11 Beautiful Red Birds in Illinois [Images + IDs]

red birds in Illinois
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Illinois, also known as the Prairie State, is home to a diverse range of bird species, including the striking Red Bird. With its vibrant red plumage and sharp beak, the Red Bird is a popular sight for birdwatchers and nature lovers alike. In this blog post, we’ll delve into the fascinating world of Red Birds in Illinois, exploring their physical characteristics, behavior, habitat, and the best birding locations to observe them in action. Whether you’re an avid birder or simply curious about the natural world, join us on this exciting journey as we discover the captivating world of Red Birds in Illinois.

Types of Red Birds in Illinois:

While some of these birds live in Illinois all year round, others only visit during the summer or winter seasons. This guide will also show the frequency of these birds based on the checklists submitted by birdwatchers of Illinois on ebird. Let’s now delve into the specifics and examine each of these species in more depth to learn all there is to know:

  1. Northern Cardinal
  2. House Finch
  3. Summer Tanager
  4. Scarlet Tanager
  5. Purple Finch
  6. Painted Bunting
  7. Red Crossbill
  8. Common Redpoll
  9. White-winged Crossbill
  10. Pine Grosbeak
  11. Hepatic tanager

Northern cardinals

Northern Cardinals are the state bird of Illinois, as well as six other states: Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, and West Virginia. They are a common bird species in Illinois and can be found in various habitats, including forests, wetlands, and suburban areas.

Frequency in Illinois:  Northern cardinals have been reported as 50% on Summer checklists and 40% on winter checklists by Birdswatchers of Illinois.

birds with red breast

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  • Scientific name: Cardinalis cardinalis
  • Life span: Up to 15 years
  • Size: 21 cm (8.3 in)
  • Weight: 33-65 g
  • Origin: Eastern and Central North America

Male Northern Cardinals are distinguished by their distinctive red plumage, beak, and spiky mohawk-like hair. Northern cardinals are dimorphic birds, with both sexes being nearly totally distinct in color.

Females have red parts on their tails and wings and preserve the red beak, with the rest of their plumage being a pale brown.

In the wild, these birds typically live for 3 years, while some have been reported to survive for up to 15 years, which is an unusual lifespan for tiny birds like cardinals.

The majority of Northern cardinals may be found in southeast California, where they spend most of their time hunting and eating tiny insects, fruits, berries, and seeds in woodland borders, thickets, residential gardens, cities, and desert washes.

House finch

House Finches are also common in Illinois and can be found in urban, suburban, and rural areas.

Frequency in Illinois:  House finches have been reported as 25% on Summer checklists and 20% on winter checklists by Birdswatchers of Illinois.

  • Scientific name: Haemorhous mexicanus
  • Life span: Up to 11 years
  • Size: 12-15 cm (4.7-5.9 in)
  • Weight: 16-27 g
  • Origin: North America

Male house finches have predominantly brown plumage with a red gradient running up from the breast to the face. Females are typically brown and white and are less colorful.

At altitudes below 6,000 feet, these little birds spend most of their time in the dry desert, desert grassland, chaparral, oak savannah, streamsides, and open coniferous woods. They may be found in these habitats mostly grazing on weed seeds, berries, various fruits, and tiny insects in order to stock up on protein.

House finches have a rather long lifetime in the wild, where they may survive for roughly ten years, while captive finches have been known to live for twelve years.

Scarlet tanager 

Scarlet Tanagers, similar to Summer Tanagers, are not that rare in Illinois and can be observed during the spring and fall migration seasons.

Frequency in Illinois:  Scarlet tanagers have been reported as 5 to 10% on Summer checklists and 0% on winter checklists by Birdswatchers of Illinois.

birds with red breast

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  • Scientific name: Piranga olivacea
  • Life span: Up to 10 years
  • Size: 18 cm (7.1 in)
  • Weight: 22-28 g
  • Origin: North, Central, and South America

The Scarlet Tanagers are stunning birds with eye-catching blood-red bodies and highly defined jet-black wings and tails that flash their magnificent plumage.
These songbirds live in deciduous woods and sit high in the forest canopy and mostly eat insects. They are difficult to see but their rich burrow songs may help in identifying them.
During the autumn, songbirds migrate to South America, changing their stunning red feathers into yellow-green ones.

Purple finch

Purple Finches are another rare bird species in Illinois, mostly seen during the winter months.

Frequency in Illinois:  Purple finches have been reported as 0% on Summer checklists and 2% on winter checklists by Birdswatchers of Illinois.

