Saturday, October 26, 2019

30 Backyard Birds to Know | Wisconsin

[2022 Rewrite]

I've put this resource together for you to answer your question: What birds are in my backyard in Wisconsin?

This article lists and discusses the identification of the most common birds in your backyard. The birds chosen in this article are compiled from actual data from the citizen science program eBird. Thus, it is more accurate than some other similar articles you may find on the web. I provide pictures of each bird species mentioned. I tell how to attract them to your backyard.


These are the most common backyard birds in Wisconsin:

  1. Black-capped Chickadee
  2. American Crow
  3. American Robin
  4. American Goldfinch
  5. Northern Cardinal
  6. Mourning Dove
  7. Blue Jay
  8. Red-winged Blackbird
  9. Downy Woodpecker
  10. White-breasted Nuthatch
  11. Song Sparrow
  12. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  13. House Sparrow
  14. European Starling
  15. Dark-eyed Junco
  16. House Finch
  17. Common Grackle
  18. Hairy Woodpecker
  19. House Wren
  20. Gray Catbird
  21. Red-eyed Vireo
  22. Chipping Sparrow
  23. Barn Swallow
  24. Indigo Bunting
  25. Cedar Waxwing
  26. Brown-headed Cowbird
  27. Eastern Wood-Pewee
  28. Baltimore Oriole
  29. Rose-breasted Grosbeak
  30. Northern Flicker




What's in this article?

  • State overview of birds and bird watching in Wisconsin
  • Photos and identification of common backyard birds
  • Most common birds by season
  • Common birds of Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay




Wisconsin Birds and Birding in Wisconsin State


eBird lists over 455 types of birds as occurring in the state of Wisconsin.

The most common bird in Wisconsin: the most frequently seen bird in the state is Black-capped Chickadee. It is reported on 69% of bird watching lists.

The official State Bird of Wisconsin is American Robin.

If you are serious about knowing the birds native to Wisconsin, then check out eBird for Wisconsin. It has recent sightings and photos, illustrated checklists with weekly abundance bar charts for state, counties, and individual hotspots of the best birding locations.

If you want to know about other people interested in birds in your area, join a local bird group. The American Birding Association maintains a list of bird watching clubs for each state.




Need help choosing your first pair of bird watching binoculars?

I have written several articles on choosing binoculars. Let me save you the trouble of reading them all. I really love my Celestron 8x42 Nature DX ED (purchase with this Amazon affiliate link that supports this blog). They sell for well under $200. You won't have buyer's remorse. 



My other pages for birds in Wisconsin:

Red, Orange, & Yellow Birds of Wisconsin

Feeding Winter Birds in Wisconsin





Wisconsin Bird Identification (Pictures of backyard birds of Wisconsin)


This section is the species accounts. These are designed to help you to recognize birds you see in your backyard. I have used eBird to select the birds that are most common. “Common” means the birds seen most often throughout the year, not necessarily the most numerous.

Each species account starts with an image. I have tried to use my own personal photographs of each species, if I have them. But I've done my bird photography mostly in the West. Thus, I've had to rely on others for pictures of some common Eastern birds. I always make sure the bird images (mine and others) are correctly identified.

In the identification section I am using size and shape and bill type before considering the color or patterns on the birds. I find these more reliable when trying to identify an unknown bird. Pay attention to body and tail shape and especially bill shape of birds you see, not just plumage color.

I have written an article on how to identify birds, it is slightly different from other popular identification methods. Check it out if you wish: 7 Steps to Identify Birds.

In the section on bird feeders and foods I tell how to attract each species. Not all types of backyard birds will come to feeders. But all backyard birds can be attracted with water. So don't forget to add a birdbath to your bird feeding station.

Do you live in Northern Wisconsin? Southern Wisconsin? Central Wisconsin? Northeastern Wisconsin? Southeastern Wisconsin? Western Wisconsin? To appear in this article, most birds are widely distributed throughout the state and are often year-round residents. However, for those birds that are more localized in place or time, I list the general region and seasonality. Please see the section following these species accounts for the lists of common species by season.

Even if a species is found in a general area, they occur only in the habitat they prefer. So, the exact habitat of your neighborhood is important for the presence of absence of certain kinds of birds.



1. Black-capped Chickadee

Poecile atricapillus

This is a common backyard bird in the northern half of the United States.


Photo of Black-capped Chickadee on bird bath
Black-capped Chickadee. Greg Gillson.


Range in Wisconsin: Black-capped Chickadees are year-round residents in Wisconsin.

Identification: 

Size: Chickadees are small birds, the same general size as an American Goldfinch. 

Shape: Round body, big round head, long tail with rounded tip. 

Bill: Short, straight, stout. 

Color: Gray above, buffy below. Black cap and bib with white lower face. White edges on wing feathers.

Habitat, range & behavior: Deciduous and mixed forests. 

They range from the northern half of the United States, southern half of Canada, and most of Alaska. 

Small flocks flit actively from tree to tree acrobatically gleaning insects from twig tips. In winter chickadees make up the core of mixed-species flocks also containing nuthatches, kinglets, creepers, woodpeckers and others.

Food and feeder preference: Seeds, insects, berries. They eat at tube, hopper and tray feeders. They love black oil sunflower seeds and suet.

You may like my in-depth article on attracting Black-capped Chickadees.


2. American Crow

Corvus brachyrhynchos

This larger all-black bird is common in cities and country. Its cawing call is familiar to most people.


Photo of American Crow
American Crow. Greg Gillson.


Range in Wisconsin: American Crows are year-round residents in Wisconsin.

Identification: This is a key species for comparing with an unknown bird. 

Size: About 17-1/2 inches long from bill tip to tail tip, though there is much size variation throughout its range. Larger than blackbirds and grackles. Smaller than ravens. 

Shape: Thick neck, large head, rather short square-ended tail. Longer legs. In flight has rounded wing tips with each primary feather separated from others forming "fingers." 

Bill: As long as head, thick, black. 

Color: Glossy black throughout.

Habitat, range & behavior: They prefer open areas with trees, fields, farms, cities. 

They are common across most of the United States lower-48, except in the desert southwest. They move into southern Canada in summer. 

They gather in evening communal roosts in large flocks that may number into the thousands and then move out at dawn into the surrounding area.

Food and feeder preference: Omnivorous, they feed on large insects, grain, small mammals, carrion. You probably don't want these large entirely black birds in your backyard feeders. So don't feed table scraps to birds.


3. American Robin

Turdus migratorius

This familiar bird is a resident in the northern half of the United States and a winter visitor in the southern half.


Photo of American Robin
American Robin. Greg Gillson.


