15 Magnificent Birds of Michigan

Birds of Michigan
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Birds of Michigan: The state of Michigan has a variety of habitats that are inviting for different Bird Species.

The lakes and marshes are home for the elegant waterfowl, grasslands are an excellent lure for the pheasants and grouse, while the seashores invite some unique bird species as well.

Big and small species of forest birds can visit your feeder in summer or winter. The fifteen species presented here can give you an inkling of the “flyingbiodiversity of this state.

In this page, let us explore the exciting birds of Michigan and their interesting facts.

Best Birds of Michigan

1. American robin

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Animalia Passeriformes Turdidae Turdus Turdus migratorius

American RobinThe first bird of Michigan on our list is American robin. An American robin is a thrush with a round body and a long tail.

  • This bird has long legs as well. The most prominent feature of this robin is the bright orange chest.
  • The upper body of the American robin is gray, with a black head and a yellow bill.
  • There are also white marks around the eyes.

Interesting Facts about American Robin

  • An American robin is proclaimed the state bird of Michigan.
  • The American robin is the largest and most abundant thrush in North America.
  • An American robin has at least two types of songs.
  • The eggs of an American robin are blue-colored.
  • This state bird of Michigan is still actively studied despite being quite common in the area.

2. Kirtland warbler

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Animalia Passeriformes Parulidae Setophaga Setophaga kirtlandii
Kirtland Warbler
Kirtland Warbler (Source: flickr.com)
This next Michigan bird was discovered and described by Dr. Jared Kirtland in 1851.

  • It is a small, elegant bird with a contrasting plumage.
  • The upper parts of the body are blue-gray, while the chest is lemon yellow.
  • These birds in Michigan also have a distinct white incomplete ring around the eyes.
  • The female Kirtland warblers have less bright coloring, with addition of the brown feathers.

Interesting Facts about Kirtland Warblers

  • This bird feeds in the jack pine forests of Michigan and Wisconsin.
  • The Kirtland warbler is both one of the largest and the rarest warblers in North America.
  • Kirtland warblers cannot feed without forest fires – without heat, jack pine cones do not open up and release their seeds.
  • The Kirtland warbler prefers to nest in the new growth that appears after forest fires.
  • One of the main contributors to the decline of the populations of Kirtland warblers is the parasitic bird called brown-headed cowbird.

3. American coot

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Animalia Gruiformes Rallidae Fulica Fulica americana

American CootThe next Michigan bird is a charismatic and very adaptable water bird.

  • American coots prefer to live in wetlands and lakes, including the Great Lakes area.
  • An American coot is a stocky bird with black-grey plumage. The head of the American coot is usually darker than the rest of the body.
  • This waterbird has a contrasting, white bill that extends to form a “shield” on the forehead.
  • There can also be a red-brown patch on the apex of the “bill shield“. The eyes of the American coot are red.
  • These birds have strong, greenish-gray legs adapted for swimming.

Interesting Facts about American Coot

  • It is the only species of coots in the North and Central America.
  • American coots are known as aggressive and territorial birds.
  • American coots can be occasionally seen in the small ponds at golf courses.
  • American coots are known to steal food from other ducks;
  • The nests of the American coots are floating platforms made from marsh plants and anchored to sturdy standing water plants.

4. Killdeer

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Animalia Charadriiformes Charadriidae Charadrius Charadrius vociferus

KilldeerA killdeer is related to plovers. It is a shorebird with long, graceful legs and a short bill, typical for plovers.

  • The wings and the tail of the killdeer are long. The killdeers have a brown back and brown wings.
  • The underside of the wings is striped.
  • These birds also have a white belly and a white chest with two distinct black stripes.
  • Killdeers prefer to feed on open ground.

Interesting Facts about Killdeers

  • The killdeers previously had two different common names: chattering plover and noisy plover.
  • The human activity influenced their behavior, as they began to frequent meadows with short grass and golf courses. They also can be seen near construction sites.
  • Killdeers have a unique gait that combines running with bobbing.
  • These birds are famous for their “broken wing act” – one of the parents pretends to be injured in order to lead the potential predator away from the nest.
  • When the killdeer is faced by a hoofed animal that can potentially trample their nest, they puff up their feathers and run at the intruder head-on.

5. Red-eyed vireo

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Animalia Passeriformes Vireonidae Vireo Vireo olivaceus
Red-Eyed Vireo
Red-Eyed Vireo (Source: Wikimedia)
This small bird has an olive-green upper body, white belly, and chest.

  • The head of the Red-eyed vireo is darker than the rest of the body, and there is a dark stripe that goes through the eye region.
  • The red eyes of this vireo are not particularly noticeable and can seem brown.
  • The bill of this bird is short and relatively sick.

