34 Photos of Backyard Birds of Michigan that Will Inspire You to Pick Up Your Camera

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34 Photos of Backyard Birds of Michigan that Will Inspire You to Pick Up Your Camera

One of the many reasons I love my home state is because the backyard birds of Michigan are so gorgeous. We moved out to the country a couple of years ago, and since then, I have been consistently amazed and excited to welcome such a large variety of birds to our backyard feeders. I will show you some of my favorite images in this post and do my best to identify the birds in those images. If you love colorful backyard birds Michigan is a great place to live and you’ll enjoy this post! If you’ve never been to Michigan, you may learn something new, and I still hope you’ll love this post!

The Backstory

A couple of years ago, my husband Dan and I packed up our household and moved to the countryside. We bought a charming little house nestled in the woods. Our home sits back away from the road, and we have a lovely green yard surrounding the A-frame house and its huge windows! We fell in love with this home for many reasons, but I had no idea how much I would grow to love the enormous windows and the multitude of birds that visit.

The day we moved in, I noticed a lot of bird activity along the tree line at the back of the grassy yard. Soon after that, Dan put some feeders up. It took no time for the birds to discover the feeders full of food, which led us to believe that the prior owners had already been feeding them. Thanks, guys!

an A-Frame home with lots of large windows
The view from the outside of my home. In this photo I am standing near the treeline.
Windows showing the view to the outside of the house
The view from my living room out the windows.

Related: This Is What Happens When a Photography Blogger Buys a House

Our First Birds


You can see from the picture that we have giant windows with a deck that wraps around the house. Our main living room looks right out into the wooded area with trees galore! Since I wanted the birds even closer, I screwed in a couple of feeder poles on the deck rail that surrounds the house. The birds were feasting on those feeders within a couple of days.

The first feeders I chose were basic small plastic feeders with little landing areas on which the birds could perch. We also put up a couple of finch socks filled with thistle. Plenty of finches and some other little birds gathered on the feeders close to the house. We discovered that the finches love thistle in a finch sock. They dig their sharp little feet right into the side and eat the thistle through the holes in the sock.

After a squirrel took the liberty of ripping a hole in our thistle sock and feasting on the seeds, we switched to a more permanent thistle feeder. However, our birds really prefer the sock and rarely visit the metal thistle feeder, so we put a sock back up after a couple of months. The finches are back in full force! You may have different results, so don’t rule out changing things up if your birds aren’t coming to one feeder or another. Be willing to try some new options!

We have two of these Feeder Poles Mounted on our Deck just outside the windows. I love them!

These convenient feeder socks come pre-filled. All you have to do is take it out of the pkg and hang it up!

If you want something a bit more permanent, check out this metal finch feeder, which holds thistle seeds. A little more squirrel-proof than the fabric socks as well.

The Feeders Make a Difference

Even though our small feeders were attracting common backyard birds of the smaller varieties, big birds like Cardinals, Woodpeckers, and Blue Jays preferred to hang out back along that tree line. I researched and discovered that to get the bigger birds up close to the house, we’d need to have some platform feeders with the specific foods they’d like. But even though we put a couple of platform feeders up right away, it took some time to lure those big birds in close.

It’s About the Food, Too!

We tried several mixes, but in the end, they prefer black oil sunflower seeds. Many of the larger birds such as Blue Jays, Cardinals, and Woodpeckers eat black sunflower seeds. In fact, those birds gobble it up. But even the smaller birds like to get in on the action and we also see them breaking the seeds open to get the meat inside. After several months we began seeing Cardinals visit, then after a great big blizzard covered up all the seeds on the ground, even the Blue Jays and some Woodpeckers came to see us in the platform feeders!

I love this Cedar feeder from Nature’s Way. After a year of weathering, we stained it to match our deck, and it’s even prettier!

This feeder hangs out toward our tree line and keeps the squirrels from sneaking too much of our food. Don’t worry – no squirrel is harmed in the making of this entertainment!

We also have a feeder similar to this one that holds a whole lot of seed so my husband doesn’t have to fill it as often. This feeder hangs further from the house at the treeline.

