Backyard Winter Birds in Indiana

Mourning Dove

20 Most Common Backyard Winter Birds in Indiana

Do you want to know what birds of Indiana are visiting your backyard in winter? Watching the birds outside in the cold flocking to your feeders while you sit by the window with a hot drink, is one of the joys of winter. 

  1. Northern Cardinal 53.98%
  2. Downy Woodpecker 46.07%
  3. Dark-eyed Junco 45.51%
  4. Blue Jay 41.38%
  5. White-breasted Nuthatch 41.28%
  6. Red-bellied Woodpecker 40.14%
  7. Tufted Titmouse 38.42%
  8. American Crow 35.33%
  9. American Goldfinch 34.87%
  10. Carolina Chickadee 34.49%
  11. House Sparrow 32.71%
  12. Mourning Dove 31.37%
  13. European Starling 29.91%
  14. House Finch 29.60%
  15. Song Sparrow 25.58%
  16. Carolina Wren 23.18%
  17. American Tree Sparrow 20.56%
  18. American Robin 18.77%
  19. White-throated Sparrow 17.44%
  20. Northern Flicker 16.29%

Get to know all the common winter birds in Indiana and how to attract more of them to your yard to bring you joy in winter every day.

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These are the most common backyard birds in winter in Indiana that may visit your lawn or feeders.  They are the backyard birds that appear most frequently on state checklists in December and January on ebird.

Downy Woodpeckers are more commonly seen in winter than in summer in Indiana, especially on suet feeders. Birds in winter in Indiana that migrate in after breeding in Canada include American Tree Sparrows and White-throated Sparrows.

If you would like a free printable worksheet with pictures of all the birds that most frequently visit backyards in Indiana throughout the year then also check this out:

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20 Most Common Backyard Winter Birds in Indiana

1. 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.

Cardinals are heavy birds with quite large beaks so they need a suitable hopper feeder or feeder with a big enough area for them to perch. The Woodlink Absolute feeder is very sturdy and cardinals love this feeder as they have a big enough area to perch without tipping the feeder as with lightweight feeders.  This is also squirrel proof which is always a bonus.

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.

Northern cardinal male and female for identification

2. 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 they are 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. Downy woodpeckers are the most common woodpecker in winter in Indiana.

An upside-down suet feeder is excellent for smaller woodpeckers such as Downy Woodpeckers as they offer protection from the rain and help stop bully birds.  A bulk pack of suet cakes is a more economical way of buying them.

Also, black oil sunflower seeds attract more Downy Woodpeckers to your yard and if you combine them with suet in a great combination suet and hopper feeder then you get two feeders in one.

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.

Downy woodpecker for identification

3. Dark-eyed Junco

Dark-eyed Juncos are sparrows that are different colors depending on the state.  They are generally slate-colored in the east and black, white, and brown in the west.

Some remain resident all year in the west and in the Appalachian Mountains.  Those that breed in Canada and Alaska migrate south in winter to much of the United States.

They can be found in open and partially wooded areas often on the ground and are common across the continent.

Juncos prefer to feed near the ground and it’s best to keep ground feeders away from shrubs where cats and predators can hide so this covered feeder is great for keeping out the elements. A budget-friendly alternative that allows rain to drain out is this simple platform feeder.

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.

Dark eyed junco for identification

4. 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 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.

Blue Jays are large birds and prefer to fly in grab a peanut or sunflower seed and take it away to feed.  Platform or tray feeders make it easy to make a quick exit. This Woodlink Audubon Platform Feeder can be either hung, pole-mounted, or placed on the ground and has a mesh screen on the bottom to allow for rain drainage which is essential to stop feed from going moldy.

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.

Blue Jay for identification

5. 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.

Nuthatches love black oil sunflower seeds and this Droll Yankees feeder makes it so easy to clean, stopping food from going moldy and making birds ill.

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

6. 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. Red-bellied Woodpeckers are more common in winter at feeders in Indiana than in summer.

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.

Red-bellied Woodpeckers will come to backyards for suet so try an upside-down suet feeder that can help stop squirrels and bully birds. These suet cakes come in a cheaper bulk pack.

Also, black oil sunflower seeds attract more Red-bellied Woodpeckers to your yard and if you combine them with suet in a great combination suet and hopper feeder then you get two feeders in one.

