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Birds of Wisconsin: Discover 24 Common Backyard Species

Bird picking a fruit

Last Updated: September 20, 2022

Whether you're around the city, in the wilderness, or looking out your backyard, you're bound to see a bird or two... or maybe even flocks of them.

There are over 400 bird species found in Wisconsin.

With the number of parks, forests, rivers, and lakes in the state, there are way too many to count!

So...

We compiled 24 different birds of Wisconsin, including backyard birds, raptors, and water birds, for you to identify. Let’s get going.

The 24 Different Birds of Wisconsin

1. American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)American Crow walking on the gorund

The American Crow is a bird most people are familiar with - you've probably seen it around the streets or in horror movies.

Apart from its all-black wardrobe, American Crows are easily recognized because they're pretty much found anywhere in Wisconsin.

Seriously - they are intelligent, adaptable, and bold enough to thrive even in human settlements.

Although they don't visit feeders as often as other backyard birds, you can easily attract them with peanuts. However, remember those horror movies - based on how you treat a crow, you've either made a great friend or an annoying enemy!


2. American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)

     American Goldfinch on the top of the treeAmerican Goldfinch perched on the branch

Left: Male

Right: Female

The American Goldfinch is a common bird species in Wisconsin all year-round. You can typically spot them around weedy grasslands and other similar clearings, as well as nearby trees.

Although these finches are easy to attract, it's best to keep a separate feeder for them because they tend to be "bullied" by other birds. Nyjer seeds are often the way to go because not many other birds eat those.

It's also important to remember that the American Goldfinch isn't comfortable with humans, so they will likely fly away if you get too close.


3. American Robin (Turdus migratorius)American Robin on its nest

If you live in Wisconsin, you're probably familiar with the American Robin as it is recognized as the official state bird.

American Robins are abundant in Wisconsin throughout the year. They can be found in various habitats - woodlands, tundra, parks, backyards, even golf courses!

They are also comfortable around people but are quite difficult to attract. Their diet is mostly insects, so you will probably see them pulling worms out of the grass than using your bird feeder.

However, you may still attempt to attract an American Robin using a combination of chopped apples and mealworms.


4. American White Pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos)American White Pelican floating on the water

The American White Pelican is a HUGE bird that's pretty hard to miss, considering that it's one of the largest water birds in Wisconsin.

You can usually see colonies of these pelicans in shallow lakes and coastal lagoons, including the Mississippi River and the Green Bay in Lake Michigan.

However, they are only found in the Wisconsin wilderness during migration. If you want to see them in the summer, you can visit the Horicon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge in southeast Wisconsin.


5. Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)

Bald Eagle hunting fish on the water

The Bald Eagle is one of the most famous birds of prey in North America as it holds the title of the USA's national bird!

Bald Eagles are found throughout Wisconsin all year, usually in forests near bodies of water, such as lakes and rivers. Their diet consists mostly of fish, so they visit the water to feed while using the trees for nesting.

When you see this eagle, it's best to observe from a distance.

Additionally, please watch out for "closed area" signs to avoid stepping in eagle territory and disturbing their nesting activities.


6. Baltimore Oriole (Icterus galbula)

    Baltimore Oriole yellow birdBaltimore Oriole female bird

Left: Male

Right: Female

The Baltimore Oriole is a species you won't forget anytime soon - it's got striking colors and a sick name!

This blackbird is present in Wisconsin during the summer. Most of them reside in open woodlands and shade trees in parks and backyards. However, they aren't normally seen in deep forests.

They are pretty difficult to spot in the wild because they prefer living in treetops. However, you may still attract them using ripe fruit (especially oranges) and nectar feeders, similar to those for hummingbirds.


7. Black-Capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)

Black-Capped Chickadee eating sunflower seeds

With its oversized head, small body, and black cap and bib, the Black Capped Chickadee is one of the cutest birds you will see in Wisconsin!

This bird is a common resident all year in the northern half of the USA. It is often found in deciduous and mixed forests but is also a common sight in parks and suburban areas.

In fact…

Black Capped Chickadees are one of the most seen birds in Wisconsin!

Plus, they are easy to attract, especially with black oil sunflower seeds and suet. With their small size and athletic ability, they are willing to try just about any feeder.


8. Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata) Blue Jay perched on a branch

The Blue Jay has an iconic color pattern that you can recognize almost anywhere! It's also an abundant year-round resident of Wisconsin, so you have plenty of opportunities to see one in action.

This intelligent and noisy species can be found in woodlands, farmlands, and suburbs but is particularly fond of oak trees. If you have one in your backyard, you might have a regular visitor.

However, you may also attract a Blue Jay with a feeder containing peanuts, sunflower seeds, or suet. You may even see it crack a peanut whole!


9. Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula)Common Grackle eatingon a bird feeder

The Common Grackle is quite a fascinating bird due to its iridescent colors. You might mistake it for a crow at first - it's best to take note of its blue head.

