white birds in Michigan

13 amazing white birds in Michigan 

Michigan, the Great Lakes State, is home to a mesmerizing array of amazing white birds in michigan. Among these feathered marvels, there exists a distinguished group of birds that stand out with their ethereal beauty and grace—the stunning 13 white birds of Michigan. Like floating visions in the sky, these magnificent creatures captivate our imagination and leave us in awe of nature’s splendour. 

Join us on a captivating journey as we unveil the secrets of 13 amazing white birds that grace the Michigan skies, each one a living testament to the breath-taking diversity of our natural world. Prepare to be enthralled by their elegance, serenity, and the stories they carry within their wings. 

Research and Identify: Start by researching the 13 amazing white birds in Michigan that you are interested in observing. Learn about their habitats, preferred locations, and migration patterns. Familiarize yourself with their physical characteristics and distinct behaviours to easily identify them in the wild.

  • Choose the Right Season: Different white birds may be more visible during specific seasons. Find out the optimal time to observe each species in Michigan. For some, it may be during their breeding season, while others may be more prominent during migration.
  • Locate Suitable Habitats: White birds can be found in various habitats, such as wetlands, marshes, lakeshores, and forests. Identify the specific locations where these birds are commonly seen in Michigan. Local birding guides, online resources, and wildlife organizations can provide valuable information.
  • Visit Nature Reserves and Parks: Michigan boasts numerous nature reserves and parks that provide protected habitats for birds. Visit these areas known for their biodiversity and avian populations. Look for wetland areas, as they often attract a wide range of bird species.
  • Equip Yourself with Binoculars and a Field Guide: Binoculars are essential for observing birds from a distance without disturbing their natural behaviour. Invest in a good pair of binoculars that provide clear and detailed views. Carry a field guide specific to Michigan birds to help you identify the white bird species you encounter.
  • Be Patient and Quiet: Observing birds in their natural habitat requires patience and silence. Birds are sensitive to noise and sudden movements. Find a comfortable spot, settle in, and allow the birds to become accustomed to your presence. Remain quiet and still to avoid alarming them.
  • Observe from a Distance: It’s crucial to maintain a respectful distance from the birds to avoid causing stress or disturbance. Use your binoculars to get a closer look while keeping a safe distance that allows the birds to behave naturally.
  • Learn Bird Calls and Songs: Bird calls and songs are unique to each species and can aid in identifying them. Familiarize yourself with the distinctive calls of the white birds you wish to observe. Online resources, mobile apps, or field guides can help you learn and recognize these vocalizations.
  • Respect Wildlife and Their Environment: While observing white birds, remember to respect their natural habitat and follow ethical guidelines. Avoid littering, disturbing nesting areas, or interfering with their behaviour. Keep a safe distance from nesting sites and refrain from disturbing their nests or eggs.
  • Join Birding Groups or Workshops: Consider joining local birding groups, attending workshops, or guided birding tours in Michigan. These opportunities can provide valuable insights, expert guidance, and the chance to connect with fellow birding enthusiasts.
  • Keep a Field Journal: Maintain a field journal to document your observations, including date, time, location, weather conditions, and species sightings. Recording your experiences can enhance your understanding of white birds and contribute to citizen science initiatives.
  • Practice Responsible Photography: If you wish to capture photographs of the white birds, do so responsibly. Avoid disturbing or getting too close to the birds for the sake of a picture. Respect their space and behaviour, and remember that their welfare should always come first.
  • Enjoy the Experience: Bird watching is not just about ticking off species from a list. It’s a chance to immerse you in nature, appreciate its beauty, and develop a deeper connection with the avian world. Take the time to marvel at the elegance of these amazing white birds and relish the experience of observing them in their natural environment.

List of 13 amazing white birds in Michigan: 

  1. Great Egret
  2. Tundra Swan
  3. Mute Swan
  4. American White Ibis
  5. Trumpeter Swan
  6. Cattle Eget
  7. Snow Bunting
  8. Snow Goose
  9. Snowy Owl
  10. Iceland Gull
  11. Whooper Swan
  12. Ring-Billed Gull
  13. Ross’s Goose

1. Great Egret

Great Egret
Great Egret

Scientific name: Ardea alba

Size: The Great Egret is a large bird, measuring 37-40.9 inches (94-104 cm) in length. 

How to identify: Great Egrets are all white, with black legs and a yellow bill. Their plumage is very bright and clean, and they do not have any other markings.

Habitat: Great Egrets are found in a variety of wetland habitats, including lakes, rivers, marshes, and even golf courses. They are most common in areas with shallow water, where they can easily stalk their prey.

Diet: Great Egrets are carnivores and their diet consists mainly of fish, but they will also eat amphibians, reptiles, small mammals, and invertebrates. They are opportunistic feeders and will take whatever prey is available.

