Last updated 16-04-2023 by Mathias
In this article we try help you answer the question: What species of backyard birds can I find in Wisconsin?
Wisconsin is a midwestern state that neighbors Minnesota and Michigan, it has more than 400 species of birds, but only 250 of them are regularly seen in the state. In this article we have compiled a list of 25 backyard birds you can find in The Badger State, Wisconsin. Ranging from the most common to the least common birds you can find in 2023.
25 most common backyard birds in Wisconsin:
- Black-capped Chickadee (98.51% frequency)
- Dark-eyed Junco (94.53% frequency)
- Downy Woodpecker (94.03% frequency)
- White-breasted Nuthatch (90.55% frequency)
- Northern Cardinal (89.05% frequency)
- American Goldfinch (85.05% frequency)
- Mourning Dove (84.33% frequency)
- Red-bellied Woodpecker (83.08% frequency)
- House Finch (79.35% frequency)
- Hairy Woodpecker (76.37% frequency)
- Blue Jay (74.38% frequency)
- House Sparrow (66.92% frequency)
- Red-breasted Nuthatch (65.17% frequency)
- American Robin (58.46% frequency)
- European Starling (50.75% frequency)
- American Crow (50.50% frequency)
- Red-winged Blackbird (37.31% frequency)
- Pine Siskin (35.32% frequency)
- American Tree Sparrow (33.08% frequency)
- Common Grackle (32.84% frequency)
- Purple Finch (31.84% frequency)
- Tufted Titmouse (30.60% frequency)
- Pileated Woodpecker (29.85% frequency)
- Cooper’s Hawk (29.35% frequency)
- Common Redpoll (21.89% frequency)
1. Black-capped Chickadee
Image: © Evan Lipton | Macaulay Library
Scientific Name: Poecile atricapillus
Length: 4.7-5.9 in (12-15 cm)
Weight: 0.3-0.5 oz (9-14 g)
Wingspan: 6.3-8.3 in (16-21 cm)
Found in 98.51 percent of sites visited in Wisconsin
The colors of the Black-capped Chickadee are black, white, and grey. The top of the head, as well as the bib are black, the feathers on the wings are grey and white. The eyes of the bird are difficult to see because the black cap comes down past its black eyes. The Chickadee has a short neck with a large head, it is almost spherically shaped. The tail is narrow and long, and the bill is short and thick.
The Black-capped Chickadee can memorize thousands of hiding place, they like hide their food and seeds all in different places to come back to for later. They are curious birds, they have a habit of investigating everything in their home territory, including people. They can be found year-round in Wisconsin, they are quick to discover bird feeders, so this is many peoples first bird to learn.
Some of the easiest birds to attract with bird feeders are chickadees. This bird comes to feeders for suet, sunflower, and peanuts. If you plant willow, birch, or alder trees it can provide future nesting habitats for chickadees.
2. Dark-eyed Junco
Image: © Chris Wood | Macaulay Library
Scientific name: Junco hyemalis
Length: 5.5-6.3 in (14-16 cm)
Weight: 0.6-1.1 oz (18-30 g)
Wingspan: 7.1-9.8 in (18-35 cm)
Found in 94.53 percent of sites visited in Wisconsin
Juncos come in many colors across the country, they are generally dark grey or brown. They have a pink bill with white tail feathers. There is a large range of geographic variation when it comes to the Dark-eyed Junco. There are 15 races of the Junco, some include the Slate-Colored, Oregon, Pink-Sided, Red-Backed, Grey-Headed, and the White-Winged.
Dark-eyed Juncos are some of the most abundant birds in the forests of North America. They are also one of the most common birds in North America, being found in Alaska, Canada, California, New York, and even Mexico. They are ground foragers and also nest on the ground, they hop around the ground near trees and shrubs to find fallen seeds.
The Dark-eyed Junco is found year-round in the north of Wisconsin, when they are breeding, they are found in all of Wisconsin.
They often come to bird feeders, Juncos like black oil sunflower seeds, oats, cracked corn, and Nyjer. They are ground feeders, so you can throw the seeds on the ground and they will eat them, they also like large hopper feeders, and platform feeders.
3. Downy Woodpecker
Image: © Evan Lipton | Macaulay Library
Scientific name: Dryobates pubescens
Length: 5.5-6.7 in (14-17 cm)
Weight: 0.7-1.0 oz (21-28 g)
Wingspan: 9.8-11.8 in (25-30 cm)
Found in 94.03 percent of sites visited in Wisconsin
Downy Woodpeckers have a checkered black-and-white look on their wings, the head is striped black-and-white with males having a small red patch on the back of their head. Downy Woodpeckers are darker overall in the West compared to the East. In eastern North America they have whiter wings compared to the West. In the Pacific Northwest they have an overall dusky wash.
In the winter, Downy Woodpeckers are found as members of mixed species flocks, since they are flocked, they can spend less time watching out for predators, and have better luck finding food because there are other birds around.
