12 Birds That Spend Their Winters in Illinois

Il Winter birds
© A-Z-Animals.com/AZ Animals

Written by Niccoy Walker

Published: November 27, 2023

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Not only does Illinois have many year-round residents, but it also gets an influx of visitors during the winter, especially in the southern part of the state. From cardinals and jays to hawks and woodpeckers, there are plenty of birds to watch during the cold, snowy season. Check out these 12 common birds that spend their winter in Illinois and learn about their locations and habitats.

1. House Sparrow

house sparrow

House sparrows are abundant across Illinois and live around human dwellings.

©Steve Byland/Shutterstock.com

Across Illinois, the house sparrow is a permanent resident. These birds adapt easily to new environments and can be found in many habitats, such as cities, suburbs, and farms. In fact, you are more likely to see house sparrows near manmade structures than in unaltered natural environments.

2. Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinal Mates Perched

Northern cardinals live near woodland edges, towns, and suburban gardens.

©Bonnie Taylor Barry/Shutterstock.com

The northern cardinal is the state bird of Illinois, so it’s no surprise these brilliant birds stick around for the cold. Like other resident birds, cardinals must find enough food to offset the energy they lose from keeping warm. You are likely to find this species near woodland edges and thickets, but you can also spot them in towns and suburban gardens.

3. Dark-Eyed Junco

dark-eyed junco perched in tree during winter

Juncos are sometimes called snowbirds.

©iStock.com/Jeff Huth

The chatty and active dark-eyed junco is a winter visitor in Illinois who leaves the state during the spring. These round, petite birds prefer open woods, lawns, grasslands, and cornfields in Illinois. However, their spring and summer homes are woodland-oriented.

4. Downy Woodpecker

Downy woodpecker searching through weeds for food

Downy woodpeckers are common at bird feeders.

©J Edwards Photography/Shutterstock.com

The downy woodpecker is another year-round resident of Illinois and is among one of the first birds to nest in the state during the spring. These woodpeckers are common and widespread, inhabiting forests, woodlots, orchards, and suburban backyards. Downy woodpeckers are a familiar sight at bird feeders.

5. Pine Siskin

Pine siskin perched at the end of a pine branch against a blurred background

Pine siskins weigh 0.4 to 0.6 ounces and measure 4.3 to 5.5 inches long.

©Menno Schaefer/Shutterstock.com

While some pine siskins stay all year in Illinois, most only spend winters in the state. These birds live in woodlands and weedy areas, but you can also find them in urban areas and backyard feeders in the winter.

6. Black-Capped Chickadee

A Black-Capped Chickadee sits on a snowy branch



s are permanent residents in northern Illinois.


The black-capped chickadee is a common and permanent resident in the northern half of Illinois. You can find this bird in the dunes near Lake Michigan or in deciduous and mixed forests. These birds are tiny yet lively and known for their “black caps.”

7. European Starling

European starling one single bird perching sitting on bare tree branch during winter snow closeup in Virginia isolated with plumage pattern

European starlings are common and widespread in Illinois, but they are not a native species.

©Kristi Blokhin/Shutterstock.com

While not a native species to the state, the first European starling was spotted in Illinois in 1922. Today, these birds are permanent residents across most habitats in the state, except for heavily forested regions.

8. American Crow

American crow

American crows are one of the most common and abundant bird in Illinois.


This large, entirely black bird is a permanent resident and common across all areas of Illinois. American crows are abundant in the state and stay within its boundaries year-round. You can often spot them in treetops, fields, towns, and roadsides.

9. American Kestrel

American Kestrel Male Facing Left Landscape View

American kestrels are the smallest falcons in the state.


The American kestrel is the smallest species of falcon in Illinois, where it is commonly seen in every season throughout the state. This bird of prey prefers urban areas, agricultural fields, and grassy medians along the road.

10. Red-Bellied woodpecker

red bellied woodpecker on very end of branch

As confusing as the red head may be, the red-bellied


does, in fact, have a red belly.


Red-bellied woodpeckers live permanently across Illinois, including in the winter. These birds prefer open woodlands and may move around locally during the cold months to find a good food supply.

11. Red-Tailed Hawk

A Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) perched on a pole

Red-tailed hawks soar near waterways during migration.

©Richard G Smith/Shutterstock.com

While some individuals may move out of the state during winter, others remain all-year. You can find red-tailed hawks across the state during any time of the year but are especially common near waterways in February. You can also find them perched in trees, fence posts, and light poles.

12. White-Breasted Nuthatch

Close-up of a White-breasted Nuthatch

White-breasted nuthatches live statewide throughout the year.

©J. A. Mikulich/Shutterstock.com

The white-breasted nuthatch is another permanent resident of Illinois. This tiny bird inhabits environments across the state, where it lives in deciduous woodlands. However, this species also likes to visit nest boxes during the breeding season.

A Summary of the 12 Birds That Spend Their Winters in Illinois

NumberBirds That Spend Their Winters in Illinois
#1House sparrow
#2Northern cardinal
#3Dark-eyed junco
#4Downy woodpecker
#5Pine siskin
#6Black-capped chickadee
#7European starling
#8American crow
#9American kestrel
#10Red-bellied woodpecker
#11Red-tailed hawk
#12White-breasted nuthatch

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About the Author

Niccoy is a professional writer for A-Z Animals, and her primary focus is on birds, travel, and interesting facts of all kinds. Niccoy has been writing and researching about travel, nature, wildlife, and business for several years and holds a business degree from Metropolitan State University in Denver. A resident of Florida, Niccoy enjoys hiking, cooking, reading, and spending time at the beach.

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