Some of the most common prey items for Great Egrets in Michigan include:

  • Fish: Small fish such as minnows, shad, and sunfish are a staple of the Great Egret’s diet.
  • Frogs: Frogs are another common prey item for Great Egrets. They will eat both tadpoles and adult frogs.
  • Snakes: Small snakes are occasionally eaten by Great Egrets.
  • Small mammals: Small mammals such as mice and voles are also eaten by Great Egrets, but they are not as common as fish or frogs.
  • Invertebrates: Invertebrates such as crayfish, shrimp, and insects are also eaten by Great Egrets.

Lifespan: The lifespan of a Great Egret in Michigan is typically 10-15 years in the wild.

Wingspan: The wingspan of a Great Egret in Michigan is typically 51.6-57.1 inches (131-145 cm).

Calls: The Great Egret is a relatively quiet bird, but it does make a few different calls. The most common call is a low, guttural croak. This call is often made during the breeding season, and it is used to communicate with other Great Egrets.

Great Egrets also make a high-pitched squawk. This call is typically made when they are alarmed or excited.

Seasons: Here is a breakdown of the seasons for Great Egrets in Michigan:

  • Winter: Great Egrets are less common in Michigan during the winter, but they can still be seen in some areas. They may migrate to warmer southern regions, but they may also stay in Michigan if the winter is mild.
  • Spring: Great Egrets start to return to Michigan in the spring, usually in March. They begin to breed during this time, and their nests can be found in trees or shrubs near water.
  • Summer: Great Egrets are most common in Michigan during the summer. They are busy breeding and raising their young during this time.
  • Fall: Great Egrets start to migrate south in the fall, usually in September or October. However, some birds may stay in Michigan if the fall is warm.

2. Tundra Swan

 Tundra Swan
Tundra Swan

Scientific name: Cygnus columbianus.

Size: Adult Tundra Swans typically measure between 48 and 58 inches (122 and 147 cm) in length. 

How to identify: Tundra Swans are white all over, except for their black legs and feet. Their bills are black, with a small yellow spot at the base.

Habitat: Tundra Swans are found in wetlands and lakes throughout North America. They are migratory birds, and they winter in coastal areas.

Diet: Tundra Swans are omnivores, and their diet consists of a variety of plants and animals. Their main food sources include:

  • Aquatic plants, such as pondweeds, sedges, and algae
  • Insects, such as dragonfly larvae, water beetles, and mosquitoes
  • Small fish
  • Grains, such as corn and wheat

Lifespan: The lifespan of a Tundra Swan in Michigan is typically between 25 and 30 years.

Wingspan: The wingspan of a Tundra Swan in Michigan is typically between 72 and 84 inches (183 and 213 cm).

Calls: Tundra Swans make a variety of calls, including:

  • A high-pitched, whistling call: This is the most common call of the Tundra Swan, and it is often used to communicate with other swans.
  • A low-pitched, trumpeting call: This call is used by males to attract mates, and it can be heard for long distances.
  • A hissing sound: This sound is used by swans to defend themselves or their young.
  • A kuk-kuk call: This call is used by parents to communicate with their cygnets.

Seasons: 

Season Description 
SummerTundra Swans breed in the Arctic tundra during the summer months. They build nests on the ground, and they lay 3 to 7 eggs. The eggs hatch after about 30 days, and the young swans are able to fly after about 75 days.
FallTundra Swans begin their migration south in the fall. They typically travel in large flocks, and they can be seen flying overhead in Michigan during October and November.
WinterTundra Swans spend the winter in Michigan. They can be found in a variety of wetland habitats, including lakes, rivers, and marshes. They feed on aquatic plants and insects, and they are an important part of the Michigan ecosystem.
SpringTundra Swans begin their migration north in the spring. They typically travel in smaller flocks than they do in the fall, and they can be seen flying overhead in Michigan during March and April.

3. Mute Swan

Mute Swan
Mute Swan

Scientific name: Cygnus olor.

Size: The mute swan is a large bird, measuring 125 to 160 cm (49 to 63 in) in length. 

How to identify: Mute swans are white in color, with an orange bill and a black knob on the top of the bill. They have long necks and legs, and they are graceful swimmers.

Habitat: Mute swans are found in freshwater habitats, such as lakes, ponds, and rivers. They are also known to inhabit coastal areas, such as estuaries and bays. In Michigan, mute swans are most commonly found in the following areas:

  • The Great Lakes region
  • The Saginaw Bay watershed
  • The Lower Peninsula
  • The Upper Peninsula

Diet: Mute swans are herbivores, and their diet consists primarily of aquatic plants. They will also eat insects, small fish, and grain.

In Michigan, the most common food items for mute swans are:

  • Aquatic plants: Mute swans eat a wide variety of aquatic plants, including pondweed, coontail, water lilies, and eelgrass. They use their long necks to reach underwater plants, and they can also uproot plants by swimming over them.
  • Insects: Mute swans will eat insects, such as dragonflies, damselflies, and mosquitoes. They will also eat small fish, such as minnows and shiners.
  • Grain: Mute swans will eat grain, such as wheat, corn, and oats. They will often feed on grain that has been spilled from boats or farms.