The Downy Woodpecker can be found in Wisconsin, and most of North America year-round.
These Woodpeckers are the most common Woodpeckers you would find at a backyard feeder. They prefer the eat out of a suet cage, but also enjoy black oil sunflower seeds, millet, and even chunky peanut butter. Sometimes they will even drink from hummingbird feeders.
4. White-breasted Nuthatch
Image: © Ryan Schain | Macaulay Library
Scientific name: Sitta carolinensis
Length: 5.1-5.5 in (13-14 cm)
Weight: 0.6-1.1 oz (18-30 g)
Wingspan: 7.9-10.6 in (20-27 cm)
Found in 90.55 percent of sites visited in Wisconsin
The White-breasted Nuthatch has a grey-blue back. They have a white face and underparts, a black cap and neck area. The lower belly and tail are a chestnut color.
Nuthatches are agile and active little birds; they have an appetite for big seeds and insects. They get their name from jamming nuts, seeds, or acorns into tree bark and using their bill to “hatch” the nut, seed, or acorn to eat the inside. Despite how small they are, Nuthatches are very loud and their loud voice will often lead you straight to them.
The White-breasted Nuthatch is found in Wisconsin all year.
They are very common feeder birds; they are attracted to peanuts, mealworms, suet, and hulled sunflower seeds. They can be found around tube feeders and suet cages.
5. Northern Cardinal
Image: © Suzie McCann | Macaulay Library
Scientific name: Cardinalis cardinalis
Length: 8.3-9.1 in (21-23 cm)
Weight: 1.5-1.7 oz (42-48 g)
Wingspan: 9.8-12.2 in (25-31 cm)
Found in 89.05 percent of sites visited in Wisconsin
The male Northern Cardinal is bright red all over, they have a black face and a slightly red bill. The female Northern Cardinal is a pale brown overall with a slightly red tinge around the wings, tail, and crest. They have the same black face as the males and the same reddish bill.
The male cardinal will fiercely defend its territory with other male cardinals. If the male cardinal sees its own reflection, it will often spend hours fighting the reflection. The female cardinal is one of the only female songbirds in North America that actually sings, they will often sing while sitting in the nest. This will give the male cardinal information about when to get food for the nest.
The Northern Cardinal is found in Wisconsin all year-round, they are mainly found in the mid-west and east coast of North America, but they have been found in Arizona, Texas, and even parts of Mexico.
The feeder types that the Northern Cardinal will eat from include, large tube feeder, large hopper, platform, and ground. The seeds they eat are, black oil sunflower seeds, hulled sunflower seeds, safflower, cracked corn, millet, and milo.
6. American Goldfinch
Image: © Darren Clark | Macaulay Library
Scientific name: Spinus Tristis
Length: 4.3-5.12 in (11-13 cm)
Weight: 0.4-0.7 oz (11-20 g)
Wingspan: 7.5-8.7 in (19-22 cm)
Found in 85.32 percent of sites visited in Wisconsin
In the early spring, adult males are bright yellow with a black forehead, they have black wings with white markings. The adult females are a duller yellow and have a more olive color overall. In winter the Goldfinch is drab with unstreaked brown and have blackish wings.
The American Goldfinch is an acrobatic and active little bird, they cling the weeds and seed socks, sometimes they mill in large numbers at feeders or on the ground underneath feeders. They often fly with an undulating, bouncy pattern, they also call during flight which draws attention to themselves.
These finches can be found in Wisconsin year-round, when they are breeding, they can be found in northern Minnesota, Michigan, and even Canada. When they are not breeding, they are found everywhere in the USA.
The American Goldfinch is attracted to almost any kind of bird feeder, including hanging feeders, platform, and hopper. If you want Goldfinches in your yard, plant native thistles or other composite plants. They are mostly attracted to sunflower seeds and Nyjer.
7. Mourning Dove
Image: © Ryan Schain | Macaulay Library
Scientific name: Zenaida macroura
Length: 9.1-13.4 in (23-34 cm)
Weight: 3.0-6.0 oz (96-170 g)
Wingspan: 17.7 in (45 cm)
Found in 84.33 percent of sites visited in Wisconsin
Mourning Doves have colors that often make them match their surroundings of the open-country. They’re brown-tan overall, have black spots on their wings, and white tail feathers with black borders. These doves are plump-bodied and have long tails with short legs.
Mourning Doves are fast fliers, they have powerful wingbeats often making sudden descents, ascents, and dodges. During breeding season, three Mourning Doves can be seen flying in tight formation, typically the bird in the lead is the male of a mated pair. The second is an unmated male following his rival to where he hopes to nest. The third is the female of the mated pair.
The Mourning Dove is found in most of Wisconsin year-round, when it is breeding season, they go to the north of Wisconsin, near Michigan, Minnesota, and Canada.
They often hang out on telephone wires and perches throughout your neighborhood. Look out for bare patches of ground where the birds gather to stock food.
