Identification Backyard Birds Of Minnesota

Identification backyard birds of minnesota

Minnesota, a state renowned for its natural beauty and diverse wildlife, offers a unique paradise for birdwatchers like you and me. With over 430 bird species recorded, the land of 10,000 lakes is a haven for a wide array of avian life, particularly in backyards. Do you enjoy watching birds in your backyard while sipping a nice cup of coffee? Me too! You can enjoy their beauty even more when you can identify them.

Identification of backyard birds in Minnesota is not that difficult. I will tell you all you need to identify them with ease. This guide isn’t your typical, stuffy birdwatching manual. Nope, it’s more like a friendly chat over the fence with a fellow bird watcher. We’re going to talk about all the cool birds you can spot right from your porch, the little tricks and tools that make birdwatching a breeze, and how to make your backyard the go-to spot for birds in the neighborhood.

Birdwatching Basics: Easy Tips for Beginners

Birdwatching basics easy tips for beginners
Birdwatching basics easy tips for beginners

Birdwatching, or ‘birding’ as some like to call it, is a fantastic way to connect with nature. And the good news? You don’t need to be an expert to start.

Here are some simple tips to get you going:

1. Observation is Key

First things first, just watch and listen. You’ll be amazed at what you can learn by simply observing birds in their natural habitat. Notice their size, shape, and behavior. Is the bird small and quick like a chickadee, or larger and more majestic like an eagle?

2. Bird Guidebooks and Apps

A good bird guidebook or an app can be your best friend in bird identification. They provide pictures, descriptions, and super helpful bird calls. For Minnesota, look for guides that focus on local or regional bird species.

3. Bird Calls and Songs

Birds can be chatty creatures, and their calls and songs are like their fingerprints – unique to each species. Listening to these sounds can be a fun way to identify birds. There are plenty of resources online where you can familiarize yourself with the bird songs common in Minnesota.

4. Habitat Matters

Different birds like different environments. Some love the dense forests, while others prefer open fields or your backyard feeder. Paying attention to where you see a bird can give you big clues about its identity.

5. Patience and Practice

Remember, birdwatching is a skill that gets better with practice. Don’t worry if you can’t identify every bird right away. Enjoy the learning process and celebrate the small victories!

With these basics in mind, you’re well on your way to becoming a skilled birdwatcher. So, keep your eyes and ears open, and let’s see what birds we can discover!

Identifying Common Backyard Birds in Minnesota: Features and Habits

Common backyard birds in Minnesota Features and habits
iStock: Common backyard birds in Minnesota features and habits

Now that you’ve got the basics down, let’s meet some of the regulars in the Minnesota birdwatching scene. Each bird has its unique flair, and knowing a bit about them can make your birdwatching experience even more enjoyable.

1. Black-capped Chickadee

Black-capped chickadee
iStock: Black-capped chickadee

Appearance: These little charmers are easily recognizable with their black caps and bibs, white cheeks, and fluffy bodies.

Behavior: Chickadees are curious and energetic, often seen flitting from branch to branch.

Fun Fact: They have a distinctive ‘chick-a-dee-dee-dee’ call, and the number of ‘dees’ can indicate the level of threat from nearby predators.

2. Northern Cardinal

Northern cardinal
iStock: Northern Cardinal
  • Appearance: Males are striking with their bright red plumage, while females are more subdued with brownish feathers and red accents.
  • Behavior: Cardinals are often seen at feeders and are known for their clear, melodious songs.
  • Fun Fact: They’re known to be quite territorial; males often fight their own reflection during mating season!

3. Blue Jay

Blue jay
iStock: Blue Jay
  • Appearance: With their vibrant blue feathers and noisy presence, Blue Jays are hard to miss.
  • Behavior: They’re known for their intelligence and can mimic the calls of other birds, especially hawks.
  • Fun Fact: Blue Jays are quite social and often form family bonds that last many years.

