Discover the fascinating world of birdwatching right in your own backyard with this guide to the top 20 common backyard birds. From vibrant, melodic songbirds to hardworking woodpeckers, these common backyard birds or feathered friends bring life and excitement to any outdoor space.
Whether you’re a seasoned birder or new to the hobby, learning about these captivating creatures will surely deepen your appreciation for nature’s bounty. In this article, we’ll introduce you to these awe-inspiring avian species and share interesting facts about their behaviors, habitats, and how best to attract them into your yard.
- The American Robin is a large thrush with a vibrant orange breast that forages for earthworms and has a diverse diet of caterpillars, snails, spiders, berries and fruits.
- The House Sparrow is known for its clever adaptability and highly social nature but competes aggressively with native bird species. Sunflower seeds or suet in bird feeders discourage them from visiting while attracting other birds like goldfinches or blue jays.
- The Northern Cardinal is one of the most popular state birds, recognizable by its bright red plumage and distinctive crest. They usually eat seeds or fruits that have fallen on the ground but sometimes forage with other bird species such as dark-eyed Juncos or goldfinches.
- Blue Jays love acorns so much that they sometimes store as many as five thousand acorns during autumn season! Their diet consists mainly of nuts and seeds.
- Black – capped Chickadee feeds primarily on insects hidden under tree bark or crevices but also enjoys sunflower seeds when offered by humans who make an effort to attract them to their gardens. They are permanent residents across northern U.S., parts of Appalachian Mountains, and Canada.
- Downy Woodpecker can be found year – round in forests across North America. It’s commonly spotted at backyard feeders since they are more sociable than other woodpeckers due to joining flocks of chickadees and nuthatches in parks and woodlots.
- European Starlings were introduced to America in 1890 by Eugene Schieffelin. These birds can learn up to 20 different calls which makes them an interesting addition to any backyard watcher’s list but can be considered invasive due to their prolific breeding habits potentially displacing native bird populations.
- American Goldfinch primarily feeds on sunflower seeds, thistle seed, suet during winter months & undergoes complete molt each year changing from bright yellow with black accents in summer to olive-drab color in winter.
- Red – winged Blackbird is one of the most strikingly colored birds found across North America. They are often found perched atop cattails in marshes or brushy swamps and display red and yellow shoulder patches during courtship displays.
- Song Sparrow has a rich, russet-and-gray appearance with bold streaks down its white chest and known for its melodious and complex song which varies regionally with each population having unique dialect. It’s the most common sparrow native to North America,
The Top 20 Common Backyard Birds
Here are the top 20 common backyard birds that you may spot in your lawn or garden:
- American Robin
- House Sparrow
- Mourning Dove
- Northern Cardinal
- Blue Jay
- Black-Capped Chickadee
- Downy Woodpecker
- European Starling
- American Goldfinch
- Red-Winged Blackbird
- Song Sparrow
- House Finch
- Tufted Titmouse
- Northern Mockingbird
- Common Grackle
- Carolina Wren
- White-Breasted Nuthatch
- Dark-Eyed Junco
- Canada Goose, and
- Mallard Duck.
Now a lot more detailed look at each of these backyard birds.
1. American Robin
One of the most recognizable and distinctive backyard birds in North America, the American Robin is a large thrush known for its vibrant orange breast, contrasting with the gray-brown upper parts.
As an early herald of spring’s arrival, these industrious birds can often be seen hopping across lawns searching for their favorite food: earthworms.
Found throughout the year in various habitats such as woodlands, suburban backyards parks and grasslands with shrubs – the American Robin has carved out its niche as one of North America’s top 20 common backyard birds.
2. House Sparrow
The House Sparrow, a prevalent member of the top 20 common backyard birds in the United States, is known for its clever adaptability and highly social nature.
Originally introduced to North America from Europe in 1852, these small-sized birds have become established all across the continent due to their resourcefulness and ability to thrive in various environments.
However, not everyone welcomes house sparrows as backyard visitors due to their invasive tendencies. These energetic birds live within organized military-like units led by males with larger black patches and often compete aggressively with native bird species for nesting sites and food resources.