To attract these doves to your backyard, scatter seeds, such as millet on platform feeders or on the ground. If you plant dense shrubs and evergreen trees, you could provide them with possible nesting locations. Make sure you keep your cats inside though, as birds that spend a lot of time on the ground are vulnerable to cats attacking them.
8. Red-bellied Woodpecker
Image: © Scott Martin | Macaulay Library
Scientific name: Melanerpes carolinus
Length: 9.4 in (24 cm)
Weight: 2.0-3.2 oz (56-91 g)
Wingspan: 13.0-16.5 in (33-42 cm)
Found in 83.08 percent of sites visited in Wisconsin
The Red-bellied Woodpecker often looks pale overall, they have a black-and-white boldly striped back, a bright red cap, and white spots on the wingtips. They are sleek, round headed and roughly the same size as the Hairy Woodpecker.
Like most woodpeckers, the Red-bellied Woodpecker likes to hitch on to medium to large tree trunks and branches and pick at the bark with their long beak. Also, similar to other types of woodpeckers, the Red-bellied Woodpecker has an undulating flight pattern.
These woodpeckers are in a large portion of Wisconsin all year-round. They stay around the mid-west, south-east and the east coast of USA.
Keep a look out for these woodpeckers in eastern woodlands all year-round, mainly along main branches at middle heights and the trunks of trees. The woodpecker calls very frequently during spring and summer, so it might pay to learn their calls.
If you want these birds in your backyard, use suet in winter, peanuts, and even sunflower seeds. They have even been seen drinking from hummingbird feeders. They like to eat from suet cages, larges hoppers, and platform feeders. These woodpeckers also like to eat, black oil sunflower seeds, safflower, cracked corn, and mealworms.
9. House Finch
Image: © Martina Nordstrand | Macaulay Library
Scientific name: Haemorhous mexicanus
Length: 5.1-5.5 in (13-14 cm)
Weight: 0.6-0.9 oz (16-27 g)
Wingspan: 7.9-9.8 in (20-25 cm)
Found in 79.35 percent of sites visited in Wisconsin
The adult male House Finch is rosy red in the face and upper breast area. They have a streaky brown back, belly, and tail. The adult females are not red, they are in fact a plain grey-brown, with an indistinctly marked face. The House Finch has a small body, large beaks, and flat heads. They have short wings that make the tail look longer. Some finches have notched tails, the House Finch has a small notch compared to other types of finches.
The House Finch is a gregarious bird that likes to collect around feeders or perched high in trees. When they aren’t at feeders, they are on weed stalks or feeding on the ground. Their flight is very bouncy, similar to most finches.
These finches are found in a big part of Wisconsin all year. The House Finches from the northeastern U.S. and great lakes move south for the winter.
You can find House Finches if you look around settled habitats, like city parks, urban centers, forest edges, farms, and backyards. They are found in groups that are very noisy so they are hard to miss.
If you fill your feeders with small, black oil sunflower seeds. If these birds find your feeders, they will bring flocks of up to 50 or more birds with them. They like to feed from platform, hopper, and tube feeders. They also like to eat, hulled sunflower seeds, safflower, and Nyjer.
10. Hairy Woodpecker
Image: © Matthew Plante | Macaulay Library
Scientific name: Dryobates villosus
Length: 7.1-10.2 in (18-26 cm)
Weight: 1.4-3.4 oz (40-95 g)
Wingspan: 13.0-16.1 in (33-41 cm)
Found in 76.37 percent of sites visited in Wisconsin
Hairy Woodpeckers are mainly black and white. They have checkered black-and-white wings. The head is striped black-and-white, and for the males, a flash of red on the back of the head. There is a long patch of white that runs down the mostly white back. This woodpecker is medium sized, has a square head, and a long chisel-like bill. The long tail feathers are used to lean against tree trunks.
The Hairy Woodpecker likes to hitch on to medium to large tree trunks and branches and pick at the bark with their long beak. The Hairy Woodpecker has the slow undulating flight pattern of most woodpeckers.
This woodpecker is seen in Wisconsin year-round, and wander away from their home range during winter. The woodpeckers that breed inland sometimes move to the coast during some winters.
You can find Hairy Woodpeckers by looking at the trunks or main branches of large trees. When they are foraging you can hear their bill frantically tapping on the tree trunk.
To bring Hairy Woodpeckers to your backyard, set up a suet cage, peanut and, black oil sunflower seed feeders, especially in winter because food will be scarce. They also feed out of large hoppers and platform feeders.
11. Blue Jay
Image: © Scott Martin | Macaulay Library
Scientific name: Cyanocitta cristata
Length: 9.8-11.8in (25-30 cm)
Weight: 2.5-3.5 oz (70-100 g)
Wingspan: 13.4-16.9 in (34-43 cm)
Found in 74.38 percent of sites visited in Wisconsin
The Blue Jay has various shades of blue, bright blue on the wing tips, pale blue on the back, blue on the top of the head. They also have accents of black around the neck, wings, and eyes. They are also white around parts of the eyes, neck, and belly. The Blue Jay is a large crested songbird that has a broad rounded tail. They are larger than robins but smaller than crows.
