Natural Heritage of Indiana

Birds in Indiana

What species used to live in Indiana? What kinds of birds live in Indiana today?


Content about birds in Indiana today adapted with permission from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, a partner in the Natural Heritage of Indiana project. More information can be found here.

Extinct Birds of Indiana

Carolina ParakeetThe Indiana of today is impoverished when modern populations are compared to the billions of birds that inhabited the state, or passed through it, 200 years ago. Cranes roosted in the marshes in the hundreds of thousands as they migrated to and from the gulf coast. In the spring, shorebirds flocked to the beaches of Lake Michigan in numbers that today can only be seen along the Atlantic coast. Elsewhere, however, were species of birds unexpected, and in unprecedented numbers.


The Carolina Parakeet

The Carolina parakeet was a colorful, noisy bird.  It was also the northern most species of parrot on earth, and it lived in great numbers in Indiana. They lived and roosted in large colonies, nesting in hollow trees, and foraged in the nearby forests and fields for seeds and fruits. However numerous the Carolina parakeets, and other species of birds were in Indiana 200 years ago, their population size paled when compared to what was then the most numerous species of bird on earth: The Passenger Pigeon.

Passenger PigeonThe Passenger Pigeon

Similar in appearance to morning doves, passenger pigeons roosted and foraged in forests, much like other birds. But so numerous were they that the sound of millions of beating wings was like that of a waterfall, and as their gargantuan flocks approached, the sun was blotted out.  These flocks may have held up to a billion birds and could take hours to pass by.

Birds in Indiana Today

Operation Migration

Operation Migration is making special efforts to help the Whooping Crane population in Indiana and eastern North America.

While bird populations have decreased in Indiana since European settlement, the state is still home to many species today. Some of these species are listed below with links to information about their appearance, habitat, distribution, abundance, reproduction, management, and more.

For a more complete listing of birds in the state, see DNR's list of birds you might see in Indiana's State Parks and Resevoirs.

Check out the Indiana State Museum's exhibit "Footprints" ISMWhat was the area like 10,000 to 11,000 years ago? Where did the big animals go? And what can we learn from our impact on the past that will make us better stewards of our environmental future?

With Footprints: Balancing Nature's Diversity, presented by Central Indiana Land Trust, the Indiana State Museum will trace our state's natural history from the Ice Age to today and beyond, considering how humans and environmental changes have affected ecological diversity and the world we live in. Drawing from the museum's collections, the exhibit answers questions about Indiana's past, shows the animals' overwhelming size and number, and suggests what it might have been like to walk among them.
Explore the online exhibit »

Our Hoosier State Beneath Us: Newspaper articles about a variety of topics related to Indiana's Natural Heritage Our Hoosier State Beneath UsThis series of 155 brief illustrated articles is part of a set of about 250 such articles produced by the Indiana Geological Survey between 1974 and 1984. The articles were distributed to and printed by newspapers all over Indiana. The topics range from coal to paleontology to people to geology. There is even a keyword search tool and a full table of contents. Browse Articles »

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