Lifespan: The lifespan of a mute swan in Michigan is typically 20-30 years.

Wingspan: The wingspan of a mute swan in Michigan can range from 79 to 94 centimetres (200 to 240 centimetres), or 2 to 2.4 meters.

Calls: Mute swans are not very vocal birds, and they do not make the loud trumpeting calls that trumpeter swans do. However, they do make a variety of other calls, including:

  • Grunts: Mute swans make grunting noises when they are feeding or when they are interacting with other swans.
  • Snort: Mute swans snort when they are alarmed or when they are defending their territory.
  • Whistles: Mute swans whistle when they are courting or when they are calling to their young.

Seasons: Here is a breakdown of the seasons when mute swans can be found in Michigan:

  • Spring: Mute swans begin to arrive in Michigan in the spring, typically in April or May. This is when they start to build their nests and lay eggs.
  • Summer: Mute swans are most common in Michigan during the summer months, from June to August. This is when they raise their young and molt their feathers.
  • Fall: Mute swans start to migrate south in the fall, typically in September or October. They typically overwinter in southern states, such as Florida and Texas.
  • Winter: A few mute swans may stay in Michigan during the winter, but most of them migrate south.

4. American White Ibis

American White Ibis
American White Ibis

Scientific name: Eudocimus albus.

Size: The American white ibis is a medium-sized wading bird that measures 53 to 70 centimetres (21 to 28 inches) in length. 

How to identify: American white ibises are large, long-legged wading birds with an overall white plumage, bright red-orange down-curved bill and long legs, and black wing tips that are usually only visible in flight. Males are larger and have longer bills than females.

Habitat: In Michigan, American white ibises can be found in a variety of habitats, including:

  • Wetlands: American white ibises are often found in wetlands, such as marshes, swamps, and bogs. These habitats provide them with shallow water to wade in and plenty of food to eat.
  • Marshes: Marshes are a great habitat for American white ibises because they provide them with shallow water to wade in and plenty of food to eat. Marshes are also home to a variety of other wildlife, which makes them a great place for American white ibises to find food.
  • Open fields: American white ibises can also be found in open fields, especially if there is water nearby. They will often feed in fields that have been recently flooded or that have been planted with crops.

Diet: American white ibises are omnivores and eat a variety of foods, including insects, crustaceans, small fish, and amphibians. They are often seen wading in shallow water or feeding in fields and marshes. They are also known to scavenge for food, and they will sometimes eat garbage or dead animals.

The diet of American white ibises in Michigan varies depending on the season. In the summer, they typically eat a diet of insects, crustaceans, and small fish. In the winter, they may switch to a diet of berries, seeds, and other plant material.

Lifespan: The lifespan of American white ibises in Michigan is typically 15 to 20 years in the wild.

Wingspan: The wingspan of an American white ibis in Michigan is typically 90 to 105 centimetres (35 to 41 inches).

Calls: American white ibises make a variety of calls, including grunts, growls, and a honking sound that is transcribed as “urnk, urnk,” or “hunk, hunk.” The calls are used in flight, courtship, and when disturbed.

  • The honking sound is the most common call of the American white ibis. It is used to communicate with other ibises, and it can also be used as a warning call when predators are nearby.
  • The grunts and growls are used in courtship and during aggressive interactions. They are also used by parents to communicate with their young.
  • The calls of the American white ibis are not as loud as the calls of some other birds, such as herons and egrets. However, they can still be heard over a distance, especially when there are a large number of ibises together.

Seasons: American white ibises are found in Michigan year-round, but their numbers are highest during the spring and summer months. In the spring, they arrive in Michigan to breed. They typically nest in colonies, often in large trees or on man-made structures. The breeding season lasts from March to April.

  • After the breeding season, American white ibises disperse and can be found throughout Michigan. They are most common in the southern part of the state, but they can also be found in the northern part of the state, especially in areas with wetlands.
  • In the fall, American white ibises begin to migrate south. They typically leave Michigan in October and November. They winter in the south-eastern United States, Mexico, and Central America.

5. Trumpeter Swan

Trumpeter Swan
Trumpeter Swan

Scientific name: Cygnus buccinator

Size: Adults usually measure 138–165 cm (4 ft 6 in – 5 ft 5 in) long, though large males can exceed 180 cm (5 ft 11 in) in total length.

How to identify: Trumpeter Swans are pure white, except for their black legs and feet. Their bills are black with a yellow knob at the base.

Habitat: Trumpeter Swans are found in a variety of habitats in Michigan, including:

  • Lakes: Trumpeter Swans are often seen on large lakes, such as Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. They prefer lakes with shallow areas where they can feed on aquatic plants.
  • Rivers: Trumpeter Swans can also be found on rivers, such as the Detroit River and the Saginaw River. They often nest on islands in rivers, where they are safe from predators.
  • Marshes: Trumpeter Swans are also found in marshes, such as the Saginaw Bay Marsh and the Au Sable River Marsh. They prefer marshes with abundant aquatic vegetation.
  • Wetlands: Trumpeter Swans can also be found in wetlands, such as the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge and the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge. They prefer wetlands with open water and plenty of food.

