Outdoors blog


Top 25 Birds of Minnesota (with Pictures, Places to Watch)

Here are some of the coolest looking birds you will see and hear:

Palm Warbler

Although we don’t find tropical plants in Minnesota, these bird species are named after a tropical plant, “Palm,” which raises their families in the state’s northern regions. It is a small songbird that belongs to the New World warbler family

Palm Warbler is a dull brownish bird with distinctive yellow under the throat and tail. In Minnesota, these birds breed in bogs and areas with thick ground cover and evergreen trees in the boreal forest. Palm Warblers stop in weedy fields, fence rows, forest edges, and other areas with shrubs and trees during migration.

Palm Warblers play a significant role in maintaining the food chain in Northern American regions, including Minnesota. These birds eat insects, such as caterpillars, flies, and beetles, and consume hawthorn, sea grape, bayberry, and seeds during the winter.

Although these birds pick insects from the ground or low tree branches, research highlights that they can also catch some insects in midair. Palm Warbler’s size is 4.9-5.7 inches in length and 0.34-0.37 oz. in mass.

Named after a tropical plant, this bird is found in northern Minnesota. These are colorful and eye-catching birds and is an amazing sight for the birdwatchers. Their wagging and wiggling tail helps in easily identifying these birds. They are also found in the southeast side of the state during the winter months.





Gray Catbird



Northern Cardinal

The winter bird, Cardinal, has a red colour with a black mask around their bills and eyes and a red crest on their head. They also have a greyish part on the back of their neck. The beak is thick that helps them cracking seeds and nuts and has a distinguished orange colour.

Cardinals are commonly seen during the winter months and you can also attract them in your backyard by providing them sunflower seeds. You will often observe the male and female Cardinals establishing their territories and making singing calls. The female Cardinal is a bit different in appearance from their male counterparts. Although the crest is the same, the colours are different. They are yellowish-orange in colour and have a black covering around their eyes and beak. During December and January, cardinals travel in small flocks and move to bushy and green trees to hide and seek protection.


Black-capped Chickadee

The chickadee is another winter bird and is considered as the favourite bird of many birders. It is a tiny bird with a black cap on its head and has a small black bib like shape on the front side of their necks. These birds travel in small flocks and they are remaining in contact with each other by singing. They love eating insects and small eggs on twigs. The outer little branches of trees are also their beloved food.

During the cold winter nights, these birds seek shelter in cavities and tree holes that are carved by woodpeckers. Evergreen trees are also their favourite shelters.

At the beginning of February, these birds separate from each other and break their flocks. By the mid of February, Chickadees begin their singing calls as a welcoming sound for the winter season.


House Wren



American Crow



Barn Swallow



American Robin



Hairy Woodpecker



Mourning Dove



White-breasted Nuthatch

Unlike its huge name, the White-breasted Nuthatch is a small winter bird that is popular by the name “upside-down bird”. This bird has a habit of remaining upside-down on the branches of trees. This habit helps them see wintering insects easily.

These birds have a strong beak which helps them easily dig out eggs and insects from furrows and deep holes. Both male and female species of these birds set up their nesting and feeding territories in the same areas.

These birds feed on suet, sunflower seeds and corn.

Get a pair of binoculars to see them better from a distance.


American Goldfinch

Goldfinch stays in Minnesota throughout the winter season if the food is available. However, in the absence of food, they move to other parts of the state and travel in small flocks.

These birds and unique as they can change their colour during the winter season from yellow to a greenish colour. You will mostly see them in small flocks.


Song Sparrow




Barn Swallow



Blue Jay

Blue Jays are another known species of winter bird that are found in Minnesota. Some of these birds are also seen in the south during the fall season. You can easily identify these birds by their blue colour. They also have a crest-like figure on their heads.

Blue Jays mostly feed on corn and sunflower seeds. Their voice resembles that of a hawk that scares other birds away and hence, keeps Blue Jays safe. These birds have a habit of storing a significant amount of food in their gular pouch. They also store food in the tree cavities and feed on it during the harsh weather conditions.


Dark-eyed Junco

Juncos also migrate to Minnesota during the harsh winter months. They mostly come from Canada and then return after February. These birds travel in small flocks and they feed on grass and seeds. They seek shelter in the evergreen trees and have a total population of more than 500 million. That is why they are the most common sight for the birders during the winters.