As the name suggests, Common Grackles are common and easy to spot everywhere in Wisconsin.

They are also very resourceful, as they can eat various foods (even trash). Don't be so shocked if you see them flocking in your backyard!

Although they are entertaining to watch, some may consider them a nuisance since they can drive away other backyard birds.


10. Cooper's Hawk (Accipiter cooperii)Cooper's Hawk hunting prey on the water

Don't try to listen out for this raptor, as the Coopers Hawk tends to be silent. At first, it may look like a Sharp-Shinned Hawk, but the Coopers species is significantly larger.

Depending on the season, it can be found all year in southern Wisconsin but only during summer in the north.

You can usually find Coopers Hawks in forests and open woodlands, but they are also known for visiting backyard feeders.

However, instead of eating from the feeders, they eat the birds that visit them, such as blackbirds, starlings, and doves.


11. Downy Woodpecker (Dryobates pubescens)

Two Downy Woodpecker perched on the branch

The Downy Woodpecker is the smallest of its species in North America. You can easily recognize it with its red nape.

This bird resides all year in Wisconsin, usually found in forests (mainly deciduous), parks, and orchards.

Additionally, Downy Woodpeckers are common backyard visitors. You can easily attract them using sunflower seeds, suet, peanuts, peanut butter, and even a hummingbird feeder.

However, they are more likely to visit feeders in the winter than in the summer.

12. Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis)

Male Eastern BluebirdFemale Eastern Bluebird

Left: Male

Right: Female

The Eastern Bluebird is quite a sight indeed - you wouldn't want to miss its blue, orange, and white feathers!

Unfortunately, this bird isn't as common in Wisconsin as other songbirds. Plus, its distribution changes with the season - Eastern Bluebirds are found in northern Wisconsin during summer while in the south for the rest of the year.

However, you may still attract one in your feeding station if you provide its favorite foods. Berries and mealworms are usually the way to go.


13. Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) Great Blue Heron walking on the ground

Seeing a Great Blue Heron in action is something you don't want to miss - it may look motionless on the water at first, but the heron ferociously strikes down to grab its prey!

Great Blue Herons are usually seen throughout Wisconsin in different bodies of water, such as lakes, marshes, rivers, and wetlands. 

Be careful, though, as they don't like being bothered and won't hesitate to attack invaders!

Apart from the distinctive blue feathers, you can differentiate this species from other water birds with its "S" shaped neck during flight.


14. Hairy Woodpecker (Leuconotopicus villosus)

male hairy woodpeckerFemale Hairy Woodpecker perched

Left: Male

Right: Female

The Hairy and the Downy Woodpecker almost look identical, so you need to take a closer look to tell them apart. Their size is most apparent since the Hairy Woodpecker is significantly larger.

This species is a permanent resident of Wisconsin and is usually found wherever large trees are abundant, such as deciduous forests, suburbs, parks, and even cemeteries.

However, some may visit your backyard if your feeder provides suet, peanuts, or sunflower seeds, especially during the winter when food is scarce.


15. House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus

House Finch on the top of a treeHouse Finch perched on the branch of a tree

Left: Male

Right: Female

Another species that's comfortable around humans is the House Finch. It was originally native to the western USA but is now widespread.

You can usually see House Finches in groups as they are social and rarely travel alone. They are found in many human settlements, most commonly in rural and suburban areas.

Naturally, they visit bird feeders, especially those containing sunflower, safflower, or nyjer seeds.

The only issue is that they are absent in northern Wisconsin, but present all year in the southern parts of the state.


16. House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)

House Sparrow perched on the twig of a treeHouse Sparrow resting on a tree

Left: Male

Right: Female

The House Sparrow is originally from the Middle East but is now one of the most abundant birds throughout Wisconsin (and the world!)

You can find House Sparrows pretty much anywhere with buildings, as they have adapted to living with humans many years ago. Their wildest possible habitat is probably farmland!

Naturally, you can attract a House Sparrow to your home with ease. Just load your feeders with corn, millet, and sunflower seeds, and you're good to go. The only issue is that it often competes with other feeder birds.


17. Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)Mourning Dove laying on the ground

Throughout the USA, the Mourning Dove is a widespread species. However, it's only found in northern Wisconsin during summer, whereas it's found all year in southern Wisconsin.

Mourning Doves don't usually live inside deep forests. The best places to look for them are open areas with many trees and shrubs, including fields, parks, and backyards.

A Mourning Dove will readily approach your feeder if it contains seeds, nuts, and suet. This species is also a ground forager, so it's best to have a flat tray or platform feeder or simply scatter the food on the ground.


18. Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)

Northern Cardinal on a branch of a treeNorthern Cardinal on a branch of a tree

Left: Male

Right: Female

If you're ever in Wisconsin during the winter, you wouldn't want to miss out on the sight of a Northern Cardinal - its red colors become more fascinating on a white background!

