The Birds of Michigan: Working out the beautiful birds of Michigan

The Birds of Michigan: Working out the beautiful birds of Michigan

Great Lake State
Want to know more about the avian life that makes up the wonderful Wolverine State? Then come and check out the various birds of Michigan that you will find across this state.

As a resident of Michigan, you are living in one of the most naturally beautiful states in the whole of America. 

Few parts of the country can live up to Michigan when it comes to beauty, grandeur, and charm. Indeed, if you are new to the state, you might be taken aback by just how focused on the landscape this state is. 

While other states are built on urban empires, part of what makes Michigan so special is the passion it has for the land that was here long before any human being.

The state is a major part of the Great Lakes region of America and is a truly special place to spend your time. If you choose to come here, though, you might find it surprising that this is the tenth most populous state in the country. 

Given how it is one of the largest in terms of landmass, too, it might surprise you to know that major cities such as Lansing and Detroit are based in this state!

However, while we could spend all day marvelling at the urban beauty that has cropped up in Michigan, the true beauty here stems from its nature. 

The nation is one of the most special places for those who like to take part in some natural travel and some sight-seeing. However, for true lovers of nature and all natural life, then you might wish to come here to see the famous Michigan birds.


Michigan: Is this a bird-friendly state?

Oh massively! Few states in the USA have such a diverse and range of different kinds of birds. From the gorgeous little American Robin, the state bird, to various other smaller and more unique birds, this is a state where winged life can feel very safe. 

Indeed, there is something truly special about the birds in this state as they tend to arrive at different times of year. Some birds are here all-year round, while some arrive for smaller periods of time during the year. 

This is a state with a massive love of birds and has become a major part of the state’s natural economy. Many people come birdwatching across the state of Michigan, with so many different birds to be found and admired from up close. 

If you are looking for a reason to come to Michigan, then seeing the numerous birds of Michigan might make good sense. It’s a great place to come to if you are looking for different kinds of wildlife that you will see in the state.

Seen a bird you want to know more about? Then use our Michigan bird identifier to try better understand the avian life that you see up-high in the sky.

How many different kinds of Michigan birds are there?

When you look into the kind of bird life that exists across Michigan, then you might be shocked at the sheer variety. 

Indeed, official state lists mark over 450 different species of bird that have been spotted across the state. Some are seen as ‘accidental’ bird species that have perhaps came to Michigan and stuck around. 

Others, though, have either become extinct over time or have simply become extirpated. For that reason, you should try to remember that not all of the major bird species in Michigan are either natives here or still linger in the state.

Even with some of the various birds of Michigan missing, though, the state does a great job of making sure that you are never short on birds to see as you travel around the state. 

If you are looking for a list of some of the most popular backyard birds of Michigan for example, you might wish to check through our list. 

In this list, we have broken down what we believe to be some of the most precious, special, and important forms of avian life that you will find across the state of Michigan.

Spotting birds in Michigan

If you do wish to come to Michigan and go on a little bird hunt, then we highly recommend that you invest in binoculars. Birds will rarely stick around human beings if we get too close, especially out in the wild. 

As such, you should be looking for ways to spot birds in Michigan from far away enough that you do not disturb. To see the best birds in Michigan, then, you should definitely invest in some binoculars!

Binoculars will make sure that you can get help in finding the best birds from afar. If you are going to buy binoculars, then we highly recommend that you look into options such as those from Celestron, Bushenll and SkyGenius. 

All three are renowned for creating quality binoculars that would make a good solution for your upcoming trip.

If you intend on enjoying a trip to spot birds in Michigan, then you should definitely look to try and spot some of the birds we have included on this list. This list includes some of the most important birds you’ll find state-wide.

The most popular birds found in Michigan

Black-capped , image

Black-capped chickadee

The black-chapped chickadee is easily one of the most popular birds in Michigan. You often see this bird a lot during the winter months and is most commonly found around the northern half of the USA. 

They are quite small birds in terms of their size, though they do have notable round bodies and quite round heads which can be surprisingly large compared to other birds you might feel.

Their tails stand out a mile away, too, with the long and rounded tip on the tail making it very easy to spot from afar. 

They also tend to be a very distinctive colour of grey, though it is common for a bird to have a buffy colour underneath their shape. They also tend to have a black cap and bib, with little white edging on key parts of their bodies including their feathers.