Providing bird feeders filled with sunflower seeds or suet helps attract other desirable avian guests like goldfinches or blue jays while discouraging house sparrows that prefer mixed seed offerings.
The Mourning Dove, a member of the Columbidae family and one of the most common backyard birds in the United States, can be spotted perching on telephone wires or foraging for seeds on the ground.
Five subspecies exist within the Mourning Dove species with slight differences in coloring, beak shape, and leg length. They are often found gracing feeders with their gentle presence or fluttering around during mating season.
4. Northern Cardinal
The Northern Cardinal is one of the top 20 common backyard birds and is often a favorite among bird watchers due to its striking appearance.
With its bright red plumage and distinctive crest, the male Northern Cardinal is easy to identify even from a distance.
While they are commonly found in backyards, Cardinals are inconspicuous away from human settlements, preferring dense tangles for hiding. They sometimes forage with other bird species such as dark-eyed Juncos or goldfinches but usually eat seeds or fruits that have fallen on the ground.
5. Blue Jay
The Blue Jay is a familiar and striking-looking backyard bird that can be found across much of North America. With its bright blue, white, and black feathers and perky crest on top of its head, this bird is easy to spot in your backyard.
Blue Jays typically live for 6-8 years and can grow up to 11 inches long. They are known to be aggressive towards other birds at feeders but usually travel in small flocks during migration season.
Interestingly enough, these birds love acorns so much that they sometimes store as many as five thousand acorns a season! While their diet mainly consists of nuts and seeds, Blue Jays will occasionally prey on insects or small animals like frogs or mice if food sources become scarce.
6. Black-Capped Chickadee
The Black-capped Chickadee is a common backyard bird in North America, and one of the most recognizable. Sporting a distinctive black cap and bib, white cheeks, and gray back, wings, and tail feathers; it’s easy to spot in your backyard or local park.
These energetic little birds are permanent residents across the northern U.S., parts of the Appalachian Mountains, and Canada.
In colder months when food becomes scarce, chickadees forage for insects hidden under tree bark or crevices. Interestingly enough, only about 20% of their daily energy intake comes from feeders.
To attract chickadees to your backyard feeder all year round (including summer), offer sunflower seeds or nyjer/thistle seeds. Creating natural habitat by planting native trees/shrubs will also entice them to nest nearby in early springtime given they mate for life.
7. Downy Woodpecker
The Downy Woodpecker, one of the top 20 common backyard birds in North America and the smallest woodpecker species on the continent, is a delight for birdwatchers.
This petite bird sports black and white plumage and has a red patch at the back of its head.
One fascinating fact about this woodpecker is that it is known to join flocks of chickadees and nuthatches in parks and woodlots. As such, it is commonly spotted at backyard feeders since they are more sociable than other woodpeckers.
The Downy Woodpecker feeds mainly on insects but also enjoys seeds like suet or sunflower seeds when offered by humans who make an effort to attract them to their gardens.
8. European Starling
The European Starling is a common backyard bird that was introduced to America in 1890 by Eugene Schieffelin. These birds can learn up to 20 different calls, and the males are known for singing more than their female counterparts.
They have a glossy black appearance with speckles of white spots during winter months. European starlings can be found in large flocks and are known to mimic other birds with a variety of calls, making them an interesting addition to any backyard birdwatcher’s list.
9. American Goldfinch
The American Goldfinch is one of the most common birds found in backyard feeders across North America. With its bright yellow plumage and distinct black wings, it’s easy to spot this small bird flitting among trees or at your feeder.
The American Goldfinch primarily feeds on sunflower seeds, but may also eat thistle seed and suet during the winter months. Interestingly, this bird undergoes a complete molt each year, changing from a bright yellow with black accents in summer to an olive-drab color in winter.
Fun fact: The American Goldfinch is not only one of the most common types of backyard birds but has also been dubbed “the wild canary” due to their sweet singing voice that mimics some aspects of canaries’ songs.