Song Sparrow



Chipping Sparrow



Common Grackle



Downy Woodpecker

This woodpecker is one of the smallest woodpeckers that is found in the northern woods. Their size is a bit large than a chickadee. The male downy woodpecker has a red spot on the back of their heads while the female does not have it. You can hear them “drumming” on the woods in the spring season. They feed on larvae, eggs and suet.


Red-eyed Vireo

Pileated Woodpeckers

One of the largest woodpecker species in the United States, the Pileated Woodpeckers are as huge as that of a crow. They live in dark forests and rarely come out, but they do visit the backyards if you have food staples such as suet. February is the mating month of these woodpeckers when you will often hear they are echoing throughout the woodlands. They also produce the sound of “pileated drums” that sound exactly like an actual drum.

In Minnesota, these species are very common and is very rare in other parts of the United States. The favourite food of these woodpeckers is carpenter ants, and they search for them in deep furrows and inside the tree cavities of old trees. If you ever visit the woodlands, you will find many carved up trees that are being hunted by the pileated woodpeckers.


Golden-Winged Warbler – Just like the Palm Warbler species, the Golden-Winged Warbler is also another colourful and bright species of birds found in the north-eastern part of Minnesota. This bird is found in the summer season when it looks for its ideal habitat of woods and swamps. Such habitat is also serving as the breeding environment for these birds. These birds have a sunny-yellow mark of their wings like “Crown bird” and serves as its identification mark.

Redpolls are another winter bird species that are known to invade Minnesota during the winter season. You will find them moving in large flocks in this season. The year 2009 was marked as “redpoll invasion year” for these birds when they migrated to Minnesota in huge quantities. You will find them feeding on grass and seeds.

Red Bellied Woodpecker – This species of woodpecker can be identified by its black colour on their bodies with white stripes in between and have a crown on their heads having a flaming red colour. This crown is only seen on the male woodpecker’s head. Just like other woodpecker species, they feed on suet and ants.

Black Billed Cuckoo is another stunning bird species of Minnesota that is known to be a magnificent singer. It is a summer bird and is found all over Minnesota. The ideal habitat of this bird if leafy and full woodlands. It is known as a “Happy Bird” that loves greenery and loves to sing.

You can identify this bird with its long-tapered tail and having a curved bill. The eyes are also covered with a red ring. These features help the birders to easily identify this bird.

Common Goldeneye is a duck species that has an eye-catching appearance with a yellow eye, hence its name, “Goldeneye”. This species of duck is observed in the very northern part of Minnesota. The bird usually breeds in that part too and is a marvellous sight for the birders.

Common Loon is the state bird of Minnesota and no trip to Minnesota is considered done without seeing this adorable species. It is only observed in the central and northern region of Minnesota especially during the breeding season. Is characterized by their checkered bodies and sharp bills.

Trumpeter Swan is found all year-round in Minnesota, especially in the central region. It is known as one of the largest species of the swan that is heavy and huge and that is why is quite easy to recognize by the birders. It has an all-white appearance, and the bill is sloppy and dark having a red patch on it. Trumpeter Swans are magnificently white and beautiful.

Snowy OwlHighly sought-after in the state, they are seen all year-round especially in the north-eastern region of the state. They also migrate to the south of the state during the outbreak years. The birders can find them in open areas such as along the lakeshores and open woodlands where reside on rooftops and high posts.

Another year-round bird species of Minnesota is Black-Backed Woodpecker that is typically observed in the central part of the state. The bird also migrates to the northern region of Minnesota. The ideal habitats for these birds are burned-out forests having coniferous trees. During the cold season, the birds move to the south of the state to find their habitat. These birds are one of the top favourite species for the breeders.

Known as one of the most intelligent species of bird in Minnesota, the Black-Billed Magpie resides in the northwestern part of the state. These birds are large, have long tails and they look quite elegant with blue and black colours on their bodies. These birds are known to be a special treat for the birdwatchers to see. billed Magpies are also found in other parts of the United States such as Minnesota, Colorado and Montana.


