Are you ready to add some elegance and grace to your bird-watching checklist? Look no further because Minnesota is a bird lover’s paradise, and today we are going to explore the world of white birds!
Whether you are a seasoned birder or just starting out, there’s no denying the beauty and serenity of watching these majestic creatures soar through the sky. But with so many species to keep track of, it can be a daunting task to identify each one. That’s why we’ve put together this ultimate guide on the 16 White Birds in Minnesota to make your birding adventures a breeze!
From the fluffy Snowy Owl to the variable Rock Pigeon, each of these birds has unique characteristics that will leave you awestruck. So grab your binoculars, camera, and birding checklist, and let’s take a journey through the fascinating world of white birds in Minnesota.
1 – Snowy Owl
Quick Identification Guide of Snowy Owl
- Size: large bird, with a wingspan of up to 5 feet and a weight of up to 6 pounds.
- Body Color: Both males and females have white feathers with black speckles.
- Unique Distinguishable Colors or Patterns: have bright yellow eyes and a black beak. Their legs and feet are also covered in feathers and are yellow in color.
- Bill: black, curved beak that is sharp and powerful.
- Legs and Feet: The legs and feet are covered in feathers and are yellow in color.
The Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus), also known as the Arctic Owl or White Owl, is a magnificent bird that is native to the Arctic regions of North America, Europe, and Asia.
They are best known for their striking appearance, with their white feathers and piercing yellow eyes. Snowy Owls are typically found in tundra habitats and are adapted to living in extremely cold temperatures.
In Minnesota, you can spot Snowy Owls during the winter months, usually from November to March. They are often seen in open areas such as fields, beaches, and airports.
The Snowy Owl feeds primarily on lemmings, but will also eat other small rodents and birds.
Despite their large size, Snowy Owls are known for their grace and beauty in flight. Watching them glide through the air is truly a sight to behold.
So, if you’re a bird enthusiast visiting Minnesota during the winter months, be sure to keep an eye out for the majestic Snowy Owl!
2 – American White Pelican
Quick Identification Guide of American White Pelican
- Size: large bird, with a wingspan of up to 9 feet and a weight of up to 20 pounds.
- Body Color: Both males and females have white feathers with black primary feathers visible when the wings are extended.
- Unique Distinguishable Colors or Patterns: During the breeding season, they develop a distinctive, bright orange bill and a yellow plate on the top of their bill. Outside of the breeding season, their bill is pale pink with a black tip.
- Bill: have a long, straight, and broad bill that is used for catching fish.
- Legs and Feet: The legs and feet are long and pink, with large webbed feet that are used for swimming.
The American White Pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) is a beautiful bird that is native to North America. And they are one of the largest birds in the continent.
They are best known for their distinctive appearance, with their white feathers and large, broad bills.
In Minnesota, you can see this bird during the summer months, usually from April to September. They are often seen near lakes, rivers, and marshes, where they feed on fish and other aquatic creatures.
American White Pelicans are social birds and are often seen in large flocks, soaring gracefully in the sky on sunny days or paddling in the water.
Their breeding grounds are found in the western US and Canada, with a small population breeding in Minnesota. They typically nest on isolated islands or sandbars in large colonies.
If you’re a bird lover visiting Minnesota during the summer, be sure to keep an eye out for the beautiful American White Pelican! Sure you won’t miss it because of the size.
3 – Tundra Swan
Quick Identification Guide of Tundra Swan
- Size: large waterfowl, with a wingspan of up to 6.5 feet and a weight of up to 20 pounds.
- Body Color: Both males and females have pure white feathers.
- Bill: have a long, straight, and broad bill that is mostly black with a small yellow patch near the eye.
- Legs and Feet: have black legs and feet.
The Tundra Swan (Cygnus columbianus) is a majestic bird that breeds in the Arctic tundra and winters in North America, including Minnesota.
They are the largest and heaviest swans in the world and have a beautiful pure white plumage that contrasts with their black bill and legs. The Tundra Swans were once known as Whistling Swans in North America.