10. Red-Winged Blackbird
The Red-winged Blackbird is a common backyard bird and one of the most strikingly colored birds found across North America. This species has a black plumage with red and yellow shoulder patches, which are displayed during courtship displays.
Despite their abundance, this species has experienced rapid population declines, putting them on the radar for conservationists. The Red-winged Blackbird’s distinctive call is easily recognizable and signals the arrival of spring as they return to backyards each year.
11. Song Sparrow
The Song Sparrow is a small, brown-colored bird found throughout much of North America and is one of the most familiar North American sparrows. It has a rich, russet-and-gray appearance with bold streaks down its white chest.
This species is known for its melodious and complex song, which varies regionally with each population having a unique dialect.
This bird is also fascinating for its remarkable range – it’s the most common and widespread sparrow native to North America, with 31 recognized subspecies.
The Song Sparrow prefers habitats that include thickets near water or dense shrubs along forest edges but can also be commonly found in gardens and parks as well as suburban areas.
12. House Finch
The House Finch is one of the most common backyard birds in North America, known for its gregarious and social nature. These small brown birds are often found in noisy groups at feeders, where they feast on sunflower seeds and thistle.
With their cheerful songs and bright red plumage on males during breeding season, it’s easy to see why House Finches are a favorite among bird watchers.
13. Tufted Titmouse
The Tufted Titmouse is a small, grey bird with a distinctive crest on its head. It can be found year-round in eastern regions of the United States and is commonly seen at bird feeders.
This species is related to chickadees and has similar feeding habits, including caching food for later consumption. The Tufted Titmouse has a larger range than other titmouse species in North America, making it an important addition to any backyard birdwatching setup.
14. Northern Mockingbird
The Northern Mockingbird is a popular bird to spot in most residential neighborhoods, making it one of the top 20 common backyard birds in the United States. With its gray to brown body coloration and white patches on its rounded wings, this bird can be easily identified.
It’s similar in size to jays and robins and mainly resides permanently in North America. The Northern Mockingbird is known for its diverse vocalizations, mimicking other birds’ songs and even car alarms or cell phone ringtones.
This behavior has made it a favorite among birdwatchers who enjoy listening to their impressive repertoire of sounds.
15. Common Grackle
The Common Grackle is a type of blackbird that can be easily spotted with its elongated appearance, long legs, and lengthy tail. Found across North America and down to Central America, these birds are common winter residents in many states.
They belong to the Icteridae family and are known for their loud and boisterous behavior.
In Tennessee, the Common Grackle is one of the most frequently seen backyard birds during winter months. These adaptable creatures can thrive in a range of habitats such as open fields or urban areas where they forage for insects or eat seeds from bird feeders.
16. Carolina Wren
Carolina Wrens are one of the top 20 common backyard birds found in the United States.
According to the North American Breeding Bird Survey, their populations have increased between 1966 and 2019. Carolina Wrens have a small, reddish-brown and buff appearance with a long, sharp, slightly decurved beak and a narrow white eyebrow.
They are also commonly found in Virginia and throughout the southeastern United States.
17. White-Breasted Nuthatch
The White-breasted Nuthatch is a compact bird that is commonly found in backyard bird feeders throughout the United States.
Known for their distinctive black and white markings, these birds are easily recognizable with thick black stripes on top of their heads and a white belly.
These birds are one of the four species of nuthatches present in the United States. The White-breasted Nuthatch feeds mainly on insects during summer but switches to nuts, seeds, and suet during colder months when food is scarce.
Their sharp claws allow them to climb up trees effortlessly while also letting them hang upside down as they search for food.
18. Dark-Eyed Junco
The Dark-Eyed Junco is another one of the top 20 common backyard birds that you might spot in your garden. These little sparrows are named after their dark eyes and can display a variety of plumages, ranging from slate gray to reddish-brown.
They are sometimes also known as “snowbirds” because they migrate south during the winter months and then return north for breeding season in the spring.
