Birds at Your Feeder in Indiana

Last Updated on January 27, 2024 by Greg Gillson

What birds come to feeders in Indiana?

This article discusses the most common birds at bird feeders in Indiana throughout the year. Other feeder birds may be more common seasonally, but these should be present most of the year.

I start with a quick list of Indiana feeder birds and then provide more information if you are so interested.

Feeding birds in Indiana can bring much joy!

Here are 10 birds that you are most likely to see at your bird feeder in Indiana:

  • Northern Cardinal
  • Blue Jay
  • Mourning Dove
  • Downy Woodpecker
  • American Goldfinch
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker
  • Tufted Titmouse
  • White-breasted Nuthatch
  • Song Sparrow
  • Red-winged Blackbird

Northern Cardinal

The most common feeder bird in Indiana is the Northern Cardinal. Read more about it, below.

Photo of Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal. Greg Gillson.

Northern Cardinals are one of the most popular birds in the United States. Even people who haven’t seen one in life have seen their image on logos and advertisements.

These birds are year-round residents from the northeastern United States south to Florida, west to the Midwest, southern Great Plains to Arizona.

They are found in woodlands, hedgerows, and dense backyard shrubs.

Both males and females sing, a series of repeated whistles.

These birds are less bulky than European Starlings, but just as long. The have a very long tail and big head with tall crest.

The bill is very thick at the base, short, with curved edges. It is usually obviously orange.

Males are bright red throughout, with hints of blue on the wings, tail, and back. They have a black throat patch that reaches to the eye and over the bill.

Females are dull brown or buffy yellow in coloration with red highlights on the edges of the wings and tail. Their crest isn’t quite as pronounced as the males. They still show the black around the bill.

Northern Cardinals eat larger seeds at your feeder, including black oil sunflower seeds and safflower seeds.

Red-winged Blackbird

Photo of Red-winged Blackbird
Red-winged Blackbird. Greg Gillson

Red-winged Blackbirds are common birds across North America. 

In summer they are found from Alaska, across Canada, south into Mexico. In winter they abandon much of Canada and the northern Great Plains and Midwest. 

They nest in marshes in summer, where there are cattails and similar plants. In winter they spread out into fields, cattle lots, and residential neighborhoods. These birds are colonial nesters in cattail marshes. 

In fall and winter, they form very large flocks composed of many young-of-the-year, starlings, grackles, cowbirds, and other blackbirds. Such flocks can number in the hundreds of thousands, especially in the East. 

These birds are about the size of American Robins, perhaps a bit smaller. They are stocky with a fairly long tail. They have rather flat foreheads that accentuate the long bill. The bill is fairly stout at the base, long, pointed, and straight on the upper and lower edges. 

Males are glossy black with yellow-edged red shoulders that can be hidden in the scapular feathers when the wings are at rest. 

Females are a bit smaller than males. They are pale with heavy brown streaks on the under parts. Some populations show buff on the face. They may confuse beginners into thinking they are some kind of streaky sparrow. The flat crown and very straight and sharply pointed bill point to their identification as blackbirds. 

At your feeder they will eat black oil sunflower seeds and suet.

American Goldfinch

Photo of American Goldfinch
American Goldfinch. Greg Gillson

The American Goldfinches are favorite backyard birds across North America. Many people call them “wild canaries.” 

These active birds are year-round residents coast-to-coast across northern and mid-latitudes of the United States. 

In summer birds move into southern Canada. In winter birds are found throughout the United States.

They are found in weedy pastures and brushy clearings. In town, they favor parks and residential areas with lawns and scattered trees. They often feed on thistles or dandelion seeds on the ground. But they also fly over open spaces between trees with a bounding roller-coaster flight and a lilting “potato chip” call. 

These are small birds, smaller than House Finches. They are rather plump birds with small round heads and short tails. The bill is small but it is conical for eating seeds. It is colored pink. 

Summer males are striking with their brilliant yellow and black plumage. The body is yellow and they have a black crown. The wings and tail feathers are black and white. 

Females are duller olive-green without the black crown. They have thin white wing bars. 

Juvenile birds in fall show striking tan wing bars on the black wing. 

In winter both genders are pale gray and tan with brown wings and tail. They may only show a hint of yellow on the head and throat. 

At your feeder, American Goldfinches love black oil sunflower seeds and Niger seed. They are especially common at feeders in summer and fall.