Range in Wisconsin: American Robins are year-round residents in most of Wisconsin, summer residents only in northern Wisconsin.

Identification: This is a key species for comparing with an unknown bird. 

Size: 10 inches long from bill tip to tail tip. About the same size as a Blue Jay or one of the Scrub-Jays. Larger than Red-winged Blackbird. Smaller than a Mourning Dove. 

Shape: Very plump with a fairly long tail. 

Bill: Straight and fairly slender, curved at the tip. 

Color: Gray-brown upperparts, rusty orange breast.

Habitat, range & behavior: Open woodlands, farmlands, urban parks and lawns. 

Migratory, breeds north across Alaska and Canada. Resident in most of the United States (lower 48). Winters in the United States, Mexico, to central America. 

Hops on your lawn turning head this way and that looking for food. Their caroling song is one of the early signs of spring in the north.

Food and feeder preference: Worms and other invertebrates in the lawn. May eat fruit from a tray feeder or the ground. Eat small berries from trees and bushes.


4. American Goldfinch

Spinus tristis

A beautiful tiny finch familiar to many in its bright yellow summer plumage. Colloquially called a "wild canary."


Photo of American Goldfinch
American Goldfinch. Greg Gillson.


Range in Wisconsin: American Goldfinches are year-round residents throughout Wisconsin.

Identification: This is a key species for comparing with an unknown bird. 

Size: Very small at about 5 inches from bill tip to tail tip. Similar in size to a chickadee. Larger than hummingbirds. Smaller than juncos and House Finches. 

Shape: Tiny, somewhat plump with larger head and short tail. 

Bill: Short, conical, pink. 

Color: Males in summer are bright lemon yellow with black forehead and black wings and tail with white bars. White under tail coverts. Females are dull olive, wings and tail browner. Winter birds are pale grayish-yellow with tan and brown wings and tail.

Habitat, range & behavior: This species is found in weedy fields and similar clearings with thistles and similar plants. 

It is found coast-to-coast throughout the year across most of the middle lower-48 states. In summer moves north to the Canada border. In the winter found south to the Mexico border. 

The flight is highly undulating, rising and falling as they flap in short bursts. Besides a long, sweet lilting song, they call in flight a lilting 4-part: "potato chip!"

Food and feeder preference: Feeds on weed seeds, thistle seed. May eat black oil sunflower seeds from tube feeder. Love Nyjer seed in a feeder called a "thistle sock."

You may like to read my in-depth article on attracting American Goldfinches.



Wagner's Songbird Supreme bird seed is my favorite for attracting the most kind of birds to my feeder. If it isn't available, a close second is Wagner's Greatest Variety. These are Amazon affiliate links that help support this blog. Thank you.



5. Northern Cardinal

Cardinalis cardinalis

This is one of the most common and popular backyard birds in the eastern half of the United States.


Photo of Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal. GeorgeB2 from Pixabay.


Range in Wisconsin: Northern Cardinals are year-round residents in most of Wisconsin, absent in northern Wisconsin.

Identification: 

Size: Cardinals are a bit smaller than American Robins, about the same size as Red-winged Blackbirds. 

Shape: Plump body with fairly long full tail. Wispy crest. 

Bill: Short, heavy, conical, pink. 

Color: That bright red color is matched by few other birds. Black face. The female is grayer, but with hints of red in wings and tail, and has a crest, too.

Habitat, range & behavior: Cardinals are year-round residents in shrubby woodland edges.

Found from the eastern United States to Texas and Arizona south into Mexico. 

That large conical bill is made for chewing seeds. Watch them crack open sunflower seeds, spit out the hulls, and pluck the kernel with their tongues!

Food and feeder preference: Black oil sunflower seeds. Many types of seeds, berries, nuts in larger hopper or tray feeders.

You may like my in-depth article on attracting Northern Cardinals.


6. Mourning Dove

Zenaida macroura

Mourning Doves are the most widespread and most frequent backyard bird in the Lower 48 states of the United States.


Photo of Mourning Dove in a tree
Mourning Dove. Greg Gillson.


Range in Wisconsin: Mourning Doves are year-round residents throughout most of Wisconsin, summer residents only in northern Wisconsin.

Identification: This is a key species for comparing with an unknown bird. 

Size: About 12 inches long from bill tip to tail tip. About same size as Northern Flicker. Larger than American Robin. Slightly smaller than domestic city pigeon. 

Shape: Very plump with a small round head. Tail is long and pointed. Legs are short. 

Bill: Small and rather slender. 

Color: Pale brown-pink body, darker wings and tail. White edges on side of tail.

Habitat, range & behavior: Semi-open areas such as urban areas, farmlands, woods. 

Often seen perched on wires, fences. It is a resident across the lower-48 states and Mexico, with some movement out of northern areas in winter. Their mournful cooing is a familiar spring birdsong.

Food and feeder preference: Mourning Doves eat seeds almost exclusively. Attract with black oil sunflower seeds on a large sturdy tray feeder or on the ground.


7. Blue Jay

Cyanocitta cristata

A common and well-known bird in the eastern half of the United States.


Photo of Blue Jay enjoying a bath
Blue Jay. skeeze from Pixabay.


Range in Wisconsin: Blue Jays are year-round residents throughout Wisconsin.

Identification: 

Size: About that of American Robin. 

Shape: Fluffy, large crested head, ample tail. Large strong legs. 

Bill: Black, long and stout. 

Color: Blue above, white below. Black neck collar. White patches in wing.

Habitat, range & behavior: Woodlands and towns. 

Found in the eastern half of the United States. In summer into southern Canada. 

Bold and brash. May bully smaller birds. Jays gulp lots of seeds or other food at once, storing it in their crop. Then they fly off and bury food items in a hidden cache.

Food and feeder preference: Omnivorous. They can quickly empty your feeder! Because they are also aggressive toward other feeder birds, some people put mesh cages around smaller bird feeders. Small birds can go through, squirrels and larger "pest" birds are prevented entry. Some people feed jays peanuts, perhaps away from the seed feeders.


8. Red-winged Blackbird

Agelaius phoeniceus

These noisy flocking birds are most often found in marshes. But in winter they are found in backyards.


Photo of singing Red-winged Blackbird
Male Red-winged Blackbird. Greg Gillson.


Photo of female Red-winged Blackbird in tree
Female Red-winged Blackbird. Greg Gillson.


Range in Wisconsin: Red-winged Blackbirds are summer residents throughout Wisconsin.

Identification: This is a key species for comparing with an unknown bird.

Size: About 8-3/4 inches long from bill tip to tail tip. About the size of a Northern Cardinal. Smaller than an American Robin.