You will often find them eating seeds, birds, and berries on a common base. You might also spot them mostly in forested areas, as they tend to try to stick to areas with prodigious amounts of forestry. 

They tend to be seen moving from tree to tree, looking for insects and other food to enjoy.


American Robin, image

American Robin

Out of all the birds you might find loitering around in the backyard, though, the American Robin comes very high up on the list. 

These adorable little birds tend to hang around open woodland and farms, though they are often seen on our lawns as well. 

they migrate around a lot and tend to come into the USA during the winters. You will see them looking for food as they jump around your lawn.  

You might also hear them in the early springtime, as their little songs are a key part of early morning spring life here in Michigan. 

These little plump birds can be quite bit and can be around 10” in size when they are in full strength. 

The straight yet slender bill makes them quite a standout, too, while they also tend to be easily spotted thanks to their rust coloured breasts contrasting with the grey-brown upper body.

If you want to feed an American Robin, then you might want to find some worms and the like for them. They tend to love invertebrates and are quite likely to hang around to heat. They also are quite fond of small pieces of fruit, like berries.


Northern Cardinal, image

Northern Cardinal

The Cardinal is one of the most striking birds in Michigan. Their combination of bright red colouring and their little black faces stand out a mile away from other birds in your backyard. 

They tend to b quite dainty in size, with their size often a good bit smaller than the above-mentioned American Robin. 

More importantly, the also have plump little bodies and long tails that tend to look a good bit fuller than other birds in Michigan.

They also tend to have quite short bills. If you see a Northern Cardinal, then look out for a bird that will be hanging around shrubbery and woodland mostly. 

They also are commonly seen hanging around flowers and the like, eating any seeds that drop off them. 

They eat a lot of black oil sunflower seeds, so if you want to try and attract some little Northern Cardinals to your home then you might wish to leave some seeds out.

Other dietary options include various seeds, berries, and nuts to help them stay strong and healthy. 

Ambitious little birds who you will see mostly hanging around where you can find many seeds on the ground. Very interesting, enterprising little birds.

Blue Jay, image

Blue Jay

When it comes to enjoying animal life, one of the most common names to come up in most searches would be the Blue Jay. 

These are well-known birds across the state and are one of the most popular animal species that you will find in backyards across Michigan. 

These little omnivores are quite rare in the bird world, but they do tend to have a thing for bird feeders. If you want to see more Blue Jays, leave more feeders out in the garden for them!

The Blue Jay is also a good choice for snapping photos of as they tend to hang around towns and gardens a lot more than the chickadee. 

They are quite bold and confident birds, but if you see one being aggressive with a smaller bird it might be wise to intervene. 

They also have a habit of overeating and storing food for later in their crop, stashing the food they have taken. 

While some bird lovers can find them to be a touch arrogant, they are a very good little bird to have around the garden. Their striking blue and white style with black collars make them a very contrastive avian to look at.

American Goldfinch, image

American Goldfinch

The Goldfinch is quite a common breed of bird in Michigan. They are beautiful little birds that are known for their extremely small size, maxing out at around the 5” mark. 

They are very small birds but tend to still be bigger than the average Michigan hummingbird. They are known for their bright, citric colours such as yellows. 

However, they also have black foreheads and wings that look very striking next to their normal colour. Females, though, tend to be a more olive colour with hints of brown in their shades, too.

These small, plump little birds have quite large heads for their small bodies. You will often find a Goldfinch hanging around fields and areas with plenty of plant life and thistles. 

They tend to fly in small, short bursts so you should easily see them trying to get from A to B in their adorable little speed bursts. 

These are easy to feed birds, too, as most of them will eat things like sunflower seeds or thistle seeds.

They also tend to be quite an easy bird to care for as they don’t get too aggressive around other species, often sticking to their own station.

Spruce Grouse, image

Spruce Grouse

Moving away from smaller backyard birds for a moment, you will find that the Spruce Grouse is a very popular part of Michigan culture. 

These gorgeous avian can reach around 16” in size and tend to be easily noticed by their brown and black coats complete with white spots and markings on the belly and the throat. They also tend to stand out because they have such incredibly deep plumage. 

They are somewhat rare in Michigan at times, but when they do turn up you should find them mostly hanging around forests. 

Boreal forests are quite small in Michigan, but if you do wish to find one of the rarer birds in the state then you might wish to head to an area like this. 