Blue Jays make a variety of calls that can be heard from very far away. Most of the Blue Jays calls are made while perched in a tree. The Blue Jay is a very silent flier, especially during migration. They have a pouch in their throat to store food.
The Blue Jay can be spotted in Wisconsin year-round; they can be seen as far as Oregon, Washington, and even eastern Canada.
Blue Jays are most often spotted by their calls, they are very noisy birds. When near shorelines, the Blue Jay will migrate in loose flocks. Resident birds may associate in flocks, but they usually fly across open areas one at a time, silently.
Blue Jays prefer to feed from tray feeders or hopper feeders. They prefer feeders on a post rather than hanging feeders. They like to eat suet, sunflower seeds, and peanuts. If oak trees are nearby, it will make acorns for the jays in the future.
12. House Sparrow
Image: © Evan Lipton | Macaulay Library
Scientific name: Passer domesticus
Length: 5.9-6.7 in (15-17 cm)
Weight: 0.9-1.1 oz (27-30 g)
Wingspan: 7.5-9.8 in (19-25 cm)
Found in 66.92 percent of sites visited in Wisconsin
The male House Sparrow is brightly colored with a grey head, a black bib, white cheeks. Females are a plain brown color overall with touches of a dingy grey, their backs are noticeably striped. House Sparrows are not related to other North American sparrows, the House Sparrow is much chunkier in the chest, has a larger head, shorter tail, and rounded head compared to most North American sparrows.
The House Sparrow arrived in Brooklyn, New York, in 1851. Almost 50 years later it had reached the Rocky Mountains. Because the bird is so abundant, it has developed a lack of fear towards humans, because of this the House Sparrow became a model organism for avian studies, so much so that almost 5,000 scientific papers have been written with the House Sparrow as the study species.
The House Sparrow can be found almost everywhere in North America year-round, it is even found in many Central, and South American countries as well as the Caribbean.
One of the best ways you can find a House Sparrow is by visiting an urban area, and chances are you will see a little sparrow hopping along the ground. You might even be able to get them to eat out of your hand.
House Sparrows are so populous, that you probably won’t even need to put a feeder out to get House Sparrows in your backyard. They like to feed from Tube feeders, hoppers, platform feeders, and straight off the ground. The seeds they like are hulled sunflower seeds, milo, peanut hearts, black oil sunflower seeds, and millet.
13. Red-breasted Nuthatch
Image: © Blair Dudeck | Macaulay Library
Scientific name: Sitta canadensis
Length: 4.3 in (11 cm)
Weight: 0.3-0.5 oz (8-13 g)
Wingspan: 7.1-7.9 in (18-20 cm)
Found in 65.17 percent of sites visited in Wisconsin
The Red-breasted Nuthatch is a blue-grey bird, it has a strongly patterned head with a black cap and white stripes above the eye. The underparts are a cinnamon color that is paler in females. They are compact birds with a long, pointed bill. Red-breasted Nuthatches have almost no neck and very short tails. They are a similar size to sparrows.
During its nest building, the Red-breasted Nuthatch becomes very aggressive, they chase away other hole-nesting birds, such as the Downy Woodpecker, White-breasted Nuthatch, and the House Wren. These Nuthatches sometimes steal material to line nests from other birds, including Mountain Chickadees and Pygmy Nuthatches.
The Red-breasted Nuthatch can be seen in Wisconsin all year long. The northernmost populations of this Nuthatch migrate south each year, some years the Red-breasted Nuthatch can be seen as south as the Gulf Coast.
A way you can find Red-breasted Nuthatches is by listening out for their nasal call, or for the sounds of a flock of chickadees and other birds that are foraging. Look for these Nuthatches as they wander up tree trunks and branches.
Red-breasted Nuthatches like to feed from tube feeders, suet cages, hoppers, and platform feeders. You should fill your feeder with black oil sunflower seeds, suet, peanut hearts, mealworms, and hulled sunflower seeds.
14. American Robin
Image: © Alex Eberts | Macaulay Library
Scientific name: Turdus migratorius
Length: 7.9-11.0 in (20-28 cm)
Weight: 2.7-3.0 oz (77-85 g)
Wingspan: 12.2-15.8 in (31-40 cm)
Found in 58.46 percent of sites visited in Wisconsin
The American Robin is mainly grey-brown and has a dark brown head, with white spots around the eyes, a bright yellow beak, and warm orange underparts. The females have heads that are paler and contrast less with the grey on its back. American Robins are fairly large for songbirds, they have a large, round body, a long tail, and long legs. Robins are said to be a good reference when comparing the size and shape of birds.