Shape: Pot-bellied with a longer bill and flat forehead. Tail average.

Bill: Long and sharp pointed.

Color: Males are black with red and yellow shoulder patch. Females are streaked brown and rusty (sparrow-like but pointed bill and flat forehead).

Habitat, range, and behavior: Cattail marshes and wetlands are their summer habitat. In winter they feed in grain fields.

They breed across most of the North American continent. In winter they withdraw from most of Alaska and Canada.

They are found in colonies in summer and large flocks in winter.

Food and feeder preference: They eat insects in summer. In winter they eat grain and seeds. They visit feeders, more often in large winter flocks, and eat most seeds and suet.


9. Downy Woodpecker

Dryobates pubescens

This tiny woodpecker is found across the United States.


Photo of Downy Woodpecker on suet block
Downy Woodpecker. Greg Gillson.


Range in Wisconsin: Downy Woodpeckers are year-round residents throughout Wisconsin.

Identification: 

Size: Bigger than a junco or House Finch. Smaller than a Red-winged Blackbird. About the same size as a White-crowned Sparrow, but with a much shorter tail. 

Shape: Stocky with large head and short stiff tail. 

Bill: Short, chisel shaped. 

Color: Black-and-white striped head. Black wings with white spots. Solid white back. White under parts. Black tail with white outer tail feathers with black bars or spots. Male with small red spot at back of head.

Habitat, range & behavior: Found in small deciduous trees, willows, and even weed stocks such as teasel, especially near water. 

Ranges coast-to-coast across all but northernmost parts of Canada and Alaska south to the southern US. Absent in the desert southwest. 

Interestingly, I learned today that the males may more often be found in smaller plants and twigs, while females are more likely on tree trunks.

Food and feeder preference: Insects, fruits, and seeds. Gleans arthropods from the bark of trees. Attract with suet feeder. Will also eat black oil sunflower seeds.


10. White-breasted Nuthatch

Sitta carolinensis

A favorite feeder bird for many for its active antics and fearlessness. Though a small bird it is the largest nuthatch in North America.


Photo of White-breasted Nuthatch head-first down the tree
White-breasted Nuthatch. Greg Gillson.


Range in Wisconsin: White-breasted Nuthatches are year-round residents throughout Wisconsin.

Identification: 

Size: About chickadee-sized in length. Smaller than a junco or House Finch. 

Shape: Appears large-headed, neckless, very short tailed. Short legs. 

Bill: Nearly as long as head, straight, thin. 

Color: Blue-gray above, white below. Black cap, wing tips, tail. Rusty feathers under tail.

Habitat, range & behavior: Common in oak and oak-pine woodlands, wooded towns. 

Found across the United States, southern Canada, mountains of central Mexico. Absent from treeless grasslands, deserts in the west. 

Crawls over tree branches and head-first down tree trunks searching for insects.

Food and feeder preference: Insects, seeds, acorns and other nuts. Love black oil sunflower seeds feeding on hopper and tray feeders. Suet blocks.


11. Song Sparrow

Melospiza melodia

A common bird, but variable, and similar to many other streaked brown sparrows.


Photo of Song Sparrow in bush
Song Sparrow. Greg Gillson.


Range in Wisconsin: Song Sparrows are year-round residents in southern Wisconsin, summer residents only in northern Wisconsin.

Identification: 

Size: A smaller bird, similar in size to House Finch and juncos. Larger than chickadees and goldfinches. Smaller than White-crowned Sparrows or Spotted/Eastern towhees. 

Shape: Plump with round head, long rounded tail. 

Bill: Short, conical. 

Color: Highly variable in darkness and color saturation across its range (dark rusty to pale gray). Generally gray-brown above with dark brown streaking on back. Complicated head pattern. Streaking on sides and breast converge into dense central breast spot.

Habitat, range & behavior: Thickets, especially near water. Backyard shrubbery. 

Resident in western United States, western Canada, coastal southern Alaska, northeastern US. In summer also moves into mid-Canada and northern half of US. In the winter found in most of the US lower-48. Also a population in central Mexico. 

Forages on ground, never far from low cover to which they fly if startled.

Food and feeder preference: They feed on seeds and insects near the ground. Will visit hopper and tray feeders for mixed bird seed.


12. Red-bellied Woodpecker

Melanerpes carolinus

This is one of the most common species in the eastern half of the United States.


Photo of Red-bellied Woodpecker climbing a tree
Red-bellied Woodpecker. skeeze from Pixabay.


Range in Wisconsin: Red-bellied Woodpeckers are year-round residents in southern Wisconsin, absent in northern Wisconsin.

Identification: 

Size: Fairly large for a backyard bird. Between a Starling and American Robin in size. Smaller than a Northern Flicker. 

Shape: Stout with large head and short tail. Clings to tree trunk on strong short legs propped up with short stiff tail. 

Bill: Long, chisel shaped. 

Color: Pale gray body, many thin black-and-white bars across back and wings. Red nape, extending forward on crown on male.

Habitat, range & behavior: These birds are found in many woodland types, including oak, hickory and pine. 

They are found from the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains in the lower-48 states from Texas to extreme southern Canada, and eastward from Florida northward just to the southern edge of the New England states. 

In typical woodpecker fashion, it hitches up the tree trunk and larger branches.

Food and feeder preference: This species eats insects and nuts. They may eat peanuts from a tray feeder and eat from a suet block.


13. House Sparrow

Passer domesticus

Like the starling, this is another bird introduced from Europe in the 1800's. This sparrow is commonly found in cities and farmlands. It is considered a pest in most areas where it has been introduced.


Photo of House Sparrow on feeder with sunflower seed
House Sparrow. Greg Gillson.


Range in Wisconsin: House Sparrows are year-round residents throughout Wisconsin.

Identification: 

Size: The size of a House Finch or Dark-eyed Junco. 

Shape: Chunkier than native North American sparrows with large head, barrel chest, short neck, medium tail, short legs. 

Bill: Short, conical. 

Color: Males are brown and gray with a black mask. Females lack the black and are tan and brown with a pale line back from the eye.

Habitat, range & behavior: Cities and farms. 

Range in North American from southern Canada through Central America. In summer northward through Canada to southern Alaska. Originated in Middle East and spread to most of Europe and Asia. Introduced in South America, Africa, Australia--nearly anywhere there are people and cities. 

They tend to be messy... and have a good appetite and may occur in large noisy chirping flocks. They are aggressive toward other feeder birds.

Food and feeder preference: They eat grain, seed, and insects. To discourage them from your hopper and tray feeders do not feed birds human food scraps. They have a bit of difficulty eating from tube feeders.