Diet: Trumpeter Swans are omnivorous and eat a variety of plants and animals. Their diet varies depending on the season and the availability of food.

  • In the summer, Trumpeter Swans eat mostly aquatic plants, such as pondweed, water lilies, and cattails. They also eat insects, such as dragonflies, mosquitoes, and beetles. 
  • In the winter, Trumpeter Swans may eat more grains and seeds, as well as small mammals, such as mice and voles.

Lifespan: The lifespan of a Trumpeter Swan in Michigan is typically 24-30 years in the wild. 

Wingspan: The wingspan of a Trumpeter Swan in Michigan can range from 185 to 250 centimetre’s (6 ft 2 in to 8 ft 2 in).

Calls: Trumpeter Swans also make a variety of other calls, including:

  • A single-syllable “hoo” call: This call is used to locate other swans.
  • A soft, nasal honking: This call is used to keep the pair or family together.
  • A hissing or growling sound: This call is used as a warning or to defend their territory.

Seasons: Trumpeter Swans are present in Michigan year-round, but their numbers fluctuate depending on the season.

  • In the spring, Trumpeter Swans return to Michigan from their wintering grounds. They begin to pair up and build nests. The breeding season for Trumpeter Swans runs from April to June.
  • In the summer, Trumpeter Swans are busy raising their young. The cygnets (baby swans) are born in June and July. They fledge (learn to fly) in August or September.
  • In the fall, Trumpeter Swans begin to migrate to their wintering grounds. They typically leave Michigan in October or November.
  • In the winter, Trumpeter Swans can be found in a variety of habitats in Michigan, including lakes, rivers, and wetlands. They often congregate in large flocks on open water.

6. Cattle Eget

Cattle Eget
Cattle Eget

Scientific name: Bubulcus ibis

Size: The size of the cattle egret in Michigan is about 18-22 inches long. 

How to identify: Nonbreeding adult cattle egrets are all white with a yellow bill and greyish-yellow legs. During the breeding season, adults of the nominate western subspecies develop orange-buff plumes on the back, breast, and crown, and the bill, legs, and irises become bright red for a brief period prior to pairing.

Habitat: Cattle egrets are often seen in fields and pastures, where they follow cattle and other livestock to feed on the insects that are disturbed by the animals’ hooves. They can also be found in wetlands, marshes, and other open areas.

Diet: Cattle egrets are opportunistic feeders and will eat a variety of food items, including:

  • Insects: Cattle egrets are primarily insectivores and will eat a wide variety of insects, including grasshoppers, crickets, flies, beetles, and moths. They will also eat spiders, worms, and other small invertebrates.
  • Fish: Cattle egrets will sometimes eat fish, especially in wetland habitats. They will often wade in shallow water to catch fish, or they will pick fish out of the water that have been disturbed by other animals.
  • Frogs: Cattle egrets will also eat frogs, especially in wetland habitats. They will often stand still in shallow water, waiting for a frog to hop by. They will also pick frogs out of the water that have been disturbed by other animals.
  • Small mammals: Cattle egrets will sometimes eat small mammals, such as mice and rats. They will typically only eat small mammals that are already dead or injured.
  • Other birds: Cattle egrets will sometimes eat other birds, especially young birds. They will typically only eat small birds that are already dead or injured.

Lifespan: The lifespan of a cattle egret in Michigan is typically 15-20 years.

Wingspan: The wingspan of a cattle egret in Michigan is typically 34-38 inches.

Calls: Cattle egrets make a variety of calls, including:

  • Raking call: This is a low-pitched, raspy call that is made by both sexes. It is often used to communicate with other cattle egrets, especially during breeding season.
  • Squawk call: This is a high-pitched, squeaky call that is made by both sexes. It is often used as a warning call or to express excitement.
  • Hissing call: This is a low-pitched, hissing call that is made by both sexes. It is often used as a threat or to defend a territory.
  • Purring call: This is a soft, purring call that is made by both sexes. It is often used as a greeting call or to express contentment.

Seasons:

Season Description 
SpringLate April to September
SummerMay to September
FallOctober to November
WinterOccasional sightings

7. Snow Bunting

 Snow Bunting
Snow Bunting

Scientific name: Plectrophenax nivalis.

Size: The size of a snow bunting in Michigan is typically 6-7 inches long. 

How to identify: Here are some key features to look for:

  • White plumage with black markings: Snow buntings are white all over, except for their black head, wings, and tail. In the summer, the male snow bunting’s plumage becomes more colourful, with a black head and chest, and a white belly.
  • Round body: Snow buntings have a round body shape, with a short neck and a long tail.
  • Short legs: Snow buntings have short legs, which helps them to stay warm in the winter.
  • Long, slender bill: Snow buntings have a long, slender bill, which they use to pick seeds and insects from the ground.
  • Black-and-white wing patch: Snow buntings always have a black-and-white wing patch, which is a good way to identify them in flight.