The American Robin is an industrious bird, it likes to bound across lawns and even stand erect, beak tilted upward, to survey their surroundings. In the colder seasons they often form large flocks and stay in trees to eat berries or even roost. American Robins can sometimes become intoxicated, this happens when they only eat honeysuckle berries. The American Robin eats lots of fruit in the fall and in winter.
These Robins can be found in Wisconsin year-round; they can be found in northern Wisconsin in the breeding season. The American Robin can be found south of Canada pretty much anywhere, some of these Robins have been found a far south as the Gulf Coast, the Southwest, and even Mexico.
You can find these Robins running across your lawn or pulling up worms at your local park. You can find them by listening to their call, it is clear, lilting, and musical. In winter look for them to be in large groups in the treetops, around fruit trees, and listen for their low call notes.
American Robins can be found feeding from the ground, or platform feeders. To get these birds in your backyard, try filling your feeders up with suet, fruit, mealworms, hulled sunflower seeds, and peanut hearts.
15. European Starling
Image: © Matt Davis | Macaulay Library
Scientific name: Sturnus vulgaris
Length: 7.9-9.1 in (20-23 cm)
Weight: 2.1-3.4 oz (60-96 g)
Wingspan: 12.2-15.8 in (31-40 cm)
Found in 50.75 percent of sites visited in Wisconsin
European Starlings may look black at a first glance, but in summer they are an iridescent purple-green color with bright yellow beaks. In winter these starlings are brown and covered in white spots. They are about the same size as the American Robin, they have short tails, with long skinny beaks. When in flight they have short, pointed wings that make them look quite small.
The European Starling first arrived in the U.S. when 100 of them were let loose in New York’s famous Central Park in the 1800’s. The reason why these starlings were intentionally set free, was a group of people who wanted to have every bird that Shakespeare ever mentioned in America. Today, there are over 200 million European Starlings in North America. They can be found as far north as Alaska, and some have even been spotted in Mexico.
In Wisconsin, the European Starling can be spotted all year-round. When they aren’t breeding, they can be spotted in Mexico, and the Caribbean.
The European Starling is most commonly found around cities and towns. To find these starlings, have a look in lawns, city parks, and fields. You will be able to see them working across the grass, moving in a zig-zag line. These starlings even stab their beak into the ground every few steps. In the countryside however, you’re more likely to find the European Starling in the top of trees, perched in groups or even flying over fields and roads in flocks.
These starlings like to feed from, suet cages, hoppers, platform feeders, tube feeders, and straight off the ground. If you want these birds in your backyard, try stocking your feeders up with, peanuts, black oil sunflower seeds, oats, peanut hearts, cracked corn, millet, and hulled sunflower seeds.
16. American Crow
Image: © Henry Burton | Macaulay Library
Scientific name: Corvus brachyrhynchos
Length: 15.8-20.9 in (40-53 cm)
Weight: 11.2-21.9 oz (316-620 g)
Wingspan: 33.5-39.4 in (85-100 cm)
Found in 50.50 percent of sites visited in Wisconsin
The American Crow is all black. Legs, bill, everything. But, when they molt, the old feathers can seem slightly brown compared to the newer glossy feathers. They are large birds with long legs and a thick neck. The crow has a straight bill, and when in flight, the wings are broad and rounded. The wingtip feathers even appear like spread out fingers. They have a short tail that is sort of squared off on the end.
These crows are very social birds, they can form flocks of thousands of crows. The American Crow is often mischievous, and are very good problem solvers. They can sometimes be found invading garbage cans, or picking at old food containers.
American Crows can be found in Wisconsin year-round, when breeding they are often up north in Canada. The Crow population that breeds in in Canada often spend their winters in the U.S.
The American Crow is quite common in the lower 48 states and outside of southwestern deserts. You can find these crows around open areas near woods, or in city parks, garbage dumps, manicured lawns, cemeteries, campgrounds. You can find them by listening out for their loud cawing.
American Crows aren’t often found in backyard feeders. If you have lots of open space, different variety of trees, or food, it could attract crows. Alternatively, you could put out peanuts in an open space to attract crows. You could also find them eating out of your garbage can or even compost.
17. Red-winged Blackbird
Image: © Connor Charchuk | Macaulay Library
Scientific name: Agelaius phoeniceus
Length: 6.7-9.1 in (17-23 cm)
Weight: 1.1-2.7 oz (32-77 g)
Wingspan: 12.2-15.8 in (31-40 cm)
Found in 37.31 percent of sites visited in Wisconsin
The Red-winged Blackbird is stocky, broad-shouldered, with a slender cone shaped bill, and a medium length tail. They are glossy black overall, and on the shoulders a bright red-and-yellow. Red-winged Blackbirds often look hump-backed while perched. These birds are hard to mistake with their bright shoulders.