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  • Scientific name: Haemorhous purpureus
  • Life span: Up to 7 years
  • Size: 14 cm (5.5 in)
  • Weight: 20-25 g
  • Origin: North America

The purple finch is a beautiful tiny bird renowned for its unusual appearance. Despite having the name “Purple Finch,” these adorable tiny birds really have a pinkish-red color. Similar to other bird species, the females lack the rosy red coloring, while the males are more flamboyant and show off their gorgeous colors.
These finches often live in coniferous woods, shrublands, and fields, where they nest and perch while singing their lyrical songs. They are uncommon in metropolitan centers because they prefer to remain far from the activities of the human population.

Summer tanager

While Summer Tanagers are rare in Illinois, they can still be spotted during the spring and fall migration seasons.

Frequency in Illinois:  Summer tanagers have been reported as 3% on Summer checklists and 0.1% on winter checklists by Birdswatchers of Illinois.

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  • Scientific name: Piranga rubra
  • Life span: Up to 8 years
  • Size: 16 cm (6.3 in)
  • Weight: 22-27 g
  • Origin: North, Central, and South America

Male summer tanagers are almost all red, with a gray/silver beak. Females, on the other hand, are nearly all yellow, making these birds as dimorphic as they get. Summer tanagers spend most of their time in the gaps and borders of open deciduous or pine-oak woods.

While on the move, these red birds will chase insects such as wasps, bees, and caterpillars, as well as consume fruits, tiny berries, and rare seeds.

Tanagers live for around 5 years in the wild, which is about average for other wild birds, while captive summer tanagers are likely to live longer, similar to most other birds.

Red crossbill

Red Crossbills are also rare in Illinois, primarily observed during the winter months. They are recognized for their distinct crossed bill, which they use to extract seeds from conifer cones.

Frequency in Illinois:  Red crossbills have been reported as 0% on Summer checklists and 0.5% on winter checklists by Birdswatchers of Illinois.

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  • Scientific name: Loxia curvirostra
  • Life span: Up to 10 years
  • Size: 15 cm (5.9 in)
  • Weight: 26-39 g
  • Origin: North America and Europe

Red Crossbills are recognizable by their reddish-orange feathers with grey wing feathers and beaks that tend to cross over one another as their name crossbill implies. Females, like summer tanagers, have a richer golden color with grey parts blended throughout.

Because of their urge and need to eat pine seeds, these crossbills spend most of their time in coniferous woods. Red crossbills may be found as long as there are pine trees around. This is why some of these birds may be found in heathlands.

Red crossbills eat spruce, pine, Douglas-fir, hemlock, larch, and tiny insects throughout their rather long lives of 8+ years in the wild.

Painted bunting

Painted Buntings are rare in Illinois but can be seen during the spring and fall migration seasons.

Frequency in Illinois:  Painted bunting has been reported as 0.2% on Summer checklists and 0% on winter checklists by Birdswatchers of Illinois.

  • Scientific name: Passerina ciris
  • Life span: Up to 8 years
  • Size: 11-13 cm (4.3-5.1 in)
  • Weight: 12-17 g
  • Origin: North America

With stunning blue, red, green, and yellow feathers, the Painted Bunting is one of the most colorful and spectacular kinds of birds, and it is a sight to see.
The Buntings, which are members of the Cardinal family, have a striking combination of colors, with vivid red feathers identifying the lower body. The females, on the other hand, are fully covered in green fur.
The brilliant songbirds often live in the woods and woodlands. They graze in swarms and sing lovely wandering melodies together. These birds are very social.
Pay attention to the metallic chip sounds if you’re attempting to locate these birds in the jungle.

White-winged Crossbill

White-winged Crossbills, similar to Red Crossbills, are rare in Illinois and can be seen during the winter months.

Frequency in Illinois:  White-winged Crossbills have been reported as 0% on Summer checklists and 0.5% on winter checklists by Birdswatchers of Illinois.

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  • Scientific name: Loxia leucoptera
  • Life span: Up to 4 years
  • Size: 5.9-6.7 in (15-17 cm)
  • Weight: 29 g
  • Origin: Northern parts of the United States

White-winged Crossbill finches have long, crossed beaks. Males have red wings and tails, as well as two white wing bars. Females have two white wing bands and are yellow and brown.

White-winged When cone harvests are weak farther north, Crossbills reside in woods in Canada, Alaska, and possibly northern US states. They may be seen munching on seeds in spruce woods.

Unlike other birds, these birds may reproduce at any time of year as long as there is adequate food. They are often heard in big groups.

Common Redpolls

Common Redpolls, like Red Crossbills, are rare in Illinois but can be spotted in winter.

Frequency in Illinois:  Common Redpolls have been reported as 0% on Summer checklists and 2% on winter checklists by Birdswatchers of Illinois.

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  • Scientific name: Acanthis flammea
  • Life span: 2 to 3 years
  • Size: 4.5 and 5.5 in
  • Weight: 12 and 16 grams
  • Origin: southern Canada and the northern states

These common redpolls are distinguished by their red, white, and brown plumage, which includes a red and white forehead and breast, as well as brown and white wings. Females have a little patch on their forehead as well, but the rest of their body is brown and white.

