cerulean Warbler is found in Central and South America during winter months.

15. House Finch

 House Finch

Michigan is home to a variety of bird species, many of which are native to the state. Michigan birders can enjoy watching colorful songbirds like the American goldfinch and the northern cardinal, as well as more subdued birds like the pileated woodpecker and the Cooper’s Hawk.

Michigan is also home to a number of endangered bird species, including the Kirtland’s warbler and the piping plover. In addition to being beautiful creatures, birds play an important role in our ecosystem by pollinating flowers and controlling insect populations. For these reasons, it is important to protect bird habitats in Michigan.

There are a number of ways that birders can help, such as reporting sightings of rare bird species, participating in citizen science programs, and advocating for policies that protect bird habitats. By working together, we can ensure that Michigan remains a haven for birds for generations to come.

16. American Goldfinch

The American Goldfinch is a small, vocal bird. It is about 5 inches long and has bright yellow feathers with black wings and a tail. Its calls are high pitched, often described as being “per-chic-o-ree” or “PO-ta-to chip” like.

American Goldfinches are found throughout Michigan, in both open and closed habitats. They typically feed on insects and seeds, often using their feet to manipulate smaller surfaces to reach food. Goldfinches also enjoy sunflower seeds put out by birdwatchers, but they can also be attracted with nyjer seed feeders.

Goldfinches tend to flock together and are often seen in large flocks during the fall migration. They typically migrate from areas in Michigan to southern states such as Texas and Florida, returning in the spring for the breeding season.

Goldfinches usually nest near open fields or other shallow woods and lay between four to six eggs each year. Their nests are built with twigs and lined with soft material such as fur or feathers.

In Michigan, the American Goldfinch is a common bird to see all year round if you know where to look. With its bright yellow color, cheery song, and interesting diet, it is sure to bring joy to your backyard’s birds. If you are looking for a bird to bring some life to your outdoor space, the American Goldfinch is a great choice.

17. Northern Cardinals

Northern Cardinals

Northern Cardinals are one of the most colorful birds found in Michigan. These brightly colored birds can be seen across the state, and often make their presence known with their loud chirping calls. Northern Cardinals have a bright red body and crest, with black facial markings.

They also have a distinctive white patch on their wings that is visible when they are in flight. Northern Cardinals feed on a variety of seeds, fruits and insects, and they often visit bird feeders to get an easy meal. They are typically found in wooded areas but can also be seen in urban parks and gardens.

Some interesting facts about Northern Cardinals include that females have brown feathers instead of red, that they mate for life, and that they lay three to four eggs per clutch. Northern Cardinals can also live up to 12 years in the wild.

18. Red-breasted Nuthatch

The red-breasted nuthatch is a small bird that is native to North America. Michigan is home to many of these birds, which are easily recognizable by their striking plumage. The red-breasted nuthatch has a black cap and back, with a white throat and underparts.

Its most distinctive feature is the large patch of bright red on its breast. These birds are relatively small, measuring only 4-5 inches in length. However, they are very vocal birds, and their calls are often heard before they are seen. The diet of the red-breasted nuthatch consists primarily of insects and nuts.

These birds use their sharp beaks to open the hard shells of acorns and other nuts. In winter, when food is scarce, they often form flocks and search for food together. The red-breasted nuthatch is a interesting bird that is sure to bring enjoyment to any bird lover.

19. Rose-breasted Grosbeak

 Rose-breasted Grosbeak

The Rose-breasted Grosbeak (Pheucticus ludovicianus) is a large, seed-eating songbird that is named for its bright rose-colored breast patch. It is native to North America and commonly found in Michigan during the summer months. This species of bird typically migrates south during the winter and can be seen in southern states like Florida and Texas.

Rose-breasted Grosbeaks have a distinct appearance, with bright black and white wings and tail feathers, a pink chest patch, and dark gray to black head. Males of the species are typically brighter than females. The birds feed on a variety of insects and small fruits, including cherries, grapes and blackberries.

Rose-breasted Grosbeaks are considered to be a relatively noisy species of bird. The males sing loud and clear songs during the breeding season in order to attract mates. Their song is often described as a mix between a robin and canary-like warbles.

Rose-breasted Grosbeaks prefer to live in deciduous forests with dense vegetation, but they can be found in a variety of habitats, including riparian areas and suburban parks. They typically build their nests in shrubs or trees near the edge of woodland areas and often forage on the ground.

Rose-breasted Grosbeaks are an important species of songbird in Michigan, where they help to regulate insect populations and disperse seeds from fruit-bearing plants. They also provide a unique source of beauty in their natural habitat, making them a favorite among birders.

The best time to spot these birds is from late April through early June when the males are actively singing to attract mates. Additionally, winter months bring a more diverse migrant population of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, making them easier to spot in Michigan’s forests.

If you’re looking for a unique bird-watching experience, be sure to check out Michigan’s Rose-breasted Grosbeaks. They offer beautiful sights and sounds, making them an exciting species to observe in their natural environment.

20. American Kestrel

The American kestrel is a bird of prey that can be found throughout the United States. Although it is not the largest bird of prey, it is still an impressive creature, with a wingspan of up to three feet. The American kestrel is also known as the “sparrow hawk,” due to its small size and its diet of small birds.

In Michigan, the American kestrel is a common sight, often perching on power lines or hunting in open fields. These striking birds are easily recognizable, with their reddish-brown plumage and black bands on their tails. Although they are not currently listed as endangered, the American kestrel population has declined in recent years, making them a bird that is worth watching and protecting.


Michigan’s diverse bird population has something to offer to everyone who loves birds and nature. Whether you’re looking for a colorful collection of songbirds, a majestic bald eagle soaring over the river, or just some backyard chirping, Michigan’s avian population can provide it all. With an estimated 450 species in the state, Michigan is a great place to experience a variety of bird species in their natural habitat.

With careful observation, you can find many different birds throughout the state, but also take part in several activities such as camping, hiking, and nature walks that will bring you closer to these amazing creatures. Whether you’re an experienced birder or just beginning your journey, Michigan’s birds will be sure to provide you with lasting memories and plenty of enjoyment.

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