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What birds in Wisconsin are red?

Wisconsin is home to a diverse range of bird species, some of which showcase beautiful red plumage. In this article, we will explore the different red birds that can be found in the Badger State and discuss how to identify them.

With its mix of forests, wetlands, prairies, and urban areas, Wisconsin provides excellent habitat for over 450 species of birds. Among this avian diversity, several species stand out for their vibrant red feathers. The red coloration serves multiple purposes for birds – camouflage, attracting mates, intimidating rivals, and more.

Some of the most notable red birds found in Wisconsin include Northern Cardinals, Scarlet Tanagers, Red-winged Blackbirds, Eastern Towhees, and Red-bellied Woodpeckers. While the shades of red vary from bright crimson to rusty orange, these birds add a pop of color to backyards, parks, and nature preserves across the state.

In this article, we will take a closer look at ten red bird species commonly seen in Wisconsin. For each bird, we will cover identification tips, typical habitat, diet, and other fun facts. Whether you are a casual bird watcher or seasoned ornithologist, read on to learn more about Wisconsin’s red feathered residents!

Northern Cardinal

The Northern Cardinal is one of the most recognized and beloved backyard birds in Wisconsin. The male’s bright red plumage and distinctive crest make it easy to identify. Female cardinals are also red, but their feathers are closer to brownish-orange with red accents.

Scientific Name Length Wingspan Weight
Cardinalis cardinalis 8.3-9.1 inches 9.8-12.2 inches 1.5-1.7 oz

Cardinals are year-round residents across Wisconsin. They inhabit open woodlands, thickets, gardens, and parks. These sociable birds often travel in pairs or family groups. Cardinals eat seeds, fruits, and insects. Backyard bird feeders stocked with sunflower seeds are sure to attract them.

The Northern Cardinal is the state bird of Wisconsin. Its bright color and cheerful song make it a backyard favorite.

Scarlet Tanager

Male Scarlet Tanagers stand out with their vivid red body and black wings. Females are yellowish-olive with darker wings. These medium-sized songbirds breed in mature deciduous and mixed forests across Wisconsin.

Scientific Name Length Wingspan Weight
Piranga olivacea 6.3-6.7 inches 9.8-11.0 inches 0.8-1.3 oz

Scarlet Tanagers migrate to Central and South America for the winter. In summer, they forage for insects in the forest canopy. Their diet includes bees, wasps, spiders, and fruit. Listen for their distinctive “chip-burr” call in mature hardwood forests.

Red-winged Blackbird

Red-winged Blackbirds are ubiquitous in Wisconsin. Males are all black with vivid red and yellow shoulder patches called epaulets. Females are streaky brown. These very social birds breed in marshes and fields across the state.

Scientific Name Length Wingspan Weight
Agelaius phoeniceus 6.7-9.1 inches 12.2-15.8 inches 1.5-2.7 oz

Red-winged Blackbirds eat insects, seeds, and grain. Flocks congregate in fields, marshes, and roadsides across Wisconsin. Listen for their distinctive “konk-la-ree” song. The red epaulets are displayed during mating rituals and territorial displays.

Eastern Towhee

The Eastern Towhee is a large, striking sparrow found in shrubby areas across Wisconsin. Males are black above and rufous below with white spotting. Females are brownish with a pale throat.

Scientific Name Length Wingspan Weight
Pipilo erythrophthalmus 7.1-8.7 inches 7.9-11.0 inches 1.1-1.8 oz

Towhees spend much of their time hopping on the ground turning over leaves to uncover insects. They also eat seeds and berries. Listen for their “drink-your-teeeeaaa” call. Towhees thrive in overgrown fields and thickets with good ground cover.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Despite its name, the Red-bellied Woodpecker doesn’t actually have much red on its belly. The male’s red plumage is limited to the top of the head and the back of the neck. Females lack red coloring except for a wash of red on the nape.

Scientific Name Length Wingspan Weight
Melanerpes carolinus 9.1-10.2 inches 16.1-18.1 inches 2.0-3.2 oz

These medium-sized woodpeckers inhabit mature forests, parks, and backyards with large trees. They forage for insects on trunks and limbs and also eat nuts, acorns, fruit, and berries. Listen for their rolling, laughing call. Red-bellied Woodpeckers readily visit suet and seed feeders.

American Robin

The familiar American Robin is a common sight on lawns across Wisconsin. Males have gray upperparts and a rich reddish-orange breast. Females are paler overall. These thrush family birds breed in parks, yards, and woodland edges throughout the state.

Scientific Name Length Wingspan Weight
Turdus migratorius 9.1-11.0 inches 12.2-15.8 inches 2.7-3.4 oz

Robins eat invertebrates like worms and insects but also enjoy fruits and berries. They are often seen running across lawns and fields looking for food. Listen for their cheery warbling song. American Robins are a harbinger of spring in Wisconsin when they return from southern wintering grounds.

Eastern Kingbird

The Eastern Kingbird is a medium-sized flycatcher common across Wisconsin in summer. The head, back, and chest are black, contrasting with the white throat and belly. There is a red patch concealed in the crown feathers.

Scientific Name Length Wingspan Weight
Tyrannus tyrannus 7.5-9.0 inches 11.0-13.0 inches 1.0-1.5 oz

Eastern Kingbirds aggressively defend nesting territories, even mobbing much larger birds. They sally from perches to catch flying insects. Kingbirds winter in South America. Listen for their harsh, buzzing “zeep” calls.

House Finch

The House Finch is a common backyard bird in Wisconsin. Males have a red head, upper breast, and rump. Females are brown-streaked overall. Native to the Southwest, House Finches were introduced to the Eastern U.S. and have thrived.

Scientific Name Length Wingspan Weight
Haemorhous mexicanus 5.1-5.9 inches 7.9-9.8 inches 0.6-0.9 oz

House Finches dine on seeds, buds, and human food scraps. They often congregate at feeders in flocks. Listen for their lively warbling song. House finches nest close to buildings and human activity.

Purple Finch

The Purple Finch is often confused with the House Finch. Males have a deep raspberry red head and breast with brown streaking below. Females are overall brown with heavy streaking. They favor coniferous or mixed forests.

Scientific Name Length Wingspan Weight
Haemorhous purpureus 5.5-6.3 inches 8.7-10.2 inches 0.6-0.9 oz

Purple Finches forage for seeds and buds in trees. They breed across northern Wisconsin. Their song is bubbly and warbling. Good places to spot them include conifer groves and edges between forest and fields.

Pine Grosbeak

The Pine Grosbeak is an irruptive winter finch that visits Wisconsin sporadically in winter. Males are red overall with gray on the wings and tail. Females are gray with muted olive coloring. They feed on tree seeds and buds.

Scientific Name Length Wingspan Weight
Pinicola enucleator 8.3-9.8 inches 13.0-16.1 inches 1.8-2.8 oz

In some winters, Pine Grosbeaks irrupt south into Wisconsin in search of food. They favor forests with conifers but also visit backyards and feeders. Watch for them in northern and central Wisconsin during winter finch influxes.


Wisconsin offers bird watchers the chance to see a nice diversity of red, orange, and pink-plumaged species. The bright coloration of these birds often signifies the male gender, as females are more cryptically colored. Spring and summer offer the best opportunity to see migratory red birds like Scarlet Tanagers and Eastern Kingbirds.

Backyards and parks are great places to spot resident red birds like Cardinals, House Finches, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, and Eastern Towhees. Northern Wisconsin also hosts winter finches like Pine Grosbeaks on occasion. So keep an eye out for pops of red in the treetops, fields, and thickets as you explore the Badger State.