A common redpoll may be found in boreal woods of pines, spruces, and larches.

These birds consume seeds from birch, alder, and spruce trees, as well as a variety of tiny invertebrates such as caterpillars, beetles, flies, and so on.

The highest lifespan for a redpoll was roughly 7 years and 10 months, however, the majority of redpolls spend far shorter lives, between 4 and 5 years.

Pine Grosbeak

Pine Grosbeaks are rare in Illinois, mostly observed during winter. They stand out with their distinctive pink plumage and are popular among birdwatchers.

Frequency in Illinois:  Pine Grosbeaks have been reported as 0% on Summer checklists and 0.5% on winter checklists by Birdswatchers of Illinois.

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  • Scientific name: Pinicola enucleator
  • Life span: Up to 10 years
  • Size: 22-24 cm (8.7-9.4 in)
  • Weight: 40-80 g
  • Origin: Northern North America and Eurasia

Pine Grosbeaks are distinguished by their greyish-white wings and tail feathers, red body and head, and black beak and feet. Female grosbeaks are not nearly as colorful as males, having plumage that is mostly light grey with touches of orange around the body and tail.

Pine Grosbeaks spend most of their time in coniferous woodlands, where they may rest on a horizontal branch to hunt tiny insects, seeds, buds, berries, and other refreshing foods.

These birds have been observed to survive up to 9 years old, sometimes even longer, indicating that they have reasonably lengthy lifespans for birds of their size.

Hepatic tanager

Hepatic Tanagers, while rare in Illinois, have been spotted during the spring and fall migration seasons.

Frequency in Illinois:  Hepatic tanager is a rare visitor of Illinois and has been reported as less than 1% on the checklists by Birdswatchers of Florida.

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  • Scientific name: Piranga flava
  • Life span: Up to 7 years
  • Size: 18 cm (7.1 in)
  • Weight: 25-31 g
  • Origin: Western North America and Central America

The dark blood-red feathers, silver/gray beaks, and grey feet distinguish hepatic tanagers. Females are yellow, similar to summer tanagers. These birds mostly consume insects such as spiders, seeds, berries, and fruits.

These red birds may be found in open pine forests, especially in mixed pine-oak woodlands at higher altitudes.

Hepatic tanagers, like their summer counterparts, survive for around 5 years in the wild but may live for up to 11.9 years if they adapt well to their surroundings.

Final Thoughts on Red Birds in Illinois:

Illinois is a great place to see a variety of red birds in their natural habitat. With a mix of forests, prairies, and wetlands, there are many opportunities to observe these colorful birds. From the Northern Cardinal to the House finches, Illinois offers a wonderful chance for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts to spot these beautiful creatures.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What are the most common red birds in Illinois?

The two most common red birds found in Illinois are the Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) and the House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus). The Northern Cardinal, with its vibrant red plumage, is a year-round resident known for its melodious songs and frequent visits to feeders. The House Finch, while not entirely red, displays a reddish hue on its head, breast, and rump. It is also a common sight in Illinois, often seen in urban and suburban areas, as well as woodlands and grasslands. Both species bring a burst of color and charm to the Illinois birdwatching experience.

What red-headed birds can you see in Illinois?

In Illinois, you can spot several red-headed birds, including:

  • House Finch: Male House Finches display a reddish hue on their heads, chests, and rumps.
  • Red-headed Woodpecker: This woodpecker features a vibrant red head, neck, and throat.
  • Scarlet Tanager: The male Scarlet Tanager flaunts a red head and body, contrasting with black wings.
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker: While not entirely red-headed, it has a red cap on the back of its head.
  • Pileated Woodpecker: The Pileated Woodpecker boasts a red crest on its head, making it a striking sight.

Where are some good places to go birdwatching in Illinois?

Illinois is home to many great birdwatching spots, including the Shawnee National Forest, the Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge, and the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge.

What is the best time of year to spot red birds in Illinois?

The best time to spot red birds in Illinois is generally in the spring and summer months when they are more active and visible.

Are there any endangered red birds in Illinois?

While there are no endangered red birds in Illinois, there are some species, such as the Red-headed Woodpecker, that have experienced declines in population due to habitat loss and fragmentation. Conservation efforts are underway to protect these species and their habitats

I'm Nauman Afridi, the bird enthusiast behind Birdsology.com. My lifelong passion for birds has led me to create a space where fellow bird lovers can find valuable insights and tips on caring for our feathered friends.Professionally, I'm a brand strategist and digital marketing consultant, bringing a unique perspective to the world of bird care. Whether you're a novice or an experienced bird owner, Birdsology.com is designed to be a welcoming community for all.Feel free to explore, and reach out if you have any questions or just want to chat about birds.
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