Minnesota is famous for its grasslands, prairies and beautiful lakes. Due to the perfect habitat that it provides, Minnesota also offers many birding opportunities to the birdwatchers. Not only in the summer and spring season, but Minnesota is also popular for its winter birds when many species of birds migrate here and find shelter.

You will be amazed to know that there are 422 bird species in Minnesota.



It is often asked by the birdwatchers that how do these winter birds survive the extreme cold and bitter temperatures of Minnesota especially when these birds are so delicate and weight so less?


More food and lots of eating is the key to meet the wintery needs of Minnesota winter bird species. If you are a birder then you must be aware of the role of proteins and high fats in the lives of these winter birds. It is good to provide your winter backyard birds with tons of protein in any form such as suet and sunflower seeds.

Winter birds also need special landscaping requirements such as shrubs with berries and fruits. Moreover, Crabapples, Chokeberries and Flowering Dogwoods are considered as special landscaping areas. Other natural sources of food that can be provided to winter birds are Bee Balm, Gayfeather, Sunflowers, Coneflowers and Sneezeweed.

These food staples are excellent in helping these little winter species pass through the coldest months.


There are many species of Minnesota winter birds whose bodies are naturally made to survive the cold and harsh wintery months. The bodies of these birds produce extra feathers naturally that serves the role of thick fur as in case of polar bears and white leopards. Feathers are greatest and excellent natural insulators, and they trap the body heat inside them so that none of them is lost. Thus, the winters birds fluff up in their feathery bodies and avoid the loss of heat in winters. That way, they can survive the bitter winter months easily.


The habitat of winter birds also serves as their “indoor” environment that allows them to stay warm. The winters birds have a habit of hiding behind the trees and branches that allows them to yield themselves from the winter months. These birds also look for natural cavities to protect themselves from the harsh winter elements.

Thus, nature is one of the best factors that helps the winter birds stay cosy and survive the cold season.


Food: Striped sunflower, peanuts, sunflower chips, Black oil sunflower

Species: Chickadees, Blue Jays, Woodpeckers and Nuthatches

Food: Safflower

Species: Blackbirds, cardinals, chickadees and nuthatches

Food: Black oil sunflower, safflower, white millet, striped sunflower

Species: Doves, Chickadees, Cardinals, Towhees, Juncos

Food: Peanuts, white millets and sunflower

Species: Every seed-eating bird-like juncos, doves and cardinals

Food: High-fat and protein

Species: Finches and cardinals and other winter birds


Birding hotspots in Minnesota are:

  • Hawk Ridge
  • Sax-Zim Bog
  • Felton Prairie
  • Lost River State Forest
  • Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge
  • Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge
  • Rice Lake National Wildlife Refuge
  • Big Stone National Wildlife Refuge
  • Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge
  • Minnesota Valley River Birding Trail



  1. Avon Hills-Important Bird Area:

Avon Hills comprises of over 72,000 acres and is situated in Stearns County. The prominent features of this IBA consist of Swamp Lake, more than two waterfowl production areas, St. John’s University Campus and two-state natural and scientific areas called Avon Hills Forest SNA and Max Partch Woods.

Avon Hills is known as one of those blessed IBAs that is rich in waterbirds especially Wood Ducks, Blue-winged Teal, Common Loons, Common Mergansers and many other species like Pied-billed Grebes. In this region, you will find those species that are common in both southern as well as the northern part of the Minnesota state like Blue-winged Warblers, Cerulean Warblers and Red-shouldered Hawks.

  1. Arden Hills (also known as Rice Creek-Important Bird Area)

Arden Hills is situated in the north-central region of Ramsey County. It is a natural area that consists of over 2,000 acres. It consists of urban landscaping that supports more than 66 bird species. Arden Hills has two main parts known as The Rice Creek North, also called Ramsey County Open Space and the second area known as Army Training Site. Both of these areas provide an amazing habitat to many bird species like raptors, passerines and waterfowls. All these species are contained within this urban area. The area also provides an opportunity for the birdwatchers to view this natural and amazing wildlife of these two twin areas.

The most common bird species seen frequently in these areas is Trumpeter Swans. A small number of Red-shouldered Hawks and Forster’s are also found in this area.