Because I work from home, I sit in my main living room with my laptop. My camera sits next to my chair, a Canon EOS R. I keep my favorite bird lens on it, so it’s handy anytime we get a unique or fun visitor. Sometimes I use my tripod, like when I’m photographing Hummingbirds. And sometimes, my bald cat, Scarlett No’Hara, helps me out.

A Sphynx cat peers through a camera
My bald Sphynx cat, Scarlett No’Hara helps me take photos sometimes!

How Do I Take Bird Photos?

Here is a quick cheat sheet showing the basic settings for bird photography. For more information, hop on over to Everything You Need to Know About the Best Camera for Bird Photography, where I explain camera settings in more detail and give you some info on what camera to start with if you are a beginning bird photographer.

a green and yellow graphic showing starting settings for bird photography

This is the camera I use to take my photos.

This is one of the two lenses I love the most for wildlife and bird photography – much greater zoom with this lens

And this is the second lens I love for wildlife and bird photography – much faster lens at f/2.8

Related: The 10 Photography Terms You Need to Learn Right Now

Editing Matters, too!

In the evenings, I take the time to edit my images in Lightroom and Photoshop, while I enjoy watching TV with my husband. He’s usually watching “man tv,” so I enjoy having my laptop handy as entertainment since I don’t always love watching what he’s watching!

Beautiful Backyard Birds of Michigan


So without further ado, here are my favorite twenty-five images of some of Michigan’s incredible backyard birds, complete with some info about each.

Backyard Birds of Michigan #1

American Goldfinch

This beautiful little bird measures around 5 inches. They come to my feeders year-round. This little beauty pictured in the snow appears to be a female because she does not have a black patch on the top of her head, which is a marking of the male. They love to eat thistle or nyjer seeds from the fabric feeder socks.

Backyard Birds of Michigan #2

Baltimore Oriole

These beauties come each spring, and by early summer, they begin to move on to their more permanent summer home. They measure up around 8.5 inches each. You can easily distinguish the male by his flame orange color with a dark black head and orange sides and down the tail. These pictured are all male. The Orioles that visit my backyard love grape jelly! They pay very little attention to the orange halves, but they chow through that grape jelly as fast as I can put it out. Of course, they get a little help from the squirrels and raccoons when they don’t finish off the jelly by nightfall.

Photography tip – use a fast shutter speed to capture action. Learn more in Capturing the Pour – Using Shutter Speed to Freeze Action

Many people have asked me about the specific feeder shown in these images. It is meant for Baltimore Orioles because it holds two orange halves and comes with a small glass dish for grape jelly. It is one of my favorite feeders to put out each spring, and the Orioles really do love it!

A Raccoon licking the grape jelly out of an Oriole feeder
The local Raccoons also love it!

Backyard Birds of Michigan #3

Black Capped Chickadee

A Black-Capped Chickadee with a seed in his mouth

This sweet little guy is one of my favorites to watch and photograph. The Black-Capped Chickadee is one of our smallest visitors at about 5-1/2 inches each. He has a distinctive black head and a sweet little black mark under his beak that reminds me of a bib. Don’t confuse this little fellow with a Carolina Chickadee, who looks very similar but is a wee bit smaller. As you can see, this Chickadee isn’t bashful about what he wants to eat. He happily plows through the variety of seeds we put out.

Backyard Birds of Michigan #4

Blue Jay

A Blue Jay with a seed in his mouth - a favorite backyard bird of michigan.

Is there anything prettier than a Blue Jay? I don’t think so. I love this beautiful North American bird so much because blue is not a color we see in nature as often as red, yellow, or orange. At least, not here in Michigan. Blue Jays have a bit of a bad reputation as being “mean,” but this outgoing and persnickety personality makes them fun for me to watch!

The Blue Jay is bigger than most of my small backyard bird friends. He measures around 11 inches. Males and females share the same markings, so I can’t tell the difference between the sexes. If you know of a secret way to tell them apart, please comment below!

Backyard Birds of Michigan #5

Common Redpoll

A Common Redpoll perches on a feeder

This little bird, called the Common Redpoll, is not so common. There are so many little brown birds flitting about that it would be easy to overlook this handsome fella. He stands out because of the bit of red atop his head and the small black patch on his chin. The male also has a pink breast area, making the bird in this photo a female. The redpoll is a small bird, around 5 inches in size. We don’t see them often, so this photo was a win for me!

