Do you need help with bird identification in Wisconsin for birds that visit your backyard? Get ID information, pictures, and printable worksheets to help with these birds of Wisconsin identification.
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 and learn to identify birds in your backyard. Well, now you can find out what are the most common birds in Wisconsin that visit feeders or hop across your lawn.
So if you’re ready to do some backyard birding then read on to find out how to identify birds in Wisconsin and how to attract more birds to your yard.
Also, get free bird printables of backyard birds of Wisconsin with pictures to help you with Wisconsin bird identification and to keep track of the birds that visit your backyard.
Top 20 backyard birds in Wisconsin
- Black-capped Chickadee
- American Crow
- American Robin
- American Goldfinch
- Northern Cardinal
- Mourning Dove
- Blue Jay
- Downy Woodpecker
- Red-winged Blackbird
- Barn Swallow
- Song Sparrow
- Cedar Waxwing
- Common Yellowthroat
- Dark-eyed Junco
- Indigo Bunting
- White-breasted Nuthatch
- Red-bellied Woodpecker
- House Wren
- Gray Catbird
- Chipping Sparrow
These are the backyard birds most often seen in Wisconsin 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 birds most frequently spotted in Wisconsin in summer (June and July) and winter in Wisconsin (December and January).
Birds that are not often seen at feeders or in backyards were removed to give you the birds in Wisconsin you are most likely to see from home.
This data mix ensures that whatever time of year you are bird-watching in Wisconsin these are the birds you will most likely spot at feeders or on your lawn.
Free Printable Wisconsin Birds Identification Worksheets
These free bird identification in Wisconsin worksheets have all the common backyard birds in Wisconsin at different times of the year.
So when you want to do some backyard birding these handy bird printables 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.
Top 20 backyard birds in Wisconsin
1. 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 can be found in forests, open woods, parks. Black-capped Chickadees eat seeds, berries and insects, spiders, and suet.
To attract more Black-capped Chickadees to your backyard try suet, sunflower seeds, and peanuts or peanut butter. They will even feed from your hand and are often one of the first birds to discover new feeders. They will also use nest boxes, especially if you fill them with wood shavings.
2. 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. They also eat fish, young turtles, mussels and clams and will even eat eggs and nestlings of many species of birds.
American Crows gather in large numbers of up to two million crows in winter to sleep in communal roosts.
You can attract more American Crows to your backyard by scattering peanuts but can become a nuisance as attracted by garbage or pet food if left out.
3. American Robin
American Robins are a common sight on lawns eating earthworms. They have black heads and back with red or orange breasts. They tend to roost in trees in winter so you are more likely to see them in your backyard from spring.
American Robins can be found in many habitats, from woodlands, forests, and mountains to fields, parks, and lawns. They eat earthworms, insects, snails, and fruit.
You can attract more American Robins to your yard with sunflower seeds, suet and peanut hearts, fruit, and mealworms. Platform feeders are best or food scattered on the ground. Also try planting some native plants that produce berries such as juniper, sumac, hawthorn, and dogwood.
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.
American Goldfinches breed in far northern states and Canada before migrating to southern states, they remain all year in the rest of the U.S.
They can be found in weedy fields and overgrown areas foraging for sunflower, thistle, and aster plants. They are also common in suburbs, parks, and backyards.
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.
5. Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal males are bright red birds 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 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.
They will feed from large tube feeders, hoppers, platform feeders, or food scattered on the ground.
There are a surprising number of species of red birds in Wisconsin that you can spot.
6. 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 foraging for seeds on the ground in grasslands, fields, and backyards. Mourning Doves can be found in open areas or on the edge of woodland.
Mourning Doves are common over all of the lower 48 all year but may migrate after breeding from the far north.
You can attract more Mourning Doves to your backyard by scattering millet on the ground or platform feeders. They will also eat black sunflower seeds, nyjer, cracked corn, and peanut hearts.
7. Blue Jay
Blue Jays are common large 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. Mostly resident but may migrate from the far northwest of US and can migrate in large flocks along the Great Lakes and Atlantic coast.
They can be found in forests, but especially near oak as they eat acorns. They can also be found in backyards near feeders. As well as acorns they eat insects, nuts and seeds, and grain. They may also take eggs from nests or take nestlings
To attract more Blue Jays to your backyard try peanuts, sunflower seeds, and suet but they prefer these on tray feeders or hopper feeders on a post. They will also enjoy a birdbath.
8. 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 but smaller.
Downy woodpeckers can be found in woodlots, along streams, city parks, and backyards and eat mainly insects beetle larvae, but also berries, acorns, and grains.
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.
There are many types of woodpeckers in Wisconsin.
9. 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.
10. 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.
11. 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.
They eat a wide variety of insects and plants including beetles, caterpillars, midges, spiders, and earthworms. They will also eat buckwheat, sunflower, raspberries, wild cherries, blackberries, wheat and, rice.
You can attract more song sparrows to your backyard feeders by putting black oil sunflower seeds, cracked corn, and nyjer on platform feeders.