14. European Starling

Sturnus vulgaris

Introduced to North America in the late 1800's, they crossed the continent, often to the detriment of native cavity-nesting birds. The prime example of an invasive species.


Photo of European Starling
European Starling. Greg Gillson.


Range in Wisconsin: European Starlings are year-round residents throughout Wisconsin.

Identification: This is a key species for comparing with an unknown bird. 

Size: 8-1/2 inches from bill tip to tail tip. About the size of a Red-winged Blackbird. Smaller than an American Robin. Larger than a White-crowned Sparrow or Spotted/Eastern towhee. 

Shape: Stocky with large head, short square-ended tail. Longer legs. 

Bill: As long as head. Sharp pointed. Yellow in spring, otherwise dark. 

Color: They are grayish brown much of the year, with glossy iridescence and white spotting during the spring.

Habitat, range & behavior: Lowland birds that need trees large enough for nest cavities but plenty of open area for feeding. They are most abundant in urban and suburban areas where they find food and artificial nest cavities. 

Resident from coast-to-coast from southern Canada to northern Mexico. In summer north across Canada and Alaska. Native range is Europe to Pakistan, north Africa. 

Often viewed as a pest, starlings often bully other backyard birds, taking over bird feeders, and stealing nest cavities from smaller native birds. In winter they can form into flocks of tens of thousands.

Food and feeder preference: Primarily insects when available, often feeding on the ground. Discourage them from your backyard hopper and tray feeders by never feeding birds table scraps (including bread or meat). They have weak feet and do not perch well on tube feeders. A cage mesh around smaller hopper feeders may keep them out.


15. Dark-eyed Junco

Junco hyemalis

Colloquially called "snowbirds," they often arrive in backyards in winter from nearby mountain forests or more northern climes.


Photo of Dark-eyed Junco on snow-covered branch
Dark-eyed Junco. skeeze from Pixabay.


Range in Wisconsin: Dark-eyed Juncos are winter visitors throughout Wisconsin, year-round residents in northern Wisconsin.

Identification: 

Size: Small birds about the size of a House Finch. 

Shape: Round body, short neck, round head, fairly long square-ended tail. 

Bill: Short, pointed, conical, pink. 

Color: Eastern birds are a darker all-gray with white belly. Western birds have jet black hood over the head, brown back, and pink sides.

Habitat, range & behavior: Breed in coniferous forests. Winters widely. Avoids heavy brush, preferring widely spaced bushes. 

Breeds across most of Canada, Alaska, and the western half of the United States. Winters from southern Canada and all of the lower 48-states to extreme northern Mexico. 

Spend much of their time hopping and feeding on the ground.

Food and feeder preference: Eats mostly seeds, also insects in summer. Readily feed at backyard feeders on mixed seeds on hopper or tray feeders and ground.

You may like my in-depth article on attracting Dark-eyed Juncos.


16. House Finch

Haemorhous mexicanus

Originally a bird of the West, now found across most of the US. There are other red finches, but these are the ones most likely in residential areas.


Photo of a House Finch in a bird bath
House Finch. Greg Gillson.


Range in Wisconsin: House Finches are year-round residents in southern Wisconsin, absent in northern Wisconsin.

Identification: This is a key species for comparing with an unknown bird. 

Size: About 6 inches from bill tip to tail tip. Larger than goldfinches and chickadees. Smaller than a White-crowned Sparrows or Spotted/Eastern towhees. 

Shape: Medium build with a medium-long notched tail. Round head. 

Bill: Short, conical. 

Color: Brown and gray above with streaks on the sides of the pale underparts. Males with red (sometimes orange or rarely yellow) crown, chest, rump.

Habitat, range & behavior: You'll find small flocks on wires, in short treetops and in bushes. Originally deserts and grasslands. Rural areas and towns are where they're now most common. 

Formerly found in the western United States and Mexico. Then introduced into the northeastern United States, but now found in nearly all of the lower-48 states and extreme southern Canada. Rare in plains states (Dakotas to Texas) and southern Florida. 

House Finches are not territorial, but males sing throughout the year--a lively, wiry song ending in a couple of buzzy notes.

Food and feeder preference: They love sunflower seeds and tube feeders. May eat from thistle socks.

You may like my in-depth article on attracting House Finches.


17. Common Grackle

Quiscalus quiscula

Sometimes considered a pest to crops, grackles are longer and lankier than very similar blackbirds.


Photo of Common Grackle on bird bath
Common Grackle. GeorgiaLens from Pixabay.


Range in Wisconsin: Common Grackles are summer residents throughout Wisconsin, year-round residents in southern Wisconsin.

Identification: 

Size: Larger than Red-winged Blackbirds, they are near the length of Mourning Doves. 

Shape: Long, with long full keel-shaped tail, long legs, flat crown. 

Bill: Longer than head, pointed, but stouter than other blackbirds. 

Color: Glossy black with hint of bronze or green on head (depending upon population). Yellow eye.

Habitat, range & behavior: They are found in agricultural areas, woodland edges, city parks and lawns. 

Resident in the southeastern United States. In summer they migrate northward and west to the central United States and Canada. 

They monopolize feeders and are bullies toward other birds.

Food and feeder preference: Grain, corn, acorns, small aquatic fish and amphibians. To discourage them, use tube feeders, rather than hopper or tray feeders. Don't over-feed, keep spilled seed picked up.


18. Hairy Woodpecker

Dryobates villosus

Hairy Woodpeckers appear in plumage almost exactly as Downy Woodpeckers. Hairy Woodpeckers are slightly larger with a heavier and longer bill.


Photo of Hairy Woodpecker on tree trunk
Hairy Woodpecker. Greg Gillson.


Range in Wisconsin: Hairy Woodpeckers are year-round residents throughout Wisconsin.

Identification:

Size: Slightly larger than Downy Woodpecker. Same size as Red-bellied or Acorn Woodpeckers. Much smaller than flickers.

Shape: Stout body. Large head. Short pointed tail. Short legs, large feet. Short rounded wings.

Bill: Slightly shorter than head. Stout. Chisel-shaped.

Color: Wings and upper parts generally black. White back. Black and white lines on face. Under parts white. Male with red spot on nape.

Habitat, range & behavior: They are found on large trees in open or dense forests.

These birds are widespread across North America except for treeless deserts and grasslands.

These birds are almost always found on trunks or heavy branches of large trees, often conifers. This is different from Downy Woodpeckers which are frequently on small branches, weed stalks, willows.

Food and feeder preference: Eat primarily insects. However, they will come to feeders in winter for suet, peanuts, and sunflower seeds from hopper or platform feeders.


19. House Wren

Troglodytes aedon

These birds will readily use nest boxes to raise their young.