Habitat: Snow buntings are found in a variety of habitats in Michigan during the winter, including:

  • Open fields: Snow buntings often forage in open fields, such as cornfields, soybean fields, and hayfields.
  • Shorelines: Snow buntings can also be found along shorelines, where they feed on seeds and insects.
  • Bare ground: Snow buntings will also forage on bare ground, such as beaches, parking lots, and road shoulders.
  • Rocky areas: Snow buntings sometimes frequent rocky areas, such as gravel pits and quarries.

Diet:
Snow buntings are omnivorous birds, meaning they eat both plants and animals. Their diet in Michigan during the winter typically consists of:

  • Seeds: Snow buntings eat a variety of seeds, including those of grasses, weeds, and sedges. They are particularly fond of the seeds of wild rice, which is abundant in Michigan during the winter.
  • Insects: Snow buntings also eat a variety of insects, including beetles, flies, caterpillars, and spiders. They are particularly fond of insects that are found in open fields and along shorelines.
  • Other small animals: Snow buntings will also eat other small animals, such as mice, voles, and shrews. They are particularly fond of small animals that are found in snow cover.

Lifespan: The lifespan of a snow bunting in Michigan is typically 3-5 years. 

Wingspan: The wingspan of a snow bunting in Michigan is typically 12-14 inches.

Calls: Snow buntings have a variety of calls, including:

  • A high-pitched “tseep”: This is the most common call of the snow bunting. It is used to communicate with other snow buntings, and it can also be used as a warning call.
  • A low, raspy “churring”: This call is used by male snow buntings to attract mates.
  • A soft, warbling song: This song is only sung by male snow buntings during the breeding season.

Seasons: Snow buntings are winter visitors to Michigan. They typically arrive in the state in late October or early November, and they leave in late March or early April.

8. Snow Goose

Snow Goose
Snow Goose

Scientific name: Anser caerulescens.

Size: The size of a snow goose in Michigan can vary depending on the subspecies, but they are generally medium-sized birds. The lesser snow goose (Anser caerulescens caerulescens) is the smaller subspecies, and it typically measures 25 to 31 inches in length and weighs 2.05 to 2.7 kg (4.5 to 6.0 lb). The greater snow goose (Anser caerulescens atlanticus) is the larger subspecies, and it typically measures 27 to 32 inches in length and weighs 3.2 to 4.5 kg (7.1 to 9.9 lb).

How to identify

  • Color: Snow geese are typically white, with black wingtips and a black head and neck in the adults. The young birds are grayer, with a brown head and neck.
  • Bill: The bill of a snow goose is pink with a black “grinning patch” on the side.
  • Legs and feet: The legs and feet of a snow goose are pink.

Habitat:
Snow geese are found in a variety of habitats in Michigan, including:

  • Wetlands: Snow geese are often seen in wetlands, such as marshes, lakes, and ponds. They feed on a variety of plants and animals that live in wetlands, such as grasses, seeds, and insects.
  • Fields: Snow geese also frequent fields, especially fields that have been harvested. They feed on grain and other crops that are left behind after harvest.
  • Parks: Snow geese can also be seen in parks, especially parks that have ponds or lakes. They are attracted to parks because they provide food and water, as well as a safe place to rest.

Diet: Snow geese typically feed in wetlands, fields, and parks. They are very efficient feeders, and they can eat a large amount of food in a short amount of time. They have a strong gizzard, which helps them to grind up the tough plant material that they eat.

Lifespan: The lifespan of a snow goose in Michigan is typically between 15 and 25 years. 

Wingspan: The wingspan of a snow goose in Michigan is typically between 53 and 65 inches.

Calls: Snow geese also make a variety of other calls, including:

  • Brood call: This call is used by parents to call their goslings. It is a high-pitched, squealing sound.
  • Alarm call: This call is used to warn other geese of danger. It is a loud, harsh honk.
  • Courtship call: This call is used by males to attract females. It is a soft, warbling sound.

Seasons: Here are the specific seasons for snow geese in Michigan:

  • Fall: Snow geese begin to arrive in Michigan in the fall, from September to October. They come from their breeding grounds in the Arctic tundra.
  • Winter: Snow geese are most common in Michigan during the winter months, from November to March. They stay in Michigan because it provides them with food and a safe place to rest.
  • Spring: Snow geese begin to migrate back to their breeding grounds in the spring, from March to April.
  • Summer: Snow geese are not as common in Michigan during the summer months, from May to August. They are typically found in the Arctic tundra, where they breed and raise their young.

9. Snowy Owl

Snowy Owl
Snowy Owl

Scientific name: Bubo scandiacus

Size: The size of a snowy owl in Michigan can vary depending on the sex of the owl. Males are typically smaller than females, and they have a purer white plumage. On average, male snowy owls in Michigan have a body length of 25 to 27 inches, a wingspan of 49 to 57 inches, and a weight of 5 to 7 pounds. Female snowy owls are slightly larger, with a body length of 27 to 29 inches, a wingspan of 53 to 61 inches, and a weight of 6 to 10 pounds.