They migrate south in the fall, arriving in Minnesota in late October or early November, and leaving in March or April.
During the winter, they can be found in large flocks on open water bodies, such as lakes, rivers, and wetlands, where they feed on aquatic plants and invertebrates.
Tundra Swans are highly vocal birds, and their distinctive honking calls can often be heard before they are seen. They are also known for their elaborate courtship displays, which include synchronized head bobbing, wing flapping, and vocalizations.
If you’re a bird enthusiast visiting Minnesota during the winter, keep an eye and ears out for the beautiful Tundra Swan, one of the most iconic and recognizable waterfowl in the region.
4 – Trumpeter Swan
Quick Identification Guide of Trumpeter Swan
- Size: the largest waterfowl in North America, with a wingspan of up to 8 feet and a weight of up to 30 pounds.
- Body Color: Both males and females have pure white feathers.
- Bill: have a long, straight, and broad bill that is mostly black with a small red patch near the eye.
- Legs and Feet: have black legs and feet.
The Trumpeter Swan (Cygnus buccinator) is an iconic and majestic bird that is native to North America. It is the largest swan species in North America and has a striking pure white plumage that contrasts with its black bill and legs.
Trumpeter Swans were once common throughout North America but were hunted nearly to extinction for their feathers and meat. Thanks to conservation efforts, their populations have rebounded, and they can now be found in several states, including Minnesota.
In Minnesota, Trumpeter Swans can be seen in the winter months, from November to March, when they migrate to the state’s lakes, rivers, and wetlands.
They feed on aquatic plants and invertebrates and are often seen in large flocks.
Despite their large size, Trumpeter Swans are graceful birds and are known for their distinctive honking calls and their elaborate courtship displays.
If you’re a bird enthusiast visiting Minnesota in the winter, keep an eye out for the magnificent Trumpeter Swan, one of the most iconic and recognizable waterfowl in North America.
5 – Snow Bunting
Quick Identification Guide of Snow Bunting
- Size: 6.5 to 7 inches in length with a wingspan of 11.5 inches
- Body color: white and brown
- Unique distinguishable colors or patterns of other body parts: In breeding plumage, males have a mostly white head with black on their backs, wings, and tail feathers. Females have a more brownish-gray head and upperparts with less contrast between the white and brown feathers.
- Bill, legs, and feet: dark
The Snow Bunting (Plectrophenax nivalis) is a small, white bird with blackish or brownish wings that can be seen in Minnesota during the winter months.
They breed in the high Arctic tundra and migrate south to their wintering grounds in southern Canada and the northern United States, including Minnesota.
Snow Buntings typically inhabit open, snowy areas such as fields, prairies, and shorelines.
During the winter, they can often be seen in flocks foraging for seeds and small insects on the ground.
Their unique plumage, which changes between breeding and non-breeding seasons, makes them fascinating birds to observe. If you are vigilant enough, it is not hard to find this beauty in Minnesota.
6 – Ring-Billed Gull
Quick Identification Guide of Ring-Billed Gull
- Size: Medium-sized gull, about 16-21 inches long, with a wingspan of 3.5-4 feet
- Body color: White with gray wings and back
- Unique distinguishable colors or patterns: Yellow legs, a yellow bill with a black ring near the tip, and a dark band across the tail
- Male and female: Both have white plumage.
Ring-Billed Gulls (Larus delawarensis) are common, medium-sized gulls found across much of North America.
They are migratory birds, breeding in Canada and parts of the northern United States, and wintering along the coasts of the United States and into Mexico.
In Minnesota, they can be seen year-round, with their numbers increasing in the summer as they migrate to the area to breed.
They are adaptable birds and can be found in a variety of habitats, from lakes and rivers to agricultural fields and landfills. Ring-Billed Gulls are opportunistic feeders, eating a variety of foods such as fish, insects, and small mammals. They are also known to scavenge human food and garbage.
You can find these gulls near bodies of water, particularly during the breeding season when they can be seen in large colonies on islands and other isolated locations.
