Common Winter Birds of Central Minnesota

Junco and House Finch

Here are photos of 15 common birds that you will see in central Minnesota in the winter months.

Left the familiar Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapilla) and right, a group of House Sparrows (Passer domesticus), which you will typically see moving around in flocks and mobbing the bird feeders.

Chickadee House Sparrows

The Northern Cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis) keep to their territory all winter, but are willing to let other Cardinals into the vicinity to eat. The females tend to be more tolerant of other females than males are of other males. Left - the male; right - the female. Occasionally you might get to see a leucristic individual such as the female in the 3rd photo.

Male Cardinal Female Cardinal leucristic cardinal

American goldfinches (Carduelis tristis) in their winter garb. Left - the male; right - the female.

American Goldfinch American female goldfinch

House finches (Carpodacus mexicanus) will winter over also. Like all the above birds, sunflower oil seeds are the favorite. Left - the male; right - the female. Like sparrows they tend to feed in flocks.

Male House finch Female HouseFinch

Left: A female Purple Finch (Carpodacus purpureus). The white eyebrow makes an identification difference with the female House Finch. Right: While not normally a visitor to the seed feeder, this easily identified Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata) gives it a try.

Purple Finch Blue Jay

Another winter resident is the White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinenis), seen on the right in the pose which you will typically see- moving down a tree trunk from top to bottom searching for insects and eggs hidden in the bark.

Nuthatch Nuthatch

Arrivals from further north during our winter are these birds. Left: A pair of Pine Siskins (Carduelis pinus) with one doing a "Look at me Ma!". This bird repeatedly would eat thistle seeds upside down. Male and female look the same. They are similar to the Purple Finch but lack the Finches' eyebrow, have a smaller bill, more heavily striped chest and yellow bars on the wings.

Pine siskins Pine siskin

Another arrival from further north during the winter is the Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis). Right: A male that is wintering in the south of the state, sharing the feeder with a House finch during a heavy snowfall. While normally a ground feeder as the one on the left is doing, the Junco will hit the feeder when the seeds on the ground are covered

Junco Junco and House Finch

The Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) is around all winter but we seldom see it, so when we do it's a visual treat. The name refers to the rosy patch on its breast. It is also called "Zebra-backed".

Red-bellied woodpecker Red-bellied woodpecker

Left: The more common woodpecker to see in the winter is the Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens) . The male at left has the red patch on the back of the neck. Less seldom seen is the Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus), of which the male also has a red head patch. At right is a composite photo showing the size difference between the female downy on the far right and the larger female Hairy feeding on the left side of the feeder.

Male Downy Woodpecker Downy and Hairy Woodpecker

The Pileated Woodpecker is a year-round resident but is more scarce, often heard but not seen. This large bird can make quite a racket hammering away on a dead branch. The 2nd photo shows the bird on the same feeder post as the photos up above, so you can get a size comparison. 2nd photo courtesy of Melissa Hansen.

Pileated Woodpecker Pileated Woodpecker

Stretching the area of central Minnesota a bit, but in the very northern parts, where the northern forests begin, you may encounter the Raven (Corvus corax), where it is a year around resident. Males, females and juveniles look the same. The bird is larger than its cousin the American Crow, which lacks the throat patch of feathers.

Raven Raven close-up

Below: When heavy weather comes, birds are very active at the feeders. The Cardinals don't mind the sparrows and the sparrows are not at all intimidated by the larger birds.

Group of birds Cardinal and other birds

Below are some winter bird conversations overheard!

And then He Said
"And then she said...."
Say cheese
"OK, We'll say cheese"
Quick he's not looking
"Quick! while he's not looking"
Do I Know You
"Are we acquainted?"