Photo of House Wren in bush
House Wren. Greg Gillson.


Range in Wisconsin: House Wrens are summer residents throughout Wisconsin.

Identification:

Size: About the size of Black-capped Chickadee but with shorter tail.

Shape: Round body. Large head. Thin short tail.

Bill: Fairly long, thin, slightly down curved. Sharply pointed.

Color: Rather dull brownish-gray throughout. Paler throat and breast. Tail barred with black and pale bars along with the brown.

Habitat, range & behavior: Brushy areas, woodland edges, hedge rows, tree stumps in logged areas.

Breed across Canada and the northern and mid-latitudes of the United States. Winter to the southern United States and through Mexico. Found year round at southern edge of breeding range: California, North Carolina to northern Alabama, southern Arizona south through mountains of Mexico.

Stay hidden in brushy areas. Hop among tree roots, logged stumps.

Food and feeder preference: May feed at suet feeder.


20. Gray Catbird

Dumatella carolinensis

This bird is rather common where it occurs, but a bit secretive.


Photo of Gray Catbird in juniper
Gray Catbird. Greg Gillson


Range in Wisconsin: Gray Catbirds are summer residents throughout Wisconsin.

Identification: 

Size: About the length of a Red-winged Blackbird or Northern Cardinal. 

Shape: Long tailed, round head. 

Bill: Medium length, pointed. 

Color: Gray with a black tail and black cap. Rusty under tail coverts.

Habitat, range & behavior: Dense woodland edges, scrub, abandoned orchards. 

Breeds in eastern and central US and adjoining southern Canada. Winters in extreme south US Gulf states, southward in eastern Mexico to Panama. 

They spend much time hopping on the ground or in low bushes. They defend a winter territory, unlike most birds.

Food and feeder preference: Insects and berries. You may attract this species with jelly and fruit feeders, suet, and water.


21. Red-eyed Vireo

Vireo olivaceus

This is one of the most common songbirds in eastern woodlands.


Photo of Red-eyed Vireo in tree
Red-eyed Vireo. Greg Gillson.


Range in Wisconsin: Red-eyed Vireos are summer residents throughout Wisconsin.

Size: Small, about the size of an American Goldfinch. Smaller than a House Finch.

Shape: Long and slim, but with rather short tail. Big-looking head.

Bill: Longer, stout. Pointed but small hook on the end, as all vireos.

Color: They are olive-green above, white or with a hint of yellow below. Gray crown, bordered by black line, white eyebrow, and another thin black line through red eye.

Habitat, range & behavior: Tall deciduous trees, such as cottonwoods.

Breed across Canada, the Rocky Mountains and most of the East. Absent from much of the West and Southwest.

As with many vireos, they sing persistently through the summer and through the heat of the day, not just primarily during spring and at dawn as many other songbirds.

Food and feeder preference: They eat insects and will not come to feeders.


22. Chipping Sparrow

Spizella passerina

Chipping Sparrows are a widespread species adapted to human disturbance. They are rather tame. They are frequently found in cemeteries with large trees.


Photo of a Chipping Sparrow on a white headstone
Chipping Sparrow. Greg Gillson.


Range in Wisconsin: Chipping Sparrows are summer residents throughout Wisconsin.

Identification: 

Size: These are small sparrows, bigger than goldfinches or chickadees, but smaller than House Finches or Song Sparrows. 

Shape: Plump and fairly long tailed. 

Bill: Short and conical. 

Color: Striped brown and dark brown above. Grayish under parts. Black line through eye. Crown streaked in winter but in summer becomes solid chestnut. Two white wing bars. 

Habitat, range & behavior: Grassy open conifer woodlands with some shrubs, parks, orchards. 

Breeds from Alaska, across Canada and south into highlands of Middle America. In winter retreats from northern areas to southern United States and northern Mexico. 

In summer solitary or in pairs. In winter they forage in flocks of up to 50 birds. 

Food and feeder preference: Weed seeds, supplemented with insects in summer. They may eat black oil sunflower seeds in your feeder, but more likely will feed on mixed seeds on the ground under the feeder.


23. Barn Swallow

Hirundo rustica

These swallows are widely distributed throughout the world, primarily breeding in the northern hemisphere, and wintering in the mid-latitudes and southern hemisphere.


Photo of a Barn Swallow on a barbed wire fence
Barn Swallow. Greg Gillson.

Range in Wisconsin: Barn Swallows are summer residents throughout Wisconsin.

Identification: 

Size: About the size of a House Finch but with a much longer tail. 

Shape: Stocky, short necked but with long body and tail. Tail is forked, with very long outer tail feathers. Wings pointed. 

Bill: Short, wide. 

Color: Glossy dark purplish-blue above. Pinkish orange below. 

Habitat, range & behavior: Barn Swallows live in open country, frequently near humans. Farmlands. Nest in barns, under small bridges. 

In North America breed from Mexico to northern Canada and Alaska, wintering from southern Mexico throughout most of South America. 

Frequently seen swooping low over the ground hunting flying insects. Perch on wires, fences. Voice is twitters and chirps with grating sounds. 

Food and feeder preference: Eat flying insects on the wing and are not attracted to backyard feeders.


24. Indigo Bunting

Passerina cyanea

Don't mistake Indigo Buntings for the larger Blue Grosbeak. As the name suggests, the grosbeak has a much larger and thicker bill, along with rusty wing bars, lacking in Indigo Buntings.


Photo of Indigo Bunting in tree
Indigo Bunting. Greg Gillson.


Range in Wisconsin: Indigo Buntings are summer residents throughout Wisconsin.

Identification:

Size: These birds are a bit smaller than a House Sparrow.

Shape: Plump. Large round head. Medium short tail.

Bill: Large and conical.

Color: Males are deep blue. Females are pale gray-brown with diffuse streaks below.

Habitat, range & behavior: Open woodlands and clearings. Country farm roads.

They are found in the East and parts of the Southwest, north to southern Canada.

Sing from the tallest tip of tree or telephone lines, a cheerful paired bouncy song very similar to American Goldfinch. In fact, they are sometimes called "blue goldfinches" because of this!

Food and feeder preference: These birds will eat seeds from hopper feeders, perhaps more so in the late spring when they first arrive during migration.


25. Cedar Waxwing

Bombycilla cedrorum

Waxy red tips to the wing feathers give these birds their unique name. Maybe it's the fancy crest. Maybe it's the bandit mask. Maybe it's the yellow band at the tip of its tail. But these are one of my favorite birds.


Photo of Cedar Waxwing on branch
Cedar Waxwing. Greg Gillson.


Range in Wisconsin: Cedar Waxwings are year-round residents throughout Wisconsin.

