Born in Weyauwega, Wisconsin, Birdsall attended the common schools of Iowa and Iowa State University, Iowa City. He studied law. He was admitted to the bar in 1878 and practiced. He served as district judge of the eleventh judicial district of Iowa from January 1893 to October 1900.
Birdsall was elected as a Republican to the Fifty-eighth, Fifty-ninth, and Sixtieth Congresses (March 4, 1903-March 3, 1909). He resumed the practice of law in Clarion, Iowa, where he died May 26, 1917. He was interred in Evergreen Cemetery.