Red-bellied woodpecker

7. Tufted Titmouse

The Tufted Titmouse is gray on the back and white underneath with a cute gray crest and large eyes that often flock with chickadees, nuthatches, and woodpeckers.

They can be assertive over smaller birds and are found in woodlands, parks, and at backyard feeders. They eat mostly insects in summer including caterpillars, beetles, ants, and wasps as well as spiders and snails. They will also eat seeds, nuts, and berries and will hoard shelled seeds.

This Woodlink Hopper Feeder is not only squirrel-proof but protects the seed from rain and is really sturdy, making it last a long time. Tufted Titmice also prefer suet feeders with tail props to balance their long tails on.

You can attract Tufted Titmice to your backyard feeders with sunflower seeds, suet, and peanuts on tube feeders or suet cages.  They will also eat from platform feeders. You can also try putting up a nest box to attract a breeding pair.

Tufted titmouse

8. 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.

American Crow for identification

9. 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.

Goldfinches often travel in flocks and to get a swarm of them fly-in is a sight you need to create.  This is made possible with this Droll Yankees flocker feeder that has a staggering 20 ports to really get the party going.

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

10. Carolina Chickadee

Carolina Chickadees are tiny birds with large heads, black cap and neck, white cheeks and belly, and soft gray back, wings, and tail.

They are visually very similar to the Black-capped Chickadee and they interbreed where their range overlaps. They can be found in forested areas, parks, and backyards.

Chickadees will grab a seed and go to a perch to open and eat them. Stopping bigger bully birds or squirrels from plundering your feeders and stopping flocks of chickadees brightening up your day is easily solved with the Woodlink Caged feeder that is super easy to clean.  In winter this Upside Down Suet Feeder helps the little guys get some extra winter fuel.

You can attract more Carolina Chickadees to your backyard feeders with Black oil sunflower seeds, Nyjer seeds, suet feeders, or peanuts.  They will feed on most types of feeders including tube feeders, suet cages, or platform feeders. They will also nest in nest boxes or nest tubes.

Carolina Chickadee

11. House Sparrow

The House Sparrow is another introduced species that has done very well and is now one of the most common birds. They are found near houses and buildings and can be quite tame so will eat out of your hand. They can be considered a pest as they are non-native but will be found in backyards even if you do not feed them.

Small birds need a feeder that stops bigger ‘bully’ birds such as starlings, grackles, and blackbirds from taking all your bird feed and scaring off the small songbirds. Tube feeders with cages are essential in your feeder set up and the Woodlink Caged feeder is super easy to clean and is a perfect feeder for small birds.

You can attract more House Sparrows to your backyard feeders with most kinds of birdseed, including millet, corn, and sunflower seeds.

House sparrow for identification

12. 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 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.

Doves prefer to feed near the ground and it’s best to keep ground feeders away from shrubs where cats and predators can hide so this covered feeder is great for keeping out the elements. A budget-friendly alternative that allows rain to drain out is this simple platform feeder.

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

13. European Starling

European Starlings are not native but are now one of the most numerous songbirds.  They are stocky black birds with iridescent purple, green, and blue tones. 

Considered a pest by some due to their aggressive behavior these birds fly in large noisy flocks and can be seen perched in groups on the top of trees or flying over fields in flocks.

To stop European Starlings from dominating your feeders tube feeders with cages are essential in your feeder set up and the Woodlink Caged feeder is super easy to clean and is a perfect feeder for small birds to fly through and leave the starlings out.

You can attract more European Starlings to your backyard feeders with black oil sunflower seeds, suet, cracked corn, and peanuts.

European Starling for identification

14. House Finch

House Finches have a red breast and head in the males and brown-streaked coloring all over in the females.  Originally only in western states it was introduced to the eastern states and has done very well, even pushing out the Purple Finch.

They can be found in parks, farms, forest edges, and backyard feeders. They can be found in noisy groups that are hard to miss. They feed on seeds, buds, and fruit including thistle, cactus, cherries, apricots, plums, strawberries, blackberries, and figs.

Nyjer seeds are a favorite food of finches and this easy clean finch feeder from Droll Yankees ensures your wild birds stay healthy.

You can attract more House Finches to backyard feeders with black oil sunflower seeds or nyjer seeds in tube feeders or platform feeders.

house finch male

15. 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.

