13 Types Of RED BIRDS In Colorado (ID Guide With Photos)

Did you recently come across a red bird in Colorado, and want to know what species it was?

Identifying red-colored birds in Colorado is not as easy as it might seem, since there are many bird species in the Centennial State that are either completely red or partially red.

To help you identify the bird you saw, we’ll cover all the different red birds of Colorado

Types of red birds found in Colorado

What red birds are found in Colorado?

The 13 types of red birds found in Colorado are:

  • House Finch
  • Hepatic Tanager
  • Western Tanager
  • Cassin’s Finch
  • Pine Grosbeak
  • Red Crossbill
  • White-winged Crossbill
  • Common Redpoll
  • Red-headed Woodpecker
  • Red-naped Sapsucker
  • Northern Cardinal
  • Black Rosy-Finch
  • Brown-capped Rosy-Finch

Two of these Colorado birds are entirely red (the Northern Cardinal and Summer Tanager), while the others are partially red (more on that below).

Now let’s dive into the details, and take a closer look at each of these birds in order to get the full scoop:

House Finch

Scientific name: Haemorhous mexicanus

Photo of House Finch

House Finches are common birds in Colorado, and are mostly found in settled areas, ranging from small towns to large metropolitan centers.

Adult male House Finches can be identified by the bright red feathers on the head and upper breast, although in some cases they are slightly more orange or yellowish in color.

The females lack any red coloration, and instead have grayish streaks on a brown background.

The House Finch was originally a western bird, and it wasn’t until the 1940s that this bird was discovered in New York and other places on the east coast of the US.

These finches are the most common red birds found in Colorado

The eastern House Finch population began to grow in the 1950s and 60s, and by the year 2000, it had expanded so far west that it connected with the original western population.

The House Finch is entirely herbivorous, and feeds on seeds, buds, and fruits.

If you set up a bird feeder in your backyard, you can expect House Finches to be among the first birds to visit it.  

The House Finch is found in Colorado all year round, and while it is not a migratory bird, it does move to areas with more food outside of the breeding season.

Hepatic Tanager

Scientific name: Piranga flava

Photo of Hepatic Tanager adult male

The Hepatic Tanager is a brightly colored songbird that resembles the Summer Tanager.

Adult males are mostly red, with gray undertones behind their eyes and on their back, and this gray coloration distinguishes them from males of the Summer Tanager. 

Females, immature males, and juveniles, on the other hand, are predominantly yellow-colored Colorado birds, with a grayish color on their ear coverts and back.

If you’re lucky, you might be able to glimpse them in southern Colorado from May through August. They spend the remainder of the year in Mexico or Central America. 

And although these birds are not particularly shy, their colors mix in so perfectly with the foliage that they can be difficult to spot.

Western Tanager

Scientific name: Piranga ludoviciana

Photo of Western Tanager adult male

With its brilliant hues, male Western Tanagers are difficult to overlook.

Adult males have a black back, tail, and wings in the summer, with two yellow and white wingbars. Their bodies are yellow, while their head and throat are orange-red.

Females and juvenile birds have a similar appearance, but the yellow is duller and the red color is almost absent, with the exception of a speck near the base of the beak. 

The Western Tanager may be seen in northern Colorado during the breeding season from May to August. These exotically colored birds spend the remainder of the year in Central America.

Cassin’s Finch

Scientific name: Haemorhous cassinii

Photo of Cassin's Finch adult male

The Cassin’s Finch looks a lot like the Purple Finch, but is mostly found at higher altitudes than the latter.

Adult males have a raspberry red crown, chest, throat, and rump. Their neck and back are streaked brown, and their wings are somewhat darker with two pink wingbars and pale margins. 

Adult females and juveniles lack the reddish color and instead are brown with dark streaks on top and slightly darker wings with two pale wingbars.

The Cassin’s Finch prefers coniferous forests and can be seen all year in the mountainous habitat of northern Colorado. 

