Finches and Tanagers are stunning avian creatures often adorned with vibrant red plumage, offering a visual treat for bird enthusiasts. Within the state of Indiana, a diverse array of red bird species can be found, each possessing its own unique characteristics.
Indiana has recorded sightings of ten distinct species of red birds. Among these, seven species are regularly observed and included in state checklists, while two species are considered rare or accidental visitors, and one species is classified as introduced.
This comprehensive guide aims to assist birdwatchers in identifying the various species of red birds found in Indiana, drawing upon information from avibase. Some of these birds are migratory, while others can be observed in the region year-round.
To enhance your bird identification endeavors, a bird identification worksheet specifically tailored to Indiana can be obtained at no cost, providing valuable assistance in recognizing all avian visitors to your backyard.
The Northern Cardinal stands as the most frequently encountered red bird in Indiana, captivating observers with its vivid hues throughout both summer and winter seasons. The Scarlet Tanager and Summer Tanager make more prominent appearances during the summer months, while several species are exclusive winter visitors. Read on to uncover the optimal times for spotting these resplendent red birds in the beautiful state of Indiana.
10 Red Birds in Indiana:
1. Northern Cardinal
The Northern Cardinal reigns as a prevalent and captivating red bird in the state of Indiana, making its presence known throughout the year. The males exhibit a remarkable appearance with their vibrant red heads, bodies, and tails, accentuated by contrasting black markings around their faces. Against a snowy winter landscape, they create a stunning visual spectacle. The females also possess distinctive attributes, sporting brown plumage, a pronounced brown crest, hints of red, and red beaks.
Size: Ranging from 8.3 to 9.1 inches (21-23 cm) in length Weight: Weighing between 1.5 to 1.7 ounces (42-48 g) Wingspan: Spanning from 9.8 to 12.2 inches (25-31 cm)
The Northern Cardinals primarily inhabit the eastern and southern regions of the United States, showcasing territorial behavior during the breeding season as they confront their own reflections.
To attract an array of Northern Cardinals to your backyard feeders, consider offering sunflower seeds, peanut hearts, millet, and milo. They have a preference for feeding from large tube feeders, hoppers, platform feeders, or directly on the ground.
2. House Finch
House Finches, classified as an introduced species in Indiana, can be observed throughout the year. The males of this species boast vibrant red heads and breasts, while the females showcase brown-streaked plumage.
Size: Ranging from 5.1 to 5.5 inches (13-14 cm) in length Weight: Weighing between 0.6 to 0.9 ounces (16-27 g) Wingspan: Spanning from 7.9 to 9.8 inches (20-25 cm)
Originally limited to western states, House Finches were introduced to the eastern regions where they have flourished and even outcompeted the Purple Finch. These finches can be observed in diverse habitats such as parks, farms, forest edges, and backyard feeders. They tend to gather in lively, noisy groups that are difficult to miss.
To attract a greater number of House Finches to your backyard feeders, consider providing them with black oil sunflower seeds or nyjer seeds in tube feeders or platform feeders.
3. Scarlet Tanager
During the summer season in Indiana, you may catch sight of Scarlet Tanagers, vivid red birds that are a true delight to observe. They boast brilliant red plumage, complemented by their striking black wings and tails. Females exhibit a distinct yellow coloring with darker wings and tails.
Scientific name: Piranga olivacea Size: Measuring approximately 6.3 to 6.7 inches (16-17 cm) in length Weight: Weighing around 0.8 to 1.3 ounces (23-38 g) Wingspan: Spanning from 9.8 to 11.4 inches (25-29 cm)
These birds engage in breeding activities within eastern forests during the summer before embarking on their remarkable migration journey to South America.
Scarlet Tanagers tend to remain high up in the forest canopy, making them a bit elusive to spot. To attract more Scarlet Tanagers to your surroundings, consider planting berry-bearing plants such as blackberries, raspberries, huckleberries, juneberries, serviceberries, mulberries, strawberries, and chokeberries. The presence of these berry plants can entice these striking red birds to frequent your area.
4. Summer Tanager
Between the months of May and October in Indiana, you may have the opportunity to observe Summer Tanagers, although they are not as commonly seen. Male Summer Tanagers display vibrant red plumage, while females exhibit a yellow coloration.
Scientific name: Piranga rubra Size: Approximately 6.7 inches (17 cm) in length Weight: Around 1.1 ounce (30 g)
These birds engage in breeding activities in southern and eastern states before embarking on their migratory journey to Central and South America for the winter.
Summer Tanagers are songbirds that dwell in forested areas, particularly open woodlands. They possess a unique feeding behavior, catching and killing bees and wasps while in flight, pressing them against a branch, and removing the stinger before consuming them.
To attract more Summer Tanagers to your backyard, consider planting berry bushes and fruit trees. These plants can provide a valuable food source and entice these delightful birds to visit your surroundings.
5. Purple Finch
While not commonly observed in Indiana, Purple Finches can be spotted during the winter season. They bear a resemblance to House Finches but possess reddish-purple heads and breasts, with more brown tones on their backs and wings.
Size: Ranging from 4.7 to 6.3 inches (12-16 cm) in length Weight: Weighing between 0.6 to 1.1 ounces (18-32 g) Wingspan: Spanning from 8.7 to 10.2 inches (22-26 cm)
These finches breed in Canada and migrate to eastern states for the winter, although some individuals can be found year-round in the northeastern and Pacific coastal regions.