How to identify

  • Color: Snowy owls are mostly white, with black markings on the wings and tail. Females have more black markings than males.
  • Eyes: The eyes of snowy owls are bright yellow.
  • Head: The head of a snowy owl is large and round, with small ear tufts.

Habitat: Here are some of the habitats where you might find snowy owls in Michigan:

  • Dunes: Snowy owls are often seen perched on dunes, scanning the ground for prey.
  • Fields: Snowy owls will often hunt in fields, looking for small mammals such as voles and lemmings.
  • Airports: Snowy owls are sometimes seen at airports, where they can prey on rodents that live in the area.
  • Open water: Snowy owls will sometimes hunt over open water, looking for fish or waterfowl.

Diet: Snowy owls are carnivores and their diet consists mainly of small mammals, such as lemmings, voles, and rabbits. They will also eat birds, fish, and carrion.

Lifespan: The average lifespan of a snowy owl in Michigan is 10 years.

Wingspan: The wingspan of a snowy owl in Michigan can vary depending on the sex of the owl. Males typically have a wingspan of 49 to 57 inches, while females have a wingspan of 53 to 61 inches.

Calls:
Snowy owls are known for their distinctive calls, which are often described as low, powerful, and slightly rasping. The calls of snowy owls can be heard for up to 7 miles on the tundra, and other owls often answer with hoots of their own.

Seasons:
Snowy owls are not a common sight in Michigan, but they can be seen during the winter months, from late December to March. They typically arrive in the state from their Arctic breeding grounds in search of warmer weather and more food.

10. Iceland Gull

Iceland Gull
Iceland Gull

Scientific name: Larus glaucoides.

Size: The Iceland Gull is a medium-sized gull, about the size of a Herring Gull. It measures 19.7-23.6 inches (50-60 cm) in length. 

How to identify: Iceland Gulls are greyish-white overall, with a pale grey back and a blackish head. The wingtips are white in the Iceland subspecies and grey in the Thayer’s subspecies.

Habitat: Here are some specific habitats where you might see Iceland Gulls in Michigan:

  • Great Lakes shorelines: Iceland Gulls are often seen on the shores of the Great Lakes, foraging for food in the water or on the beaches.
  • Landfills: Iceland Gulls are attracted to landfills because they provide a plentiful source of food, such as discarded food scraps and garbage.
  • Open fields: Iceland Gulls can sometimes be seen in open fields, especially if there are livestock present. They will often scavenge for food around livestock farms.
  • Wetlands: Iceland Gulls can also be found in wetlands, such as marshes and swamps. They will often feed on small fish, aquatic insects, and other small animals that live in wetlands

Diet: Iceland Gulls are omnivores and their diet consists of a variety of foods, including:

  • Fish: Iceland Gulls are opportunistic feeders and will eat a variety of small fish, such as herring, capelin, and sand eels.
  • Invertebrates: Iceland Gulls will also eat a variety of invertebrates, such as crabs, shrimp, and mollusks.
  • Carrion: Iceland Gulls are scavengers and will eat carrion, such as dead fish, birds, and mammals.
  • Plant material: Iceland Gulls will also eat plant material, such as berries, seeds, and grasses.
  • Garbage: Iceland Gulls are attracted to landfills and other areas where there is garbage, and they will often eat discarded food scraps and other garbage.

Lifespan: The lifespan of an Iceland Gull in Michigan is typically 15-20 years.

Wingspan: The wingspan of an Iceland Gull in Michigan is typically 45-53 inches (115-137 cm).

Calls: Iceland Gulls have a variety of calls, including:

  • Mewing calls: These are high-pitched, plaintive calls that are often given in flight.
  • Squawking calls: These are lower-pitched, harsh calls that are often given when the birds are agitated or feeding.
  • Screaming calls: These are loud, piercing calls that are often given when the birds are defending their territory or their young.

Seasons: Iceland Gulls are typically seen in Michigan during the winter months, from November to March. They are most common in the southern part of the state, where they can be found on the Great Lakes and other large bodies of water.

11. Whooper Swan

Whooper Swan
Whooper Swan

Scientific name: Cygnus cygnus

Size: Whooper Swans are large birds, with an average length of 55-65 inches. 

How to identify: Whooper Swans are entirely white, with a black bill and orange feet. Their bills are distinctive, with a large yellow patch on the lower half.

Habitat: Whooper Swans are found in a variety of habitats, including wetlands, lakes, rivers, and agricultural fields. They prefer habitats with open water and plenty of vegetation for food. In Michigan, Whooper Swans are most likely to be found in the following habitats:

  • Wetlands: Whooper Swans are often found in wetlands, such as marshes, swamps, and bogs. These habitats provide them with food, water, and nesting sites.
  • Lakes: Whooper Swans are also found on lakes, especially large lakes with abundant vegetation. They often feed on the edges of lakes, where they can find aquatic plants and animals.
  • Rivers: Whooper Swans can also be found on rivers, especially rivers with slow-moving currents. They often feed in the shallows of rivers, where they can find aquatic plants and animals.
  • Agricultural fields: Whooper Swans are sometimes seen in agricultural fields, especially fields that are flooded or have recently been harvested. They often feed on the seeds and other vegetation that is found in these fields.