7 – Great Egret
Quick Identification Guide of Great Egret
- Size: Large wading bird, about 3-4 feet tall with a wingspan of 4-5 feet
- Body color: White with a long, S-shaped neck and a yellow bill
- Unique distinguishable colors or patterns: Black legs and feet, and during the breeding season, the area around the eyes turns green
- Male and female: Both have white plumage
The Great Egret (Ardea alba) is a magnificent wading bird found in North and South America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia.
So it’s more like a cosmopolitan bird. It is the largest of the North American egrets and is known for its elegant appearance and graceful movements.
Great Egrets can be found in a variety of habitats, including marshes, wetlands, and estuaries. They are known to nest in large colonies, often in trees or shrubs near water.
In Minnesota, they can be seen during the breeding season in the summer, when they migrate north to breed.
Great Egrets feed mainly on fish, but will also eat insects, reptiles, and small mammals.
Keep an eye out for these majestic birds in wetlands and along the shores of lakes and rivers. Their striking white plumage and elegant movements make them a joy to watch.
8 – Snowy Egret
Quick Identification Guide of Snowy Egret
- Size: About 24 inches in length and with a wingspan of 36 inches
- Body color: Mostly white, with black legs and yellow feet
- Unique distinguishable colors or patterns: During the breeding season, the bird has long, delicate plumes on its back and head, which are used in courtship displays.
- Bill: Black, long and slender, with a sharply pointed tip
- Legs and feet: Black and yellow, with long toes that extend beyond the tail in flight
- Both males and females are white.
Snowy Egrets (Egretta thula) are medium-sized, graceful wading birds that are found throughout much of North and South America.
They are commonly seen in shallow freshwater or saltwater wetlands, marshes, and coastal areas. Snowy Egrets feed on small fish, frogs, crustaceans, and insects, which they capture with their long, sharp bill.
These birds are migratory and can be seen in Minnesota during their breeding season, which typically runs from April to August.
They nest in colonies, often with other heron and egret species, and build nests of sticks and twigs in trees or shrubs near water.
Despite being a relatively common sight in wetland habitats, Snowy Egrets were once hunted for their elegant plumes, which were used in the fashion industry. Today, conservation efforts have helped to protect these birds and their populations are stable.
9 – Snow Goose
Quick Identification Guide of Snow Goose
- Site: The Snow Goose is a medium-sized bird with a wingspan of 53-56 inches and a body length of 26-32 inches.
- Body color: Its body color is mostly white, but it has black wingtips and a pink bill with black grinning patches.
- The male and female both have white plumage, making them difficult to distinguish.
- During the breeding season, the head and neck of the adult bird turn rusty brown.
- Legs and feet: Its legs and feet are pinkish-gray.
The Snow Goose (Anser caerulescens), is also known as the “Blue Goose” because of the dark morph. It is a migratory bird that breeds in the high Arctic regions of North America, Greenland, and Siberia.
During the fall migration, they travel in large flocks, which can be heard from far away, as they honk loudly while flying. They usually migrate in a “V” formation, taking advantage of the air currents and reducing wind resistance.
In the winter, Snow Geese can be found in wetlands, agricultural fields, and coastal areas, feeding on a variety of plants, including grains, sedges, and grasses.
These birds are important for shaping the vegetation communities in their wintering areas, as they are known to remove vegetation and expose bare ground, which provides habitat for other species.
In Minnesota, Snow Geese can be seen during the spring and fall migration periods, usually between March and April, and October and November.
Despite their widespread distribution, Snow Geese are facing several threats, including habitat loss and degradation, hunting pressure, and climate change.
Conservation efforts are being made to protect their breeding and wintering habitats and to ensure the sustainability of their populations.
10 – Ross’s Goose
Quick Identification Guide of Ross’s Goose
- Size: Ross’s Goose is a small white goose, similar in appearance to the Snow Goose. It has a short neck, a small head, and a rounded body.
- Body color Its body color is mostly white, but it has black wingtips.
- Bill: The bill is smaller and stubbier than the Snow Goose, with a bluish-gray base and a white tip.
