13 Amazing Red Headed Birds in Minnesota [Photo and ID Guide]




Red Headed Birds in Minnesota

If you’re seeking to spot some gorgeous and rare birds, Minnesota is the perfect place to start. Home to a diverse range of bird species, this state offers a unique opportunity to witness some stunning red-headed birds. 

Yes, you heard it right! In this blog post, we will explore 13 amazing red-headed birds that can be found in Minnesota. 

From the beautiful scarlet tanager to the striking red-bellied woodpecker, these birds are sure to leave you mesmerized with their vibrant colors and charming personalities. 

So grab your binoculars and join us on this colorful journey through the land of 10,000 lakes!

1 – Redhead

Redhead - Male Redheads have red heads.
Redhead – Male Redheads have red heads.

Quick Identification Guide of Redhead

  • Size: Medium-sized diving duck, between 16.5-21.3 inches long with a wingspan of about 29.5-31.1 inches.
  • Body color: Males have a gray body with a black chest, black tail, and a reddish-brown head. Females have a brown body with a brown-gray head and a lighter-colored throat. The males have bright yellow eyes. 
  • Bill: Blue-gray bills with black tips.
  • Legs and feet: The legs and feet are bluish-gray in color.

Redheads (Aythya americana) are easily recognizable by their striking reddish-brown head and black chest. And, the males are especially eye-catching with their bright red heads and yellow eyes. 

These diving ducks are found throughout North America, breeding in the prairie pothole region of the United States and Canada. 

During the winter, they can be seen in large flocks on open waters, including lakes and rivers, as well as coastal bays and estuaries. 

Redheads primarily feed on aquatic plants. But they will also consume small invertebrates and occasionally fish. 

In Minnesota, they can be seen during their migration periods in the spring and fall, with some birds staying to breed in the northern parts of the state. 

Keep an eye out for these beautiful birds during your next bird watching excursion!

2 – Red-headed Woodpecker

Red-headed Woodpecker - Both male and female birds have red heads.
Red-headed Woodpecker

Quick Identification Guide of Red-headed Woodpecker

  • Size: Red-headed Woodpecker is a medium size woodpecker with 7.5 to 9 inches long and a wingspan of 16 to 17 inches.
  • Body color: Adults (both sexes) have a striking black and white body plumage with a bright red head and neck. Juveniles have similar black and white body plumage, but the head and neck are a duller red.
  • Unique distinguishable colors or patterns: Bold, black and white striped back and wings with white underparts. In flight, it shows a prominent white patch on the wings.
  • Bill: Stout and pointed bill that is shorter than the head.
  • Legs and feet: Short, strong legs and feet with two toes pointing forward and two pointing backward.

The Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) is a medium-sized woodpecker that is endemic to North America and one of the most easily recognized birds in North America. 

It is easily discernible due to its striking black, white, and bright red plumage. And it is a common resident in the eastern parts of the United States. 

This species typically prefers open habitats, including woodlands, orchards, and farmland.

Red-headed Woodpeckers have unique feeding habits. 

They are often observed catching insects in mid-air and storing nuts and acorns in tree cavities for later consumption. Such behaviors are integral to their survival and further emphasize the importance of conserving their habitats.

It is imperative that their habitats are protected and conserved to ensure the continued survival of this magnificent bird. In doing so, we can promote the conservation of this species, as well as the ecosystems it inhabits.

In Minnesota, you can see Red-headed Woodpeckers year-round in the Southern areas and in breeding season in the north.  

3 – Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker - Both male and female birds have a red head. Additionally, males have a red stripe on their cheek.
Pileated Woodpecker

Quick Identification Guide of Pileated Woodpecker

  • Size: Large woodpecker. Approximately 16-19 inches in length and 26-30 inches in wingspan.
  • Body color: Mostly black with white stripes on the face and neck, a large red crest on the head, and white underwings. Males and females both have red crests on the head. But only males have a red stripe on the cheek. 
  • Bill: Long, chisel-like bill for drilling into wood
  • Legs and feet: black legs, and feet.

The Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) is a remarkable bird species that is native to North America, with a range that extends across most of the eastern United States and southern Canada. 

As the largest woodpecker in North America, the Pileated Woodpecker is readily identifiable by its striking appearance. 

It has a red crest on its head, black and white striped face and neck, and a long, chisel-like bill that makes it a notable presence in any forest setting.