They are most commonly found in areas like this and will be found quite commonly in the upper peninsula of the state.

Very intriguing bird, they are often easy to find just because they stand out so differently from various other birds across the state. 

If you are looking for way to appreciate the sheer variety of birds in Michigan, though, an upper peninsula trip to find a Spruce Grouse is in order.

Piping Plover, image

Piping Plover

While they are not always easy to find, the snow white beauty of the Piping Plover is worth the time searching for. 

These gorgeous little shorebirds are only around 7” in length, and they tend to come in a kind of sand colouring above with a stark white below. 

As they age, too, a small but visible black band will run around the back of the neck. These gorgeous little birds also have yellow legs and that deep orange bill we are so used to seeing on birds of this kind.

However, they are quite rare to see as they are quite endangered at the moment. This rare part of a Michigan summer, though, is well worth snapping if you do happen to find one as you go about your daily duties. 

Truly beautiful little animals that are easy to see from afar; cute, creative, and very easy to snap photos of.

You will typically find them hanging around from around April until about August when they fly off to start building their wintering grounds outside of the state. 

They are commonly found on the various sandy beaches found in the many Great Lakes of the state.

Great Gray Owls, image

Great Gray Owls

The great grey owl is a unique creature, and it only take a moment viewing one via binoculars for you to see their immense beauty. 

They are quite uncommon in the state, but they are immediately noticeable as soon as you spot one with your binoculars. 

Their large facial disks are impossible to miss, as is the deep and powerful black and white patch on their chin. Their eyes also stand out a mile away, making them extremely visible owls.

You will tend to find them arriving in the winter, often departing again around March time. however, they sometimes arrive in late spring and late summer for a short period of time. 

Don’t expect to see these owls every year, though; they are not always permanent residents of the state and sometimes will not appear for an entire winter.

They search for rodents, so they tend to hang around on trees that overlook large amounts of field. They are typically quite approachable, but we do recommend you keep your distance as they can be easily startled if hungry. 

If you wish to find great grey owls, we recommend that you make for the Upper Peninsula of the state, especially around places like Sault Ste. Marie.

Carolina Wren, image

Carolina Wren

As soon as you spot a Carolina Wren, you should know immediately. Tiny at around 5.5” in size, they are very small birds yet still manage to be the largest wren that you will find anywhere in the state. 

They immediately stand out thanks to their deep brown coats, though, and their cute little curved bills are quite rare in this part of the world. They are also quite stocky, broad little birds. 

They are quite common in the Michigan area, and will mostly be found if you make a trip to the Grand Rapids in the Lower Peninsula. 

You should find them in many residential areas, but they also hang around wooded areas quite a lot. Don’t expect to find them around snow, though, as they don’t tend to survive long in the harsh winters.

You can see them quite a lot in places like the Fairlane Woods, but you will need to be quite precise as these little birds are easily startled by humans. 

Catch them in their element, though, and you will see them scouring around wooded areas looking for food to help them survive the tough winters.


Prairie Warbler, image

Prairie Warbler

The Prairie warbler might be the most distinctive bird on this list. In fact, you might be forgiven for thinking you just seen the biggest bee in the world should one swing by you. 

Their deep yellow and black colour makes them immediately visible, despite being quite small at around 5” in size. they are easily seen because the black and yellow contrasts so well, while the white spots on their tail and upper areas are easily visible from afar, too.

You should hear them before you see them, though, with their rapid-paced songs taking over the air all around you. 

They are commonly found across the state, but you will find them most commonly in the state during the summer months. 

It typically hangs around from May until about September, though they can stick around for longer in more temperate years.

They are a threatened species, though, so make sure you are very careful around these birds if you happen to come across one in person. 

These are very special parts of the local woodland community, so taking precautions is important. You’ll often find them in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, as well as the Island Lake State Recreation Area.

Black Duck, image

Black Duck

If you spend much time around the various ponds and lakes found across the state, then you will become accustomed to seeing the regal Black Duck. 

This special creature hangs around the place with confidence, though it can look like any other mallard from afar. 

As soon as you train your binoculars to its deep black feathers whilst contrasting it with the lighter head should make it clear what you are looking at.

These birds are very popular in the state and have become very common for sightseers to try and find. 

They are, though, quite commonly found to be mating with other mallards so it can make it even harder to tell a black duck apart from other forms of mallard. 