4. American Robin

American robin
iStock: American robin
  • Appearance: Robins have a distinctive orange-red breast, gray back, and white throat.
  • Behavior: They’re often seen hopping on lawns, looking for worms and insects.
  • Fun Fact: American Robins can have up to three broods in one breeding season, which is quite a busy schedule!

5. Mourning Dove

iStock: Mourning Dove
  • Appearance: These graceful birds have soft gray plumage and distinctive pointed tails.
  • Behavior: Known for their soft, woeful cooing, Mourning Doves are often seen perched on telephone wires or foraging for seeds on the ground.
  • Fun Fact: They can drink water without lifting their heads, a pretty neat trick in the bird world!

6. Downy Woodpecker

iStock: Downy Woodpecker
  • Appearance: These small woodpeckers have black and white striped heads, white bellies, and a distinctive red patch on the males’ nape.
  • Behavior: Agile and acrobatic, they’re often seen hopping along tree trunks and branches in search of insects.
  • Fun Fact: Downy Woodpeckers are one of the few bird species that are known to drink sap from the holes they peck in trees.

7. House Sparrow

iStock: House Sparrow
  • Appearance: Males have a distinctive gray cap, white cheeks, a black bib, and rufous neck, while females are more subdued with brown and gray plumage.
  • Behavior: These birds are highly social and often seen in noisy flocks around urban areas and feeders.
  • Fun Fact: House Sparrows are not native to North America; they were introduced from Europe in the late 1800s.

8. Red-winged Blackbird

iStock: Red winged Blackbird
  • Appearance: Males are unmistakable with their glossy black feathers and bright red and yellow shoulder patches, while females are more brown and heavily streaked.
  • Behavior: Common in wetlands and marshes, they’re known for their loud, conk-la-ree! song.
  • Fun Fact: Red-winged Blackbirds are polygynous, meaning one male mates with several females.

9. Goldfinch

iStock: Goldfinch
  • Appearance: Bright yellow with a black forehead in summer, they molt to a duller color in winter. Males are more vibrant than females.
  • Behavior: Goldfinches are often seen in small flocks, flitting about and singing in a high-pitched, twittering song.
  • Fun Fact: They are strict vegetarians, one of the few bird species that feed their young exclusively on seeds.

10. Baltimore Oriole

Baltimore Oriole
iStock: Baltimore Oriole
  • Appearance: Males have brilliant orange and black plumage, while females are more yellow-brown with faint streaks.
  • Behavior: They’re often heard before seen, with their rich, flute-like song echoing from treetops.
  • Fun Fact: Baltimore Orioles are adept at weaving hanging nests from slender fibers.

11. Hairy Woodpecker

iStock: Hairy Woodpecker
  • Appearance: These are like the Downy Woodpecker’s bigger cousin, with striking black and white plumage and a longer beak.
  • Behavior: They’re quite the percussionists, often heard drumming loudly on trees to find food or communicate.
  • Fun Fact: Hairy Woodpeckers have a tongue that’s three times the length of their beak – talk about a party trick!

12. Common Grackle

iStock: Common Grackle
  • Appearance: Grackles are hard to miss with their iridescent black bodies that can show purplish or greenish in the right light.
  • Behavior: They’re often seen strutting around lawns and parks, and they’re not shy about making themselves heard with their loud, creaking calls.
  • Fun Fact: Common Grackles are known for their problem-solving skills and can even mimic human speech!

13. Rose-breasted Grosbeak

iStock: Rose breasted Grosbeak
  • Appearance: The males are dashing with their black and white plumage and a striking red patch on their breast, while females are more subdued, with streaked brown feathers.
  • Behavior: They are often found in treetops, singing a sweet, robin-like song.
  • Fun Fact: These birds are like the fruit lovers of the bird world, often seen munching on berries and fruits.

14. Indigo Bunting

iStock: Indigo Bunting
  • Appearance: Males are a brilliant blue, especially striking in bright sunlight, while females are more of a brownish color.
  • Behavior: They’re a little shy, often seen perching in high trees and singing a lively, warbling song.
  • Fun Fact: These buntings use the stars to navigate during their nocturnal migrations – talk about celestial savvy!

