10 INVASIVE Animals found in Michigan! (2024)

What kinds of invasive species can you find in Michigan?

Animals that are not native can cause many problems. They put a lot of pressure on native species as they compete for food, territories, and nesting areas.

Below, you will learn about an array of different invasive creatures, along with the myriad of problems they cause!

10 Invasive Animals Found in Michigan:

Just a quick note: you won’t find any insects or fish below. Those articles are coming soon! 🙂


#1. Rock Pigeon

  • Columba livia

Types of invasive animals in Michigan

These invasive birds are common in Michigan but are almost exclusively found in urban areas. Rock Pigeons are what everyone refers to as “pigeons.” You have probably seen them gathering in huge flocks in city parks, hoping to get tossed some birdseed or leftover food.

The typical pigeon has a gray back, a blue-gray head, and two black wing bars. In addition, look for a green and purple iridescence around their necks!

Rock Pigeon Range Map

pigeon range map

Love them or hate them, Rock Pigeons have been associated with humans for a long time! Some Egyptian hieroglyphics suggest that people started domesticating them over 5,000 years ago. But, interestingly, scientists aren’t even sure where their original range occurs!


#2. Domestic Cat

  • Felis catus

Types of invasive animals in Michigan

  • Can be a wide range of colors, sizes, shapes, and fur lengths.
  • Selected mutations observed in many pet cats, such as folded ears, munchkin legs, or flattened faces, are not commonly seen among domestic cats successfully living feral.

Sadly, domestic cats are very damaging to the ecosystems in Michigan where they are introduced. It has only been in the last century or so that cats have become pets that stay indoors.

It is estimated that these invasive animals kill over 1 billion birds and 6 billion other small animals annually. Feral cats that live and breed away from the care of humans are the most prolific hunters.

As you can imagine, this issue is hotly debated due to the love people have for their pet cats. Some experts think that trap-neuter-return programs are key to curbing the problem of feral cats. At the same time, others are huge proponents of NEVER letting your cat outside.


#3. European Starling

  • Sturnus vulgaris

Types of invasive animals in Michigan

  • They are about the size of an American Robin. Their plumage is black and appears to be shiny.
  • Breeding adults are darker black and have a green-purple tint.
  • In winter, starlings lose their glossiness, their beaks become darker, and they develop white spots over their bodies.

Despite being common, European Starlings are an invasive species in Michigan.

Back in 1890, one hundred starlings were brought over from Europe and released in New York City’s Central Park. The man responsible (Eugene Schieffelin) had a mission to introduce all of the birds mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays to North America.

European Starling Range Map

starling range map

The rest is history as starlings easily conquered the continent, along the way out-competing many of our beautiful native birds. Their ability to adapt to human development and eat almost anything is uncanny to virtually no other species.

Here’s something amazing about these non-native birds:

It’s the magical way they travel in flocks, called murmurations. Check out the video below because it’s mesmerizing. 🙂

YouTube video

#4. Mute Swan

  • Cygnus olor

Types of Invasive Species in Michigan

  • A huge white bird with a long white neck.
  • Look for the distinctive orange bill that features a black base and knob.

Mute Swans are among the most elegant and beautiful birds you will see in the water. They are also enormous and are one of the heaviest birds that can fly!

But did you know that Mute Swans are NOT native to Michigan?

Due to their beauty, Mute Swans were imported from Europe and released in parks, large estates, and zoos. Unfortunately, these individuals escaped and have established an invasive wild population.

Don’t be fooled by their appearance; these invasive animals can be aggressive and regularly attack kayakers and other people who get too close to their nest. They also displace native ecosystems due to their voracious appetite, which requires up to 8 pounds (3.6 kg) of aquatic vegetation daily!

Despite their name, these swans are not mute!

While relatively quiet, they make a hoarse trumpet sound when defending their territory. And if they are threatened, expect to hear various barks, hisses, and snorts.


#5. House Sparrow

  • Passer domesticus

Types of Invasive Species in Michigan

House Sparrows are an invasive species that originated from the Middle East. But now they are one of the most widespread birds in Michigan (and the world)!

House Sparrows owe their success to their ability to adapt and live near humans. Because of this, they are almost always found in urban and suburban areas.

Range Map – House Sparrow

house sparrow range map

House Sparrows can be heard across the entire planet. Pay attention the next time you’re watching the news in another country. Listen for a simple song that includes lots of “cheep” notes.

YouTube video

#6. House Mouse

  • Mus musculus

Types of Invasive Species in Michigan

  • The tails are hairless and can be as long as their bodies.
  • House Mice are smaller and lighter built than rats.
  • They usually have light brown fur and large round ears compared to their heads, which give them a cute look.

