Common Backyard Birds in North America

Common backyard birds in north america

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More and more of us are realizing the importance of inviting birds to our backyards. However, there are quite a few different species in North America and so it can help to get to know these in order to identify which avian species are paying you a visit. What’s more, knowing which birds are in your garden will help you to better provide for them.

1. American Robin (Turdus migratorius)

American Robin (Turdus migratorius) is one of the most commonly spotted birds in the US.

The American robin is one of the most commonly spotted birds in the US. It is native to the Northern part of the country, migrating to southern areas during the winter. The robin enjoys various types of habitat including woodlands as well as open areas. They’re often found hopping around the lawn in backyards all over the country.

You can tell the American robin apart from other birds thanks to its red belly and black head. The birds are around 10 inches in length so they are a smaller species and they have a slender orange to yellow colored beak.

If you’re looking to attract robins to your garden then you will want to put out bird feeders containing things like sunflowers and other seeds. However, these birds also enjoy insects so a mealworm feeder makes an excellent choice.

2. Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)

Northern Cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis) is the most common bird in the USA during the winter months.

What’s interesting about the Northern cardinal is that this is the most common bird in the USA during the winter months. It is a striking species that comes in a rich red color and has a black mask with a tufted crest on its head. The males tend to be brighter while the females have a lot more gray plumage with hints of red.

The Northern cardinal is more common around eastern and southern parts of the United States and while often seen in winter, it’s not terribly uncommon to spot them in warmer months. They like a variety of habitats but usually thrive in areas of shrubby woodland.

When it comes to offering food to the Northern cardinal, it’s worth keeping in mind that they require highly pigmented foods in order to keep the color in their feathers. This means that they have a diet heavy in berries. However, you can leave out fruits and seeds as well as a mealworm feeder as their diet is pretty diverse.

3. Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata)

Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata)

In eastern parts of the United States, the blue jay is a common sight and can be spotted at all times of the year. It’s pretty difficult to mistake these birds for anything else owing to their very unique appearance. Covered in royal blue feathers with black and white markings on the tail and face, you’ll immediately be able to recognise the blue jay.

These birds are known to be bullies when it comes to the bird feeder and can scare away smaller species. But that’s not to say that you shouldn’t encourage them with food that suits their needs. They love peanuts and sunflower seeds given in a hopper feeder but are also partial to suet feeders. Just remember that suet feeders are only suitable for winter as they can rot in warm weather.

If you are keen to see the blue jay in its natural habitat, then you will want to look in areas with plenty of woodland. That said, they’re a common sight in urban areas. While they’re normally only seen in southern parts of North America, it isn’t uncommon for them to migrate north to Canada during the summer months.

4. Red-Bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus)

Red-Bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus)

Red-bellied woodpeckers are incredibly diverse when it comes to their habitat. While they do prefer areas along rivers and other bodies of water, they can also be found in orchards, woodlands, groves, and even in urban areas. Typically, they are found in southeastern parts of the United States but it is not uncommon to find them in other areas.

These birds have a varied diet but if you are looking to attract them to your garden then things like seeds and peanuts are a great choice. They also enjoy eating insects so a mealworm feeder wouldn’t go amiss.

The red-bellied woodpecker can be distinguished from other birds by its call which has a rolling sound. In terms of appearance, you are looking for birds with a red and white head and black and white patterned back. Males are usually larger than females and can grow up to 11 inches in length.

5. Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)

Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura) backyard bird

If you live in any of the lower 48 American States then you will more than likely have come across the mourning dove. This is because it is one of the most commonly spotted birds in backyards. These birds are also found as far south as Mexico and frequent areas like woods and farmland as well as more built-up areas.

If you’re looking to distinguish the mourning dove from other birds, you will need to look for brownish/gray coloration as well as several identifying features such as rings around the eyes. The mourning dove also has dark brown to black markings on the tips of the wings. Listen out for their cooing but be careful not to mistake them for an owl.

If you’re looking to feed mourning doves then you will need to place out an array of seeds. Mourning doves prefer a ground feeder and make sure that the food covers as wide an area as possible in order to attract more of them.

Want to know a fascinating fact about the mourning dove? These birds are super speedy and can fly up to 55 miles per hour!

6. American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)

American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos) common garden birds

There are several different types of crows and one of the most common in the USA is the American crow. These birds are rather large in comparison to other birds and are all black so they’re not difficult to spot. They also make a very loud and harsh sound which is unmistakable.

The American crow can be found in all of the lower 48 states but you won’t find them in very arid, desert regions. Provided there are lots of places for them to perch, American crows can be found almost anywhere including urban areas, fields, and farmland.

What’s fascinating about the American crow is how intelligent it is. These birds are excellent problem solvers and will even use tools to help themselves. When attracting them to your garden be sure to put out a mealworm feeder as these birds are omnivores.