Dark-eyed Juncos are found across much of North America, from southern Alaska down to Mexico. During breeding season, they prefer coniferous or mid-coniferous forests, but during migration and throughout winter, they can be seen in open woodlands, fields, parks, roadsides, and backyards nationwide.
19. Canada Goose
The Canada Goose is a common bird found in fields and parks across North America. With its distinctive black head, white cheeks, and long black neck, it’s easily recognizable to most people.
Despite their abundance, Canada Geese are still fascinating creatures that can be a joy to watch. Their loud honking calls can often be heard from afar as they migrate south during the winter months.
They also create strong family bonds – mates will stay together for life and both parents take care of their young goslings until they’re ready to fly on their own.
20. Mallard Duck
The Mallard Duck is a common and recognizable bird that can be found in many backyards across North America, Eurasia, and North Africa. Male Mallards are known for their colorful plumage during the breeding season, which makes them easy to identify.
Mallards typically nest near water sources such as ponds or streams and are known for their dabbling behavior – where they upend themselves to feed on underwater plants.
Despite being frequently hunted for sport or food purposes, the population of mallards has remained steady from 1966 to 2019 due to their widespread distribution across different continents.
Interesting Facts About Each Bird
Each backyard bird on this list has unique characteristics worth exploring.
1. Song And Vocalizations
Birds use their songs and vocalizations to communicate with other birds, establish territory, and attract a mate. Some birds have more complex songs than others, like the Northern Mockingbird who can imitate the calls of up to 39 different bird species.
One interesting fact about bird songs is that each species has its unique tune and tone. For example, the Northern Cardinal’s song is a series of clear whistles that range from high to low notes.
In contrast, the Common Grackle produces harsh calls that sound like rusty gate hinges.
2. Physical Characteristics And Behaviors
Each of the top 20 common backyard birds has unique physical characteristics and behaviors worth noting. For instance, the Northern Mockingbird is a highly vocal bird that can mimic other bird songs and even sounds like car alarms or barking dogs.
Cardinals are known for their bright red coloration on males with brownish-red females, but not all cardinals have red feathers.
Hawks are impressive predators with powerful feet equipped with sharp talons and hooked beaks used to capture prey such as rodents, reptiles, and smaller birds. Owls also possess distinctive features such as an upright stance, broad head shape optimized for sound detection (thanks to asymmetrical placement of ears), excellent vision in low-light environments due to enlarged pupils and reflective tissue called tapetum lucidum behind their eyes- which amplifies light from sources -and deadly silent flight enabled by serrated wing edges reducing turbulence during flight.
3. Habitat And Range
Each backyard bird species has its own specific habitat and range. American Goldfinches, for example, are commonly found in open fields with scattered trees and shrubs.
Meanwhile, Northern Cardinals prefer dense vegetation and forests. Mourning Doves are often seen on wires or perched in trees near open areas.
It’s important to understand the preferred habitat and range of each backyard bird species if you want to attract them to your yard. You can create an ideal environment by providing suitable food sources, water features that mimic natural settings, and nesting materials like twigs and grasses.
How To Attract And Care For Backyard Birds
Offering fresh water sources, providing bird feeders and seed, creating natural habitat by planting native trees and shrubs are some of the ways to attract common backyard birds.
1. Providing Bird Feeders And Seed
To attract a variety of backyard birds, it is important to provide the right type of bird feeders and seed. Here are some tips for providing bird feeders and seed:
- Choose the right type of feeder
- Platform Feeders: This type of feeder can be used to attract most of the common backyard birds, including Northern Cardinals and Blue Jays.
- Tube Feeders: These are great for smaller birds like finches and chickadees.
- Hopper Feeders: These can hold more seed than other types of feeders and are great for attracting larger birds like jays and doves.
- Provide high – quality seed
- Ensure that the seed you provide is free from dust, dirt, and debris.
- Avoid using cheap blends that contain fillers like milo, wheat, or oats.
- Use fresh seed as old or moldy seed can make birds sick.