The male Red-winged Blackbird will do almost anything to get attention, they will sit on high perches and sing out their song all day long. The females however, stay lower, and run through vegetation to find food, and even quickly construct nests. Red-winged Blackbirds will form giant flocks for winter, these flocks can sometimes include starlings and other species of blackbird.
These blackbirds can be found in most of Wisconsin year-round, they will go to northern Wisconsin while it is breeding season. The blackbird population of the southern states and Mexico don’t migrate, whereas, the blackbirds in the northern states spend their winters around 800 miles from their breeding ranges.
While on a drive through the countryside, you can often see the Red-winged Blackbird sitting on telephone wires. They can also be seen while visiting cattail marshes and wetlands. These blackbirds will likely be the most common birds to see or hear.
If you put mixed grains and seeds in your feeders, it may attract Red-winged Blackbirds to your yard. You could spread seed or grain on the ground, since Red-winged Blackbirds prefer to feed on the ground.
18. Pine Siskin
Image: © Ryan Sanderson | Macaulay Library
Scientific name: Spinus pinus
Length: 4.3-5.5 in (11-14 cm)
Weight: 0.4-0.6 oz (12-18 g)
Wingspan: 7.1-8.7 in (18-22 cm)
Found in 35.32 percent of sites visited in Wisconsin
Pine Siskins are around the same size as a sparrow, they have sharp and pointy bills, and short notched tails. These birds are brown, with subtle edges of yellow on the wings and tail. The shape of their bill is slenderer than most finches. When in flight look for these birds to have forked tails with pointed wingtips.
When temperatures plunge overnight, the Pine Siskin can ramp up its metabolic rate up to five times the normal rate. They can do this for several hours at a time to survive temperatures as low as –70°C (-94°F).
When the Pine Siskin isn’t breeding, they can be found in Wisconsin. There are few places in Wisconsin where they are seen year-round. In fact, these birds can be found in most of north America in parts of the year, Alaska, Canada, Texas, Minnesota, and even some parts of Mexico.
You can spot the Pine Siskin on the ends of conifer branches; they can even hang upside down. Listen out for the distinctive, harsh winding call. Some describe this call as the sound of piece of paper slowly being torn. Across North America the Pine Siskin will sometimes be spotted one winter, and never seen the following winter.
To attract Pine Siskins to your backyard, set up a Nyjer feeder, or even a thistle feeder. They also like smaller seeds like millet, or hulled sunflower seeds. They can be seen feeding around plants or weeds with seed heads.
19. American Tree Sparrow
Image: © Dorian Anderson | Macaulay Library
Scientific name: Spizelloides arborea
Length: 5.5 in (14 cm)
Weight: 0.5-1.0 oz (13-28 g)
Wingspan: 9.4 in (24 cm)
Found in 33.08 percent of sites visited in Wisconsin
The American Tree Sparrow has a rusty cap and eyeline, a grey head, a streaked brown back, with a smooth grey breast in both female and male. They are similar in size to the House Sparrow, with rounded heads, and plump bodies that look chubby. Compared to other sparrows, the American Tree Sparrow has quite a small bill and long, skinny tails.
These sparrows need to take on about 30 percent of the total body weight in food and water every day. If they try to fast for a full day, it would be a death sentence. The American Tree Sparrow will often hop about on the ground in small flocks, they look for grass and weed seeds. Individual sparrows will often perch out in the open on goldenrod stalks, or low tree branches.
When not breeding, the American Tree Sparrow will be found in Wisconsin, they will migrate to northern and central North America for the winter, in places like North Dakota, Minnesota, and parts of Canada. The American Tree Sparrow is a medium-distance migrant, and when breeding they will be found in Alaska, and northern Canada.
The best time to find American Tree Sparrows would be in the winter. Small flocks like to unite on snowy fields and bird feeders. Even though they are named the American Tree Sparrow, they are more likely to be seen collecting food on the ground compared to feeding in trees.
These sparrows like to feed from large hoppers, platform feeders, and even from the ground. To get the American Tree Sparrow in your backyard, try filling up your feeders with Nyjer, millet, peanut hearts, hulled sunflower seeds, and black oil sunflower seeds.
20. Common Grackle
Image: © Jack & Holly Bartholmai | Macaulay Library
Scientific name: Quiscalus quiscula
Length: 11.0-13.4 in (28-34 cm)
Weight: 2.6-5.0 oz (74-142 g)
Wingspan: 14.2-18.1 in (36-46 cm)
Found in 32.84 percent of sites visited in Wisconsin
The Common Grackle is about the same size as a Mourning Dove. They are large, lanky, and have long legs. Their head is flat and have a bill that’s longer than most blackbirds. When flying, their wings appear short in comparison to their long tail. The male Grackle is larger than the female. From a distance the Common Grackle appears to be black, but when you get a good look, you will see that they have purple-blue glossy heads, and green-purple iridescent bodies.