These invasive rodents originated in Asia but can now be found in Michigan. House Mice arrived in North America on ships in the 1600s and quickly multiplied.

Mice have dispersed across the planet incredibly successfully, second perhaps only to humans. The biggest key to their success is their ability to adapt their behavior quickly and breed prolifically.

House Mouse Range Map

Native range (dark red). Introduced (light red) Attribution: Osado, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Native range (dark red). Introduced (light red) Attribution: Osado, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Salmonella and parasites are the most prevalent illnesses that mice transmit to humans by contaminating food. However, this risk has been greatly reduced through modern food management techniques in the USA.

House Mice also greatly impact the ecosystems that they invade. They are omnivorous and will devour plants and target animal species that have not adapted to fighting them off.

Fascinatingly, House Mice also cause the decline of native species by bolstering the health of predators through seasons when other prey would have been hard to find. By becoming prey themselves, the mice inflate the populations of predators year-round.


#7. Brown Rat

  • Rattus norvegicus

Look for Brown Rats anywhere people are living, particularly in urban environments. They’re best known for living in sewer tunnels and subway systems, scavenging food from the trash.

Believe it or not, this invasive species isn’t native to Michigan. It’s thought to have originated in China and Mongolia.

It’s a misconception that Brown Rats spread bubonic plague. In actuality, it’s more commonly spread through ground squirrels! Regardless, they can transmit infections of many kinds, as their blood can carry several diseases.


#8. Greylag Goose

  • Anser anser

  • Greylag Geese are a soft, warm gray-brown.
  • Their feathers are rimmed with narrow white edges, which gives them a delicate barred pattern over their wings, chest, and sides.
  • The legs are pink, while their bills are bright orange.

Greylag Geese are NOT native to Michigan!

These birds are found naturally across Europe and Asia, where they are very common and have a huge natural range.

Interestingly, Greylag Geese gave rise to almost all common domesticated goose breeds.

Domesticated Greylag Geese can commonly be seen on farms, estates, and in zoological collections. But, occasionally, escaped birds may flourish as feral populations.

Greylag Geese are very social animals. They will almost always be found in flocks, ranging from a few birds to thousands of animals. When flying, flocks adopt the classic V-shape flight formation. Play the video to see them in action!

YouTube video

#9. Red-eared Slider

  • Trachemys scripta elegans

Red-eared slider

  • Males and females appear very similar.
  • Their legs and necks are marbled with black and yellow stripes.
  • They have a striking red patch behind each eye, extending to the back of the head.

Red-eared Sliders are a species of freshwater turtle. They prefer fairly still, warm freshwater and can be found naturally around the Mississippi River and associated waterways.

However, they spread to other areas across the continent and beyond via the exotic pet trade.

As juveniles, Red-eared sliders are cute and very popular with pet owners and are fairly easy to care for. However, adults can grow to have shells up to 16 inches (40cm) in length. They become challenging pets that can live for up to 40 years! As a result, many Red-eared sliders were released into the wild despite this being illegal.

Red-eared Slider NATIVE Range Map

Red-eared slider. (2023, September 12). In Wikipedia.

Problems These Invasive Animals Cause in Michigan:

Red-eared sliders grow to large sizes and adapt well to new environments. As a result, they have been successful in competing against various native species of turtles for food, shelter, and basking sites.


#10. Ring-necked Pheasant

  • Phasianus colchicus

  • Males have tawny bodies, shiny green heads with red wattles, and a white ring at the base of the neck.
  • Females are smaller and are tawny brown all over, with dark brown patterning.
  • Both have extended tail feathers, though males are longer.

Ring-necked pheasants are eye-catching birds that are native to Asia. They are usually found in woodlands and grasslands.

These birds were intentionally imported and introduced to the USA in 1881. In fact, they have been here so long that most people have no idea that Ring-necked Pheasants are not native to Michigan!

Ring-necked Pheasant Native and Introduced Range Map

Native range (purple). Introduced range (pink). Attribution: Cephas, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Ring-necked Pheasants cause issues for native ecosystems in several ways. First, their breeding success and population growth put a strain on habitat and food availability. Ring-necked Pheasants outcompete native birds for limited resources. Pheasants can even be openly aggressive towards other birds.

Second, the breeding behavior of Ring-necked pheasants leads to them parasitizing nests, directly causing the mortality of native hatchlings. Pheasants nest on the ground, close to other species. Sometimes, they lay their eggs in the nests of other birds.


Learn more about other animals in Michigan!


Which of these invasive species have you seen in Michigan?

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