Northern Cardinals usually reside in woodland edges and parks, but they don't hesitate to visit backyard feeders and birdbaths.

They will eat just about any bird food you leave out, but they particularly favor black oil sunflower seeds.

However, despite being a common species, there is little to no Northern Cardinal population in northern Wisconsin.


19. Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus)Pileated Woodpecker looking for food on the ground

If there's any bird that will catch your attention, it's the Pileated Woodpecker. This large woodpecker has a bright red crest that's truly eyecatching!

Unfortunately, this species is not a backyard bird. One may visit you if there are fallen/rotting logs around your property, but chances are pretty slim.

You need to explore for a bit if you want to see it yourself. Pileated Woodpeckers are usually found in mature forests that contain dead trees, wherein deep excavations in rotting wood are a sign of their presence.


20. Purple Finch (Haemorhous purpureus)

Purple Finch eating on bird feederPurple Finch finding food on the ground

Left: Male

Right: Female

Hold on, that's a House Finch, right? 

At first, these two species might look similar, but the Purple Finch has a deeper, purple color and a tufted crest.

However, the females of both species look almost identical. You might have to do some digging to tell them apart!

Purple Finches are only present in Wisconsin during winter, although some may stay all year in the northern parts of the state.

They are usually found in coniferous woodlands and shrubby areas but are also common visitors of bird feeders.


21. Red-Shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus)

Red-Shouldered Hawk on the top of a fence

As the name suggests, the biggest giveaway of the Red-Shouldered Hawk is its red shoulders that are visible while it's perched.

Red-Shouldered Hawks are uncommon but year-round residents of southern Wisconsin. Meanwhile, they are only in northern Wisconsin during summer.

You can usually find them in forested areas near water, particularly in major river systems, as they tend to make their nests near riverbanks.


22. Red-Tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)

Red-Tailed Hawk on the branch of a tree

Watch out for the raptors you see in movies because they're not always what they seem. You may see a Bald Eagle on screen, but what you hear is the raspy cry of a Red-Tailed Hawk!

This solitary bird is one of the most common hawk species in the USA, mostly found in open countries with elevated and scattered perches.

You may find one all year in southern Wisconsin, but only during the summer in the northern parts of the state. Of course, you have to take note of its distinct red tail.


23. Sharp-Shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus)

Sharp-Shinned Hawk resting on the branchof a tree

Even though the Sharp-Shinned Hawk is the smallest of its species in North America, its athletic and acrobatic abilities allow it to zoom through forests!

This species is migratory, so there are optimal times to look for this bird in Wisconsin. It's common in northern Wisconsin but only found during the summer. Meanwhile, it's uncommon in southern Wisconsin but can be found all year.

Sharp-Shinned Hawks prefer living in deciduous, coniferous, and mixed forestry. However, they are also known to stalk backyard feeders to prey on songbirds.

24. Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)

Song Sparrow resting on the wall

The Song Sparrow lives up to its name, as you can often hear its persistent melodic singing to communicate with other Song Sparrows.

You can find this species all year in southern Wisconsin, but only during summer in the north.

They prefer living in thickets (especially near water) but are also commonly found in backyard shrubbery and undergrowth in parks. Oftentimes, you may see a Song Sparrow nesting on the ground.

You can also attract them to your backyard with mixed birdseed. Try it for yourself and listen to one of their songs!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Bird City Wisconsin?

Bird City Wisconsin is an organization that educates the public about bird conservation and the contributions that birds provide toward a healthy community. They also give the title "Bird City" to Wisconsin municipalities that meet the criteria of a safe community for birds. Apart from the recognition, there are many reasons to become a Bird City. Does your municipality have what it takes to be one?

Watch this video of Janesville, one of the designated Wisconsin Bird City:

Do all of these birds visit backyards?

The short answer is no. Some of the birds in this list do not visit backyards because they can't provide the appropriate habitat or food for those birds. These include eagles, water birds, certain hawks, and Pileated Woodpeckers. You might have to do some traveling to witness these species.

How do I stop hawks from visiting my feeder?

Some hawk species, such as Sharp-Shinned and Cooper's Hawks, stalk backyards to hunt for songbirds that visit them. If you want to prevent this from happening, then you may take down your feeder for 1-2 weeks so these hawks can move on. It would be best to call professionals for help if you're still having problems with hawks or other raptors. Whatever happens, don't capture or kill any raptor - it's considered a felony!

Conclusion

When we learn all about the birds we encounter, the experience becomes more gratifying, don't you agree?

There are already many Wisconsin birds, but there will be even more of them for us to appreciate if more communities become Bird Cities!

Anyway, that's all we have to offer. We hope this article helped you identify 24 Wisconsin birds. Make sure to keep your eyes peeled because you don't want to miss them in action!

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