Top 20 Backyard Birds in Minnesota (Free Picture ID Printable)

Mourning Dove

Have you wondered what those birds are that are visiting your backyard in Minnesota? Do you need help identifying common backyard birds in Minnesota?

There is a great joy in putting up bird feeders and watching what comes to visit but it gets better if you know who they are. Well, now you can find out what are the most common birds in Minnesota that visit feeders or hop across your lawn.

So if you’re ready to do some backyard birding in Minnesota then read on to find out how to identify birds and how to attract more birds to your yard.

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Also, get free printable backyard bird worksheets with pictures for Minnesota to help you identify and keep track of the birds that visit your backyard.

20 common backyard birds in Minnesota

  1. American Robin
  2. Song Sparrow
  3. Red-winged Blackbird
  4. American Goldfinch
  5. American Crow
  6. Black-capped Chickadee
  7. Downy Woodpecker
  8. Common Yellowthroat
  9. Blue Jay
  10. Mourning Dove
  11. White-breasted Nuthatch
  12. Chipping Sparrow
  13. Common Grackle
  14. Hairy Woodpecker
  15. Northern Cardinal
  16. Barn Swallow
  17. House Wren
  18. Gray Catbird
  19. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  20. Brown-headed Cowbird

These are the most common backyard birds in Minnesota that may visit your lawn or feeders.  They are the birds that appear most frequently on state checklists on ebird and the data is a combination of backyard birds most frequently spotted in summer (June and July) and winter (December and January). Find out more about winter birds in Minnesota.

This data mix ensures that whatever time of year you are bird-watching in your backyard these are the birds you will most likely spot in Minnesota.

Free Printable Backyard Birds Worksheets for Minnesota

These free bird identification worksheets have all the common backyard birds in Minnesota at different times of the year. So when you want to do some backyard birding these handy guides have pictures and space to either tick off the types of birds you have seen or keep a tally of the total number of birds.

Backyard Birds Identification Worksheet Minnesota
Backyard Birds Identification Worksheet Minnesota Page 2
Backyard Birds Identification Worksheet Minnesota Page 3

The 20 most common birds in Minnesota

1. American Robin

American Robins are a common sight on lawns eating earthworms.  They have black heads and back with red or orange. They tend to roost in trees in winter so you are more likely to see them in your backyard from spring.

They eat sunflower seeds, suet and peanut hearts, fruit, and mealworms. They may even eat mealworms out of your hand.

Platform feeders are best or food scattered on the ground.

American Robin for identification

2. Song Sparrow

Song sparrows are not as remarkable as other backyard birds but these predominantly brown-streaked birds use their almost constant song to attract mates in spring and summer.

They can be found in open, shrubby, and wet areas often perched on a low shrub singing. They are often found at backyard feeders.

You can attract more song sparrows to your backyard feeders by putting black oil sunflower seeds, cracked corn, and nyjer on platform feeders

Song sparrow for identification

3. Red-winged Blackbird

Red-winged blackbirds are very common and easy to identify with the all-black coloring except for the bright red and yellow shoulder patches.  The females are rather dull in comparison with brown streaky coloring.

They can often be spotted sitting on telephone wires and the males will fiercely defend their territories in the breeding season even attacking people that get too close to nests. In winter they roost in large numbers into the millions.

To attract more Red-winged blackbirds to your backyard try mixed grain and seeds spread on the ground.  They will also feed on large tube feeders or platform feeders.

Red winged blackbird for identification

4. American Goldfinch

American Goldfinches are popular birds with the males bright yellow and black coloring in spring.  The females are more dull brown as are males in winter.

To attract more American Goldfinches to your backyard try planting thistles and milkweed.  They will visit most bird feeders and prefer sunflower seed and nyjer seed. 

American Goldfinch for identification

5. American Crow

American crows are large all-black birds that make a hoarse, cawing sound. They are common birds that can be found in most habitats including treetops, woods, fields, beaches, or towns.

They eat most things and usually feed on the ground eating earthworms, insects, seeds, and fruit.

You can attract more American Crows to your backyard by scattering peanuts.

American Crow for identification

6. Black-capped Chickadee

The Black-capped Chickadee is a cute bird with a big round head and tiny body. These birds will happily feed at backyard feeders and will investigate everything including you! 

They have black-caps and beaks, white cheeks, and are gray on the back, wings, and tail.  They particularly like suet, sunflower seeds, and peanuts or peanut butter. They will even feed from your hand.