Identification:

Size: Smaller than European Starling. Larger than House Sparrow.

Shape: Similar to European Starling. Rather stocky. Short squared tail, but long under tail coverts. Large head. Pointed wings. Wispy crest.

Bill: Rather short, small, wide.

Color: Warm brown above with wispy crest. Black mask. Yellowish belly. White under tail coverts. Gray wings. Gray tail with yellow tip.

Habitat, range, & behavior: Deciduous woods, wooded streams and lakeshores, residential shade trees, fruit orchards.

Resident across the northern US. Summer resident in Canada. Winter visitor throughout all of US and Mexico.

Keep in tight flocks. Feed in trees and large bushes for berries. Fly catch over ponds and streams.

Food and feeder preference: Berries and flying insects. Usually don't come to feeders unless fruit like cherries offered but will visit bird baths.


26. Brown-headed Cowbird

Molothrus ater

Cowbirds are small blackbirds lay their eggs in the nests of other smaller birds, such as warblers. The adoptive parents raise their young!


Photo of Brown-headed Cowbird on stump
Brown-headed Cowbird. Greg Gillson.


Range in Wisconsin: Brown-headed Cowbirds are summer residents throughout Wisconsin.

Identification: 

Size: Larger than White-crowned Sparrows, but smaller than Rose-breasted or Black-headed Grosbeaks. Smaller than other blackbirds, starlings, and grackles.

Shape: Perhaps a little bit pot-bellied. Medium length tail. Flat forehead as typical for blackbirds.

Bill: Rather thick and stout.

Color: Males are glossy black with rich brown head. Females are dusty gray-brown throughout. Long-held juvenile plumage similar to pale female, scaly, being fed by Yellow Warbler or Song Sparrow or a hundred other host species.

Habitat, range & behavior: They are found in woodlands and farms. Also, with other blackbirds in winter at shopping center parking lots.

In summer they breed across Canada and most of the United States and Mexico. In winter they move south out of Canada and occupy both coasts and southeastern States in the US.

These small blackbirds join other flocks of blackbirds in cattle feedlots. You may see cowbirds riding on the backs of cattle, sheep, or horses. They originally rode on the backs of American bison on the Great Plains but expanded when forests were cut.

Food and feeder preference: Cowbirds eat grains, seeds, and insects. They will readily come to hopper and platform feeders. They are larger and more aggressive, so keep other birds from feeders and have a big appetite!


27. Eastern Wood-Pewee

Contopus virens

Eastern Wood-Pewees and Western Wood-Pewees appear very similar. Their ranges nearly split the continent in half, east and west. Their song separates them; it is a clear whistled pee-a-wee in the Eastern Wood-Pewee, and a burry pee-yeear in the Western Wood-Pewee.


Photo of Eastern Wood-Pewee
Eastern Wood-Pewee. Tony Castro CC 4.0


Range in Wisconsin: Eastern Wood-Pewees are summer residents throughout Wisconsin.

Identification:

Size: Bigger than a House Finch; smaller than a bluebird.

Shape: Upright posture. Large head. Thick chest. Long tail. Long wings.

Bill: Medium length, wide at base. Black above; yellow-orange below.

Color: Grayish-olive above, slight yellow tinge below (looks white in strong light). Pale wing bars. No eye ring.

Habitat, range & behavior: Woodlands. Large shade trees in town.

Summer resident in the East, from southern Canada southward.

These flycatchers tend to perch on a dead twig high in the canopy. They sing throughout the day, attracting attention to this otherwise quite drab and nondescript bird.

Food and feeder preference: These birds feed on flying insects and do not come to feeders.


28. Baltimore Oriole

Icterus galbula

These are beautiful summer songbirds in the East.


Photo of Baltimore Oriole eating an orange
Baltimore Oriole. Michael McGough from Pixabay.


Range in Wisconsin: Baltimore Orioles are summer residents throughout Wisconsin.

Identification:

Size: Smaller than a robin; just a bit smaller than a Red-winged Blackbird.

Shape: Rounded belly. The body is long with long under tail coverts, but the tail is somewhat short. Large head.

Bill: Fairly long and heavy. Pointed, slightly curved.

Color: The males are brilliant orange below, black above, including a hood over the head. Wings are black with two wing bars. Females are yellowish-orange below and more olive-green above, but still show the white wing bars.

Habitat, range & behavior: Shade trees and deciduous woodlands.

Found east of the Rocky Mountains from Canada southward. Winter in far southeastern coastal US and Florida, and southward.

Orioles build sock-like hanging nests made of long fibers. These nests often last the winter and may be observed once the leaves are off the trees.

Food and feeder preference: These birds eat insects, fruit, and nectar. You may be able to attract orioles to your feeders with cut oranges and special oriole nectar feeders similar to hummingbird feeders.



Looking for a hummingbird feeder? I have personally been enjoying the easy-to-clean More Birds brand hummingbird feeder. There are several sizes. I like the smaller Ruby model (Amazon affiliate link). Thank you for supporting this website with your purchases!



29. Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Pheucticus ludovicianus

These birds with the red breast and huge pink bill sing beautiful robin-like songs from the tops of trees.


Photo of Rose-breasted Grosbeak on pole
Male Rose-breasted Grosbeak. Susan Killian. Pixabay.


Range in Wisconsin: Rose-breasted Grosbeaks are summer residents throughout Wisconsin.

Identification:

Size: Larger than Eastern Towhee. Smaller than American Robin.

Shape: Pot belly. Big head and bill. Medium tail.

Bill: Huge pink bill.

Color: Males have black hood and upper parts. White under parts. Large white wing patches.  Inverted bright red triangle on the breast. Females are brown above, face with broad stripes, white throat. The under parts are buff with many thin brown streaks. 

Habitat, range & behavior: These birds inhabit deciduous and mixed forests. Shade trees in town. 

Breed in northern parts of eastern United States, adjacent Canada, northwest to Alberta. Migrate east of the Rocky Mountains. Winter Mexico, Caribbean, northern South America.

Sing from tops of trees. Come to feeders.

Food and feeder preference: Black oil sunflower seeds from hopper or platform feeders.


30. Northern Flicker

Colaptes auratus

Of all the bird identification questions I get asked, this common larger backyard bird is the bird most people ask about. It doesn't occur to those unfamiliar with it that this could be a woodpecker.


Photo of Northern Flicker in tree
Northern Flicker. Greg Gillson.


Range in Wisconsin: Northern Flickers are year-round residents throughout Wisconsin.

Identification: 

Size: About the size of a Mourning Dove. Larger than a robin. 

Shape: Stocky with short legs, short tail, big head. 