- Legs and feet: The legs and feet of Ross’s Goose are reddish-pink.
- Both male and female birds have similar plumage.
Ross’s Goose (Anser rossii) is a small goose species that breeds in the Arctic regions of Canada and Alaska.
During the winter months, they can be found in a variety of habitats, including wetlands, grasslands, and agricultural fields. They feed primarily on plant material, including grasses, sedges, and grains.
Although they look very similar to the Snow Goose, Ross’s Goose is smaller and has a distinctive short, stubby bill. They are considered to be one of the smallest geese in North America.
In Minnesota, Ross’s Goose is a rare sight, as they only pass through the state during their spring and fall migrations. They usually migrate in flocks and can be heard making high-pitched honking sounds while in flight.
Conservation efforts are being made to protect the habitats of Ross’s Goose, as well as other waterfowl species, to ensure the sustainability of their populations.
11 – Great Blue Heron (White Morph)
Quick Identification Guide of Great Blue Heron (White Morph)/ Great white heron
- Size: A large wading bird with a height of up to 4.5 feet and a wingspan of 5.5-6 feet.
- Body Color: Mostly white, with grayish-blue legs and yellow eyes (but mostly gray in dark morph).
- Bill: The bill is yellow and thicker than other heron species. And its head has a large, shaggy plume.
- The male and female both have similar plumage, making them difficult to distinguish.
- Juvenile birds have darker plumage and lack the shaggy plume on their heads.
The Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) is a majestic wading bird that can be found in coastal regions of the southeastern United States, including Florida and the Gulf of Mexico.
Great Blue Herons are typically found in shallow coastal areas, including mangroves, tidal flats, and saltwater marshes.
They feed on a variety of prey, including fish, crabs, and other aquatic invertebrates. Their large size and slow movements make them excellent hunters. And they often stand still for long periods while waiting for prey to come within reach.
In Minnesota, Great Blue Herons are a rare sight, and getting a white morph is even rarer, as they are primarily found in coastal regions.
However, they can occasionally be seen during migration periods in the spring and fall. The best places to spot them in Minnesota are along the shorelines of Lake Superior or along the Mississippi River.
These birds play an important role in their ecosystems, and their presence is a sign of a healthy and vibrant coastal environment.
12 – Canvasback
Quick Identification Guide of Canvasback
- Size: Canvasback is a large diving duck with a length of up to 23 inches and a wingspan of 35-38 inches.
- Body color: Mostly brownish-gray, with a distinctive white back and black breast and tail.
- The head of the male has a reddish-brown color, while the female has a brownish-gray head.
- The bill is long and sloping with a blackish tip, and its legs and feet are grayish-blue.
- Juvenile birds have a similar coloration to females but lack the distinctive bill shape.
The Canvasback (Aythya valisineria) is a species of diving duck that is native to North America. It is one of the largest and most striking members of the duck family, with a unique appearance and behavior that sets it apart from other species.
Canvasbacks can be found in a variety of habitats, including shallow wetlands, marshes, and lakeshores. They are primarily herbivorous, feeding on aquatic plants, and seeds, and opportunistically on small invertebrates.
During the breeding season, they form monogamous pairs and build their nests on the ground near water sources.
In Minnesota, Canvasbacks can be seen during the spring and fall migration periods, as well as in the winter months. They are commonly found in large lakes and reservoirs, particularly in the western part of the state.
They are an important game bird for hunters, and their populations are managed through conservation efforts.
Canvasbacks are a fascinating and beautiful species that contribute to the diversity of North American waterfowl. Their unique appearance and behavior make them a popular subject for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts alike. Keep an eye on this bird as it can be easily spotted.
13 – Gyrfalcon
Quick Identification Guide of Gyrfalcon
- Size: Gyrfalcon is a large raptor with a wingspan of up to 63 inches and a length of up to 24 inches.
- Body color: Its body color is mostly white or gray, with distinctive black bars or spots on the wings and tail.
- The head of the adult bird is usually darker than the body, with a black or dark brown cap and sideburns, while the juveniles have a brownish-gray head and neck.