12. Cedar Waxwing
Cedar Waxwings are elegant social birds that are pale brown on the head, chest, and crest, which fades to gray on the back and wings and tail. Their belly is pale yellow and there is bright yellow on the tip. They have a narrow black mask over their eyes and bright red on the wingtips.
They are resident all year in northern states and the winter in the south. They make a high-pitched call and can be found in berry bushes, in woodlands, and along streams.
To attract Cedar Waxwings to your backyard plant native trees and shrubs that have small fruit such as serviceberry, dogwood, juniper, winterberry, and hawthorn. You can also try fruit on platform feeders.
13. 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.
14. Dark-eyed Junco
Dark-eyed Juncos are sparrows that are of different colors depending on the state. They are generally slate-colored in the east and black, white, and brown in the west.
They can be found in open and partially wooded areas often on the ground and are common across the continent. Some remain resident all year in the west and the Appalachian Mountains. Those that breed in Canada and Alaska migrate south in winter to the United States.
You can attract more Dark-eyed Juncos to backyard feeders with a variety of seeds such as black oil sunflower seeds, nyjer, cracked corn, millet, and peanuts. Platform feeders or scattered on the ground are best.
15. Indigo Bunting
Indigo Buntings are small birds with the males being bright blue with streaks of black in the wings and tail, females are brown.
They migrate far from breeding grounds in eastern States to winter grounds in Florida, Central and South America, and the Caribbean.
Indigo Buntings can be found in weedy fields and shrubby areas foraging for seeds and insects. You can attract more to your backyard with small seeds such as nyjer and thistle.
16. 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 will often have a chestnut color on the lower belly and under the tail.
They can be found in deciduous forests, woodland edges, parks and yards with trees or at feeders. They mainly eat insects including beetles and their larvae, caterpillars, ants and also spiders.
White-breasted Nuthatches also eat seeds and nuts including acorns, hawthorns, sunflower seeds and sometimes corn crops.
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.
17. 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 are a similar size as a Hairy Woodpecker at around 9 inches.
They make a loud call in spring and summer and are found in woods and forests, especially with deadwood in eastern states. Red-bellied Woodpeckers eat mainly insects and spiders but they will also eat acorns, nuts and pine cones, and some seeds and fruits.
You can attract more Red-bellied Woodpeckers with suet feeders and they will sometimes feed from hummingbird feeders.
18. House Wren
House Wrens are small nondescript brown birds with darker barred wings and tails 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, and spiders, such as beetles, caterpillars, and earwigs in brush piles. They can often be found energetically hopping through tangles and low branches with their tails up, stopping to sing their cheerful song.
House Wrens are fierce for their size, when it comes to getting the best nest holes, they will often harass larger birds, sometimes dragging eggs or nestlings out of a nest site they want.
You can attract more House Wrens to your backyard by leaving piles of brush or putting up a nest box.
19. 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.
Gray Catbirds breed over much of the U.S except the Pacific Coast and inland along the west and southwest before heading south to the Gulf Coast of the U.S, Mexico and Central America, and the West Indies. Some remain all year along the Atlantic Coast.
You can spot Gray Catbirds in dense shrubs, small trees, and along forest edges or hedgerows foraging for insects but also fruit.
You can attract more Gray Catbirds to your backyard feeders with fruit and fruit trees or shrubs such as dogwood, winterberry, and serviceberry.
20. 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.
Best Bird Feeders to Attract Birds
A variety of different bird feeders will attract the most species of birds in Wisconsin to your backyard
- 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.
- Ground Feeders or a tray below a Tube Feeder with Black oil sunflowers tube feeders attract Cardinals, Jays, Finches, and Sparrows.
- Platform feeders with Millet or Corn attract small and medium-sized birds such as sparrows, Blackbirds, Towhees, Juncos, Doves, Grackles, and Starlings.
- Peanut feeders attract Woodpeckers, Chickadees, Nuthatches, Titmice, Jays, Juncos, Finches, and Sparrows.
- Suet Feeders are great, especially in winter, for Woodpeckers, Cardinals, Nuthatches, Kinglets, Wrens, and Chickadees.
- Hummingbird feeders attract these tiny fascinating birds but they also attract other birds too.
How to Attract Birds to Your Backyard in Wisconsin
If you would like to attract more birds to your yard in Wisconsin here are some tips:
- Provide bird feeders for different types of birds to get the most species to visit your yard.
- Provide a water feature such as a birdbath fountain or stream. Ensure that the water is clean and not stagnant
- 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.
- Let your grass grow long to provide cover and seeds.
- Leave a brush pile to provide food, protection, and nesting opportunities for birds.
- 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.
- Set up nest boxes to attract breeding birds and ensure they are cleaned every year.
How to Identify Birds in Wisconsin
Here are some more tips to help you identify birds in Wisconsin, whether you chose to go out birding or stay home bird watching in Wisconsin :
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- Habitat – Woodlands, parks, shrubs, grasslands or meadows, shore or marsh.
- Use a bird identification app such as those created by ebird or Audubon