Interesting Facts about Red-eyed Vireos

  • This bird can be often found in the eastern woods of North America.
  • This small songbird tends to hide in the treetops and is rarely seen.
  • The red-eyed vireo has a particular repetitive song that seems as if the bird is continually asking the same “question“.
  • The population of this species had declined previously when the forests of the East USA were being cleaned. Now this species is considered stable and not under threat.
  • Red-eyed vireos cooperate with chickadees and warblers during migrations.

6. Long-tailed duck

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Animalia Anseriformes Anatidae Clangula Clangula hyemalis
Long-Tailed Duck
Long-Tailed Duck (Source: Wikimedia)
The next bird of Michigan is a small sea duck with a small bill, round head, and long tail feathers.

  • This duck has a white head and white plumes that cover a brown back.
  • The bill is black. In male ducks, the short black bill has a red stripe.
  • Female ducks lack white plumes and have an overall brown body.
  • These ducks can be seen in freshwater lakes, such as Lake Michigan, and coastal sea waters in the northern areas.

Interesting Facts about Long-tailed Ducks

  • When the male long-tailed ducks are ready for breeding, they develop a black hood over the head, with a white area around the eyes.
  • The long-tailed ducks have different plumage in summer and winter.
  • The main predators for these birds of lake Michigan are Arctic foxes and several species of gulls.
  • Long-tailed ducks have different calls for different situations: breeding, conversing with their young, flying in a flock, and so on.
  • Meat and eggs of long-tailed ducks are part of the diet of some Inuit communities.

7. Northern bobwhite

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Animalia Galliformes Odontophoridae Colinus Colinus virginianus

Northern BobwhiteThis next bird of Michigan is a small bird that resembles a chicken. It has a plump body and a short tail.

  • Males have an intricately patterned plumage with a mix of brown, chestnut, black and white.
  • The males have distinct black and white stripes on the face.
  • The females have plumage mostly in the shades of brown and lack the stripes on the face.
  • The bill of the northern bobwhite is long and curved.
  • The state of Michigan is the northern range of this species, and it is often referred to as “Michigan quail“.

Interesting Facts about Northern Bobwhite

  • The common name of the species comes from the whistle this quail produces: “bob-white“.
  • The plumage of this quail is an excellent camouflage that helps the birds to hide in the grasslands.
  • There is an increasing concern about the decline in the northern bobwhite populations.
  • Northern bobwhite tends to forage and roots in small groups for safety.
  • Sometimes, the female bobwhite can leave the male to tend to the eggs and make a new nest with eggs elsewhere.

8. Eastern wild turkey

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Animalia Galliformes Phasianidae Meleagris Meleagris gallopavo silvestris

Eastern Wild TurkeyThis Michigan bird is one of the six species of the Northern America wild turkeys.

  • This large game bird inhabits the east of the continent.
  • It can be differentiated from other turkey species by the presence of chestnut brown tips on the upper tail feathers.
  • The birds have overall brown plumage.
  • The males have a featherless head with blue and red markings.
  • The females are mottled brown. This turkey species is one of the largest – they can grow up to 4 feet.

Interesting Facts about Eastern Wild Turkey

  • Eastern wild turkey went almost extinct in Michigan but was successfully reintroduced.
  • The female and male turkeys have separate hierarchies.
  • The turkeys do not build nests – they lay eggs in depressions in the ground.
  • The newly returned wild turkeys in Michigan were reported to damage crops or nest in the hay fields.
  • Female turkeys and young birds form family groups; males form their bachelor groups.
Suggested Reading: 25 Extinct Birds

9. Pileated woodpecker

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Animalia Piciformes Picidae Dryocopus Dryocopus pileatus

Pileated WoodpeckerThis next bird is the largest woodpecker in Michigan.

  • Both sexes have a distinct red crest on the head and black stripes on the face.
  • The only distinct feature of the male pileated woodpecker is the presence of a red stripe on each cheek.
  • The body of the pileated woodpecker is mostly black, and only in-flight one can see white stripes on the edge of the wings.
  • These birds also have white underwings.
  • These woodpeckers have a long neck and a long, heavy bill suitable for getting insects from the tree bark.

Interesting Facts about Pileated Woodpeckers

  • Pileated woodpeckers tend to make typical rectangular holes in the trunks of rotting trees in search of insects;
  • When seen in flight, pileated woodpeckers may be mistaken for crows because of their distinct flight style.
  • These woodpeckers need standing dead trees that may contain insects.
  • Due to the extensive deforestation, these birds have gone almost extinct in Michigan at the end of the 19th century.
  • Recently, these birds were seen returning to the areas they have previously abandoned, as they have adapted to living in smaller forest areas in parks and cemeteries.

10. Great Blue Heron

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Animalia Pelecaniformes Ardeidae Ardea Ardea herodias

Great Blue HeronThe great blue heron is an awe-inspiring bird.

