In “The Most Common Backyard Birds in Wisconsin,” readers can find a comprehensive guide to the avian residents of Wisconsin. Drawing from the reliable data of the citizen science program eBird, this article presents a collection of captivating photographs and insightful tips to help attract these feathered friends to one’s own backyard. With the Black-capped Chickadee topping the list as the most prevalent bird in the state, followed closely by the American Robin and American Goldfinch, this article aims to satisfy the curiosity of birdwatching enthusiasts while highlighting the importance of understanding the impact of habitat on bird populations. Whether you are new to birdwatching or a seasoned enthusiast, this article provides a wealth of information on bird identification, preferred feeding preferences, recommended products, and notable birding locations.
1. Black-capped Chickadee
The Black-capped Chickadee is a small passerine bird with a distinctive black cap and bib, which contrasts with its white cheeks and underparts. It has a short tail and a petite, round body, measuring only about 4.5 to 5 inches in length. The upperparts of the Black-capped Chickadee are a pale gray, while its wings display white edges and its tail is usually gray or brown. This charming bird has a slender, black bill, dark eyes, and its legs and feet are black as well.
1.2 Habitat and Distribution
The Black-capped Chickadee is a common sight in Wisconsin, as it is the most prevalent bird species in the state. It can be found in a wide range of habitats, from dense forests and woodlands to suburban gardens and parks. This adaptable bird is also present in other parts of North America, including Canada and the northern United States.
1.3 Feeding Habits and Diet
Black-capped Chickadees are acrobatic and agile, often seen in trees and shrubs as they search for food. They primarily feed on insects and spiders during the summer months, while during the colder seasons, they rely on seeds and berries to sustain themselves. These resourceful birds are known to cache food by hiding it in tree bark or crevices, remembering the locations of their hidden treasures.
1.4 Attracting Black-capped Chickadees
To attract Black-capped Chickadees to your backyard, provide a variety of food sources throughout the year. Offer a selection of seeds, such as sunflower seeds, nyjer seeds, and millet, as well as suet and mealworms. You can also consider planting trees and shrubs that produce berries or fruits, such as elderberry or mountain ash. Providing a bird bath or shallow water source will also attract these chirpy creatures, as they require fresh water for drinking and bathing.
2. American Robin
The American Robin is a medium-sized songbird with a plump body and a length of approximately 10 to 11 inches. Its most recognizable feature is its vibrant orange-red breast, which contrasts with its darker gray-brown upperparts. The American Robin has a long, thin bill, a whitish belly, and a white eye ring. Its head is adorned with a blackish cap that extends down the sides of its face. This bird also sports a white throat and its legs are a pale brown color.
2.2 Habitat and Distribution
The American Robin can be found across Wisconsin, as it is the second most common bird species in the state. It is a familiar sight in various habitats, including woodlands, suburban areas, and even on lawns and golf courses. In addition to Wisconsin, this bird can be seen throughout North America, from Canada to Mexico.
2.3 Feeding Habits and Diet
American Robins are primarily insectivorous, with their diet consisting mainly of earthworms, insects, and small invertebrates. However, they also feed on fruits, berries, and occasionally even seeds. These birds are known for their remarkable ability to detect earthworms by sight and then use their well-developed sense of hearing to pinpoint their location underground.
2.4 Attracting American Robins
To attract American Robins to your backyard, offer a variety of food sources. Consider providing fruit-bearing trees and shrubs, such as crabapple or serviceberry, that produce berries appreciated by these birds. You can also create a simple birdbath or a shallow water feature to offer them a place for drinking and bathing. Additionally, maintaining a well-maintained lawn with fewer pesticides and a healthy worm population can help attract American Robins.
3. American Goldfinch
The American Goldfinch is a small songbird known for its vibrant yellow plumage, especially during the breeding season. These birds measure approximately 4.5 to 5 inches in length and have a slim, elongated body. The American Goldfinch sports a black forehead, wings, and tail, which perfectly contrast with its bright yellow body. Its bill is short and conical, ideal for extracting small seeds from various plants.
3.2 Habitat and Distribution
The American Goldfinch is a common bird species found not only in Wisconsin but also across North America. These birds can be observed in fields, meadows, open woodlands, gardens, and even along roadsides. They prefer habitats with ample weed growth, as they rely on the seeds from various plants for their diet.
3.3 Feeding Habits and Diet
The American Goldfinch is considered a granivorous bird, feeding primarily on seeds from various plants. These feathery beauties have a particular affinity for the seeds of thistles, sunflowers, and asters. They are known for their ability to cling to plants while feeding, using their dexterous feet to grip the stems. In addition to seeds, they also occasionally consume insects and pollen during the breeding season.
3.4 Attracting American Goldfinches
To attract American Goldfinches to your backyard, provide a reliable source of nyjer (thistle) seeds, as these are a favorite of theirs. Offering a variety of feeders with small perches will allow them to feed comfortably. Planting native flowers and maintaining a weedy area with an abundance of seeds will also help attract these delightful birds. Ensure that a fresh water source, such as a birdbath or small pond, is available for them to drink and bathe in.