15. Cedar Waxwing

iStock: Cedar Waxwing
  • Appearance: These sleek birds have a polished look with a brown crest, black mask, and a yellow-tipped tail. Oh, and don’t forget the red wax-like wing tips!
  • Behavior: Waxwings are social birds, often seen in flocks, particularly around fruit trees.
  • Fun Fact: They are known to pass berries from bird to bird in a line until one bird eats the treat – like a game of feathered pass-the-parcel!

16. Eastern Bluebird

iStock: Eastern Bluebird
  • Appearance: Males are bright blue on top with a rusty red breast, while females are more grayish with blue tinges and a subtler rust-colored breast.
  • Behavior: They’re a delight to watch, often seen perched on wires or posts, fluttering down to the ground for insects.
  • Fun Fact: Eastern Bluebirds are cavity nesters and will readily use birdhouses, making them a favorite among bird enthusiasts.

17. Purple Finch

iStock: Purple-Finch
  • Appearance: Males are a raspberry red that extends down their back, unlike their House Finch relatives, while females are brown with bold stripes.
  • Behavior: These finches are often seen in flocks, singing a melodious, warbling song.
  • Fun Fact: Despite their name, Purple Finches are not purple – their color comes from a pigment in their diet!

18. Pileated Woodpecker

iStock: Pileated Woodpecker
  • Appearance: This large woodpecker is a real standout with its black body, white stripes on the face, and a striking red crest.
  • Behavior: Known for their powerful pecking, they leave distinctive rectangular holes in trees as they search for insects.
  • Fun Fact: The Pileated Woodpecker was the inspiration for the famous cartoon character Woody Woodpecker!

19. White-breasted Nuthatch

iStock: White breasted Nuthatch
  • Appearance: These birds are recognizable by their slate-blue backs, white breasts, and black caps.
  • Behavior: They have a unique way of moving, often seen walking headfirst down tree trunks searching for insects.
  • Fun Fact: White-breasted Nuthatches are known to stash seeds under tree bark to eat later – like nature’s little pantry keepers!

20. Brown-headed Cowbird

iStock: Brown headed Cowbird
  • Appearance: Males have a glossy black body with a distinctive brown head, while females are brown all over.
  • Behavior: Notoriously known as the freeloaders of the bird world, they lay their eggs in the nests of other birds.
  • Fun Fact: Brown-headed Cowbirds have been known to lay eggs in over 200 different species of bird nests!

21. Ruby-throated Hummingbird

iStock: Ruby throated Hummingbird
  • Appearance: The males have a dazzling ruby-red throat and emerald green back, while females are more subdued with a green back and white belly.
  • Behavior: They’re incredibly agile in the air, able to hover and fly backward with ease.
  • Fun Fact: Ruby-throated Hummingbirds beat their wings about 53 times a second, making that distinctive humming sound!

22. Song Sparrow

iStock: Song-Sparrow
  • Appearance: These sparrows have a streaky brown appearance with a distinctive spot in the center of their chest.
  • Behavior: True to their name, they have a melodious song, often heard throughout the day.
  • Fun Fact: The Song Sparrow’s song varies greatly across different regions, to the point where birds from different areas have their own ‘dialects’.

23. Chipping Sparrow

  • Appearance: They have a striking rufous cap, black eye line, and gray underparts, making them quite the lookers in the sparrow world.
  • Behavior: These little sparrows are often seen in open fields and edges of woods, chirping away in a rapid, sharp song.
  • Fun Fact: In the winter, Chipping Sparrows form large flocks, sometimes mixed with other sparrow species, showcasing their social nature.

24. Barn Swallow

iStock: Barn Swallow
  • Appearance: With their glossy blue backs, deep orange underparts, and long, forked tails, they’re hard to miss.
  • Behavior: Masters of the air, swoop and dive with incredible agility, catching insects on the fly.
  • Fun Fact: Barn Swallows are known for their remarkable mud nests, often built under eaves or inside barns and other structures.

