9 Red Birds in Alaska – Picture and ID Guide

common-rosefinch

Red birds brighten up your day so make sure you know all the red birds you can spot.

There are 9 species of red birds in Alaska that have been spotted. Of these 4 species are recognized on state checklists as regularly occurring and an additional 5 species are considered rare or accidental.

This guide will help you identify the species of red birds in Alaska according to avibase. Some of these birds migrate and some remain all year.

Common_birds_-_part_1 x

You can print out a free bird identification worksheet for Alaska to help you identify all birds that visit your backyard.

The most common red bird in both summer and winter in Alaska is the Common Redpoll. The Pine Grosbeak is more commonly seen in winter and several species are only spotted in summer in Alaska. Keep reading to find out which ones.

9 Red Birds in Alaska:

  1. Common Redpoll
  2. Pine Grosbeak
  3. White-winged Crossbill
  4. Red Crossbill
  5. Purple Finch
  6. Common Rosefinch
  7. Cassin’s Finch
  8. House Finch
  9. Scarlet Tanager

9 Red Birds in Alaska:

1. Common Redpoll

Common redpolls can be spotted in Alaska all year.

Common Redpolls have red foreheads, pinky breasts, and brown and white over the rest of their bodies.

  • Acanthis flammea
  • Length: 4.7-5.5 in (12-14 cm)
  • Weight: 0.4-0.7 oz (11-20 g)
  • Wingspan: 7.5-8.7 in (19-22 cm)

They can be found in winter in northern states and less frequently in central states.

In winter, they will sometimes tunnel into the snow to stay warm during the night. They can eat up to 42% of their body mass every day and can store up to 2 grams of seeds in a stretchy park of their esophagus.

They can be found in weedy fields or feeding on catkins in trees, but they will also come to feeders for small seeds such as nyjer seeds or thistle.

2. Pine Grosbeak

pine grosbeak

Pine Grosbeaks are residents in Alaska all year but they are more common in the winter between November and March.

Pine Grosbeaks are a species of finch. The males are red birds with gray on the wings and tail and two white wingbars. Females are gray with dull orange heads and rumps. They are large for finches and relatively slow.

  • Pinicola enucleator
  • Length: 7.9-9.8 in (20-25 cm)
  • Wingspan: 13.0 in (33 cm)

Pine Grosbeaks are mostly found in Canada, but some can be spotted along the US border, the mountainous west and the Sierra Nevada in California.

They live in forests of pine, spruce and fir, feeding on seeds, fruit and buds from these trees. They will also eat some insects in the summer.  

You can attract Pine Grosbeaks to black oil sunflower seed feeders or suet feeders.

3. White-winged Crossbill

Male White-winged Crossbill

Just like the Pine Grosbeaks, White-winged Crossbills can be seen all year in Alaska but are more common during winter.

White-winged Crossbills are finches with heavy crossed beaks. Males are red birds with black wings and tails and two white wingbars. Females are yellow and brown and with two white wing bars.

  • Loxia leucoptera
  • Length: 5.9-6.7 in (15-17 cm)
  • Weight: 0.8-0.9 oz (24-26 g)
  • Wingspan: 10.2-11.0 in (26-28 cm)

White-winged Crossbills live in forests in Canada, Alaska and sometimes northern US states when cone crops are poor further north. They can be found in spruce forests feeding on seeds.

Unusually these birds breed at any time of year as long as there is enough food.

They can often be heard in large flocks. 

4. Red Crossbill

red crossbill

Red Crossbills can be spotted in Southern Alaska along the coast all year.

Red Crossbill males are red birds with darker wings and tails. Females are yellow and brown.

They can be found year-round in northern and western states and winter in eastern states.

They feed on conifer seeds and forage in flocks from tree to tree, even breaking unopened cones with their powerful beaks.  As well as coniferous forests, they can be found along roadsides consuming grit in the mornings.