  • Great blue heron can grow up to 60 cm tall, and the body length of the bird can reach about 137 cm.
  • Like most Herons, the great blue has a graceful, – S-shaped neck and a long, needle-like bill.
  • The legs of the great blue heron are long and slender, adapted to water foraging.
  • The overall body color of the great blue heron is gray-blue, but there are stripes of black, white, and brown on the head and neck.
  • The bill and the legs of the heron can be yellow-green or gray. The wings of this heron are broad and rounded, and the tail is short.
  • There is a plume of black feathers on the necks of adult herons.
  • The males and females are similar, with the males slightly bigger in size.

Interesting Facts about Great Blue Herons

  • Great blue herons’ nest in colonies.
  • Great Blue Herons can be spotted in the spring-summer in the Great Blue Heron Rookery in the Shelby township.
  • Great Blue Heron is the largest heron in North America.
  • The herons can stand still for hours in the water, waiting to catch fish.
  • Herons are known to leave the area where their chicks or adult birds were attacked by the predator.

11. Eastern whip-poor-will

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Animalia Caprimulgiformes Caprimulgidae Antrostomus Antrostomus vociferus
Eastern Whip-Poor-Will
Eastern Whip-Poor-Will (Source: Wikimedia)
This bird, with a complicated name, is a small nightjar with a round head.

  • The coloring is complicated, being a mix of brown, black, grey and rusty brown.
  • There is a white bib on the lower part of the chest and a small plume of grey feathers on the back.
  • The male whip-poor-wills have a broad white tail corner visible during flight.

Interesting Facts about Eastern Whip-poor-will

  • The eastern whip-poor-wills are entirely nocturnal birds.
  • These birds are known to sing continuously through the night, the call resembling the name – “whip-poor-will“.
  • The coloring of these birds makes an excellent camouflage – it is tough to spot a whip-poor-will even in the daylight.
  • The whip-poor-wills nest on the ground.
  • These birds are extremely hard to study – their first nests were found only in 1980 -1994 in different states.

12. Ruby-throated hummingbird

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Animalia Apodiformes Trochilidae Archilochus Archilochus colubris

Ruby-Throated HummingbirdThis beautiful bird can often be seen around hummingbird feeders in Michigan.

  • It is a very tiny bird, with an emerald green back, luminous red throat and white-grey chest.
  • The red throat with a contrasting black mask is present only in males.
  • The females of this species are less bright – with a greenback, white belly and spotted grey mask.
  • These hummingbirds in Michigan have a long, slender bill with a slight down curve. They also have short wings and a relatively short forked tail.

Interesting Facts about Ruby-throated Hummingbirds

  • The ruby-red throat of the male ruby-throated hummingbirds is iridescent: it can look either red or black depending on the angle of the light.
  • These hummingbirds can feed both on nectar and insects.
  • During their migrations in spring and fall, these hummingbirds fly 500 km nonstop over the Gulf of Mexico.
  • A male ruby-throated hummingbird weights are less than a US penny.
  • This bird is the only hummingbird that regularly breeds in the northern states of the USA, including Michigan.

13. King rail

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Animalia Gruiformes Rallidae Rallus Rallus elegans
King Rail
King Rail (Source: Wikimedia)
This bird of Michigan lives in the freshwater or brackish marshes.

  • It is about the size of the chicken. This bird looks very elegant – it has a plump body with a slender neck and a round head.
  • The bill of the king rail is long with a small curve.
  • The king rails are good walkers and have long, strong legs.
  • The king rails have the overall mottled rusty coloring of the body besides the white bars on the flanks.
  • The tail of the king rail is very short and often held proudly up during walking.

Interesting Facts about King Rails

  • The chicks of the king rail are colored black.
  • After laying the eggs, the female king rail molts and loses all of its feathers. It becomes flightless for a month during egg incubation.
  • The nests of the king rails look like complex platforms that are slightly above the level of the water. These structures have a small canopy above and ramp that leads to the entrance.
  • The king rail has many perquisites for its habitat: it needs marshland with much vegetation. That is why it is becoming rare because of the destruction of marshes in the country.
  • If the king rail catches prey on the ground, it dunks it in the water before eating it.

14. Sandhill crane

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Animalia Gruiformes Gruidae Grus Grus canadensis

Sandhill CraneThe sandhill crane is a long-legged bird with a long, graceful neck, small head, and long bill.

  • It can be differentiated from a heron by its bulky body and a different neck shape.
  • There is a distinct red crown on the head. The overall body color is grey mixed with rusty brown.
  • There is a bustle of feathers around the tail region.
  • The throat of the sandhill crane is white. Sandhill cranes have large wings, seen better in flight.