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Seasonal Birdwatching: What to Expect Each Season

Seasonal birdwatching What to expect each season
iStock: Seasonal birdwatching What to expect each season

Minnesota’s seasons bring a changing cast of feathered characters to your backyard. Let’s take a seasonal tour to see what you can expect throughout the year.


  • Arrival of Migrants: Spring is like the grand opening of a bird festival. Watch for the return of migratory birds. Orioles, warblers, and hummingbirds make their way back.
  • Nesting Season: Birds are busy setting up shop for the new generation. You might spot robins and sparrows gathering materials for their nests.


  • Full House: Summer is when your backyard is bustling with bird activity. Look for young birds learning to fly and forage.
  • Songbirds Galore: Enjoy the concerts put on by songbirds. The mornings and evenings are filled with their melodious tunes.


  • Migration Southward: As the days get shorter, many birds start their journey south. This is a great time to spot different species as they pass through Minnesota.
  • Preparing for Winter: Resident birds like chickadees and woodpeckers begin to prepare for the colder months, often seen busily stocking up on food.


  • Winter Residents: While many birds have flown south, species like the Northern Cardinal and Blue Jay stick around, adding splashes of color to the snowy landscape.
  • Feeder Frenzy: Keeping your feeders full can attract a variety of birds. It’s a busy time at the bird diner with visitors like finches and sparrows.

Each season brings its charm and set of birds to look out for. By tuning into these seasonal changes, you’ll deepen your connection with the natural world and enjoy the rhythm of life that birdwatching brings.

Birdwatching Tools and Tips for Beginners

Birdwatching tools and tips for beginners
iStock: Birdwatching tools and tips for beginners

Getting into birdwatching doesn’t mean you need to break the bank with fancy equipment. Here are some simple tools and tips to enhance your birdwatching experience in Minnesota, keeping it fun and stress-free.

Binoculars: Your Birdwatching Best Friend

  • Choosing Binoculars: You don’t need high-end binoculars to start. Look for something comfortable and user-friendly. A good pair of 8x42s is a great all-around choice.
  • Using Binoculars: Practice focusing and following birds. It can be tricky at first, but with a bit of practice, you’ll get the hang of it.

Field Guides: Know Your Birds

  • Paper or Digital: Whether you prefer a traditional book or an app on your phone, a field guide is essential for identifying and learning about birds.
  • Local Guides: Opt for guides that focus on Minnesota or the Midwest to get the most relevant information.

Birdwatching Apps: Technology Meets Nature

  • Apps for Identification: Apps like Merlin Bird ID can help you identify birds with just a photo or a description.
  • Bird Songs and Calls: Apps can also be handy for learning and recognizing bird calls, a key skill in birdwatching.

Notebook: Track Your Sightings

  • Keeping a Bird Journal: Jot down your sightings, the date, the weather, and any interesting behaviors. It’s a great way to track your progress and remember your experiences.

Patience and Consistency

  • The Waiting Game: Birds are wild animals and can be unpredictable. Patience is key in birdwatching.
  • Regular Watching: The more you watch, the more you’ll see. Try to make birdwatching a regular part of your routine.

Join a Birdwatching Group

  • Community Learning: Consider joining a local birdwatching group. It’s a great way to learn from more experienced birders and make new friends.

Birdwatching is all about enjoying the little moments and the surprises nature throws your way. With these simple tools and tips, you’re well-equipped to start your birdwatching journey in Minnesota.

Creating a Bird-Friendly Backyard in Minnesota

Creating a bird-friendly backyard in minnesota
iStock: Creating a bird-friendly backyard in minnesota

Transforming your backyard into a bird haven is not only great for the birds but can also bring you endless hours of nature watching. Here’s how you can make your little patch of Minnesota a bird paradise.

Feeders: The Bird Cafeteria

  • Variety is Key: Different birds have different tastes. Use a mix of feeder types (tube feeders, platform feeders, suet feeders) to attract a diverse crowd.
  • Food Choices: Black oil sunflower seeds are a hit with many birds. Nyjer seeds attract finches, and suet is great for woodpeckers and nuthatches.
  • Feeder Placement: Keep feeders in a spot where you can enjoy the view but also safe from predators. Near some bushes or trees is ideal.