You can often find Grackles in large flocks, foraging in lawns and agricultural fields, or flying. Instead of scratching for food, the Common Grackle will peck for food. The Common Grackle is a very resourceful bird, sometimes you can even see them following plows to catch mice and invertebrates. While at feeders, grackles will often bully smaller birds.
Common Grackles, will be found breeding in Wisconsin. Only in southern Wisconsin are they found year-round. When in breeding season, grackles can be found as north as northern Canada. When not breeding, they can be spotted in southern Texas.
If you want Common Grackles in your yard, stock your large hopper or platform feeder with suet, milo, oats, millet, cracked corn, safflower, hulled sunflower seeds, and fruit. Spreading your seeds on the ground near the feeder will help to attract Grackles.
21. Purple Finch
Image: © Henry Trombley | Macaulay Library
Scientific name: Haemorhous purpureus
Length: 4.7-6.3 in (12-16 cm)
Weight: 0.6-1.1 oz (18-32 g)
Wingspan: 8.7-10.2 in (22-26 cm)
Found in 31.84 percent of sites visited in Wisconsin
The male Purple Finch is pinkish-red on the breast and head, the color gets darker on its back. On the finch’s belly, it’s a white with shades of the pinkish-red from its head. Female Purple Finches don’t have any red on them at all, they are a lighter brown, and streaked below. The females have a white eye stripe. Purple Finches are chunky and large, roughly the same size and a House Sparrow. They have conical, powerful beaks, and they have a notched tail. Purple Finches from the Pacific Coast are much duller than the Eastern birds.
The Purple Finch will use its beak and tongue to crack open seeds and eat the nut. They also use this trick to get nectar from a flower. These finches will mainly breed in coniferous forests or in mixed deciduous and coniferous woods.
In northern Wisconsin, Purple Finches can be seen year-round. More south in Wisconsin, you can spot them when they are not breeding. These birds are short-distance migrants, they are erratic and follow cone crops. When they leave Canadian breeding spots for winter, they spread widely across central and southeastern U.S.
The Purple Finch is very erratic, if you live in their winter range and don’t see them this winter, there is a chance that they will show up in the next winter.
To attract the Purple Finch to your yard, stock your tube feeder, hopper, or platform feeder with sunflower seeds, Nyjer, and millet. They are also attracted to coniferous trees, if you have some in your yard it will encourage the Purple Finch to visit your backyard.
22. Tufted Titmouse
Image: © Darlene Friedman | Macaulay Library
Scientific name: Baeolophus bicolor
Length: 5.5-6.3 in (14-16 cm)
Weight: 0.6-0.9 oz (18-26 g)
Wingspan: 7.9-10.2 in (20-26 cm)
Found in 30.60 percent of sites visited in Wisconsin
The Tufted Titmouse is mostly silver-grey and white below. Their flanks are a peach-colored wash. There is a small black patch above its bill. These birds look large compared to the small birds at feeders, they have a large head and big eyes. Their neck is very thick. Tufted Titmice are most compared to Sparrows in terms of size.
Tufted Titmice are very acrobatic foragers, they move more methodically and slower than chickadees. They often end up flocking with woodpeckers, chickadees, and nuthatches, they regularly visit feeders. At feeders, Tufted Titmice are more assertive over the smaller birds.
In southern Wisconsin, the Tufted Titmice is spotted year-round. They mostly stay around the Midwest, southwest, east coast, and some parts of the South.
Look for the Tufted Titmouse going through outer branches in tree canopies in parks, or backyards. You can sometimes hear their high pitched, whistled song, you will often hear this before seeing the Tufted Titmouse.
The Tufted Titmouse is a regular at backyard feeders, and in winter they show up even more. They often eat peanuts, seeds, and suet, but they prefer to eat sunflower seeds. To get them into your backyard, try setting up nest boxes, this can attract them to breeding in your backyard. Just make sure you put the nesting boxes up well before breeding season.
23. Pileated Woodpecker
Image: © Simon Boivin | Macaulay Library
Scientific name: Dryocopus pileatus
Length: 15.8-19.3 in (40-49 cm)
Weight: 8.8-12.3 oz (250-350 g)
Wingspan: 26.0-29.5 in (66-75 cm)
Found in 29.85 percent of sites visited in Wisconsin
The Pileated Woodpecker is nearly the same size as an American Crow. It is very large for a woodpecker, has a long neck, and has a triangular crest that goes off the back of its head. Their beak is chisel-like and very long. These Woodpeckers are mainly black, they have white stripes around the face and neck. They have a bright red mohawk looking cap. The males have a red stripe on their cheek. While in flight you will see that this Woodpecker has white underwings.
These Woodpeckers will drill rectangular holes into old, rotten wood to eat insects like carpenter ants. They have a loud almost whinnying call. There was a Pileated Woodpecker that was captured and released in Maryland for banding operations, he was at least 12 years and 11 months old.
Pileated Woodpeckers can be found in some parts of Wisconsin, pretty much everywhere in Wisconsin except the southeast region.