Outside of the breeding season, it forms flocks and sometimes visits lower elevations and more southern latitudes, especially in cold winters.

Red Crossbill

Scientific name: Loxia curvirostra

Photo of Red Crossbill

These birds get their name from their distinctive bills, which resemble a bent pair of scissors with their points crossed.

Adult males of this red bird have a deep red head, underside, and rump, while their wings and back are dark brown

Females and immature Red Crossbills are more inconspicuous, and are olive-colored with reddish streaks on their flanks and belly.

Red crossbills are able to harvest seeds from pine cones by cutting through the scales of the cones with their crossbill. 

They will use their feet to keep the cones pinned down while they use their tongues to pick the seeds out of the cones and then eat them.

These red birds breed in Canada and northern parts of the USA, and only show up as scarce winter visitors in Colorado.

The breeding season of these crossbills is timed to coincide with ripening of pine or spruce cones, and can sometimes start as early as February.

Pine Grosbeak

Scientific name: Pinicola enucleator

Photo of Pine Grosbeak adult male

The Pine Grosbeak is a red songbird with a short and stubby bill.

The adult males are red with varying amounts of gray on their sides and bellies. The tail and the wings are dark with two white wing bars.

Females are more drab, and have a more brownish yellow coloration compared to the males.

This red bird breeds in the mountainous regions of Colorado, where it is a year-round resident. 

During the cold season, there is an influx of northern Pine Grosbeaks that spend the winter in the state of Colorado.

White-winged Crossbill (Two-barred Crossbill)

Scientific name: Loxia leucoptera

Photo of White-winged Crossbill

Similar to other crossbills, the White-winged Crossbill has a cross-tipped beak.

Most of the body plumage of adult male White-winged Crossbills is pinkish red, although it is paler compared to the color of Red Crossbill males. 

The black wings have two white wing bars that are prominently visible (explaining the name of this crossbill).

The body of females is streaked with a yellowish color, but their wings are black with a wingbar pattern similar to that of males. 

White-winged Crossbills are largely non-migratory, and remain in the breeding range in Canada and northern and western states of the US all year round.

In Colorado, White-winged Crossbills are seen as scarce winter vagrants that are more abundant in some years.

Common Redpoll

Scientific name: Acanthis flammea

Photo of Common Redpoll adult male

The Common Redpoll is a small finch of northern forests. It is a breeding bird throughout Canada, and is an irregular winter visitor in northern Colorado during irruptive years.

Adult males have a gray-brown head with a red forehead, as well as a pinkish red breast and flanks.

Female Common Redpolls are less colorful, but they also have a red forehead. Both sexes have brown-gray upperparts with dark streaks.

This red-colored Colorado bird favors boreal forests all the way north to the arctic. 

Outside of the breeding season it forms small flocks that move around in search of areas with plentiful seeds.

Red-headed Woodpecker

Scientific name: Melanerpes erythrocephalus

Photo of Red-headed Woodpecker

The Red-headed Woodpecker is one of the few non-dimorphic woodpeckers, which means that males and females look alike.

Red Haded Woodpeckers have an all-red head with a solid black back. They also have a white chest, rump and belly, as well as black wings and a black tail. The bill and legs are gray.

In Colorado, no other woodpecker has an all red head. The Pileated Woodpecker has a head that is mostly black.

The Red-Headed Woodpecker favors wide-open deciduous or coniferous forest habitats, or forests with plenty of dead or rotten limbs.

It may use the same nest cavity for multiple years in a succession, in contrast to other woodpeckers that only use them once or for a small period of time.

This woodpecker used to be common in Colorado, but the population has unfortunately declined by more than 90 percent, and the Red-headed Woodpecker is now a rare sight in the Centennial State.

Red-naped Sapsucker

Scientific name: Sphyrapicus nuchalis

Red-naped Sapsucker

The Red-naped Sapsucker is another woodpecker species with striking red coloration on the head. Adult birds have a bright red nape plus a red throat.