  1. Agassiz National Wildlife Refuge-Important Bird Area

Agassiz National Wildlife is located in between two regions in northwestern Minnesota. These regions are known as prairie pothole and prairie tallgrass. During the peak migration season, this important bird area remains quite busy as over 50,000 ducks and 15,000 geese migrate to this place. It is one of the most viewed areas of birders during the migration season. The nests of some of the major bird species like waterbirds, Black Terns and Eared Grebes are also found in this area. Moreover, America’s most popular Franklin’s Gull’s colonies also make their nests in this region of Minnesota. Hence, the area is of extreme importance to the birds, birdwatchers and tourists.

  1. Blufflands Root River-Important Bird Area

Another IBA in Minnesota is situated in the south-east of the state in an area known as “driftless area”. This area is counted among the top interesting areas of Minnesota regarding its geology.

This area consists of steep riverbanks, highland deciduous woodlands, deep river valleys as well as floodplain woodlands. Such habitat makes this area an ideal habitat for the migrating and breeding species of birds. The area also provides an excellent ground for agriculture.

There are more than 185 species of birds found in this area of Minnesota. Among them, 45-5- species requires a need for conservation. There is a great number of Cerulean Warblers and Acadian Flycatchers that are found in this IBA. Moreover, it holds the second largest population of a bird species known as Louisiana Waterthrush.

  1. Big Bog-Important Bird Area:

One of the largest IBA in Minnesota, the Big Bog covers more than 1.7 million acres of area. It is also popular with the name “Red Lake Peatlands” and consists of an exceptional topography and habitat. It is well-known all over the United States for its distinctive features and unique terrain.

Big Bog is a widely spread area that is forested and has a boreal landscape. You will not find such landscape and latitude anywhere else in the United States, specifically in the eastern end forest.

This area lies in north-central Minnesota with its land residing within the Red Lake Indian Reservation. There are several natural areas, forests and state parks in this region providing an excellent habitat to over 280 bird species. Among them, there are around 12 species of breeding birds in this area, especially of warblers. The major users of this unique habitat consist of over 100 species of birds. There is a great diversity of species in this region and numbers alone cannot define them in the best possible way. The area is of extreme importance to the birders.

You will also find Boreal forest species in this area like Boreal Chickadee, Spruce Grouse, Three-toed Woodpeckers, Black-backed and neo-tropical warblers. It is the major breeding area for these species of birds.

Other than these, the area is also a major spot for Northern Hawk Owls as well as Gray Owls especially during the periods of November to March. Thus, this area of Minnesota holds an ecological significance due to its unique terrain and exceptional habitat.

  1. Buffalo River-Important Bird Area:

Minnesota is full of wonderful things when it comes to providing habitat to dozens of unique bird species. Buffalo River State Park is another IBA that makes up one of the greatest undisturbed prairies in Minnesota.

This state park consists of more than 10,000 acres of indigenous and refurbished prairie. The site is known as on the highest quality and unique prairie sites, not only in Minnesota but in the entire United States. Margherita Preserve is also included in this area.

The exact location of this IBA is towards the east of Moorhead, Minnesota.

The habitat of this site provides an excellent habitat to grassland birds such as Marbled Godwit, Western Meadowlark, Upland Sandpiper, Short-eared Owl, Northern Harrier and Bobolink. There are also species of Grassland sparrows like Savannah, Grasshopper, Lark, Field, Clay-coloured and LeConte’s in this area. The Grassland sparrow species known as Henslow Sparrow is also found in this IBA. Furthermore, you will also find the Loggerhead Shrike in this area that is counted among the most threatened species of birds in Minnesota and is in a need of conservation.

  1. Carlos Avery-Important Bird Area:

One of the easiest accessible sites in Minnesota, this area is a vast, multi-owner area that is located towards the south of Minnesota. There are a variety of habitats this IBA offers to more than 235 bird species. These species include 67 such species that lie in the red line of conservation need. There are 25 nests of Red-headed Woodpeckers in this IBA and perhaps the densest population of this species in the entire state.

  1. Crane Meadows Rice-Skunk Lake-Important Bird Area

This IBA is situated in Morrison County and is an important one when it comes to migration of certain important bird species such as nesting waterbirds and waterfowls. There are also migrating populations of Sandhills Cranes that are found in this IBA.