- Bill: The bill is short and curved, and its legs and feet are yellow or grayish.
- Females are larger than males and have a more prominent black cap.
The Gyrfalcon (Falco rusticolus) is a majestic and powerful bird of prey that is native to the Arctic and subarctic regions of the Northern Hemisphere.
It is the largest falcon in the world, with a distinctive appearance and behavior that reflects its harsh environment.
Gyrfalcons are adapted to living in cold and remote areas, where they prey on a variety of birds and small mammals, including ptarmigans, grouse, ducks, and hares.
They are skilled hunters, known for their speed and agility in the air. During the breeding season, they build their nests on cliff ledges or other high places, where they raise their young.
In Minnesota, Gyrfalcons can occasionally be seen during the winter months, as they migrate south from their breeding grounds in the Arctic. They are a rare and highly sought-after sight for birdwatchers, as they are not commonly found in the state.
Its distinctive appearance and behavior make it a sought-after sight for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts, and its conservation is vital to the health and diversity of the natural world.
14 – Sanderling
Quick Identification Guide of Sanderling
- Size: Small to medium-sized shorebird, about 7-8 inches in length.
- Body color: Pale gray-brown above and white below during non-breeding season, reddish-brown during the breeding season.
- Unique distinguishable colors or patterns: Black legs and bill, white rump, and a black patch on the shoulder.
- Bill: Straight and pointed.
- Legs and feet: Black.
- Both male and female Sanderlings have the same coloration and markings.
The Sanderling (Calidris alba) is a small to medium-sized shorebird that can be found in various parts of the world, including Minnesota.
It is known for its pale gray-brown and white plumage during the non-breeding season and reddish-brown coloration during the breeding season.
This bird has a unique black patch on its shoulder, black legs, and bill, and a white rump that distinguishes it from other shorebirds.
Sanderlings breed in the high Arctic tundra and migrate south during the winter, with some individuals traveling as far as South America.
In Minnesota, they can be seen during their migratory stopovers along the Great Lakes shoreline or at inland lakes and wetlands.
They feed on small invertebrates like insects, crustaceans, and mollusks that they pick out of the sand or mud. Sanderlings are fascinating birds to observe and are a delight to birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts alike.
15 – Bonaparte’s Gull
Quick Identification Guide of Bonaparte’s Gull
- Size: Small gull with a wingspan of 26-30 inches (66-76 cm) and weighs around 7-9 ounces (198-255 g)
- Body color: During breeding season, adults have a black hood on the head, a white crescent behind the eye, and a light gray back
- Non-breeding adults have a white head with a dark ear spot, and a light gray back and wings
- Juveniles have a black bill, a brownish-gray body, and a white belly
- In flight, Bonaparte’s Gulls have pointed wings and a triangular shape with a dark trailing edge and white wing tips
Bonaparte’s Gull (Chroicocephalus philadelphia), named after the French ornithologist Charles Bonaparte, is a small gull that breeds in the boreal forests of Canada and Alaska.
They migrate south during winter and can be seen along the coasts and inland waterways of the United States, including Minnesota.
Bonaparte’s Gulls prefer to nest on trees near freshwater, such as along the edges of lakes or bogs. But they also nest on the ground in some areas.
During the non-breeding season, Bonaparte’s Gulls can be found near estuaries, bays, and coastlines, as well as along rivers and lakeshores.
Their diet mainly consists of insects, small fish, and crustaceans. And they are known to forage by picking insects off of vegetation or dipping and diving for prey in the water.
In Minnesota, Bonaparte’s Gulls can be seen from late April through May and again from late August through October during migration.
16 – Rock Pigeon
Quick Identification Guide of Rock Pigeon
- Size: Approximately 11-15 inches in length
- Body Color: Usually blue-gray with two black bars on the wings, a white rump, and a dark tail band
- Unique Distinguishable Colors or Patterns: May have a white morph with a pure white body and black wing tips
- Bill: Short and stout
- Legs and Feet: Reddish-pink
The Rock Pigeon (Columba livia), also known as the common pigeon or city pigeon, is a familiar sight to many people around the world.