These woodpeckers inhabit mature forests with large trees that provide ample nesting and foraging opportunities.

Pileated Woodpeckers are primarily insectivorous, feeding on insects found in dead or dying trees. But they also consume fruits and nuts. 

Their loud and distinctive call is unmistakable in spotting despite their large size.

These woodpeckers play a crucial role in controlling insect populations and creating nesting sites for other bird and mammal species.

In Minnesota, Pileated Woodpeckers are a year-round presence in all regions, but rarer in the southwest of the state. 

Understanding and protecting these magnificent birds can contribute to preserving the health and diversity of North America’s forests.

4 – Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker - Only male birds have red crown and nape both. Females only have red in their napes.
Red-bellied Woodpecker

Quick Identification Guide of Red-bellied Woodpecker

  • Size: Medium size woodpecker with approximately 9-10 inches in length and a wingspan of 13-17 inches.
  • Body color: Mostly black and white, with a red patch on the nape of the neck and a red wash on the belly (more prominent in males). Only males have a red crown. 
  • Distinguishable colors or patterns: Black and white striped back and wings, white underparts, and a black and white striped face with a white eye-ring.
  • Bill: Strong and chisel-like for drilling into wood, approximately 1-1.5 inches long.
  • Legs and feet: Gray-black, with two toes facing forward and two facing backward for better gripping on trees.

The Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) is a widely distributed woodpecker species commonly found throughout the eastern portion of North America.

This species is known to inhabit a variety of habitats, such as deciduous forests, wooded suburbs, and parks. 

They are classified as omnivorous, with a diet that includes insects, nuts, fruits, and seeds. These woodpeckers can often be observed foraging on tree trunks and branches for food.

Although named Red-bellied Woodpeckers, it is challenging to find red on their bellies. The red wash on their bellies can be difficult to perceive under certain lighting conditions. 

However, these woodpeckers can be readily recognized by their characteristic black and white striped back and wings, as well as their red nape and eye-ring. 

Moreover, these woodpeckers are known for their distinctive and loud, rolling call that can frequently be heard before the bird is seen. Can be attracted to bird feeders as well. 

In Minnesota, you can find Red-bellied Woodpeckers in all regions except for far north year-round, and their presence can add beauty and interest to any bird watching excursion.

5 – Northern Cardinal 

Northern Cardinal - Male bird is red in bird.
Northern Cardinal

Quick Identification Guide of Northern Cardinal

  • Size: Approximately 8-9 inches long with a wingspan of 10-12 inches.
  • Body color: The male is bright red with a black mask around the eyes, face, and throat and a short crest on his head. The female is mostly pale brown with a crest, wings, and tail tinged with red.
  • Bill: Both sexes have a thick, red-orange bill.
  • Legs and feet: Grayish-brown legs with strong, sharp claws that allow them to perch on branches and twigs. 

The Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) is a familiar bird species found throughout the eastern United States, including Minnesota. 

You shouldn’t have missed this common bird in backyards and gardens because of the total red color of the male bird. 

These birds prefer open woodland areas, shrubs, and brushy habitats close to water sources. 

During the breeding season, male Northern Cardinals are known to be territorial, and they aggressively defend their territory from other males. 

This behavior often includes attacking their own reflection in mirrors or other glass surfaces, mistakenly perceiving their reflection as an intruder to their breeding territory.

The Northern Cardinal’s diet is primarily composed of seeds, fruits, and insects. These birds can be observed year-round in Florida, frequenting bird feeders, parks, and suburban areas. 

Overall, the Northern Cardinal is a delightful and familiar avian species that adds charm and beauty to any natural setting where they reside.

6 – Red Crossbill

Red Crossbill - Male Red Crossbill is red in color overall.
Red Crossbill

Quick Identification Guide of Red Crossbill

  • Size: 7 to 8 inches (16 to 20 cm)
  • Body color: Males are overall red in color with darker wings and tails. But, females have yellowish plumage with dark wings. 
  • Bill: The bill is short and thick, with the upper and lower mandibles crossed at the tip. The size and shape of the bill can vary depending on the type of cone that the bird feeds on, with some individuals having straighter or more curved bills.
  • Legs and feet: gray or brownish-gray.

The Red Crossbill is a unique finch species known for its distinctive crossed bill, which is used to pry open the scales of conifer cones to access the seeds inside. 