Bill: As long as head, thin, slightly curved. 

Color: Back is brown with black bars. Under parts pinkish with black spots. Undersides of black wing and tail feathers are bright salmon red (West) or yellow (East). Head gray (West) or brown (East) and males with red (West) or black (East) whisker marks and nape marks (East). Black crescent across chest. White rump seen in flight.

Habitat, range & behavior: Found in woodland edges and forests. 

Year-round resident from extreme southern Canada, across all of the lower-48 states and in the mountains of Mexico and Middle America. In summer breeds northward well into Canada and Alaska. 

Frequently noted hopping on ground pecking in the ground for insects. In late spring, males proclaim their territory by rapid pounding on a hollow tree branch, though the ringing of metal downspouts at dawn is louder and carries much farther, to the exasperation of anyone trying to sleep inside!

Food and feeder preference: Ants and beetles are their primary foods. Will eat black oil sunflower seeds and are attracted to suet.





Common Birds in Wisconsin (Lists of most common feeder birds and most common backyard birds by season)


To determine how common each species is I used the data from actual bird sightings from the citizen science program eBird. Birds are listed by frequency. That is, how often the species is recorded on checklists submitted to eBird (a percentage).

When choosing the birds to include in this article I leaned strongly to birds that are present throughout the year in good numbers. Thus, many of the common birds are year-round residents. This means that they live in the same location all year. They raise their young in your neighborhood. They don't migrate. Or if the species does migrate, the ones living in your area don't. If this is the case, some migrants may move into your area during certain times of year, adding to the same species that are in your yard full time.

Some migrant birds visit your yard during the “summer.” Often, they arrive in spring and remain until late fall. They nest and raise their young in your neighborhood. These are the summer residents.

Other migrant birds visit your backyard during the “winter.” Some of these winter visitors may arrive in July and remain into April. Others may only be found in the cold of December or January. They key here is that they nest and raise their young somewhere else. They only visit your yard in the non-breeding season.

Migration is an amazing spectacle. There will be birds that fly through your region in spring or fall (or both). They may visit your backyard only a few days or weeks a year. They aren't regular enough, or stay long enough, to be included in this article. But the number of briefly visiting migrant birds could double the number of species presented here. You may see them over time. Consult checklists in eBird for your county to see what is possible.

I have generally excluded common waterfowl, birds of prey, shorebirds, seabirds, and others that aren't usually found in residential areas. But they may certainly fly over or be seen regularly if your home is on a shoreline, for instance.



Most common backyard birds in Wisconsin throughout the year


The following list is the backyard birds that are, on average, most common throughout the entire year. The list is ordered by most common based on the frequency of how often each species is recorded on checklists submitted to eBird.


The most common backyard birds throughout the year in the state of Wisconsin, in order, are these:

  1. Black-capped Chickadee (49% frequency)
  2. American Crow (46%)
  3. American Robin (44%)
  4. American Goldfinch (42%)
  5. Northern Cardinal (40%)
  6. Mourning Dove (38%)
  7. Blue Jay (37%)
  8. Red-winged Blackbird (36%)
  9. Downy Woodpecker (34%)
  10. White-breasted Nuthatch (32%)
  11. Song Sparrow (30%)
  12. Red-bellied Woodpecker (25%)
  13. House Sparrow (23%)
  14. European Starling (21%)
  15. Dark-eyed Junco (20%)
  16. House Finch (20%)
  17. Common Grackle (20%)



Most common backyard birds in Wisconsin in winter


The following list is the backyard birds that are most common in winter. The list is ordered by most common based on the frequency of how often each species is recorded on checklists submitted to eBird.


The most common backyard birds in Wisconsin in winter (December to February) are these:

  1. Black-capped Chickadee (55% frequency)
  2. American Crow (45%)
  3. Dark-eyed Junco (41%)
  4. Downy Woodpecker (40%)
  5. White-breasted Nuthatch (38%)
  6. Northern Cardinal (38%)
  7. American Goldfinch (34%)
  8. Mourning Dove (31%)
  9. Blue Jay (30%)
  10. Red-bellied Woodpecker (27%)
  11. House Sparrow (27%)
  12. Hairy Woodpecker (24%)
  13. House Finch (21%)



Most common backyard birds in Wisconsin in summer


The following list is the backyard birds that are most common in summer (June and July). The list is ordered by most common based on the frequency of how often each species is recorded on checklists submitted to eBird.


The most common backyard birds in Wisconsin in summer (June to July) are these:

  1. American Robin (64% frequency)
  2. Red-winged Blackbird (53%)
  3. Song Sparrow (50%)
  4. American Goldfinch (47%)
  5. Mourning Dove (44%)
  6. American Crow (41%)
  7. Black-capped Chickadee (38%)
  8. Blue Jay (37%)
  9. Northern Cardinal (36%)
  10. House Wren (35%)
  11. Gray Catbird (35%)
  12. Red-eyed Vireo (34%)
  13. Chipping Sparrow (34%)
  14. Common Grackle (29%)
  15. Barn Swallow (28%)
  16. Indigo Bunting (28%)
  17. Cedar Waxwing (27%)
  18. Brown-headed Cowbird (25%)
  19. Eastern Wood-Pewee (24%)
  20. White-breasted Nuthatch (24%)
  21. Downy Woodpecker (24%)
  22. House Sparrow (23%)
  23. Baltimore Oriole (23%)
  24. Rose-breasted Grosbeak (21%)
  25. European Starling (21%)
  26. Northern Flicker (20%)



How do birds differ between winter and summer?

Black-capped Chickadees, Dark-eyed Juncos, Downy Woodpeckers, White-breasted Nuthatches are more common in winter.

American Robins, Red-winged Blackbirds, Song Sparrows, American Goldfinches, Mourning Doves, House Wrens, Gray Catbirds, Red-eyed Vireos, Chipping Sparrows, Common Grackles, Barn Swallows, Indigo Buntings, Cedar Waxwings, Brown-headed Cowbirds, Eastern Wood-Pewees, Baltimore Orioles, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks are more common in summer.





Common Backyard Birds of Milwaukee, Wisconsin


Photo of Downy Woodpecker on suet feeder
Downy Woodpecker. Greg Gillson.


The following list uses eBird data to create a list of common backyard birds in Milwaukee. The city of Milwaukee is in Milwaukee County. I will use the data for Milwaukee County to represent the birds of the Milwaukee area.