Purple Finches tend to inhabit evergreen forests, where they feed on seeds, buds, nectar, and berries. They readily visit feeders, especially for black oil sunflower seeds.
6. Common Redpoll
During the winter season, Common Redpolls, although rare, can be found primarily in the northern part of Indiana. These delightful birds display red foreheads, pinkish breasts, and exhibit a combination of brown and white plumage on the rest of their bodies.
Scientific name: Acanthis flammea Size: Ranging from 4.7 to 5.5 inches (12-14 cm) in length Weight: Weighing between 0.4 to 0.7 ounces (11-20 g) Wingspan: Spanning from 7.5 to 8.7 inches (19-22 cm)
These birds are more commonly sighted in northern states during winter, with fewer occurrences in central states.
During the winter months, Common Redpolls may seek warmth by burrowing into the snow during the night. They possess an astonishing ability to consume up to 42% of their body mass in seeds daily and store up to 2 grams of seeds in a stretchy part of their esophagus.
Common Redpolls can be observed in weedy fields or feeding on catkins in trees. They are known to visit feeders where small seeds such as nyjer seeds or thistle are offered.
7. Red Crossbill
While highly uncommon, Red Crossbills have been occasionally spotted in Indiana during the winter season. The males of this species showcase vibrant red plumage, accompanied by darker wings and tails, while the females exhibit a captivating blend of yellow and brown hues.
Red Crossbills can be observed year-round in northern and western states, with occasional visits to eastern states during winter. These remarkable birds have a diet centered around conifer seeds, and they travel in flocks, moving from tree to tree. Utilizing their robust beaks, they skillfully pry open unopened cones to access their nourishing contents. Additionally, Red Crossbills can often be seen along roadsides, where they consume grit in the mornings.
The presence of Red Crossbills in Indiana offers a special opportunity to witness these unique and resourceful birds, even if their appearances are infrequent.
8. White-winged Crossbill
White-winged Crossbills are rare and captivating red birds that have been occasionally sighted in Indiana, particularly around the Indianapolis area during the winter season. These finches possess a notable crossed beak, adding to their distinctive appearance. Male White-winged Crossbills showcase red plumage with contrasting black wings, tails, and two distinct white wingbars. In contrast, female individuals exhibit yellow and brown hues with the same white wingbars.
Scientific name: Loxia leucoptera Size: Ranging from 5.9 to 6.7 inches (15-17 cm) in length Weight: Weighing approximately 0.8 to 0.9 ounces (24-26 g) Wingspan: Spanning from 10.2 to 11.0 inches (26-28 cm)
White-winged Crossbills primarily inhabit forests in Canada and Alaska, occasionally venturing into northern U.S. states when cone crops are scarce. They can be found in spruce forests, where they feed on seeds, utilizing their unique beak structure to extract nourishment.
Interestingly, these birds exhibit flexible breeding patterns and can breed at any time of the year as long as an adequate food supply is available. They often congregate in large flocks and can be heard vocalizing together, creating a harmonious chorus amidst their forest habitat.
9. Pine Grosbeak
Pine Grosbeaks are considered rare accidental visitors to Indiana, with only a few sightings reported in Lafayette. These distinctive finches are notable for the males’ red plumage, complemented by gray wings and tail, as well as two distinct white wingbars. Females, on the other hand, exhibit gray plumage with dull orange heads and rumps. Compared to other finches, they are relatively large in size and tend to move at a slower pace.
Scientific name: Pinicola enucleator Size: Ranging from 7.9 to 9.8 inches (20-25 cm) in length Wingspan: Spanning approximately 13.0 inches (33 cm)
Pine Grosbeaks primarily inhabit forests consisting of pine, spruce, and fir trees. They feed on seeds, fruit, and buds derived from these trees, forming an essential part of their diet. During the summer season, they may also incorporate insects into their meals.
To attract Pine Grosbeaks to your yard, consider providing black oil sunflower seed feeders or suet feeders. These food sources can entice these captivating birds to visit and partake in your backyard birdwatching experience.
10. Painted Bunting
Painted Buntings are considered rare or accidental species in Indiana, with only one documented sighting in Mt. Carmel. Male Painted Buntings are a stunning sight, displaying a vibrant patchwork of colors. They feature predominantly red plumage underneath, complemented by bright blue heads, green wings, and backs. On the other hand, females exhibit a beautiful bright yellow-green plumage.
Scientific name: Passerina ciris Size: Ranging from 4.7 to 5.1 inches (12-13 cm) in length Weight: Weighing approximately 0.5 to 0.7 ounces (13-19 g)
Painted Buntings breed in specific states within the south-central and southeastern regions of the United States. After the breeding season, they embark on nighttime migrations to Central America, southern Florida, and select Caribbean islands.
These birds can be found in semi-open habitats, where they forage for seeds and insects during the breeding season, utilizing their beaks to extract nourishment.
To attract Painted Buntings to your yard, consider incorporating low and dense vegetation that can provide shelter and nesting opportunities. Additionally, filling feeders with white millet or black oil sunflower seeds can entice these magnificent birds to visit and potentially grace you with their vibrant presence.
By familiarizing yourself with these ten species of red birds in Indiana, you will enhance your ability to identify and appreciate the diverse avian life in your region. Enjoy the rewarding experience of birdwatching as you observe these vibrant creatures in their natural habitats!