5. Purple Finch

Purple Finch

Purple Finches are considered to be rare but a few birds have been spotted here in the last few years near Anchorage.

Purple Finches look very similar to House Finch with the reddish-purple head and breast with more brown on the back and wings. 

  • Length: 4.7-6.3 in (12-16 cm)
  • Weight: 0.6-1.1 oz (18-32 g)
  • Wingspan: 8.7-10.2 in (22-26 cm)

They breed in Canada and overwinter in eastern states but can be found all year in the north-east are Pacific coast.

You can spot them in evergreen forests feeding on seeds but also buds, nectar and berries.

They readily come to feeders for black oil sunflower seeds.

6. Common Rosefinch

common-rosefinch

Common Rosefinches are considered accidental species. They are very rare that they have only been spotted a few times near Chignik.

Common Rosefinch males are bright red on the head, breast and rump and brown with hints of red over the rest of the body.

  • Length: 5.8 in (15 cm)
  • Weight: 0.8 oz (23 g)
  • Wingspan: 9.5 in (24 cm)

Common Rosefinches are rarely seen in North America as it is usually from Europe and Asia, however, they have been seen mainly in the western edge of Alaska in summer.

7. Cassin’s Finch

Another rare red bird in Alaska is the Cassin’s Finch. They are very rare but a few birds have been spotted in the last 10 years around Anchorage.

Cassin’s Finches have a red crown, rosy pink head, and red-breasted with a whiteish belly and brown back and wings.

  • Length: 6.3 in (16 cm)
  • Weight: 0.8-1.2 oz (24-34 g)
  • Wingspan: 9.8-10.6 in (25-27 cm)

They can be found in mountain forests in western states, foraging in flocks for seeds.

They are not as common in backyards as House or Purple Finches, but they may be attracted with sunflower seed feeders, especially in winter, or fruiting shrubs such as cotoneaster, mulberries, firethorn, grape and apple.

8. House Finch

house finch male

House finches are considered accidental species in Alaska that have only been spotted a very few times in Anchorage and Delta Junction.

House Finches are another bird with a red head and breast in the males and brown-streaked coloring in the females. 

  • Length: 5.1-5.5 in (13-14 cm)
  • Weight: 0.6-0.9 oz (16-27 g)
  • Wingspan: 7.9-9.8 in (20-25 cm)

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.

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

9. Scarlet Tanager

Scarlet tanager

Scarlet Tanagers are very rare red birds in Alaska. In fact, according to records, they have only been spotted twice.

Scarlet Tanagers are bright red birds with black wings and tails. Females are yellow with darker wings and tails.

  • Piranga olivacea
  • Length: 6.3-6.7 in (16-17 cm)
  • Weight: 0.8-1.3 oz (23-38 g)
  • Wingspan: 9.8-11.4 in (25-29 cm)

They breed in eastern forests in summer before migrating to South America.

Scarlet Tanagers can be hard to spot as they stay high in the forest canopy. 

You can attract more Scarlet Tanagers by planting berry plants such as blackberries, raspberries, huckleberries, juneberries, serviceberries, mulberries, strawberries and chokeberries.

How Frequently Red birds are Spotted in Alaska in Summer and Winter

Checklists for the state are a great resource to find out which birds are commonly spotted here. These lists show which red birds are most commonly recorded on checklists for Alaska on ebird in summer and winter.

Common Red Birds in Alaska in Summer:

Common Redpoll 14%
White-winged Crossbill 3.7%
Pine Grosbeak 2.1%
Red Crossbill 1.7%
Common Rosefinch <0.1%
House Finch <0.1%
Purple Finch <0.1%
Cassin’s Finch <0.1%

Common Red Birds in Alaska in Winter:

Common Redpoll 22%
Pine Grosbeak 16.7%
White-winged Crossbill 7%
Red Crossbill 2.9%
Purple Finch 0.3%
Cassin’s Finch 0.2%