Mourning Dove

Photo of Mourning Dove
Mourning Dove. Greg Gillson

The mournful summer song of Mourning Doves is familiar to most, even if they don’t know what bird makes the sound. 

They are found across the United States as year-round residents. Birds summer in the northern Great Plains and south central Canada, but withdraw in winter. 

These birds are found in towns and farms, and open country with scattered trees, often along rivers. 

In spring they sing from power lines in residential areas. They may puff out their chests while cooing from the peak of your roof. 

These birds are much larger than European Starlings, but also much smaller than American Crows. These birds have large powerful breasts, a tiny round head on thin neck, and long pointed tail. Their wings are somewhat pointed in flight. The bill is small as typical for all pigeons. Genders are identical. 

These birds are warm tan or brown colored. The breast has a pinkish hue. The wings are gray. They have a few large black spots on the wing coverts. They have a black spot on the side of the neck below the cheek that sometimes shows some iridescent green feathers. The tail has white edges, best seen in flight. 

At your bird feeder Mourning Doves eat all types of seeds. They are also attracted to water for drinking and bathing.

Downy Woodpecker

Photo of Downy Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker. Greg Gillson

Downy Woodpeckers are tiny and common visitors to backyards across the United States. 

These woodpeckers inhabit nearly all of North America south of the tundra and away from the driest deserts. 

Often found near water, they like small deciduous trees, willows, and brush. Common in backyards. 

Like other woodpeckers, these birds hitch up small trees. However, they often cling to the small outer branches. They even hang on twigs and small bushes such as wild rose and teasel. 

They are bigger than House Finches, smaller than Red-winged Blackbirds, but shaped differently than either. These birds have stocky bodies and big heads. They have short, stiff, pointed tails. The legs are short. The feet are large with strong claws. The bills of these woodpeckers are chisel shaped but especially short and petite. 

The overall pattern of these birds is black-and-white stripes. The wings are black with numerous white spots and bars. The back is white. The underparts are white or tinged with buff. The face is white; the crown and nape is black, the ear covert black, and there is a black malar stripe. The tail is black with white outer tail feathers. Males have a red spot on the nape that females lack. 

Downy Woodpeckers eat suet at your feeder.

Blue Jay

Photo of Blue Jay
Blue Jay. skeeze Pixabay

Blue Jays are one of the most well-known birds in the United States. 

Birds are found year-round east of the Rocky Mountains from southern Canada to Texas and eastward. There is a noticeable migration of some of their population in most of their range. Birds move northward into the Great Plains of Canada for the summer. 

Though they are found in woodlands of all type, they are especially attracted to oak trees. They are common in residential areas, too. 

Brash and conspicuous, Blue Jays have a complex social structure. The more the crest is raised, the more excited or agitated the bird is. 

Jays are fairly large backyard birds. They are just a bit larger than American Robins. These are stout birds with large rounded or wedge-shaped tails. They have large legs and feet. They have a bushy crest. The bill is fairly long, strong. 

Genders are similar in plumage. They are blue above, including the crest. They are gray below with a black necklace across the throat. The wings are barred with black, with white wing bars and trailing edges. The blue tail is barred with black and has white tail corners. 

At your feeder, Blue Jays love whole peanuts and sunflower seeds.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Photo of Red-bellied Woodpecker
Red-bellied Woodpecker. skeeze. Pixabay

Red-bellied Woodpeckers are one of the common woodland birds in the East. 

These birds are year-round residents from the Northeast to the Midwest, and south from Florida to eastern Texas. 

They aren’t too picky in their choice of trees. They are found in deciduous and conifer forests. They may be found in parks and neighborhoods with mature trees. Learn and listen for the loud rolling churr call of these woodpeckers. You may find they are more common than you first thought. 

These birds are a bit larger than European Starlings. They a stocky with large head and short wedge-shaped tail. The bill is long, straight. and chisel shaped. 

The upper parts, including the back and wings are covered with thin black-and-white bars. The head and under parts are pale tan or gray. They have white rumps and black tails with barred outer tail feathers. 

Males have red crowns from their bill to their back. Some also show a reddish wash to their belly. 

Females have red crowns from the top of their head back, with gray fore-crowns. 

 At feeders, Red-bellied Woodpeckers love suet, and also eat peanuts.

Tufted Titmouse

Photo of Tufted Titmouse. Public Domain.
Tufted Titmouse. N Lewis. NPS.

Tufted Titmice are one of the favorite feeder birds in the East. 

They are year-round residents from the Northeast to the Midwest and south to Florida and eastern Texas. 