The diversity of bird species in this area is very impressive as it contains over 200 species including 57 of those that fall in the category of Greatest Conversation Need. These species include Common Loon, Black Tern, Northern Harrier, Bald Eagle, Bobolink, Grasshopper Sparrow and Loggerhead Shrike.

  1. Des Moines River-Important Bird Area:

This portion of Minnesota is a centre of native habitats. It is heavily forested with several water trails. There are also watercraft campsites in this area.

This IBA comprises of a huge variety of wetland and grassland habitat. Due to these features, the diversity of bird species is very high in this area. This IBA also crosses the core area of Des Moines River that comes under the Minnesota Conservation Plan. There are around 250 species of birds that are found in this area, including around 130 breeding species. Hence, the area holds huge importance for Minnesota state due to the habitat and unique features that it offers.

  1. Felton Prairie-Important Bird Area:

Felton Prairie is situated in Clay County and it lies near the Red River. The IBA is home to several grassland species of birds such as Henslow’s Sparrow, Chestnut-collared Longspur, Loggerhead Shrike, Prairie Chicken, Baird’s, Sprague’s Pipit, Yellow Rail, Hudsonian Godwit, Bobolink, Dickcissel, Hudsonian and Swainson’s Hawk.

  1. Goose Lake Swamp-Important Bird Area:

This IBA consists of a linear pattern of wetlands and it lies within the Aspen Parkland. The area consists of a variety of state-listed bird species especially during the breeding season including Nelson’s Sparrows, Yellow Rails and Wilson’s Phalaropes.

  1. Hamden Slough National Wildlife Refuge-Important Bird Area:

In this IBA, there are around 30 species of shorebirds, 2 dozen of waterfowl bird species, around 10 marsh bird species as well as multiple neo-tropical migrants due to the presence of shallow water. Avian predators are also found in this IBA due to prairie habitats.

  1. Itasca State Park-Important Bird Area:

In Itasca State Park, there are more than 220 species of birds such as common loons, trumpeter swans, bald eagles and goshawks. This IBA is situated between Bemidji and Park Rapids and is home to the famous Mississippi River.

  1. Heron Lake-Important Bird Area:

Heron Lake consists of several small lakes. There are many wetlands also situated in this area. There is a diverse mixture of various habitats such as emergent marsh, wet grasslands, shrubby willow groves. There is also an array of small woodlands and trees in the area that further provides an ideal habitat to many grassland bird species.

Due to agricultural development, this area has undergone many changes in its physical terrain in the past. That is why efforts are now being made to restore several bird species such as Heron Lake Bird to manage the diversity of these species. There are around 145 bird species that are found in the Heron Lake IBA and among them, 107 are found only in the breeding season.

  1. Kettle River-Important Bird Area:

This IBA consists of forest wetland corridor that runs along the rivers and several other tributary stream and wetlands. There are also many large managed areas in this IBA including three state wildlife management areas. There are around 196 species of birds found in this IBA that includes 135 breeding species as well. The location of this IBA makes it a great migratory bypass for waterbirds and Bald Eagles.

  1. Lake Maria-Important Bird Area:

Lake Maria IBA consists of 2 management areas. 200 bird species are observed in this area. Among them, 10 of these bird species are counted in the “state-listed species” and includes Common Tern, Trumpeter Swan and Wilson’s Phalarope.

  1. Lake of the woods-Important Bird Area:

It is the largest lake in Minnesota state. Most of its part is in Canada. There are 25 islands, open wetlands and sedges in the United States portion of this lake. Due to this habitat, it attracts a large variety of migrating waterfowls in the fall and spring season. There are tens of thousands of Greater Scaup and Lesser species that migrate through this area. A small number of teal, Pintails and American Widgeon are also observed in this IBA. Canada Geese is also found here.

According to various reports, several species of raptors are also found in this region. Moreover, various migrating shorebirds are also spotted in Lake of the woods. Hence, the area provides an excellent habitat for several bird species and is an attractive region for the birdwatchers.

  1. Lower Minnesota River Valley-Important Bird Area:

This IBA includes 50,000 waterfowl species in the spring and fall season supporting the migration of these species. It also supports the migration of 20 duck species. Moreover, around 260 bird species are observed here among them 100 are known to nest.