Watching the birds is an incredible way to practice self-care. For more tips, read 5 Minute Self Care: 10 Easy Self Care Tips For Women

Backyard Birds of Michigan #6

Mourning Dove

The Mourning Dove is a beautiful and sweet-natured bird. A typical Mourning Dove measures around 12 inches, making it a reasonably good-sized bird. Doves and Pigeons bear many similarities, so picture this beauty about the same size as a pigeon, although the ones we see are typically less chubby than the hoards of pigeons found in big cities.

Around our home, we usually see these pretty and common birds on the ground in small flocks. I have only seen them on the feeder when we’ve had a blizzard and snow covers the ground. Mourning Doves are known for their mournful “coo coo coo” sound.

Backyard Birds of Michigan #7

Northern Cardinal

The Northern Cardinal is a popular favorite due to the bright red color of his feathers. The Cardinal measures around 8-9 inches and has a distinctive pointy crest atop his head. The male is almost all red with a bright reddish-orange bill surrounded by a patch of black feathers. The female is a bit more unassuming with her buff-brown feathers, accented by some reds. But don’t let this stop you from loving her. She is gorgeous when you get a close-up view.


Cardinals have very inquisitive personalities, and I love to watch them. One of my favorite facts is that Cardinals are monogamous and usually mate for life. I love watching them court in the spring during mating season, where you can see the male feeding the female seeds from beak to beak. One day I will get a great shot of that, but for now, I’ve only gotten far-off, slightly soft images not worth sharing here. It’s good to have goals, though!

Backyard Birds of Michigan #8

Pileated Woodpecker

A Pileated Woodpecker sits on a stump

The Pileated Woodpecker is stunning and one of my favorites! These large birds measure up around 16-17 inches. I’m excited that we have a family living in our woods, but they have been too shy to come super close. The photo shown is certainly not one of my best, but it is proof that I’ve seen her and she exists! She seems to avoid my camera, so I usually don’t have my camera handy when she’s close enough to notice.

The Pileated Woodpecker is best known for the cartoon version, Woody Woodpecker, and his trademark “ha ha ha haaaa ha” call. Of course, I have never heard ours make this sound, but we hear them out in the woods pecking on the trees very loudly, where he searches for insects including beetles living inside the tree bark.

Backyard Birds of Michigan #9

Red-Headed Woodpecker

A Red Headed Woodpecker sits on the edge of a platform
A Red Headed Woodpecker looks into the camera lens

Woodpeckers are pretty common around our home. This Red-Headed Woodpecker is gorgeous, isn’t he? He is a mid to small-sized Woodpecker and measures around 9-1/4 inches. He usually hangs out closer to the treeline and feeds on the suet cakes we put out in small cages hanging on the trees. When we had a big winter storm, many birds moved closer to enjoy food from the platform bird feeders near the house.

Backyard Birds of Michigan #10

Rose-Breasted Grosbeak

A Male Rose-Breasted Grosbeak stands on the edge of a platform feeder

The Rose-Breasted Grosbeak is another small to medium-sized bird around 8 inches. The male has this gorgeous red feathered breast, and his bill is short and stout, not unlike the Cardinal. The female is brown and marked more like a large finch but shares the same shaped bill in a shade of pink! I love watching this guy use his beak to break open the seeds to get to the meat inside. He reminds this Michigander of a small Parrot, even though I don’t believe they are related.

Backyard Birds of Michigan #11

Ruby Throated Hummingbird

Ahhhhh. The Ruby-Throated Hummingbird. This gorgeous and tiny creature measures between 3 and 4 inches. These little birds make up for their small size in their big personalities! They make their first appearance in our yard each spring by buzzing our windows to let us know they’re here and hungry!

I love that the male birds have a bright red throat that shimmers in the sunshine. The female birds are less colorful but are just as gorgeous with their iridescent green feathers. I have always dreamed of seeing Hummingbirds in my backyard. At all of my previous homes, I have tried to attract them, but this is the first home where we’ve had success. I think this is also thanks to the previous owners.

As soon as I spot my first of the year, I put out several brightly-colored Hummingbird feeders and use a mix of sugar and water mixed 1:4, that is ¼ cup sugar and 1 cup of water. We use no red dye because studies show that it can cause significant harm to the birds’ health. This homemade mixture is simple and inexpensive and works just as well as any store-bought dyed version.