Black-capped Chickadee

7. Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpeckers are small birds that are common at backyard feeders.  They are often mixed in with other birds such as chickadees and nuthatches.  They have black and white coloring with a red patch at the back of their heads.  They look similar to the Hairy Woodpecker.

To attract more Downy Woodpeckers to your backyard try suet feeders but they will also eat black oil sunflower seeds, millet, and peanuts on platform feeders.

Check out all the other species of woodpeckers in Minnesota.

Downy woodpecker for identification

8. Common Yellowthroat

Common Yellowthroats are small songbirds that are brownish on the back and bright yellow underneath, with long tails.  The males have a black mask across the face.  The brightness of the yellow can vary geographically and they may be more olive in parts underneath.

They breed over much of North America and so can be found in the spring and summer often in marshy or wetland areas and brushy fields living in thick, tangled vegetation.  They eat mostly insects and will be found in large backyards that have dense vegetation.

common yellowthroat

9. Blue Jay

Blue Jays are common songbirds with a blue upright crest, blue and black backs, and white undersides.  They are noisy birds that travel in family groups eating acorns when available.

They enjoy peanuts, sunflower seeds, and suet but prefer these on tray feeders or hopper feeders on a post.  They will also enjoy a birdbath.

Blue Jay for identification

10. Mourning Dove

Mourning Doves are graceful small-headed birds, plump bodies and long tails.  They are a soft brown with black spots on the wings.

They can be seen perching on telephone wires and forage for seeds on the ground.

You can attract more Mourning Doves to your backyard by scattering millet on the ground or on platform feeders.  They will also eat black sunflower seeds, nyjer, cracked corn and peanut hearts.

Mourning Dove

11. White-breasted Nuthatch

White-breasted Nuthatches are active little birds that are gray-blue on the back and white on the face and belly, with a black cap.

They jam large nuts and acorns into tree bark and then whack them with their bills to open or ‘hatch’ them to get the seed out.

You can attract more White-breasted Nuthatches to your backyard with sunflower seeds and peanuts on tube feeders or suet feeders.

White breasted nuthatch for identification

12. Chipping Sparrow

Chipping Sparrows are slender, long-tailed birds that have a grayish belly and brown and black streaked back, with a rusty crown and black eye line. in winter the colors are more subdued.

Breeding over much of North America and Canada then flying to Mexico and Florida or in the far south they remain all year.

They can be found in small flocks on open ground and will come to backyards for many kinds of birdseed.

chipping sparrow

13. Common Grackle

The Common Grackle is a blackbird that is taller and longer tailed than a typical blackbird and with glossy iridescent bodies.

They eat many crops but mostly corn and gather in noisy groups high up in trees.

You can attract more Common Grackles to your backyard with most mixed grain and seed, sprinkled on the ground or on platform feeders.

Common grackle

14. Hairy Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpeckers are black and white with a red patch on the back of their heads.  They are slightly bigger than their lookalikes the Downy Woodpecker.

They can be found in woods and forests and parks but also at backyard feeders.

You can attract more Hairy Woodpeckers to your backyard with suet feeders but also peanut and black oil sunflower seeds on platform feeders.

Hairy woodpecker

15. Northern Cardinal

The bright red male Northern Cardinal with black around their faces is a great sight, especially against a white winter background.  The females are also a little showy with their brown coloring, sharp brown crest, red highlights, and red beaks.

Northern Cardinals will sometimes attack their own reflection during breeding season as they obsessively defend their territories.

You can attract more Northern Cardinals to backyard feeders with sunflower seeds, peanut hearts, millet, and milo.

There are a surprising number of types of red birds in Minnesota that you can spot.

Northern cardinal male and female for identification

16. Barn Swallow

Barn Swallows are small birds with a deep-blue back, wings and tail, and reddish-brown underneath and across the face. The tail has long outer feathers that give a deep fork.

They breed over most of North America before heading to Central and South America. They can be found flying over meadows, farms, and fields looking for insects and usually build mud nests on man-made structures such as in barns.

You can attract more Barn Swallows by putting up nest boxes or cups and may eat ground-up eggshells on a platform feeder.

barn swallow

17. House Wren

House Wrens are small nondescript brown birds with darker barred wings and tail and a paler throat. Breeding in most states before migrating to the far south and Mexico for winter.

House Wrens can be found in backyards, parks and open woods foraging for insects in brush piles.  You can attract more to your backyard by leaving piles of brush or putting up a nest box.

house wren

18. Gray Catbird

Gray Catbirds are so named because of their distinctive catty mew song that can last for up to 10 minutes. 

