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7 Beautiful Red Birds in Indiana

red birds in indiana
Summer Tanager in Marion, Indiana: Photo by Peter F.


Indiana’s landscapes from sweeping farms to fragmented forests nurture over 450 diverse and remarkable bird species. Among favorite backyard visitors, red birds hold special favor for their brilliant crimson hues brightening gardens as cardinals visit feeders or Scarlet Tanagers transit migration over homesteads statewide. This piece explores 7 red birds in Indiana.

Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis)

  • Features: Stocky stiff-tailed diving duck with rusty red spiked head, nape and breast markings on the male set off by crisp white cheeks and striking sky blue bill most visible while breeding before their annual molt into eclipse plumage. 
  • Locations: Found on migration or wintering on Indiana’s larger lakes and reservoirs with ample foraging opportunities. Forms large compact rafts protecting against eagle predation.
  • Fun Fact: Courting males perform bubbly chatter calls inflating cheek pouches into vibrant azure erectile tissue as they splash water with their tail end deliberately enticing females towards eventual copulation concluding their noisy mechanical mating rituals.

American Robin (Turdus migratorius)

  • Features: Portly red-breasted thrush tugging pale roundworms from recently watered plots as this familiar species announces the annual return of spring beside prolific mud cupped woven nests filled with green-blue eggs transiently laid upthrice seasonally once fruit trees bloom signaling ample breeding and rearing provender.  
  • Locations: Remaining abundant year-round everywhere from backyards through most any forest or field offering suitable insects paired with berry crops these omnivorous birds relish including parenthood affording occasional spilled feed sampling when timidly visiting well-stocked platform offerings.  
  • Fun Fact: Early returning males jockey vigorously against neighbors endlessly repeating melody phrases claiming fertile breeding grounds where their boisterous performances may attract admiring females inspecting each singer’s woodland fitness. 

House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus)

  • Features: Red washed male faces and breasts descend lighter streaked flanks below with females showing far plainer overall hues frequenting backyard feeders swallowing smaller seeds. Sweet steady male warbling features simpler phrases than the Purple Finch.
  • Locations: Permanent fixtures inhabiting most Indiana settings including farms, suburbs or parks with ensconced food sources and ample vegetation supporting concealed nesting since these opportunistic birds expanded recently from the Southwest towards the Eastern Seaboard.
  • Fun Fact: Courting males offer nourishing displays provisioning seed snacks bestowing paternal quality proofs towards selective females invited to assess each suitor’s nest protection capacities.  

Purple Finch (Haemorhous purpureus

  • Features: Male’s raspberry plumage topping their grayer blended bodies and paler female coats ornament these northern visitors wintering throughout Indiana to adorn boreal conifer lands producing ample pine and spruce seed crops these specialist feeders favor cracking easily open.  
  • Locations: Despite subarctic Canadian breeding provenance, yearly snowbird migrants escape harsher boreal climes across Alberta through Quebec provinces further descending scattered copses sprinkled south towards the Ohio River where ample conifer stands attract flocks towards temporary southern forests.
  • Fun Fact: Spring breeding males woo partners by pursuit chasing them through soaring pines while crooning lilting lyrical songs giving them the playful musical moniker of delivering the “purple finch go spark your heels!” courtship sonnets. 

Summer Tanager (Piranga rubra)  

  • Features: Brilliant velvet red breeding males nearly glow like festive holiday bows contrasted only slightly by darker brick red wings not quite matching the far plainer gray mate’s modest olive yellow spring coat accented in dingier red tones along the wings and tail.  
  • Locations: Found nesting statewide across light lowland Yellowhammer forests from April through the summer before their awkward muted flight bouts transport these migrants towards wintering neo-tropical realms clustered closer towards the equator.
  • Fun Fact: Their staccato raspy songs sometimes interspersed in pairs separates their haunting spring vocalizations from the smoother Scarlet Tanager melodies. Pairs occasionally snatch stinging intruders like bees carrying them awkwardly towards hungry screeching nestlings.

Scarlet Tanager (Piranga olivacea)

  • Features: Dazzling solid crimson red males stand out dramatically amid emerald green leafed canopy trees during spring pair reunions. Less vibrant olive yellow ladies fly closely nearby probably better camouflaged against yesterday’s faded foliage but somehow suddenly gaudier today against the forest’s fresh verdant new growth.  
  • Locations: Found breeding by late April across mature Indiana deciduous forests with openings below the arboreal levels required for their noted awkward flight bouts ferrying insects towards ravenous chicks. These neotropical songbirds overwinter down along the Andes slopes and Amazon basin. 
  • Fun Fact: Committed pairs reunite on northern nesting grounds after staggered spring migrations with females typically arriving few weeks later than their earlier restless mates whose blood red hues may still fade effectiveness becoming harder visible by fall when both sexes undergo full molting of feathers before combined winter flocks descend back to warmer climes.   

Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)

  • Features: Official Indiana state bird remains crested red males and dusty brown females visiting feeders sideways whose thick cone bills forage various seeds. Vocal males sing metallic slurred whistles proclaiming backyard territories defending nests that their muted partners carefully conceal low hidden inside dense shrubs come late April. 
  • Locations: Found everywhere year-round breeding across woodland fringes into most parks and suburban yards where doggedly they thrive thanks gifted offerings allowing some snowbirds to remain through the winter rather than joining larger nomadic flocks migrating south towards the Gulf.  
  • Fun Fact: Monogamous pairs aggressively defend prime egg laying grounds from intruders like squirrels, deer and competitive other cardinal pairs. Though less showy, both parents dutifully share chick hatching duties and then exhaustively work together finding protein deliveries balancing their nestlings’ fruit diet.

Threats and Conservation

Myriad issues impact wild birds: expanding urbanization destroying essential habitats plus outdoor felines preying heavily on fledglings and nest raiders eating eggs. Glass windows also kill many migrants. Careful planning mitigating threats retains stability across fragile populations losing dwellings.

Citizen Science Makes a Difference  

Public data supports smarter decisions:  

  • Uploading checklists on platforms such as eBird to aid in tracking regional trends to inform management  
  • Mapping nest locations revealing shifting ranges  
  • Studying threats uncovers interventions like installing deflective window striping preventing collisions
  • Promoting environmental ethics develops future conservation committed generations


Hoosiers champion amazing bird diversity across beloved forests and backyard habitats tallying over 450 wild nesting plus migrating species. Northern Cardinals endear themselves on branded merchandise yet the Scarlet Tanager steals seasonal acclaim disappearing like dazzling liquid garnets poured from the heavens contrasting jet black wings stirring devotees briefly to admire these neotropical beauties passing through despite their camouflaged olive mates. Preserving suitable habitat remains essential for their return.