They are found throughout North America, with multiple subspecies that vary in size, bill shape, and vocalizations. 

The Red Crossbills are non-migrants and nomadic. Red Crossbills are highly nomadic and may appear suddenly in areas where they were not previously present, making them an exciting bird to spot for birdwatchers.  

They can be seen in parks and residential areas with pine trees, particularly during winter when food sources are scarce. 

In Minnesota, they can be observed throughout all regions though it’s uncommon. They feed primarily on conifer seeds and fruit. 

7 – Scarlet Tanager

Scarlet Tanager - a red headed bird
Scarlet Tanager

Quick Identification Guide of Scarlet Tanager

  • Size: Scarlet Tanager is a medium size songbird with 6-7 inches in length and 9.5-11.5 wingspan. 
  • Body color: Males have bright red plumage with black wings and tails during breeding and olive-yellow plumage with black wings and tails during non-breeding. Females look similar to non-breeding males but with dark olive-green wings and tails
  • Bill: Short and stout
  • Legs and feet: Dark gray

Scarlet Tanager (Piranga olivacea) is a brightly colored bird species found in the eastern United States. The male birds have bright scarlet plumage that is easy to recognize, while female birds have yellow-green feathers. 

These birds are often found in mature deciduous and mixed forests, but due to their tendency to stay high in the canopies, they are difficult to spot. And also habitat fragmentation has impacted their population.

Scarlet Tanagers primarily feed on insects and fruit, making them critical for the maintenance of the ecosystem. 

Furthermore, in Minnesota, Scarlet Tanagers can be seen during their breeding period. 

And they are mostly sighted along the Minnesota River from central Minnesota northwest through extreme northeast, but absent from Red River valley of northwest, the eastern and southern halves of Iowa. 

It is worth noting that Scarlet Tanagers are a fascinating bird species and are sought after by many birders and enthusiasts for their striking appearance.

8 – Palm Warbler

Palm Warbler - breeding bird has a red cap
Palm Warbler

Quick Identification Guide of Palm Warbler

  • Size: 4.5-5.5 inches in length, with a wingspan of 7-8.5 inches.
  • Body color: Olive-brown upperparts and yellow underparts, with a rusty cap and eyeline.
  • Unique distinguishable colors or patterns: Tail often pumps up and down, revealing white outer tail feathers. It has a distinctive rusty cap and eyeline.
  • Bill: Dark and pointed.
  • Legs and feet: Dark.
  • Red on the head: Only breeding males have a reddish-brown cap.

The Palm Warbler (Setophaga palmarum) is a small songbird breeds in Canada and the northeastern United States, and winters in the southeastern United States and the Caribbean. 

Its breeding habitat is primarily in bogs and wetlands, but it can also be found in open coniferous forests and scrubby areas. During migration, the Palm Warbler can be seen in a variety of habitats, including open fields and marshes.

In terms of diet, the Palm Warbler feeds mainly on insects and spiders, but will also eat some seeds and berries. 

In Minnesota, the Palm Warbler can be seen during spring and fall migration, with the peak of migration occurring in late September to early October. 

It is often found in open fields and wetlands during migration, making it a popular bird for birdwatchers in Minnesota. 

With its distinctive rusty cap and eyeline, the Palm Warbler is a delightful bird to observe and a welcome sign of spring and fall migration.

9 – Chipping Sparrow

Chipping Sparrow - has a red crown
Chipping Sparrow

Quick Identification Guide of Chipping Sparrow

  • Size: 4.5-5 inches in length, with a wingspan of 7.5-8.5 inches.
  • Body color: Brownish-gray upperparts and rufous-brown crown, with a black eye line and white eyebrow stripe. Underparts are light gray with a dark spot in the center of the breast.
  • Unique distinguishable colors or patterns: Rufous cap, black eye line, and white eyebrow stripe.
  • Bill: Short and conical, usually gray or black.
  • Legs and feet: Pinkish-gray.
  • Red on head: Only breeding males have a rusty-red cap.

The Chipping Sparrow (Spizella passerina) is a common and widespread bird found throughout North America. 

Its breeding range stretches from southern Canada to the southern United States, and it can be found in a variety of habitats, including woodlands, grasslands, and suburban areas. 