Small birds need a feeder that stops bigger ‘bully’ birds such as starlings, grackles, and blackbirds from taking all your bird feed and scaring off the small songbirds. Tube feeders with cages are essential in your feeder set up and the Woodlink Caged feeder is super easy to clean and is a perfect feeder for small birds.

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

16. Carolina Wren

Carolina Wrens are shy birds that are dark brown on top and light brown underneath.  They have a white eyebrow stripe and upright tail and loud teakettle song. They can be found in woods or thickly vegetated areas and will visit backyard feeders.

Carolina Wrens do not often visit backyard feeders but in winter they may visit suet feeders and this squirrel-proof feeder with a roof, to stop the rain spoiling the suet, is an excellent addition to your winter setup.  

Carolina Wren

17. American Tree Sparrow

American Tree sparrows are birds in winter in Indiana that migrate in after breeding in Canada. They are long-tailed brown-streaked plump birds with rusty caps, gray faces, and a rusty eyeline.  They forage in small flocks in weedy fields and under bird feeders.

Small birds need a feeder that stops bigger ‘bully’ birds such as starlings, grackles, and blackbirds from taking all your bird feed and scaring off the small songbirds. Tube feeders with cages are essential in your feeder set up and the Woodlink Caged feeder is super easy to clean and is a perfect feeder for small birds.

You can attract more American Tree Sparrows to your backyard platform feeders with black oil sunflower seeds, nyjer, cracked corn, and millet.  They also feed off the ground under tube feeders foraging for seeds dropped or discarded from above.

American tree sparrow

18. American Robin

American Robins are a common sight on lawns eating earthworms.  They have black backs and heads and have a reddish-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.

American robins do not regularly visit feeders, although they are common in backyards. Providing a habitat with lots of insects is the best way to encourage them but they sometimes eat sunflower seeds, suet and peanut hearts, fruit, and mealworms on platform feeders on the ground.

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.

American Robin for identification

19. White-throated Sparrow

White-throated Sparrows have a distinctive black and white striped head, bright white throat, and yellow between the eye and bill.  Their backs are brown and underneath is gray. White-throated Sparrows are winter birds in Indiana that migrate from Canada after breeding.

White-throated Sparrows are migratory birds, breeding mostly in Canada before heading south in winter to eastern and southern states and California. You can find White-throated Sparrows on the ground in woods and along the edges, often in large flocks.

Small birds need a feeder that stops bigger ‘bully’ birds such as starlings, grackles, and blackbirds from taking all your bird feed and scaring off the small songbirds. Tube feeders with cages are essential in your feeder set up and the Woodlink Caged feeder is super easy to clean and is a perfect feeder for small birds.

You can attract White-throated Sparrows to your backyard feeders with millet and black oil sunflower seeds on platform feeders.

White throated sparrow

20. Northern Flicker

Northern Flickers are large woodpeckers, between the size of a robin and a crow, with brownish coloring and black spots, bars, and crescents and red on the nape.  The undersides of tail and wing feathers are bright yellow in eastern birds and red in western birds.

They can be found on the ground looking for ants and beetles in woods or forest edges.

Northern Flickers do come as often to bird feeders as some other woodpeckers, but they can be seen at a birdbath so adding an attractive pedestal birdbath or a heated birdbath for the winter is your best bet.  You can try to encourage them by having black oil sunflower seeds, hulled sunflower seeds, safflower seeds, suet, cracked corn, peanuts, and millet on suet cages, large hoppers, or platform feeders. 

You can also put up a nest box suitable for flickers to attract a breeding pair and plant berry-producing plants such as grape, bayberries, hackberries, or elderberries.

Northern Flicker

If you would like to find out more about birds that visit backyards in Indiana throughout the year and get a free printable with pictures to create a tally check this out:

Best Bird Feeders to Attract winter Birds in Indiana

variety of different bird feeders will attract the most species of birds in winter in Indiana. Suet feeders are very popular in winter.

  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.

How to Attract Birds to Your Backard in Indiana

If you would like to attract more birds to your backyard in Indiana in winter here are some tips:

  1. Provide bird feeders for different types of birds to get the most species to visit your yard. During winter in Indiana try suet feeders especially.
  2. Provide a water feature such as a birdbath fountain or stream.  Ensure that the water is clean and not stagnant and try a heated birdbath in winter.
  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 in Indiana

Here are some tips to help you identify birds in Indiana whatever the season:

  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