As for the feeders, I have found that glass works better than plastic in my backyard. The raccoons love to visit and drain the feeders at night. Any feeder I’ve used with plastic accessories (like little flower pieces around the feeding holes) gets quickly destroyed under their curious hands. A reader pointed out to me that it’s best to avoid the bright yellow flowers around the feeding holes as the yellow is more likely to attract wasps. Also, keeping feeders in a shady area, such as on the North side of the house, will make the sugar water less attractive to the wasps. This hasn’t been a problem for me yet, and my feeders are on the South side of my house, but is solid information if you’re considering setting up a Hummingbird feeding station.

I like this one because the jar is glass and the flowers are metal. I also love the little metal stand for the birds to rest on while eating. It’s not necessary – they can eat while hovering, but I like to watch them get a little rest perched on the footrest.

Although this feeder is plastic, it allows many birds to eat simultaneously. Hummingbirds are pretty territorial, so the more space you can give them, the more likely they will share nicely.

Backyard Birds of Michigan #12

Gray Catbird

One of the favorite backyard birds of Michigan - the catbird - sits atop a metal perch

Introducing the Gray Catbird! Even though this bird is small at 8-3/4 inches, he has a big personality. He loves to flick his tail jauntily while he perches near the feeders. He has a song that resembles the sound of a catlike mewling, which likely gives him his name. The male and females are similarly marked, so it isn’t easy to know who is visiting. I can easily pick him out when he visits because of the small black patch atop his head, like a bad wig!

Backyard Birds of Michigan #13

Slate Colored Junco

We have many Slate-Colored Juncos in the winter months. These sweet little birds are about six inches long and visit in groups. The male is dark-gray, almost black with a white underbelly and a buff-colored bill. The female is a duller gray with a brown tinge. I love how these little guys puff up to keep themselves warm in the winter chill.

Backyard Birds of Michigan #14

Tufted Titmouse

The Tufted Titmouse always makes me smile. The male and female are marked the same, and they measure just a touch bigger than six inches in size. The body feathers are mouse gray-colored, and he has a sweet little tuft of feathers atop his head. These two features account for his super fun name. At our house, they perch in the safety of the trees at the edge of our yard and then dart like bullets over to the feeder. I love these action shots of a Titmouse on the way into the feeder and the impressive wingspan as he lands.

Birds I Have Not Yet Photographed

We have many more common Michigan birds who show up year round. This year, my goal is to capture the many other types of birds I’ve seen at my feeders, but haven’t yet got on camera. Among them are the American Robin, the Downy Woodpecker, Red-Bellied Woodpecker, American Tree Sparrows, White Breasted Nuthatches, and the House Finch, and some others! Stay tuned for more pictures of birds in Michigan!

Wrapping it All Up

As you can see, I love watching the birds. I also love photographing them. As I observe them in the feeders, I try to recognize them, but I’m not always great at that skill. For that reason, I keep my Peterson’s Field Guide to Birds next to my chair, so I can quickly look up the details if I’m unsure.

My adult kids take great pleasure in poking fun at my fascination with birds. They like to tease that it’s a sure sign I’m getting old. I can take it because I know the truth, and that is that as we reach this middle point of life, we have earned the pleasure of appreciating the small things in life. And man, I sure do appreciate the birds and their busyness and beauty. If you love the birds in your backyard, please let me know! Please share your images in our Facebook Group, too! I would love to see birds represented from all over the United States! I recently heard that all the way across North America in California, there are parrots that just fly around. For this Michigan girl, that seems amazing and a little bit kooky!

Finally, if you are inspired to learn more about the birds in your own backyard, check out the Cornell Lab of Ornithology HERE. You will find everything you could want to know about your very own collection of birds on their website.

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PIN image of backyard birds of Michigan with a Tufted Titmouse

2 thoughts on “34 Photos of Backyard Birds of Michigan that Will Inspire You to Pick Up Your Camera”

    • Thank you, Lucie! Niagara is beautiful and I can’t wait to visit again when the Canada border is easier to cross – It’s a much shorter distance from Michigan through Canada to you! Do you have many woodpeckers there? Those seem to be among our most popular here.

      Reply

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