Common Winter Birds in Milwaukee

Identifying Winter Birds in Milwaukee

Winter in Wisconsin can be cold--very cold. With this in mind, one might be surprised to find that there are a number of birds that make their home here throughout the winter months. The following are some of the most common of our feathered friends that you are likely to see during the cold months in Milwaukee.

  • 01 of 07

    Northern Cardinal

    male and female Northern Cardinal

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    Many people will recognize this bird. With its bright red coloring, a cardinal is hard to miss, especially against the white backdrop of snow. Females are a little bit harder to recognize, as they are a tan or yellow color, but they are of the same shape, general size and retain distinctive crest atop their head just like male cardinals.
  • 02 of 07

    Black-Capped Chickadee

    Black capped chickadee in a maple tree

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    This small bird is a common winter resident of Milwaukee, even in the cold winter months. Both males and females have a black head with bold white eye stripe, gray-black wings with white edges, and white to buff colored bellies.
  • 03 of 07

    White-breasted & Red-breasted Nuthatch

    Red-breasted Nuthatch perched on a tree

    Michel Gauvin/Getty Images

    These small birds are often seen palling around with chickadees, and they even look a bit alike. Nuthatches, however, have different variations in the black and white markings on their head: only a black stripe on top of the head for White-breasted Nuthatches and thin black and white eye stripes for Red-breasted Nuthatches. These birds also have the curious habit of hanging around upside-down — so if you a see a bird heading face first down the trunk of a tree, there's a good chance it could be a nuthatch.

  • 04 of 07

    Downy Woodpecker

    Downy woodpecker in a tree

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    Downy woodpeckers are common in wooded areas of Milwaukee year-round, but become much more visible in winter once the cover of leaves is gone. This black and white bird is the smallest of the woodpeckers, and can be seen on yard feeders, or drumming on a tall tree or even on a wooden light pole.
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  • 05 of 07

    American Goldfinch

    American Goldfinch in winter

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    This bright yellow bird is a common sight at Milwaukee yard feeders, but may be a little bit harder to recognize in winter, as it's gold color fades to a dun, brown or gray color with just hints of its trademark yellow.
  • 06 of 07

    Slate-colored Junco

    Slate-Colored Junco in snow

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    This cute little bird is easily distinguished by it's contrasting colors: dark gray on the back and upper half, and white on the belly and underside. These birds like cold weather, so it's common that you'll see them in winter, but once the temperatures start heating up they'll likely take flight back to their Canadian summer homes until the snow comes back around again.
  • 07 of 07

    Blue Jay

    Blue jay in winter

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    The Blue Jay is another bird that many people will easily recognize because of its large size and distinctive color. Blue Jays are known by their loud "jay" call, and aggressive, noisy nature. Blue Jays can be attracted to back yard feeders that feature peanuts and sunflower seeds, and make a nice splash of color against a white Wisconsin winter backdrop.

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