Reddish-hued avians have the power to uplift your spirits, so it’s essential to familiarize yourself with all the crimson-feathered creatures you can encounter.
North Dakota boasts a total of 11 identified species of red birds, each with its own unique characteristics. Among them, seven species are regularly observed according to state checklists, while an additional four species are considered rare or accidental.
To aid in identifying these red birds in North Dakota, this informative guide, based on avibase data, will serve as your compass. Keep in mind that some of these birds migrate, while others remain year-round residents.
For a comprehensive approach, you can access a complimentary bird identification worksheet tailored specifically for North Dakota. This resource will assist you in recognizing all the avian visitors that grace your backyard.
Among the red bird species found in North Dakota, the House Finch reigns as the most common, making appearances both in summer and winter. The Common Redpoll is more frequently sighted during the winter months, while several other species are commonly spotted during the summer in the state. Continue reading to delve deeper into the world of these fascinating red-hued creatures.
List of 11 Red Birds in North Dakota:
1. House Finch
Male House Finches, characterized by their crimson heads and chests, have gained recognition as residents throughout the year in North Dakota, despite being considered accidental species on some bird checklists. Their female counterparts sport a brown-streaked appearance.
Size: 5.1-5.5 inches (13-14 cm)
Weight: 0.6-0.9 ounces (16-27 g)
Wingspan: 7.9-9.8 inches (20-25 cm)
Originally limited to western states, the House Finch’s population has flourished after being introduced to the eastern regions, even surpassing the presence of Purple Finches. These birds can be found in diverse habitats such as parks, farms, forest edges, and backyard feeders, often forming noisy and easily noticeable groups.
To attract more House Finches to your backyard feeders, consider providing them with black oil sunflower seeds or nyjer seeds through tube feeders or platform feeders.
2. Common Redpoll
Between November and May, one can spot Common Redpolls in North Dakota during the winter season. Distinguished by their reddish foreheads, pinkish breasts, and brown-white coloration on the rest of their bodies, these birds captivate observers.
Scientific Name: Acanthis flammea
Size: 4.7-5.5 inches (12-14 cm)
Weight: 0.4-0.7 ounces (11-20 g)
Wingspan: 7.5-8.7 inches (19-22 cm)
Common Redpolls primarily inhabit northern states during winter, occasionally venturing into central regions. Notably, they exhibit peculiar behaviors, including burrowing into the snow for warmth during the night and consuming an impressive 42% of their body mass in seeds daily. Furthermore, they possess the ability to store up to 2 grams of seeds in a stretchable part of their esophagus.
These birds can be found in weedy fields or feeding on catkins in trees. Additionally, they readily visit feeders to consume small seeds like nyjer seeds or thistle.
3. Northern Cardinal
Although not particularly abundant, Northern Cardinals have established their year-round residence in North Dakota. These striking birds, with their vibrant red heads, bodies, and tails complemented by black facial markings, create a breathtaking spectacle, especially against the backdrop of a snowy winter landscape. The females exhibit equally showy features, including brown plumage, a distinctive crest, and highlights of red.
Size: 8.3-9.1 inches (21-23 cm)
Weight: 1.5-1.7 ounces (42-48 g)
Wingspan: 9.8-12.2 inches (25-31 cm)
Northern Cardinals primarily inhabit eastern and southern states. During the breeding season, they exhibit territorial behavior, often engaging in aggressive acts towards their reflections. To attract more Northern Cardinals to your backyard feeders, consider offering sunflower seeds, peanut hearts, millet, and milo. They readily feed from large tube feeders, hoppers, platform feeders, or food scattered on the ground.
4. Purple Finch
Purple Finches can be found year-round in North Dakota, with a higher frequency during the winter season. They bear a resemblance to House Finches, showcasing reddish-purple heads and breasts, along with brown tones on their backs and wings.
Size: 4.7-6.3 inches (12-16 cm)
Weight: 0.6-1.1 ounces (18-32 g)
Wingspan: 8.7-10.2 inches (22-26 cm)
While they breed in Canada, they migrate to eastern states for the winter. However, some populations can be found year-round in the northeastern regions and along the Pacific coast. You can spot them in evergreen forests, where they feed on seeds, buds, nectar, and berries. Purple Finches readily visit feeders that offer black oil sunflower seeds.
5. Red Crossbill
Red Crossbills may not be very common in North Dakota, but they can still be observed throughout the year. The males feature red plumage with darker wings and tails, while the females exhibit yellow and brown coloring.
These birds are known to reside in northern and western states year-round, with winter migrations to eastern states. Their diet primarily consists of conifer seeds, and they display unique foraging behaviors, often maneuvering from tree to tree, using their powerful beaks to break unopened cones. They can also be found alongside roadsides, consuming grit in the mornings.
6. White-winged Crossbill
White-winged Crossbills are considered rare in North Dakota, yet they occasionally make appearances during the winter months. These finches showcase distinctive crossed beaks. Males exhibit red plumage, black wings and tails, and two white wingbars, while females display yellow and brown feathers with two white wingbars.