Diet: Whooper swans are omnivores and their diet consists of a variety of plant and animal matter. In Michigan, their diet typically includes:

  • Aquatic plants, such as pondweeds, sedges, and rushes
  • Freshwater roots
  • Grass
  • Acorns
  • Grains
  • Potatoes
  • Small insects and invertebrates

Lifespan: The lifespan of a Whooper Swan in Michigan is typically between 10 and 15 years in the wild.

Wingspan: The wingspan of a Whooper Swan in Michigan is typically between 205 and 275 centimetres (81 and 108 inches).

Calls:
Whooper Swans have a loud, trumpeting call that can be heard up to 2 miles away. The call is often used to communicate with other swans, and it can also be used as a warning call.

The call of a Whooper Swan is made up of two parts: a long, drawn-out note followed by a shorter, sharper note. The long note is often described as being “whooping” or “honking,” while the short note is often described as being “grunting” or “wheezing.”

Seasons: In Michigan, whooper swans can be seen during the following seasons:

  • Spring: Whooper swans typically arrive in Michigan in late April or early May. They breed in wetlands and marshes, and they often build their nests on islands or in secluded areas.
  • Summer: Whooper swans can be seen in Michigan throughout the summer. They feed on aquatic plants and vegetation, and they often swim in groups or pairs.
  • Fall: Whooper swans typically begin their migration south in late September or early October. They fly in V-formations, and they can travel up to 500 miles per day.
  • Winter: Whooper swans winter in the southern United States, Mexico, and Central America. They can also be found in some parts of Europe and Asia.

12. Ring-Billed Gull

Ring-Billed Gull
Ring-Billed Gull

Scientific name: Larus delawarensis.

Size: The size of a Ring-billed Gull in Michigan is about 16 inches long. 

How to identify: Ring-billed Gulls are white with grey backs and black wingtips. They have a black ring around their yellow bills, which is how they get their name. The legs of Ring-billed Gulls are yellow.

Habitat: Ring-billed Gulls are very adaptable birds and can be found in a variety of habitats in Michigan. They are most common in coastal areas, but they can also be found inland, especially near bodies of water.

Some of the places where you can find Ring-billed Gulls in Michigan include:

  • Coastal areas: beaches, dunes, salt marshes, and estuaries
  • Inland lakes and rivers: shorelines, islands, and backwaters
  • Urban areas: parks, parking lots, and landfills
  • Agricultural areas: fields, pastures, and grain elevators

Diet: The diet of Ring-billed Gulls can vary depending on the season and the availability of food. In the summer, they will eat more fish and insects, while in the winter; they will eat more garbage and other available food sources.

Lifespan: The lifespan of a Ring-billed Gull in Michigan is typically 3 to 10 years.

Wingspan: The wingspan of a Ring-billed Gull in Michigan is typically around 127 centimetres (50 inches).

Calls: Ring-billed Gulls have a variety of calls, including:

  • Mewing call: This is a high-pitched, rising squeal that may sound like indignation or outrage. It is often given in a series of short exclamatory notes. 
  • Klee-ew call: This is a begging call that is given by young Ring-billed Gulls. It is a high-pitched, whining sound. 
  • Choking call: This is a low-pitched, guttural call that is given by Ring-billed Gulls in courtship, territorial disputes, and nest selection. It is often given while the bird is leaning forward, head down, and heaving upward as it calls.
  • Alarm call: This is a loud, raucous call that is given by Ring-billed Gulls when they are alarmed or feel threatened. It is often given in a series of short, sharp notes.

Seasons:
Ring-billed Gulls are present in Michigan year-round, but their numbers fluctuate seasonally. They are most common during the breeding season, which is from May to August. During this time, they can be found nesting in colonies on beaches, islands, and other coastal areas.

In the winter, Ring-billed Gulls migrate to southern states, the Pacific Coast, and Mexico. However, some birds remain in Michigan year-round, especially in the southern part of the state.

13. Ross’s Goose

Ross’s Goose
Ross’s Goose

Scientific name: Chen rossii.

Size: The size of a Ross’s Goose in Michigan is about 22 to 25 inches (56 to 63 centimetres) long

How to identify: Ross’s Geese are white with black wingtips. They have a short, thick neck and a small, black bill. The bill is pink and lacks the broad black edges of the bill (known as a “grinning patch”) that Snow Geese show. Rare “blue” morphs have mostly dark bodies and wings, with a white face.