Interesting Facts about Sandhill Cranes

  • Sandhill cranes are believed to be the oldest living birds – some fossils date up to 2.5 million years old .
  • The sandhill crane is considered to be the largest bird in Michigan.
  • A subspecies of the sandhill cranes, Mississippi Sandhill Crane, are considered endangered.
  • Unlike herons, sandhill cranes forage for food in grasslands and marshes, not open water.
  • To be safe from predators, these large birds of Michigan tend to roost in the middle of the lakes or ponds.

15. Northern goshawk

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Animalia accipitriformes Accipitridae Accipiter Accipiter gentilis

Northern GoshawkA northern goshawk is a large forest raptor. These northern Michigan birds have large wings and a long tail with a rounded end.

  • The upper body is colored in different shades of grey. The head of the goshawk has a black cap.
  • These birds of prey in Michigan also have a distinct white stripe slightly above the eye area.
  • The lower body is also grey, but lighter in shade with horizontal and vertical streaks.
  • There are fluffy white feathers under the northern goshawk’s tail, especially visible during breeding season.
  • Northern goshawks have a short, curved bill typical for predatory birds.

Interesting Facts about Northern Goshawks

  • Northern goshawks have a typical call that sounds like ki-ki-ki or kak-kak-kak.
  • Northern goshawks are thought to form pairs for life.
  • Other predatory birds, such as a great-horned owl or red-tailed hawk may displace northern goshawks from their nests.
  • These birds of prey of Northern Michigan are stealthy predators, hiding in the tree canopy or sitting on the tree branches in order to surprise their prey.
  • Goshawk comes from the Old English word for “goose hawk“, as this bird prey on geese and grouse.

The bird world of Michigan is very diverse and exciting. Search yourself for birding trails or hang feeders to see some inhabitants.

Cite this article as: "15 Magnificent Birds of Michigan," in Bio Explorer by Jack Kirsten, October 2, 2019, https://www.bioexplorer.net/birds-of-michigan.html/.

Key References

  • “American Robin Facts for Kids – NatureMapping”. Accessed October 01, 2019. Link.
  • “U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Kirtland’s Warbler Fact Sheet”. Accessed October 01, 2019. Link.
  • “Kirtland’s Warbler Overview, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology”. Accessed October 01, 2019. Link.
  • “Brown-headed Cowbird Overview, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology”. Accessed October 01, 2019. Link.
  • “American Coot | Audubon Field Guide”. Accessed October 01, 2019. Link.
  • “Killdeer – Introduction | Birds of North America Online”. Accessed October 01, 2019. Link.
  • “Red-Eyed Vireo | National Geographic”. Accessed October 01, 2019. Link.
  • “Long-tailed Duck | Audubon Field Guide”. Accessed October 01, 2019. Link.
  • “Michigan's Quail: The Northern Bobwhite | Cedar Springs Post Newspaper”. Accessed October 01, 2019. Link.
  • “Northern Bobwhite | American Bird Conservancy”. Accessed October 01, 2019. Link.
  • “Wild Turkey Identification, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology”. Accessed October 01, 2019. Link.
  • “Wild Turkey Species & Distribution | Beauty of Birds”. Accessed October 01, 2019. Link.
  • “Return of the native wild turkey—setting sustainable harvest targets when information is limited – The Ecological Society of America”. Accessed October 01, 2019. Link.
  • “Wild Turkey Lifestyle & Breeding”. Accessed October 01, 2019. Link.
  • “Wild Turkeys Carve Out Place in Michigan” – NWTF Michigan. Accessed October 01, 2019. Link.
  • “Wildlife Sightings: Pileated woodpecker a striking wonder | Local | heraldpalladium.com”. Accessed October 01, 2019. Link.
  • “Pileated woodpecker shows up in Dearborn after 100-year absence | News | pressandguide.com”. Accessed October 01, 2019. Link.
  • “Know Your Michigan Birds: Great Blue Heron | Michigan in Pictures”. Accessed October 01, 2019. Link.
  • “Great Blue Heron Rookery (Shelby Township) – 2019 All You Need to Know BEFORE You Go (with Photos) – TripAdvisor”. Accessed October 01, 2019. Link.
  • “Eastern Whip-poor-will Identification, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology”. Accessed October 01, 2019. Link.
  • “Eastern Whip-poor-will – Introduction | Birds of North America Online”. Accessed October 01, 2019. Link.
  • “Ruby-throated Hummingbirds | Beauty of Birds”. Accessed October 01, 2019. Link.
  • “Rallus elegans (King rail) – Michigan Natural Features Inventory”. Accessed October 01, 2019. Link.
  • “King Rail – Rallus elegans | Wildlife Journal Junior”. Accessed October 01, 2019. Link.
  • “About Sandhill Cranes – Michigan Audubon”. Accessed October 01, 2019. Link.
  • “Accipiter gentilis (Northern goshawk) – Michigan Natural Features Inventory”. Accessed October 01, 2019. Link.

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