Scientific Name: Loxia leucoptera
Size: 5.9-6.7 inches (15-17 cm)
Weight: 0.8-0.9 ounces (24-26 g)
Wingspan: 10.2-11.0 inches (26-28 cm)
White-winged Crossbills primarily inhabit forests in Canada and Alaska, occasionally venturing into northern US states when cone crops are scarce further north. They can be found in spruce forests, feeding on seeds. Interestingly, they possess a unique breeding behavior, as they can breed at any time of the year, provided there is sufficient food available. White-winged Crossbills are often heard in large flocks.
7. Scarlet Tanager
Scarlet Tanagers, although rare in North Dakota, can be spotted mainly in the eastern part of the state between May and October. These birds boast bright red plumage, contrasting with their black wings and tails. Females, on the other hand, display a yellow coloration with darker wings and tails.
Scientific Name: Piranga olivacea
Size: 6.3-6.7 inches (16-17 cm)
Weight: 0.8-1.3 ounces (23-38 g)
Wingspan: 9.8-11.4 inches (25-29 cm)
Scarlet Tanagers breed in eastern forests during the summer months before embarking on migration to Central and South America for winter. They tend to stay high in the forest canopy, making them challenging to spot. To attract more Scarlet Tanagers to your backyard, consider planting berry bushes such as blackberries, raspberries, huckleberries, juneberries, serviceberries, mulberries, strawberries, and chokeberries.
8. Pine Grosbeak
Pine Grosbeaks are considered rare red birds in North Dakota, but they have been sighted around Fort Berthold Reservation and Spirit Lake Reservation. These finches feature red plumage in males, accompanied by gray wings and tail with two white wingbars. Females display a gray body with a dull orange head and rump. They are relatively large for finches and have a slower flight.
Scientific Name: Pinicola enucleator
Size: 7.9-9.8 inches (20-25 cm)
Wingspan: 13.0 inches (33 cm)
Pine Grosbeaks primarily inhabit forests of pine, spruce, and fir. They feed on seeds, fruit, and buds from these trees, occasionally supplementing their diet with insects during the summer. While they are more commonly found in Canada, some individuals can be spotted along the US border, in mountainous western regions, and the Sierra Nevada in California. To attract Pine Grosbeaks, consider providing black oil sunflower seed feeders or suet feeders.
9. Summer Tanager
Summer Tanagers are considered accidental species in North Dakota, but they have been observed in places like Velva, Grand Forks, and a few around Sheyenne National Grassland. Male Summer Tanagers exhibit vibrant red plumage, while females display yellow coloring.
Scientific Name: Piranga rubra
Size: 6.7 inches (17 cm)
Weight: 1.1 ounces (30 g)
Summer Tanagers breed in southern and eastern states before migrating to Central and South America for winter. They are forest songbirds commonly found in open woodlands. Their unique feeding behavior involves capturing bees and wasps in mid-flight, vigorously beating them against branches to remove the stinger before consuming them. Planting berry bushes and fruit trees in your backyard can attract more Summer Tanagers.
10. Painted Bunting
Painted Buntings are considered accidental or rare species in North Dakota, with a few sightings reported in Jamestown and Mandan. Male Painted Buntings showcase a vivid combination of colors, featuring predominantly red plumage underneath, complemented by bright blue heads, green wings, and backs. Females exhibit bright yellow-green coloring.
Scientific Name: Passerina ciris
Size: 4.7-5.1 inches (12-13 cm)
Weight: 0.5-0.7 ounces (13-19 g)
Painted Buntings breed in specific southern and central states in the US before embarking on nocturnal migrations to Central America, southern Florida, and some Caribbean islands. They favor semi-open habitats and predominantly feed on seeds and insects during the breeding season. To attract Painted Buntings, consider incorporating low, dense vegetation in your yard and providing feeders filled with white millet or black oil sunflower seeds.
11. Cassin’s Finch
Cassin’s Finches are accidental species in North Dakota, with extremely rare sightings, documented only twice in the state. These red birds are characterized by their red crowns, rosy pink heads, red-breasted appearance with a whiteish belly, and brown backs and wings.
Size: 6.3 inches (16 cm)
Weight: 0.8-1.2 ounces (24-34 g)
Wingspan: 9.8-10.6 inches (25-27 cm)
Cassin’s Finches primarily inhabit mountain forests in western states, where they forage in flocks for seeds. They are not as commonly seen in backyard settings as House or Purple Finches. However, you can try attracting them by offering sunflower seed feeders, particularly during the winter months. Additionally, planting fruiting shrubs such as cotoneaster, mulberries, firethorn, grape, and apple can provide an enticing food source for Cassin’s Finches.
Exploring the diverse array of red birds in North Dakota can be a rewarding and captivating experience. Whether you encounter the striking House Finch, the vibrant Scarlet Tanager, or the elusive Cassin’s Finch, each species contributes to the rich tapestry of avian life in the region. Enjoy observing and learning about these fascinating creatures as they grace the landscapes of North Dakota with their crimson hues.