The Chipping Sparrow is a small bird, with a rufous cap, black eye line, and white eyebrow stripe. Its body is mostly brownish-gray, with light gray underparts and a dark spot in the center of the breast. 

The Chipping Sparrow feeds mainly on seeds and insects, and can often be seen foraging on the ground or in low vegetation.

In Minnesota, the Chipping Sparrow is a common breeding bird found in deciduous and mixed woodlands. It arrives in the state in late April to early May and departs in September to October. 

During migration, you can find them in a variety of habitats, including open fields and suburban areas. The Chipping Sparrow is a delightful bird to observe, with its distinctive rufous cap and cheerful, trilling song.

10 – Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Ruby-crowned Kinglet - red on head is visible in male bird only when it gets excited.
Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Quick Identification Guide of Ruby-crowned Kinglet

  • Size: 3.5-4 inches in length, with a wingspan of 6 inches.
  • Body color: Olive-green upperparts and yellow underparts, with a prominent white eye ring.
  • Unique distinguishable colors or patterns: Males have a bright red crown that is usually hidden but can be displayed when agitated.
  • Bill: Short and thin, usually black.
  • Legs and feet: Black.
  • Red on the head: Only breeding males have a bright red crown.

The Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula) is a small and energetic bird that is found throughout North America. Its breeding range extends from Alaska to the western United States and into northern Mexico. 

The Ruby-crowned Kinglet is a tiny bird, with an olive-green body and a prominent white eye ring. 

However, what really sets the Ruby-crowned Kinglet apart is the bright red crown that males can display when exited. Although it is usually hidden, when it is visible, it is a stunning sight. 

The Ruby-crowned Kinglet feeds mainly on insects and spiders, and can often be seen flitting through trees and shrubs in search of prey.

In Minnesota, the Ruby-crowned Kinglet is a common breeding bird in boreal and mixed forests. It arrives in the state in late April to early May and departs in September to October. 

During migration, it can be found in a variety of habitats, including suburban areas and parks. With its energetic behavior and distinctive appearance, the Ruby-crowned Kinglet is a favorite among birdwatchers in Minnesota.

11 – House Finch

House Finch - Male bird has a red head and breast.
House Finch

Quick Identification Guide of House Finch

  • Size: 5-6 inches in length with a wingspan of 8-10 inches. 
  • Body color: Males are red on the head, breast, and rump; brown-streaked back and wings. And females are grayish-brown with heavy streaking on the breast and belly.
  • Bill: Short and conical
  • Legs and feet: Grayish-brown

The House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus) is a diminutive avian species that belongs to the family Fringillidae and is indigenous to the North American continent. 

Originally restricted to the western regions of the United States, they have gradually colonized the eastern parts of the country. 

House Finches exhibit a wide range of ecological adaptability, and hence, can be encountered in diverse habitats, including residential neighborhoods, urban and suburban areas, parks, and gardens. 

Their diet primarily comprises seeds and fruits, which they readily obtain from various food sources. 

In Minnesota, the House Finch is a year-round resident in the northwest and central regions and you may find it on the ground when hopping.

Due to their attractive plumage and appealing behavior, these birds have become a favorite among bird enthusiasts and are often spotted flitting around gardens and bird feeders.

12 – Purple Finch

Purple Finch - Male Purple Finch has a red head
Purple Finch

Quick Identification Guide of Purple Finch

  • Size: Purple Finches are about the same size as house finch (5-6 inches in length, wingspan of 8-10 inches)
  • Body color: Males are raspberry-red on the head, breast, and back; brown wings and tail; females are brownish-gray with heavy streaking on the breast and belly
  • Bill: Short, conical, and powerful bill
  • Legs and feet: Brownish-gray

The Purple Finch (Haemorhous purpureus) is a small, sparrow-like bird that is endemic to the North American continent. 

In the eastern regions of the United States, they are considered winter birds. 

However, their population numbers have experienced a decline in recent decades, which is attributed to the expansion of House Finches in the eastern regions following the 1950s. 

The Purple Finch exhibits a wide range of ecological adaptability and can be found in diverse habitats, including coniferous and mixed forests, as well as suburban areas. 

When in forested areas, they tend to occupy high tree canopies and can be challenging to spot. However, they can be easily attracted to feeders with seeds. 

Their diet primarily consists of seeds and fruits. 

In Minnesota, Purple Finches are observable year-round in the northern parts where southern parts may get non-breeding individuals.