The Pileated Woodpecker can be spotted in mature forests with plenty of dead and downed trees. Listen out for its loud drumming and loud, shrill calls.
To get Pileated Woodpeckers in your yard, try putting up suet cages. The food they like are black oil sunflower seeds, mealworms, hulled sunflower seeds, peanut hearts, suet, and peanuts.
24. Cooper’s Hawk
Image: © Jean-Sébastien Mayer | Macaulay Library
Scientific name: Accipiter cooperii
Length: 14.6-15.3 in (37-39 cm)
Weight: 7.8-14.5 oz (220-410 g)
Wingspan: 24.4-35.4 in (62-90 cm)
Found in 29.35 percent of sites visited in Wisconsin
The adult Cooper’s Hawk is mostly blue-grey above, and has cinnamon-colored bars going down the underparts. The juvenile hawks are brown above and are streaked with brown on the breast. These Hawks are roughly the same size as a crow. Cooper’s Hawks are medium sized for a hawk. They have broad and rounded wings, and have a super long tail. In these hawks, the head is large and the shoulders are broad, with a rounded tail.
Cooper’s Hawks, when crossing a large open area, they rarely flap their wings continuously. When attacking, they like to fly fast and very low to the ground, then go up above and obstruction and surprise they prey around the other side.
The Cooper’s Hawk is a short to medium-distance migrant. They are found spending their winters over most of the 48 states, and some of these hawks can migrate as far south as Mexico and even Honduras. They can be found in southern Wisconsin year-round, and whilst breeding they can be seen in northern Wisconsin.
To find a Cooper’s Hawk, just keep your eyes peeled. They are common, but very stealthy. They are also smaller than most Hawks.
If you have feeders in your backyard, there is a chance you can attract the Cooper’s Hawk. The Hawk will stay around your house killing the smaller birds. If this happens take down your feeders for a few days until the Cooper’s Hawk gives up and moves to the next spot.
25. Common Redpoll
Image: © Eric Gofreed | Macaulay Library
Scientific name: Acanthis flammea
Length: 4.7-5.5 in (12-14 cm)
Weight: 0.4-0.7 oz (11-20 g)
Wingspan: 7.5-8.7 in (19-22 cm)
Found in 21.89 percent of sites visited in Wisconsin
The Common Redpoll is a very heavily streaked bird, with streaks going down the sides. They are mostly brown and white; they have a small red patch on their forehead. These are small songbirds, with tiny heads, and tiny bills for seed-eating. Their tail is small and also notched at the tip.
Common Redpolls can travel in flocks including up to several hundred individual birds. They like to forage for seed in weedy fields, or small trees, moving frenetically. They will often be foraging one minute, and next minute the whole group will swirl away.
The Common Redpoll will be found in Wisconsin around winter time. They are irruptive migrants, moving south irregularly in winter, only following the food supply patterns.
In the winter, most people in the United States will probably get to see a Common Redpoll. They like to forage in trees and weedy fields. Listen out for their sharp, energetic, calls.
Common Redpolls are quite fond of thistle and Nyjer feeders, they also like sunflower seeds, black oil, and hulled to be specific. They can be found feeding out of tube feeders, hoppers, platforms, and off of the ground.
Bird Watching in Wisconsin
Wisconsin is an excellent place for beginning birdwatchers to discover the wonders of avian life. This midwestern state is home to a diverse range of birds due to its diverse habitats, which range from vast forests to rolling prairies. Wisconsin has something for all types of birdwatchers, from the iconic bald eagle to the state bird, the American robin.
The climate in Wisconsin is ideal for birdwatching. The weather provides an ideal environment for the birds, with cold winters, warm summers, and mild springs and autumns. The best times to see a wide variety of species migrating through the state are in the spring and fall. Look for waterfowl on lakes and rivers in the winter. In the summer, songbirds can be seen in the woods and meadows.
Make sure to dress appropriately for the weather before embarking on your birdwatching adventure. Wear light, breathable clothing in the summer to stay cool and comfortable. To stay warm in the winter, layer up with a coat and a hat. Remember to bring binoculars, a field guide, and a journal to record the birds you see. With a little planning, you’ll be ready to enjoy the Badger State’s birds.
Attracting Backyard Birds in Wisconsin
Creating a wildlife-friendly habitat is the first step in attracting birds to your backyard. Plant native shrubs and trees for food and shelter. Install bird feeders and a birdbath to provide a consistent source of food and water for birds. Remember to keep your cat indoors to protect the birds.
The weather in Wisconsin can influence which birds you see in your backyard. Look for flocks of waterfowl on the waterways in the winter. Songbirds can be seen in the trees during the summer. Keep an eye out for migrants in the spring and fall. Whatever the season, there’s always something interesting in your backyard.
With a little effort, you can transform your backyard into a bird sanctuary. You’ll soon be rewarded with the sights and sounds of Wisconsin’s feathered friends if you have a little patience.