4. Northern Cardinal
The Northern Cardinal is a medium-sized songbird known for its striking appearance. The male Northern Cardinal has a vibrant red plumage, a crest on its head, and a black mask around its eyes. Its strong, conical bill is bright orange-red. Females have a more subdued plumage, with a grayish-red body and wings, along with a hint of red on their crest, wings, and tail.
4.2 Habitat and Distribution
The Northern Cardinal is a year-round resident in Wisconsin, commonly seen in backyards, woodlands, and parks. It is also among the most widespread birds in North America, with its range expanding from southern Canada to Mexico. Cardinals are adaptable and can thrive in various habitats, including forest edges, shrubby areas, and suburban landscapes.
4.3 Feeding Habits and Diet
Cardinals are primarily seed eaters, with a diet that consists mainly of seeds, fruits, and nuts. They have a strong, powerful bill that is well-suited for cracking open seeds. The Northern Cardinal often feeds on the ground, searching for fallen seeds and plant matter. However, they are known to readily come to feeders that offer sunflower seeds, safflower seeds, or other favorite seeds.
4.4 Attracting Northern Cardinals
To attract Northern Cardinals to your backyard, provide a variety of food sources that include their preferred seeds, such as sunflower seeds and safflower seeds. These birds are also attracted to berry-producing trees and shrubs, such as dogwood or winterberry. Additionally, having dense shrubs or thickets can provide suitable nesting sites and nesting cover for the Northern Cardinals. Remember to provide fresh water for drinking and bathing as well.
5. Blue Jay
The Blue Jay is a medium-sized bird with striking blue plumage on its upper body, crest, and wings. Its chest and underparts are a crisp white, while its back is pale grayish-brown. The Blue Jay possesses a distinctive black ‘necklace’ around its throat and a black collar around its neck. This bird’s head is adorned with a prominent crest that can be raised or lowered depending on its mood. Its bill is black and robust, designed for cracking open nuts and seeds.
5.2 Habitat and Distribution
Blue Jays are a common sight in Wisconsin, favoring a variety of habitats, including woodlands, suburban areas, and parks. They can also be found in other parts of North America, from eastern Canada all the way down to Florida and Texas. Blue Jays are known for their adaptability and can thrive in both urban and rural environments.
5.3 Feeding Habits and Diet
Blue Jays are omnivorous birds with a diverse diet. They consume various types of food, including insects, nuts, seeds, fruits, and even small vertebrates. Blue Jays are known for their habit of caching or hiding food, often storing acorns or sunflower seeds for later consumption. This behavior is essential for their survival during harsh winters when food sources may be scarce.
5.4 Attracting Blue Jays
To attract Blue Jays to your backyard, offer a variety of food options in platform, hopper, or tray feeders. These birds have a strong preference for peanuts, sunflower seeds, and suet. Planting oak trees, which produce acorns, will certainly attract Blue Jays, as they rely on these nuts as a part of their diet. Providing a birdbath or water source will also appeal to Blue Jays, as they need fresh water for drinking and bathing.
6. House Sparrow
The House Sparrow is a small, stocky bird measuring approximately 5.5 to 6 inches in length. Males have a distinctive appearance, with a gray crown, black throat, and a black patch on their cheeks. They also sport a white wing bar and a chestnut-colored nape. Females have a more subdued plumage, with brown and gray feathers. Both males and females have a stout bill suited for cracking seeds.
6.2 Habitat and Distribution
The House Sparrow is a non-native species that has become widespread across North America, including Wisconsin. These adaptable birds can be found in both urban and rural areas, often inhabiting human-made structures such as buildings, houses, and farm buildings. They tend to avoid densely forested areas.
6.3 Feeding Habits and Diet
House Sparrows are primarily seed eaters, with a diet consisting mainly of grains, seeds, and weeds. They are well-adapted to feed on various types of birdseed, including millet, cracked corn, and mixed seeds. House Sparrows can also scavenge for crumbs and food scraps in urban areas, making them notorious for their opportunistic feeding habits.
6.4 Attracting House Sparrows
House Sparrows are generally abundant and will readily visit feeders that are stocked with mixed seeds and grains. To attract House Sparrows, provide feeders with a variety of seed options, such as millet or cracked corn. Offering a consistent food source will likely entice these birds to visit your backyard. However, keep in mind that House Sparrows can be aggressive toward other bird species, so it is important to ensure a balance in your backyard bird community.
7. Yellow Warbler
The Yellow Warbler is a small, bright bird with a yellow body and a splash of reddish streaks on its breast. Its wings are a pale gray color, and it has a yellow rump and undertail coverts. The male Yellow Warbler sports a reddish-brown streaked cap, while the female has a plain yellow head. These warblers have thin, pointed bills that are ideal for capturing insects.
7.2 Habitat and Distribution
Yellow Warblers have a broad range across North America, including Wisconsin. They can be found in various habitats, including forest edges, wetlands, and shrubby areas near water. They are particularly abundant in areas with dense vegetation and trees, where they can construct their nests.