They are medium-sized songbirds with a slate gray coloring, black cap and tail, and a reddish patch under their tails.

You can spot Gray Catbirds in dense shrubs, small trees, and along forest edges or hedgerows.

You can attract more Gray Catbirds to your backyard feeders with fruit and fruit trees or shrubs such as dogwood, winterberry, and serviceberry.

gray catbird

19. Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpeckers have a pale red belly that can be difficult to spot, with a red cap and nape and black-and-white stripped back.

They make a loud call in spring and summer and are found in woods and forests, especially with deadwood.

You can attract more Red-bellied Woodpeckers with suet feeders and they will sometimes feed from hummingbird feeders.

There are many other species of woodpecker in Minnesota that you can spot.

red-bellied woodpecker

20. Brown-headed Cowbird

Brown-headed Cowbird males are black-bodied and brown-headed Blackbirds with short tails and thick heads.  Females are brown all over with slight streaking. 

They are often considered a nuisance as they destroy the eggs of smaller songbirds so that they can lay their eggs in the nest and have the bird foster their chicks.

They breed in much of the north and west of North America before heading further south but remain all year in the Eastern and Southern states and Pacific Coast.

Brown-headed cowbird

Best Bird Feeders to Attract Birds

variety of different bird feeders will attract the most species of birds

  1.  Tube Feeders can be filled with different types of birdseed and depending on the seed different birds will be attracted. Black oil sunflower seeds attract Goldfinches, Chickadees, Woodpeckers, Nuthatches, and Pine Siskins.
  2. Ground Feeders or a tray below a Tube Feeder with Black oil sunflowers tube feeders attract Cardinals, Jays, Finches, and Sparrows.
  3. Platform feeders with Millet or Corn attract small and medium-sized birds such as sparrows, Blackbirds, Towhees, Juncos, Doves, Grackles, and Starlings.
  4. Peanut feeders attract Woodpeckers, Chickadees, Nuthatches, Titmice, Jays, Juncos, Finches, and Sparrows.
  5. Suet Feeders are great, especially in winter, for Woodpeckers, Cardinals, Nuthatches, Kinglets, Wrens, and Chickadees.
  6. Hummingbird feeders attract these tiny fascinating birds but they also attract other birds too.

How to Attract Birds to Your Backard in Minnesota

If you would like to attract more birds to your yard in Minnesota here are some tips:

  1. Provide bird feeders for different types of birds to get the most species to visit your yard.
  2. Provide a water feature such as a birdbath fountain or stream.  Ensure that the water is clean and not stagnant
  3.  Grow native plants that will provide food and shelter. Plants, trees, and shrubs that provide fruit, berries, and nuts. Blackberries, wild grasses, elderberries, serviceberries, Oaks, Beeches, Cherries, sumacs, hemlocks, Purple Coneflowers, Sunflowers, Milkweed, Cardinal Flowers, Trumpet Honeysuckle, Virginia Creeper, Buttonbush, and Dogwoods.
  4. Let your grass grow long to provide cover and seeds.
  5. Leave a brush pile to provide food, protection, and nesting opportunities for birds.
  6. Don’t use pesticides and herbicides as these may be toxic to birds and prevent the natural foraging opportunities for insects and seeds that birds will seek in your yard.
  7. Set up nest boxes to attract breeding birds and ensure they are cleaned every year.

How to Identify Birds

Here are some tips to help you identify birds whether you decide to go out birding or stay in and do some backyard bird watching in Minnesota:

  1. Size – Size is the easiest thing to notice about a bird.  Birds are often measured in inches or centimeters in guide books.  It’s best to take a note of the bird in terms of small, medium, or large to be able to look for it later. A small bird is about the size of a sparrow, a medium bird is about the size of a pigeon and a large bird is the size of a goose.
  2. Shape – Take note of the silhouette of the bird and jot it down or draw the outline.  Look at tail length, bill shape, wing shape, and overall body shape.
  3. Color pattern – Take a note of the main color of the head, back, belly, and wings, and tail for the main color and then any secondary colors or patterns. Also take note of any patterns such as banding, spots, or highlights.
  4. Behavior – Are they on the ground or high up in the trees. Are they in flocks or on their own?  Can you spot what they are eating?
  5. Habitat – Woodlands, parks, shrubs, grasslands or meadows, shore or marsh.
  6. Use a bird identification app such as those created by ebird or Audubon.