They are commonly found in the Upper Peninsula and should be here year-round. You will also find them, albeit in lesser quantities, if you happen to head to the Southern Peninsula.

Just make sure you don’t get too close to their young ducklings, though, as few species are quite as protective of their younglings. If you want to see a black duck at its most comfortable, snap some shots from it from afar.

Common Loon, image

Common Loon

The Common Loon is one of the most important birds in Michigan, often appearing during the summer months. 

They are found across the Upper Peninsula, and their stark red little eyes stand out from afar. They are also commonly found in the Lower Peninsula as you edge closer to its northern tip. 

The most common places to see it, though, include the deeper lakes of this state. They also do tend to move across water bodies in the summer months to the point where you can hear them prowling for food.

They don’t tend to stick to the one place for too long, which is why we commonly see them around cabins and campsites. 

These birds tend to be quite a good choice to look for if you are on the lookout for one of the most popular birds in Michigan. They do, though, tend to be quite quick to fly away from humans who get too close.

While the Loon is likely too small to pose any human threat, they are likely to try and fend you off if you get too close to their offspring. On their own, though, Loons will simply look to avoid confrontation.


Iceland Gull, image

Iceland Gull

If you want to see a rare bird in Michigan, you need to look out for the Iceland Gull. This has become a surprisingly rare sight, but their all-white nature makes them stand out a mile away. 

If you want to find one of these gulls, then you will need to travel during the winter months to locations such as Lake Huron. 

During these cold winter months, they tend to hang around the lake in a bid to try and find easier pickings for survival.

Their uniquely pale look makes them stand out from afar, while visible pink legs make it more uncommon than most of the yellow-legged birds you might find in the state. 

They are easy to identify and they also tend to fly around in larger flocks of gulls around the Great Lakes region. 

You should try to find them in amongst other gull species, as they tend to fly around with other gulls in a bid to build more strength in the pack.

Out of all the birds that you might find in Michigan, this all-white bird can be quite a rare find. Keep your binoculars close in the Great Lakes region, though, in case you see one!

Caspian Tern

Caspian Tern

The Caspian Tern has become a common choice for many people when it comes to looking for tern birds. These tend to be a touch stronger and stockier than other terns, where it looks much bigger. 

Relative to the size of other terns, this can actually look more akin to a gull. We recommend that you keep this in mind when looking at birds, as some of them can look quite similar from afar. 

However, the deep red within its bill means that you should have no problem in identifying this so long as you focus on the bill first and foremost. 

You will often find them breeding in the summer months along the eastern coast of the state, so head here if you wish to see them in greater numbers than you normally would.

They are birds that also tend to mix in with other flocks, so you might wish to try and use this as a chance to identify a Caspian Tern from other terns and gulls. If you need an easy way to tell them apart from similar birds, just look for the biggest birds with the reddest bills!

American Crow, image

American Crow

If you want to look out for vintage black birds across the state, then the American Crow is the most obvious place to start. 

These adorable crows stand out a mile away for their all-black nature, which is in pretty stark contrast to most of the other birds that you will find across the state. 

They also tend to dwarf most other bird species, with a size of anything from 17” and above being common. They are quite large birds and can be dominant to most other bird species that lack its same strength.

These crows tend to stick to open areas such as cities and farms, though most people who own fields or have trees will find some crows during the year. 

They do tend to move away during the summer, though, but are commonly seen hanging around in large groups – even into the hundreds – as they prefer for their large flight together as a species. 

In terms of food, you will often see them eating away on insects and smaller mammals. Crows don’t tend to be too picky about what they eat, with anything from insects to grain to other carrion being an appetising meal to them. 

If you tend to feed other birds, though, try to get rid of the crows if they turn up as they will eat more or less anything in sight and leave other birds less likely to get fed.

Enjoying the many birds in Michigan

Of course, this list is just a start of the various species that might across in the state!

As one of the largest states by land-mass, you can find that travelling from area to area can introduce you to many new and unique bird species. 

You will want to take some time, though, to try and go and find the following birds we have listed above. 

While this just a small sample size of the most amazing birds found in the state, you should now have a clear idea of where to go if you wish to see some very special birds up-close and in person! 

Want to see more about famous birds in Michigan? 

Then check out this comprehensive list of all birds that you are likely to find in Michigan. Now you know who to look out for, who will you go out to snap photos of first?

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