Mostly they have gray morph birds but complete white morph individuals may occur within the population.
It is believed to have originated in Europe, North Africa, and southwestern Asia, and has been introduced to many other parts of the world, including North America.
The Rock Pigeon is a versatile bird and can be found in a variety of habitats, including cities, towns, and rural areas. They are known to be scavengers and will eat a wide variety of foods, including seeds, grains, insects, and even garbage.
There are naturalized birds from an exotic population in Minnesota. Rock Pigeons can be seen throughout the year in urban areas and can occasionally be spotted in rural areas as well.
Despite being a common bird, they still offer opportunities for observation and appreciation for their unique characteristics and behaviors.
Summary of Information about White Birds in Minnesota!
The following table summarizes the best times of the year and the best regions in Minnesota to see the above-listed white birds. And, for actual sightings and range data of all the listed white birds, you can refer to valuable resources such as eBird and All About Birds.
In addition, you can refer to this table to get information on these birds such as the length, wingspan, and food preferences as well.
|White Birds in Minnesota||Place and time of the year to see them in Minnesota||Length||Wingspan||Food|
|Snowy Owl||Northwest and northeast regions – winter||About 20 – 28 inches||About 49 – 57 inches||Northwest and Northeast regions – winter|
|American White Pelican||All regions – migration||About 4.5 – 5.5 ft||About 7.75 – 9.5 ft||Mainly small fish, small amphibians|
|Tundra Swan||All regions – migration||About 4 – 5 ft||About 6.25 – 7.25 ft||Aquatic vegetation, mollusks, insects, and grain|
|Trumpeter Swan||Northwest and northeast regions – breeding season||About 54 – 62 inches||About 80 inches||Aquatic plants and invertebrates|
|Snow Bunting||All regions – non-breeding season||About 5.9 inches||About 11.8 inches||Lemmings (primarily), small rodents, and birds|
|Ring-billed Gull||Grass, seeds (flowering-plants), insects, and spiders||About 17 – 21.5 inches||About 4 – 5 ft||Small fish, insects, earthworms, grains, and rodents|
|Great Egret||Southern regions – breeding seasonCentral region – migration||About 39 inches||About 6 ft||Small fish, aquatic insects, frogs, crayfish|
|Snowy Egret||Southeast region – migration||About 24 inches||About 42 inches||Aquatic insects and small fish, amphibians, and snakes|
|Snow Goose (White Morph)||All regions – migration||About 27 – 33 inches||About 4.25 – 5.5 ft||Stems, leaves, seeds, and roots of different grass species in aquatic or terrestrial habitats|
|Ross’s Goose (White Morph)||All regions (except northeast) – migration||About 22 – 25 inches||About 3.25 ft||Plants, grasses, and grain|
|Great Blue Heron (White Morph)||Southern and eastern regions – year-roundNorthwest – breeding||About 33 – 51 inches||About 5.25 – 6.5 ft||They prefer fish|
|Canvasback||All regions – migration||About 19 – 22 inches||About 31 – 35 inches||mainly plants (winter buds, rhizomes, and tubers of aquatic plants) and small clams and snails|
|Gyrfalcon||West and Northeast regions – migration||About 19 – 25 inches||About 48 inches||Mostly birds, predominantly ptarmigan, passerines to geese, rarely small mammals|
|Sanderling||All regions – migration||About 7 – 8 inches||About 13 – 14 inches||Aquatic and terrestrial invertebrates|
|Bonaparte’s Gull||All regions – migration||About 11 inches||About 26 – 30 inches||Small fish, euphausiids, amphipods, and insects|
|Rock Pigeon||All regions – year-round||About 11 – 14 inches||About 20 – 26 inches||Mostly seeds and fruits and discarded human food (in cities)|
Why wait? it’s time to explore!
Let us know how many listed white birds you have already seen and how many names you have included in your list for the next birding adventure.
If you have rare sightings of white birds in Minnesota, please share your experience with other birders in the comment section.