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9 Red Birds in Ohio

red birds in ohio
House Finch in Licking, Ohio: Photo by Matthew Plante


Whether fluttering through backyards or flitting through forests, vibrant red plumage stands out against Ohio’s canvas of greenery. Ranging from woodpeckers and robins to finches and tanagers, a diversity of birds bearing rich ruby hues find homes across the Buckeye State. Let’s highlight some of Ohio’s beauties sporting sensational shades of crimson.

Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus

  • Features: Red nape and throat. Males have entire head painted bright red with clean white stripe under throat. Females also have full red head but white chin. Striking black and white checkerboard pattern across their backs. White belly and wing patches. Strong neck muscles to drum bill against trees.
  • Locations: Found in open woods with dead trees across Ohio. 
  • Fun Fact: Hawks insects in flight. Declined over 50% in past decades due to habitat loss. 

Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus)

  • Features: Red crown and nape. Black and white barred back. Subtle rufous belly.
  • Locations: Open forests, parks, suburbs, backyards year-round in Ohio.
  • Fun Fact: Makes a rolling chi-ki-ki-ki-ki call. Takes advantage of bird feeders.

American Robin (Turdus migratorius)

  • Features: Gray back, black head, orange-red breast. Males darker than females. 
  • Locations: Abundant across Ohio in open grassy areas. 
  • Fun Fact: Multibrooded songbird that eats earthworms and prouduces up to 3 clutches per year. 

House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus)

  • Features: Red head, breast and rump on males. Blunt conical beak. 
  • Locations: Abundant backyard bird feeder visitor across Ohio.
  • Fun Fact: Highly sociable native of the Southwest that now thrives statewide.

Purple Finch (Haemorhous purpureus

  • Features: Raspberry-red head and breast with streaked belly. Pointed bill.
  • Locations: Breeds in northern Ohio, winters southward. 
  • Fun Fact: Forages for seeds and buds in conifer forests with buzzy warbling song.

Common Redpoll (Acanthis flammea)

  • Features: Red cap, black chin on males. Streaked brown females. Tiny pointed bills. 
  • Locations: Winters in Ohio in irruptive flocks from boreal forests.
  • Fun Fact: Swarm bird feeders in busy groups eating thistle and niger seeds. 

Summer Tanager (Piranga rubra)

  • Features: Males have bright scarlet red bodies contrasting with black wings, tail, and lores (space between eye and bill). Their plumage really glows in sunlight.
  • Locations: Mature deciduous forests in breeding season. Winters in tropics.
  • Fun Fact: Eats bees, wasps, and other insects with buzzy, insect-like call.

Scarlet Tanager (Piranga olivacea)

  • Features: Vivid scarlet males with black wings, olive females.
  • Locations: High canopy of Ohio’s oak forests in summer.  
  • Fun Fact: Long distance migrant wintering in South America.

Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis

  • Features: Males all crimson with crest. Females brownish-red. Black masks. 
  • Locations: Year-round backyard and forest resident across Ohio.
  • Fun Fact: Sings loud, echoing what cheer cheer whistles.

Threats and Conservation

Habitat fragmentation from development reduces intact woods needed by many species. Pesticides diminish insect prey populations. Climate change disrupts migrations. Glass collisions and predatory cats take a heavy toll. Providing natural habitats, reducing use of chemicals, implementing bird-friendly architecture, and keeping pet cats indoors can protect these vivid birds. 

Citizen Science

Ohio birders make key contributions:

  • eBird sightings document distributions and trends.
  • Nest boxes for cavity nesters provide breeding data. 
  • Banding reveals migratory patterns and survivorship. 
  • Christmas Bird Counts tally winter finches.
  • Lifelong learning programs build bird ID skills.


Whether feeding in backyards or nesting in forests, Ohio’s stunning red birds provide year-round joy. Protecting natural habitats will ensure dazzling woodpeckers, robins, finches, tanagers and cardinals continue gracing the Buckeye State for generations to come.