Habitat:
Ross’s Geese are migratory birds, and they winter in the Great Plains and California. In Michigan, they can be found in a variety of habitats, including:

  • Freshwater marshes: Ross’s Geese often feed in shallow freshwater marshes, where they eat grasses, sedges, and other plants.
  • Agricultural fields: During the winter, Ross’s Geese may also feed in agricultural fields, where they eat corn, wheat, and other crops.
  • Wetlands: Ross’s Geese also frequent wetlands, such as lakes, ponds, and riverbanks. They use these areas for breeding, feeding, and resting.
  • Shorelines: Ross’s Geese can also be found on shorelines, where they feed on small fish, crustaceans, and mollusks.

Diet: Ross’s Geese are herbivores, and their diet consists mainly of plant material. They eat a variety of grasses, sedges, and other plants. They also eat some seeds and grains, and they may occasionally eat small fish, crustaceans, and mollusks.

Lifespan: The lifespan of a Ross’s Goose in Michigan is typically 10-15 years. 

Wingspan: The wingspan of a Ross’s Goose in Michigan is typically 44 to 45 inches (112 to 114 centimetres).

Calls: Ross’s Geese make a variety of calls, including soft cackling and grunting notes. The most common call is a soft, high-pitched cackle that is often given in flight. They also make a grunting noise when they are feeding or when they are disturbed.

Seasons: Ross’s Geese are winter birds in Michigan, and they are typically seen from September to May. However, they are not very common in the state, so it is considered a rare sighting. They are most likely to be seen in the southern part of the state, near the Great Lakes.

Frequently asked question: white birds in Michigan 

Q: What are some of the amazing white birds found in Michigan?

A: Michigan is home to several stunning white birds, including the Bald Eagle, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Trumpeter Swan, Tundra Swan, American White Pelican, Little Egret, Snow Goose, Ross’s Goose, Whooping Crane, Laughing Gull, Ivory Gull, and Arctic Tern.

Q: Where can I see these white birds in Michigan?

A: The specific locations for observing these white birds may vary, but you can generally find them in habitats such as wetlands, marshes, lakeshores, and nature reserves across Michigan. Some notable places include the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge, Pointe Mouillee State Game Area, Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge, and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

Q: When is the best time to observe white birds in Michigan?

A: The optimal time to observe these white birds depends on their migration patterns and breeding seasons. Generally, spring and fall are good times for observing migratory species, while summer is ideal for breeding species. Conducting specific research for each bird species will help determine the best time to spot them.

Q: Are these white birds rare or commonly seen in Michigan?

A: The rarity of these white birds in Michigan varies. Some species, like the Bald Eagle and Great Egret, are relatively common and can be observed in suitable habitats. Others, such as the Whooping Crane and Ivory Gull, are rarer and require luck or specific efforts to encounter.

Q: Can I photograph these white birds in Michigan?

A: Yes, you can photograph these white birds in Michigan. However, it is important to practice responsible wildlife photography. Maintain a respectful distance, avoid disturbing the birds or their habitats, and prioritize their welfare over capturing the perfect shot.

Q: What equipment do I need for observing white birds in Michigan?

A: Essential equipment for observing white birds includes binoculars, a field guide specific to Michigan birds, appropriate clothing for outdoor conditions, and a notepad for recording observations. Optional equipment can include a spotting scope, camera with a telephoto lens, and a tripod for stable photography.

Q: Are there any birding groups or organizations in Michigan?

A: Yes, Michigan has several birding groups and organizations that offer resources, workshops, and field trips for bird enthusiasts. Some notable ones include Michigan Audubon, Detroit Audubon Society, Kalamazoo Nature Centre, and Huron-Clinton Metro parks.

Q: How can I contribute to bird conservation efforts in Michigan?

A: There are various ways to contribute to bird conservation in Michigan. You can participate in citizen science programs like the Great Backyard Bird Count or Project Feeder Watch, support local wildlife organizations through donations or volunteering, and advocate for habitat preservation and environmental stewardship in your community.

Q: Are there any specific laws or regulations to follow while observing these birds?

A: It is important to abide by federal and state laws, as well as any local regulations, while observing birds in Michigan. These may include maintaining distance from nesting areas, respecting private property rights, and following ethical guidelines for wildlife photography. Familiarize yourself with the laws and regulations to ensure a responsible and enjoyable birding experience.

Q: Can I feed these white birds during my observations?

A: It is generally not recommended to feed wild birds during observations. Feeding can disrupt their natural foraging behaviours and may lead to dependency on human-provided food. Instead, focus on observing and appreciating their natural behaviour in their native habitat.

Conclusion:

As we observe these 13 amazing white birds in Michigan, let us also reflect on the need to protect their habitats and ensure their continued existence for future generations. Through responsible birding practices, supporting conservation organizations, and advocating for environmental stewardship, we can play a vital role in preserving the natural wonders that these birds represent.

Let the sight of these white birds in flight inspire us to cherish and protect the fragile ecosystems that sustain them. May their beauty continue to uplift our spirits, spark curiosity, and remind us of the boundless marvels that await us in the natural world? 

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