7. Baltimore Oriole (Icterus galbula)

Baltimore Oriole (Icterus galbula) go mad for oranges

What’s amazing about the Baltimore oriole is that the males and the females look totally different. You could be forgiven for thinking you were looking at different birds since the male has an orange underside with a black head and wings while the female is yellow.

If you want to attract these brightly colored birds to your garden then you will need a fruit feeder and the Baltimore oriole goes mad for oranges. However, including jelly isn’t a bad idea either. If you have a nectar feeder then you may also find that these birds frequent your yard.

The Baltimore oriole is a mascot for many things and is often found across the eastern United States. It is not to be confused with the Bullock’s oriole which is more common on the western side of the country. You’ll find them in woodlands with lots of deciduous trees but they’re also common in urban areas like parks.

8. House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)

House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) common backyard birds

The house sparrow is largely considered a pest and is a non-native bird species that was introduced to the USA from Europe around the same time as the starling. These birds can be seen all year round, equally in the winter and summer months.

What’s fascinating is how wide their range is with house sparrows being just as common in Mexico as they are in Canada and everywhere in between. They are adaptable to a variety of different habitats including farmland, woods, urban spaces, and many others.

The house sparrow is a dull-looking bird with brownish coloration. You can tell the males and females apart as the females have a pale line back from the eye whereas the males usually have a black mask. They do like a variety of foods including seeds but since they’re not native, we wouldn’t recommend offering them food in your backyard as they can bully native species.

9. White-Breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis)

White-Breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis)

There are different types of nuthatch and while they’re all pretty small, the white-breasted nuthatch is the largest of them all. These birds are common across North America and can be found right up into Canada as well as down into the mountainous regions of Mexico. You’ll normally find them in woodlands that are abundant in oak and pine.

The white-breasted nuthatch can be identified by its short tail and large head which can make it appear as though it has no neck. As its name suggests, the underside of the bird is white but the rest is a blueish gray.

When you are looking to attract the white-breasted nuthatch to your garden, you will want to use suet feeders in the winter. During summer, place out a variety of nuts and seeds. These birds are particularly fond of black sunflower seeds.

10. Ruby-Throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris)

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris)

If you are located east of the Mississippi river then the ruby-throated hummingbird is one that you will see regularly as this is the most common hummingbird species in this area. As their name suggests, these birds have a bright red patch on their throat but this applies only to the males. The females are slightly larger and have iridescent green markings.

The ruby-throated hummingbird enjoys nectar and so placing a nectar feeder in your garden is one of the best ways to attract hummingbirds.

In their natural setting, you will find these birds around deciduous forests, especially during the breeding season. But when the weather gets colder they will migrate to warmer areas which include places like citrus groves. They’re common in several parts of North and Central America including Mexico and the West Indies.

11. Black-Capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)

Black-Capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus) are particularly prominent in places like Canada and Alaska.

The black-capped chickadee enjoys wooded areas with both deciduous and mixed trees and can be found spread across the northern half of the continent. They are particularly prominent in places like Canada and Alaska.

You can easily tell the black-capped chickadee apart from other birds because of its unique head markings; black on the top, followed by white through the center, and black again at the bottom; almost like a sandwich appearance! Their tails are long but the bird itself is rather stubby. You will typically see them flitting between the trees and they normally travel in small flocks.

If you are looking to get more black-capped chickadees into your garden then you will need to make sure that you have the right type of feeders. These birds do best with hopper or tube feeders and really enjoy seeds, especially black sunflower seeds. However, during the winter months, they will also go wild for suet feeders so place lots of these around the yard.

12. American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)

American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)

During the winter months, you will typically only see the American goldfinch in the southern states as it migrates here. However, in warmer parts of the year, these birds can be seen all over, including the northern states.

They have soft yellow plumage with black and white markings on the head and tail. They only grow to around five inches so are a small species. They’re commonly called wild canaries owing to the visual similarities between these two birds. What’s more, the American goldfinch has an unmistakable call that many people say sounds a lot like the phrase potato chip!

These birds prefer fields and areas with lots of vegetation. They love thistles and milkweeds so if you have these plants in your garden, expect a lot of little yellow visitors. You can also attract them by including a nyjer seed feeder somewhere in your yard.

13. House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus)

House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus) backyard birds

The house finch is a backyard favorite in the United States thanks to its cheery and melodic song. These birds may have different appearances according to their gender with the females being much more dull and so more difficult to tell apart. However, the males have a lot of red markings around their faces.

If you are looking to attract house finches to your garden then you won’t need to try hard. Even just having a water source will bring them in droves and these little birds can drink up to 40% of their own weight in water every day. That said, they also enjoy vegetables and berries if you want to leave these out too.

The house finch can be found in the western states as well as in Mexico. Natively, they would have lived in deserts, but they’re much more widespread and can now be found in woodlands and urban areas. Oddly, the birds were introduced into the eastern states by a rogue pet shop owner some 80 years ago!

14. Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor)

Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor) are very similar to nuthatches and chickadees

Very similar to nuthatches and chickadees, the tufted titmouse is another of the most common backyard birds in North America. These birds are happiest in forests and woodlands and particularly frequent the eastern parts of the United States.

The tufted titmouse is not difficult to tell apart from other birds as it has some very distinguishing features. Take the rust-colored marking under the wings for example and the tufted crest on its head. The underside of the bird is typically white while the rest of the feathers have a blueish gray hue.

An interesting snippet about these birds is that they have nothing to do with mice but merely take their name from the Olde English word mouse meaning a small bird. If you want to see more of these darling little creatures in your backyard then you will need to use either a hopper or a tray feeder. Foods can vary but black sunflower seeds are among the favorites of the tufted titmouse.

15. European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)

European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)

The European starling is not native to America, as you might guess, it was introduced here from Europe back at the end of the 19th century. These birds have become a problem for native species as they will invade their nests and take over. That said, they’re still one of the most commonly seen species in North America.

You will see the European starlings all year round, but they are very common in fall and winter when they can often be seen in flocks. You can tell them apart from other less colorful birds owing to the iridescence of their brown/gray feathers. They are relatively small and stocky with a spiky yellow beak.

European starlings love being in urban areas as it gives them a chance to get food. While we would usually encourage you to attract birds to the garden, it’s probably best to leave out this non-native species as it will discourage other birds. Plus, they find it quite tricky to use a tube feeder.

16. Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens)

Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens) is one of the smaller species of woodpecker that can be found all over North America.

The downy woodpecker is one of the smaller species of woodpecker that can be found all over North America, particularly in the USA. These birds can be found all year round and the only place that you won’t find them is in dry, desert regions. Females prefer to hang out on tree trunks, while the males will usually be somewhere among the foliage.

The downy woodpecker has black and white markings all over its body. However, the males have a slightly different appearance in that they have a red spot on their heads. Note that this is the smallest species of woodpecker found in the United States.

When trying to attract downy woodpeckers to your yard, you will primarily need to have plenty of trees. But offering the right type of food is just as important, so make sure that you include plenty of fruit and seeds. Suet feeders will also attract these birds, but as always, this bird feeder is more suited to winter months.

17. Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis)

Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis)

The eastern bluebird is a feathered friend that a lot of people are keen to invite to their gardens. It’s no wonder when you consider how beautiful they are. The males have brown undersides with bright iridescent blue heads and wings. On the other hand, the females have a more greyish coloration instead of blue, but they’re still very attractive birds.

When looking to attract the eastern bluebird, you will want to recreate its natural habitat as closely as possible. They love grasslands, pastures, and parks and can be widely found across eastern parts of the United States.

If you want to leave food out for the eastern bluebird then you will need a mealworm feeder but if you have the opportunity, you might drop live insects and watch these birds swoop in. During the winter months, you can attract them using a suet feeder.

How to Identify Backyard Birds?

How to identify backyard birds?

When you see a bird in your garden, your natural instinct makes you wonder what you are looking at. The good news is that you don’t need to be a seasoned ornithologist to work out what the bird is. Here are our top tips on learning how to identify the most common birds in North America.


One of the first things that people notice when looking at a bird is its color. There are some that have more muted tones like brown, black and gray, while others are hugely colorful like the blue jay or the oriole.

However, it is important to note that with many species, the female has much duller coloration than the male making them more difficult to set apart. Furthermore, it’s important not to rely on color alone to identify a bird but this should come after looking at other features like shape and size.


There are a lot of ways you might tell bird calls apart and there have been people who have attached phrases to the songs to differentiate between them. Although this is very subjective and not everyone can pick out those nuances. The only way to really get to grips with bird songs is to listen to them and learn but once you develop your ear, you’ll be able to pick out a species by sound alone.


Looking at the size of a bird can help you to determine what it is, especially when you are comparing it to other species. You might compare the bird to others such as the robin, starling, and goldfinch all of which are good measuring sticks.

As well as size, you should be looking at the shape of the bird as this allows you to put it into its own class and is an excellent starting point for working out what bird you have found. Think about it; ducks are different from the shape of hummingbirds which are different from chickadees, pelicans, woodpeckers, and so on.


A great way to tell a bird apart from others is to look at its markings. While many birds may look similar at first glance, when you look more closely you will notice an array of different markings. These might include different colors on the wingtips, markings on the tail, spots, lines, eye rings, and so many others. It can take a while to learn which birds have which markings but it’s worth learning if you want to develop a keen eye.

Habitat & Range

One of the best ways to tell what type of bird you are looking at is to think about where it is. For example, some birds are not native to all parts of North America, for example, if you’re in California, the chances that the blue-colored bird in your garden is an eastern bluebird are slim. It’s worth educating yourself on which birds live locally to make it easier to identify them.

But it isn’t just location, habitat plays a significant role too. Some birds prefer open spaces while others like the cover of woodland. Take the time to look at where a bird is active and this can go a long way in helping you to discover what it is.

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