7.3 Feeding Habits and Diet
Yellow Warblers are insectivorous birds, feeding primarily on insects and spiders. They forage actively among leaves and branches, catching their prey in mid-air or gleaning it from foliage. These warblers also consume berries and nectar, particularly during migration when insects may be scarce.
7.4 Attracting Yellow Warblers
To attract Yellow Warblers to your backyard, create a welcoming habitat by planting a diversity of native plants and trees. Yellow Warblers are attracted to areas with dense vegetation, such as shrubs and trees, where they can find insects for food and suitable nesting sites. Offering a source of fresh water is also beneficial, as these birds require it for drinking and bathing.
8. Mourning Dove
The Mourning Dove is a graceful and slender bird with a length of approximately 9 to 13 inches. It has a pale, delicate body with soft tones of gray and brown. Mourning Doves have long, pointed tails with white edges, giving them a characteristic appearance in flight. Their heads are grayish-brown with a small patch of iridescent feathers on the sides of their necks. The eyes are dark and the beak is slender and pointed.
8.2 Habitat and Distribution
Mourning Doves are common birds found across Wisconsin, as well as throughout North America. These doves inhabit various habitats, including urban areas, woodlands, deserts, and agricultural lands. They are often seen perched on telephone wires or foraging for food on the ground.
8.3 Feeding Habits and Diet
Mourning Doves primarily feed on seeds, especially those of grasses and weeds. They eat these seeds by swallowing them whole and then grinding them in their muscular gizzard. These doves also feed on small, hard fruits and insects, but seeds make up the majority of their diet.
8.4 Attracting Mourning Doves
To attract Mourning Doves to your backyard, provide an ample supply of seeds. These doves are fond of tray or platform feeders where they can easily access the seeds on the ground. Offering a mix of cracked corn, millet, and sunflower seeds will entice them to visit your feeding station regularly. Providing a consistent source of fresh water is also crucial, as Mourning Doves need to drink water on a daily basis.
9. Red-bellied Woodpecker
The Red-bellied Woodpecker is a medium-sized woodpecker with a length of approximately 9 to 10 inches. Contrary to its name, its belly is only faintly tinged with reddish-pink and is often not visible. The Red-bellied Woodpecker has a striking appearance, with black and white zebra-like stripes on its back, wings, and tail. It also has a red cap on the back of its head that extends down its nape. Their bills are long, chisel-like, and ideal for drilling into tree trunks.
9.2 Habitat and Distribution
Red-bellied Woodpeckers are a common sight in Wisconsin, inhabiting a variety of wooded habitats, including forests, woodlots, suburban areas, and parks. They can also be found in other parts of the eastern United States. These woodpeckers prefer areas with mature trees, as they rely on them for nesting and foraging.
9.3 Feeding Habits and Diet
Red-bellied Woodpeckers have a diverse diet, feeding on insects, spiders, nuts, fruits, and seeds. They are skilled foragers, using their strong bills to excavate holes in tree bark to find insects and their larvae. These woodpeckers are also known to visit bird feeders, where they enjoy suet, sunflower seeds, and peanuts.
9.4 Attracting Red-bellied Woodpeckers
To attract Red-bellied Woodpeckers to your backyard, offer a variety of food options. Provide suet feeders filled with high-quality suet cakes or blocks, as these woodpeckers have a particular affinity for suet. Offering a mix of peanuts, sunflower seeds, and tree nuts will also appeal to them. Having mature trees or dead trees with suitable cavities for nesting and roosting may also attract these woodpeckers.
15. Considering Habitat for Bird Species
15.1 Native Plants and Trees
One of the most important factors in attracting and supporting bird populations is providing a suitable habitat. Planting native plants and trees in your backyard is a great way to create an inviting environment for birds. Native plants provide a variety of resources, including food sources such as fruits, seeds, and nectar, as well as nesting sites and shelter. Native plants have co-evolved with local bird species, making them better adapted to their needs.
15.2 Providing Nesting Sites and Shelter
Birds require suitable nesting sites to raise their young and find shelter from predators and inclement weather. Offering nesting boxes, birdhouses, or natural cavities in trees can provide the necessary nesting sites for different bird species. It is important to consider the specific requirements of each bird species when providing nesting options, such as the size of the entrance hole and the type of nesting material preferred.
15.3 Reducing Hazards for Birds
To create a safe environment for birds, it is important to identify and reduce potential hazards. Some common hazards for birds include window collisions, pesticide exposure, and outdoor cat predation. To prevent window collisions, consider using decals or window films to make windows more visible to birds. Minimizing or eliminating pesticide use in your yard will help protect birds from exposure to harmful chemicals. Additionally, keeping cats indoors or supervising them when they are outside can greatly reduce bird mortality.
In conclusion, attracting birds to your backyard in Wisconsin can be a rewarding and enjoyable experience. By understanding the appearance, habitat, feeding habits, and diet of various bird species, you can create an environment that meets their needs. Consider providing a variety of food sources, fresh water, suitable nesting sites, and native plants to attract and support a diverse range of bird species. By enhancing the habitat in your backyard, you can make a positive impact on bird populations while enjoying the beauty and song of these delightful creatures.