13 – Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker

Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker - both males and females have red foreheads but only males have a red throat. Females' throats are white.
Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker

Quick Identification Guide of Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker

  • Size: Approximately 7-9 inches in length, with a wingspan of 13-16 inches.
  • Body color: Black and white with a bright red forehead, white underpart and yellow belly. The head and back are striped with black and white. 
  • Males have a red throat patch while females have a white throat and a smaller red forehead patch.
  • Bill: Short and chisel-like for drilling into trees, approximately 1 inch long.
  • Legs and feet: Grayish-blue with two toes facing forward and two facing backward for better gripping on trees.

The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius) is a migratory bird species that breeds in boreal forests throughout North America, including Canada and the northeastern United States. 

During the winter season, they migrate to the southeastern United States, including most southern parts of Minnesota. 

This bird species derives its name from its peculiar habit of creating small holes in trees to feed on the sap that oozes out and the insects that are drawn to it. Additionally, they supplement their diet with fruits and berries. 

The adult male can be easily distinguished by its yellow belly, red forehead, and red throat. Their black and white striped head and back, coupled with their striking red forehead and yellow belly, make them a visually appealing bird species to observe.

They are often spotted in wooded areas, particularly near water sources. And their drumming and calling sounds can be heard throughout the day. 

During the breeding season, if you travel to the northern parts of Minnesota you will be able to spot Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers in the woods. 

Summary of Information about Red Headed Birds in Minnesota!

The following table summarizes the best times of the year and the best regions in Minnesota to see each above-listed birds with red heads.

In addition, you can refer to this table to get information on these birds such as the length, wingspan, and food preferences as well.

Birds with Red HeadsPlace and time of the year to see them in MinnesotaLengthWingspanFood
RedheadNorthwest and Northeast – year-round
Other regions – non-breeding
16.5-21.3 inches29.5-31.1 inchesvegetative parts and tubers, seeds, achenes and aquatic invertebrates
Red-headed WoodpeckerSoutheast – year-round
Other regions – breeding Southeast – rare 
about 7.5-9.5 inchesabout 16.5 inchesOmnivores – Insects, spiders, earthworms, nuts, seeds, berries
Pileated WoodpeckerAll regions – year-round
But near the west border and southwest – rare
about 15-19.5 inchesabout 26-29.5 inchesOmnivores – Carpenter ants, termites, flies, nuts and fruits. 
Red-bellied WoodpeckerCentral and southern regions – year-roundabout 9.5 inchesabout 13-16.5 inchesOmnivores – Arboreal arthropods, invertebrates, nuts, seeds, berries. 
Northern CardinalCentral and southern regions – year-roundabout 8-9.5 inchesabout 10-12 inchesOmnivores – Seeds, berries, fruits, leaf buds,  insects
Red CrossbillNorthern parts during breeding Southern parts in non-breeding5.5-7.8 inchesNot availableConifer seeds
Scarlet TanagerAll regions (except southwest) – breedingabout 6-7 inchesabout 9.5-11.5 inchesOmnivores – Mainly insects, and at times, berries and fruits
Palm WarblerAll regions – migration4.7-5.5 inches7.9-8.3 inchesentirely insects
Chipping SparrowAll regions – breeding 4.7-5.9 inches8.3 inchesseeds of grasses
Ruby-crowned KingletNortheast and northwest – breeding3.5-4.3 inches6.3-7.1 inchesspiders and their eggs, fruit, seeds
House FinchSouthern regions – year-roundabout 5-6 inchesabout 8-10 inchesHerbivore – Seeds, berries, fruits
Purple FinchAll regions – breedingabout 5-6 inchesabout 8-10 inchesOmnivores – Mainly insects, seeds, and berries
Yellow-Bellied SapsuckerNorthern parts during breeding Southern parts in non breedingabout 7-9 inchesabout 13-16 inchesOmnivores – Insects, fruits, berries, nuts, seeds. 

Now, let’s explore!

With those detailed guides, I hope you will ID all the listed red-headed birds in Minnesota easily. 

For further details, including actual sightings and range data of all the aforementioned birds, you can refer to valuable resources such as eBird and All About Birds. They provide comprehensive information to enrich your understanding and observation of avian species.

Before you leave, take a look at these articles to get more fascinating birds that you can see in Minnesota.