Water Sources: For Drinking and Bathing

  • Birdbaths: A simple birdbath can be a big draw for birds. Keep it clean and filled with fresh water.
  • Winter Tip: Consider a heated birdbath or a water heater to provide liquid water even in the freezing Minnesota winters.

Plant Native: A Natural Food Source

  • Native Plants: Native plants not only look beautiful but also provide natural food sources and nesting materials.
  • Berry-Bearing Shrubs and Nectar Plants: These can attract birds like robins, waxwings, and hummingbirds.

Shelter and Nesting Sites

  • Trees and Shrubs: Provide natural shelter and potential nesting sites.
  • Birdhouses: If you put up birdhouses, make sure they’re the right size and style for the birds you want to attract.

Keep It Safe

  • Predator Control: Keep an eye out for cats or other predators. Consider placing feeders in a spot where birds can quickly retreat to safety.
  • Window Collisions: Use decals or other methods to prevent birds from flying into windows.

Creating a bird-friendly backyard is all about providing the resources birds need while creating a space where you can enjoy their presence. It’s a win-win for both you and your feathered friends!

Challenges in Bird Identification and How to Overcome Them

Challenges in bird identification and how to overcome them
iStock: Challenges in bird identification and how to overcome them

Birdwatching is a delightful hobby, but it’s not without its challenges, especially when it comes to identifying birds. Let’s look at some common challenges and how to tackle them, keeping the experience enjoyable and stress-free.

Similar Looking Birds

  • The Challenge: Many birds, especially sparrows and warblers, look quite similar at first glance.
  • The Solution: Focus on subtle differences. Look for unique markings, and behaviors, or listen for distinct calls and songs. Over time, these small differences become more apparent.

Lighting and Distance

  • The Challenge: Poor lighting and distance can make bird identification tricky.
  • The Solution: Try to observe birds when the lighting is better (early morning or late afternoon). Use binoculars to get a closer view and rely on behavior and sound cues when visibility is poor.

Migratory Birds

  • The Challenge: Migratory birds can be unfamiliar and only present for a short time.
  • The Solution: Familiarize yourself with migratory patterns in Minnesota. Use birdwatching apps or websites to know what species to expect during different times of the year.

Juvenile Birds

  • The Challenge: Juvenile birds often have different plumage from adults, making identification confusing.
  • The Solution: Learn about the life stages of birds. Understanding how a bird’s appearance changes over time can be a big help.

Overcoming Frustration

  • The Challenge: Not being able to identify every bird can be frustrating.
  • The Solution: Remember, birdwatching is about enjoying nature, not just ticking off species on a list. Enjoy the process of learning and celebrate the birds you identify.

Birdwatching is a journey, and like any journey, there are ups and downs. Embrace the challenges as part of the adventure, and you’ll find your skills and enjoyment growing over time.

The Joy of Birdwatching

As we come to the end of our guide to identifying backyard birds in Minnesota, it’s clear that birdwatching is more than just a hobby; it’s a doorway to connecting with nature and the world around us. Admiring the vibrant colors of a Baltimore Oriole, listening to the sweet song of a Northern Cardinal, or simply enjoying the playful antics of Chickadees at your feeder, each moment spent birdwatching is a moment of joy and discovery.

Remember, every birdwatcher starts as a beginner, and every expert birder was once a novice. The journey of learning and discovery never really ends, and that’s the beauty of birdwatching. It’s an activity that can be enjoyed alone or shared with friends and family, and it’s a hobby that continually grows and evolves with you.

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I am Donald M. Beyer and I am backyard enthusiasts. I am a homeowner who has been doing DIY projects in and out of my house for many years. From simple backyard lunches to making an old-school pizza oven in my own backyard, I have a lot of experience in turning my backyard into my and my family’s personal playground.

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