Here are the most common backyard birds throughout the year in Milwaukee:

  1. Black-capped Chickadee (62% frequency)
  2. Northern Cardinal (59%)
  3. American Robin (55%)
  4. American Goldfinch (52%)
  5. Downy Woodpecker (49%)
  6. American Crow (44%)
  7. House Sparrow (38%)
  8. White-breasted Nuthatch (37%)
  9. Mourning Dove (37%)
  10. Blue Jay (32%)
  11. House Finch (29%)
  12. Red-bellied Woodpecker (28%)
  13. Song Sparrow (28%)
  14. Dark-eyed Junco (27%)
  15. Common Grackle (25%)
  16. European Starling (25%)
  17. Brown-headed Cowbird (20%)
  18. Gray Catbird (20%)



Northern Cardinals, American Robins, American Goldfinches, Downy Woodpeckers, House Sparrows are more common in Milwaukee than in the state as a whole. 

Other regular backyard birds occur at about the same frequency.





Common Backyard Birds of Madison, Wisconsin


The following list uses eBird data to create a list of common backyard birds in Madison. The city of Madison is in Dane County. I will use the data for Dane County to represent the birds of the Madison area.


Here are the most common backyard birds throughout the year in Madison:

  1. Northern Cardinal (56% frequency)
  2. Black-capped Chickadee (55%)
  3. American Robin (50%)
  4. American Crow (48%)
  5. American Goldfinch (45%)
  6. Downy Woodpecker (41%)
  7. Red-winged Blackbird (39%)
  8. Blue Jay (39%)
  9. White-breasted Nuthatch (38%)
  10. Mourning Dove (38%)
  11. Red-bellied Woodpecker (36%)
  12. House Finch (34%)
  13. House Sparrow (33%)
  14. Song Sparrow (32%)
  15. Dark-eyed Junco (23%)
  16. Common Grackle (22%)
  17. European Starling (21%)
  18. Gray Catbird (20%)



Northern Cardinals are more common in Madison than in the state as a whole.

Other backyard birds are very similar in abundance to the state average.





Common Backyard Birds of Green Bay, Wisconsin


The following list uses eBird data to create a list of common backyard birds in Green Bay. The city of Green Bay is in Brown County. I will use the data for Brown County to represent the birds of the Green Bay area.


Here are the most common backyard birds throughout the year in Green Bay:

  1. Mourning Dove (47% frequency)
  2. Black-capped Chickadee (41%)
  3. American Goldfinch (40%)
  4. Northern Cardinal (39%)
  5. American Crow (38%)
  6. Red-winged Blackbird (38%)
  7. American Robin (37%)
  8. Downy Woodpecker (35%)
  9. Blue Jay (32%)
  10. White-breasted Nuthatch (31%)
  11. House Sparrow (30%)
  12. Red-bellied Woodpecker (28%)
  13. House Finch (25%)
  14. Common Grackle (24%)
  15. Song Sparrow (23%)
  16. Dark-eyed Junco (20%)



Mourning Doves, American Robins are a bit more common in Green Bay than the state average.

Other backyard birds in Green Bay are very similar in frequency to the state as a whole.





Related: 

Red, Orange, & Yellow Birds of Wisconsin

Feeding Winter Birds in Wisconsin





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My review of the Celestron Nature DX ED 8x42: I recommend these as the best birding binoculars under $200


Would you like me to set up your bird feeding station for you? Here are my recommendations for you!


Here's some help for you to identify birds: 7 Steps to accurately identify birds

Get started watching birds! Bird watching tips and equipment.


Please also check out my recommended products page. There I maintain a list of the best feeders, bird foods, binoculars, bird baths, fountains, books and other bird watching items.




20 comments:

  1. I loved this! I'm currently working on a bird bingo sheet for people to use inside a nursing home, due to social distancing we've all gotten really into bird watching.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for taking the time to comment, Irasema. Bird watching is certainly enjoyable. I love going out and exploring new areas to find what different birds may be there. But they can also come to you when you are home-bound. And don't forget coloring sheets and word finds for other indoor bird activities!

      Delete
  2. Very informative resource. Thank you

    ReplyDelete
  3. I really liked it. The photos are helpful but I didnt find all the birds that visit my feeder. I think I had a couple brown thrashers. But thank you for the article!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Brown Thrashers? That's wonderful, Teri!

      You are right. I can't show every possible backyard bird. But I try for the most common, as they are more likely than rare birds. (But finding rare birds is fun, too!) Thank you for taking the time to comment. I appreciate it.

      Delete
  4. I am fortunate to have my coffee outside in the early morning and hear and see dozens of birds. I was able to identify many by your photos. There are so many different sounds to listen to, some very distinctive. Do most birds sound the same or do they have very different "voices" within their own species as well? I'd love to believe there are 20 different birds around my backyard, but I have a feeling fewer species are talking with one another.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Very interesting question. Some species have innate songs that they are born with and never change. Other species learn complex songs from their neighbors after hatching. Wrens, thrashers, mockingbirds may have dozens of songs one bird will sing. Some of these song variations are only given at dawn; once the sun comes up they may stick with the same song through the rest of the day!

      Males and females may have slightly different songs, if the female sings at all.

      Many birds also have a couple type of alarm or contact calls. Some birds that migrate at night have a different flight call.

      So a song or two (similar pitch and speed but sometimes change the order of notes and trills) and a call note or two for each species.

      I'm not sure I answered your question, though. It would be hard for there to be LESS than a dozen species in your yard in Wisconsin in spring. An experienced birder can probably detect 35 species or more by voice in or flying by your yard in an hour!

      Delete
    2. I saw a Northern Flicker and a Cedar Waxwing. Beautiful.

      Delete
    3. I don't know anybody who doesn't love Cedar Waxwings! But I am partial to woodpeckers, including the Northern Flicker. Thanks for sharing your sightings.

      Delete
  5. Very helpful, thank you for doing this. During the pandemic, I put a decorative large bowl on the deck, filled with water. Amazing the number of birds,and squirrels, using it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, we need more nature and wildlife in our lives. I'm glad you were able to attract such just by offering water. Easy, cheap, fun!

      Delete
  6. Nice article. Very informative.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Yes, thank you for the time you must have spent putting this article together. Pooka(my cat) and I LOVE our outside pets. I was able to identify a few newcomers with your article.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Nice article. I love the information you write in this article

    ReplyDelete
  9. Great article! Can I send a picture of a bird can't figure out what it is? Where do I send it?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Brandon there is an excellent free app to put on your phone to identify birds by sound or from photographs!

      It also includes a field guide with photos and sounds and maps and ID.

      https://www.whatbirdsareinmybackyard.com/2022/06/what-bird-do-you-hear-free-bird-sound-id-app-tells-you.html

      Delete

Thank you so much for visiting! Would you please leave a comment to let me know what you thought and how I can make this resource better for you?

--Greg--

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