The partially red coloration on their head makes it easy to tell them apart from Red-breasted Sapsuckers, which have completely red colored heads.

While the Red-naped Sapsucker is a rare breeding bird in the mountains of Colorado, it is more common during the winter months, when it can be seen wintering throughout southern Colorado.

Northern Cardinal

Scientific name: Cardinalis cardinalis

Photo of Northern Cardinal

While the Northern Cardinal is one of the most well known red birds in North America, it is a rare breeding bird in Colorado and only occurs in a small part of the easternmost edge of the state.

Male Northern Cardinals have a bright crimson red color almost all over, with a slightly darker red on their back and wing feathers.

In addition, the face has a black mask extending from the bright red bill to the throat.

Female Northern Cardinals are not quite as colorful as males, and have a more buff-brown body color with some reddish tinges, although they also have a bright red bill. 

During the winter months it doesn’t defend its territory, and sometimes gathers in flocks of up to 25 individuals that feed together. This bird is a regular visitor at bird feeders.

Black Rosy-Finch

Scientific name: Leucosticte atrata

Photo of Black Rosy-Finch adult male

The Black Rosy-Finch is a plump, beautifully colored bird of the Rocky Mountains.

Male birds have predominantly black feathers on their bodies, as well as a pinkish red belly, pink patches on their wings, and a gray head.

Female birds have more subdued hues, and  juvenile birds are gray with two pink bands and pale margins on the flying feathers.

The Black Rosy-Finch spends the entire year in the montane habitats of Colorado, although it migrates to lower elevations during the winter when there is heavy snowfall.

Outside of the mating season, it likes to congregate in groups and that forage for seeds on the ground.

Brown-capped Rosy-Finch

Scientific name: Leucosticte australis

Photo of Brown-capped Rosy-Finch adult male

The Brown-capped Rosy-Finch is a tough bird found in high-altitude mountainous environments of eastern Colorado. 

Male birds have a black crown, and are cinnamon-brown on their back and head, contrasting with reddish pink feathers on their wings, back, and belly.

Female and juvenile birds have more uniform grayish brown feathers with very little pink. 

The Brown-capped Rosy-Finch is an alpine specialist in Colorado, and spends the entire year in the eastern Rocky Mountains, and outside of the Centennial State it only occurs in New Mexico.

During the cold season this bird forms small flocks that perform altitude migrations to lower heights in response to heavy snowfall in the Rockies. 

What are the red headed birds of Colorado?

There are two types of red headed birds in Colorado:

  • House Finch
  • Red-headed Woodpecker

The most common red headed bird in Colorado is the House Finch. Keep in mind though that only males have a red head, while females are gray brown.

However, the most stunning red headed bird in Colorado is the Red-headed Woodpecker, but unfortunately these birds have become quite rare over the past decades.

What are the small red birds found in Colorado?

Small red-colored birds found in Colorado are most often House Finches, which are common statewide. Males can be readily identified by their reddish head, upper chest, and back

However, during the cold season another small bird in Colorado that is largely red is the Common Redpoll, which is a scarce winter visitor in the state, but sometimes shows up in large numbers during irruptive years. 

How to attract birds to your yard in Colorado

The top 5 things you can do to attract red birds to your yard are as follows:

  • Set up a feeder with sunflower seeds or a seed mix
  • Set up a bird bath
  • Plant shrubs to provide nesting opportunities
  • Plant native fruiting plants
  • In order to attract fruit-eating birds, offer apples or berries at your feeder

Observing birds at a bird feeder can be one of the most fun ways to practice bird watching from the comfort of your own home.

Final remarks

This concludes our article on the types of red songbirds found in Colorado.

If you’ve spotted one of these red birds while bird watching in your backyard, hopefully this ID guide will help you identify it quickly and easily.

And if you enjoyed this article, check out our guide to the large birds of Colorado.