These birds like deciduous and mixed woods. They are found in parks, orchards, and residential areas with large trees. 

They are acrobatic as they move through the tree canopy. But you will often hear them first, as they have a wide variety of both husky calls and clear whistled notes. 

These birds are nearly the size of House Sparrows. They are larger than chickadees. They have stout bodies and a large head on short neck. The tails are medium in length. The crest is wispy and not always as obvious as one might think. The bill is short and stout. 

They are gray above and pale below, often with a pale peach color on the flanks. There are black feathers around the eye, which make the eye look big and stand out on the pale face. There is also a touch of black on the forehead above the bill. Genders are similar in appearance. 

Tufted Titmice eat black oil sunflower seeds, peanuts, and suet at your bird feeder.

White-breasted Nuthatch

Photo of White-breasted Nuthatch
White-breasted Nuthatch. Greg Gillson

White-breasted Nuthatches are the largest of 4 nuthatch species in North America. 

These birds are year-round residents across southern Canada and all but deserts and treeless areas of the United States, south into the mountains of Mexico. 

They are found primarily in mature deciduous woods, but also dry pine forests in the interior West. 

As with all nuthatches, these active little birds crawl over the trunk and limbs looking for bark insects. Their strong feet allow them to hang on to the bark in any position. You will frequently see them crawling head first down the tree or upside down around a branch. 

These birds are a bit smaller than House Sparrows. They are chunky birds with big heads on short necks. They have stumpy little tails. Their legs are strong and feet large. The bill is fairly slender and sharp pointed. 

They are blue-gray on the upper parts with black crown and hind neck. The upper parts, including the face, are white with rusty feathers in the vent area. Males are more blue on the upper parts and have blacker caps. Females are more gray and have paler caps. 

At your feeder White-breasted Nuthatches love suet and peanuts. They may take seeds from the feeder to cache away in the bark of trees to eat later in the winter.

Song Sparrow

Photo of Song Sparrow
Song Sparrow. Greg Gillson

Song Sparrows are widespread across North America. 

These birds summer from southern Alaska and across Canada to the Ohio River Valley and in the West to southern California and Arizona. In winter most birds leave Canada and the northern Great Plains, except for a population in western Canada. The winter birds push south to Florida and Texas into northern Mexico. 

These birds are found in a wide variety of brushy habitats. They are found in open woodlands, marshes, and backyards landscaped with large bushes and brambles. 

They spend a lot of time hopping on the ground looking for food. They eat insects and invertebrates in summer, but mostly seeds in winter. 

They are a bit smaller than House Sparrows. They have a round body, round head, and longer tail with a rounded tip. The bill is triangular, short and thick at the base. 

Across their range these birds show much variation. Desert birds are paler. Northwestern birds are dark and reddish. Alaskan birds are much larger. In general, they are gray, streaked with brown, with breast streaks forming a center spot on the breast. The pattern of the head is complex but rather diagnostic. The white throat is bordered by a flaring lateral throat stripe. Genders are identical. 

Song Sparrows will visit platform feeders, but more likely stay under dense bushes, venturing out on the ground below the feeder.

Recommended Products for feeding birds in Indiana

The hopper feeder is just the right size and durable. The best high quality mixed bird seed for this bird feeder that I highly recommend is Wagner’s Songbird Supreme. This combination attracts the widest variety of feeder birds.

I really like how this iBorn copper tube feeder looks in my yard. It is best for finches and chickadees when filled with black oil sunflower seed.

For attracting woodpeckers and chickadees, and keeping out jays, starlings, and grackles, I love my Nature’s Way Upside-Down Suet Feeder. I also buy St. Albans Bay suet.

Wrapping Up

Birdwatching in Indiana offers a multitude of benefits, both for yourself and the feathered friends you observe. Here are some of the key reasons why you might enjoy this activity:

For you:

  • Relaxation and enjoyment: Watching birds, with their diverse colors, behaviors, and songs, can be a peaceful and calming experience. It’s a mindful activity that allows you to disconnect from the stresses of daily life and connect with nature, right from your own backyard or on a local trail.
  • Educational opportunities: Whether you’re a seasoned birder or a curious beginner, observing birds is a fantastic way to learn about different species, their adaptations, migration patterns, and roles within the ecosystem. It’s a fun and engaging way to expand your knowledge of the natural world around you.
  • Sense of connection to nature: Birdwatching fosters a deeper appreciation for the environment and creates a sense of interconnectedness with the local ecosystem. By attracting birds to your yard or supporting conservation efforts, you contribute to the biodiversity of your area and feel more connected to the natural world.
  • Potential pest control: Some bird species, like chickadees and nuthatches, help control insect populations that could otherwise damage your garden or trees. They can be natural allies in maintaining a healthy ecosystem in your backyard.
  • Photographic opportunities: If you’re interested in photography, birdwatching can provide excellent opportunities to capture stunning images of these beautiful creatures. It’s a chance to combine your hobby with nature observation.
  • Stress reduction: Studies have shown that observing nature, including birds, can have a calming effect and reduce stress levels. Birdwatching can be a therapeutic activity for mental and physical well-being.

For the birds:

  • Supplemental food source: By providing bird feeders and water sources, especially during harsh winter months when natural food sources become scarce, you offer valuable sustenance to a variety of bird species.
  • Shelter and refuge: Your backyard or garden can be a safe haven for birds escaping predators or seeking refuge from extreme weather conditions. Planting diverse native plants and providing nesting boxes can create a welcoming environment for them to rest and raise their young.
  • Contribution to biodiversity: By creating a bird-friendly environment with diverse plants and food sources, you attract a wider variety of bird species, enriching the local ecosystem and contributing to the overall health of the environment.
  • Educational tool for humans: Birds serve as living examples of nature’s wonders, encouraging humans to learn about and appreciate the environment. By observing them, you can contribute to spreading awareness and appreciation for wildlife.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the most common bird in Indiana?

Determining the “most common” bird in Indiana can be tricky, as it depends on how you define “common.” Here are some contenders based on different interpretations:

By Abundance:

  • Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus): This blackbird with a conspicuous red shoulder patch reigns supreme in terms of sheer numbers. Their populations explode during breeding season, forming large colonies in marshes, wetlands, and even agricultural fields. Their loud, distinctive calls are a familiar sound across the state.
  • Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura): This abundant dove thrives in various habitats and is frequently seen throughout the state. Their gentle cooing is a familiar sound in Indiana backyards and fields.

By Sightings:

  • American Robin (Turdus migratorius): While not necessarily the most numerous, their familiarity and widespread presence throughout the year make them one of the most frequently seen birds in Indiana. Their cheerful song and friendly disposition often make them backyard visitors, endearing them to many residents.
  • House Sparrow (Passer domesticus): These ubiquitous introduced birds are abundant in urban and suburban areas.
     Red-winged Blackbird by Alan D. Wilson

What’s the Indiana state bird?

The state bird of Indiana is the Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis cardinalis)! 🪶 This vibrant red bird with its contrasting black face and crest was officially designated as the state bird in 1933. Here are some reasons why the Northern Cardinal was chosen:

  • Widespread presence: These beautiful birds are abundant year-round throughout Indiana, making them familiar and beloved by many residents.
  • Distinctive appearance: The male’s striking red plumage is unmistakable, making it easily recognizable even for casual observers.
  • Melodious song: The Northern Cardinal’s clear, whistling song is a cherished soundscape throughout the state, adding to its popularity.
  • Symbolism: The cardinal is often associated with hope, joy, and renewal, making it a fitting symbol for the state.

So, the next time you see a bright red cardinal perched on a branch in Indiana, remember that you’re not just witnessing a beautiful bird, you’re encountering the official avian representative of the Hoosier State!

    Northern Mockingbird by Rhododendrites

What is the fastest bird in Indiana?

While Indiana boasts many feathered residents, the title of “fastest” goes to the Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus)! This impressive predator reigns supreme with its astounding aerial abilities, making it the fastest animal on Earth, not just in Indiana.

Here’s why the Peregrine Falcon deserves the title:

  • Unmatched Speed: During powerful “stoopes” (dives) aimed at prey, Peregrine Falcons can reach speeds exceeding 200 miles per hour (322 km/h)! This mind-blowing speed allows them to catch agile birds mid-flight, making them apex predators in the avian world.
  • Aerodynamic Design: Built for speed, Peregrine Falcons have sleek, streamlined bodies, pointed wings, and powerful muscles, enabling them to slice through the air with minimal resistance.
  • Indiana Presence: While not as abundant as some other bird species, Peregrine Falcons can be found in various locations across Indiana, including cliffs, open areas, and urban settings.

Related Articles:

Backyard Birds of Indiana

Red, Orange & Yellow Birds of Indiana

Feeding Winter Birds in Indiana

Setting up your bird feeder

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