- Offer a diverse mix of seeds
- Providing a mix of seeds like black oil sunflower seeds, safflower seeds, nyjer seeds, cracked corns, etc., in your feeder will attract a greater variety of backyard birds.
- Different species prefer different types of food so offering a mix will ensure that you attract many different types.
- Keep your feeders clean
- Regularly clean your bird feeders to prevent the spread of disease among the birds.
- Scrub them with soap and hot water every few weeks or as needed.
By following these tips on providing bird feeders and seed in your backyard, you’ll be sure to attract plenty of colorful feathered friends throughout the year. Remember to maintain clean feeding stations with good quality seed, so that they stay healthy while visiting your yard.
2. Creating Natural Habitat
To attract a variety of backyard birds, creating natural habitat is essential. Here are some tips:
- Plant Native Trees and Shrubs: Native plants provide food and shelter that birds need to thrive. Choose plants that produce fruits, nuts, and seeds.
- Offer Nesting Materials: Birds use materials like twigs, grasses, and feathers to build their nests. Leave out these materials in your yard for them to find easily.
- Provide Water Sources: Birds need water for drinking and bathing. A simple birdbath or small pond can attract a range of species.
- Create Brush Piles: Moving limbs and leaves into a pile creates a brush structure that provides cover for birds to hide from predators.
- Avoid Using Pesticides: Pesticides not only harm insects but also birds who feed on them. Instead, use natural solutions like companion planting or biological controls.
By implementing these steps, you can create an ecosystem in your backyard that attracts a diverse group of birds while providing them with the resources they need to survive and thrive.
3. Offering Fresh Water Sources
Providing fresh water is essential to attract and care for backyard birds. Here are some tips to offer fresh water sources:
- Fill a birdbath with clean, shallow water that’s less than two inches deep; it should have a rough surface so birds can grip.
- Clean and refill the water every few days or when it gets dirty. Freshwater is essential because stagnant water can be dangerous to birds as mosquitoes can breed in them.
- Consider adding a dripper or fountain attachment to keep the water moving and sounding like a natural source of flowing water.
- Place the birdbath near sheltered areas like trees, shrubs, and flower beds. It’s easier for birds to access from cover they recognize as safe places.
- Alternatively, you can provide fresh drinking water by creating puddles on lawns or garden beds by turning on your sprinklers or hoses.
Remember, offering clean sources of freshwater will not only attract a variety of bird species but also encourage them to stay around for longer periods.
4. Planting Native Trees And Shrubs
Native vegetation is the best option for attracting birds as they have formed symbiotic relationships with native wildlife over thousands of years. Here are some top options for planting native trees and shrubs in your backyard that can attract birds:
Adding early fruiting trees or shrubs to the backyard may also help attract wildlife, especially during the peak of nesting season. Consider planting some of these options to enhance the natural habitat for birds in your area.
For homeowners in Wisconsin, a list of the best Wisconsin native plants for attracting birds is available to help you choose which native varieties will work best in your area and specific climate.
5. Keeping Cats Indoors
Keeping cats indoors is an important step in protecting backyard birds from predation. Here are some reasons why:
- Stray cats can harm the health of chicks and decrease nest success rates.
- Controlling cat behavior and improving backyard habitats can help keep birds safe from cats.
- Cats that are kept indoors live longer than those that are allowed to roam free.
- Indoor cats are safer and less likely to come into contact with other wildlife or get hit by vehicles.
- Keeping cats indoors, especially near active bird feeders, reduces the risks of predation.
By keeping your cats inside, you can help preserve bird populations and ensure their safety. Additionally, indoor living is healthier for your feline companions and avoids any potential conflicts or dangers that could arise from outdoor activities.
Conclusion – Common Backyard Birds
In conclusion, familiarizing yourself with these top 20 common backyard birds can enhance your appreciation for nature and make bird watching an enjoyable hobby.
With interesting facts about each bird, you can easily identify them in your backyard and learn their behaviors. To attract these birds to your yard, provide a variety of feeders with different seeds and fresh water sources.
Creating natural habitat by planting native trees, shrubs and flowers will also encourage them to visit regularly.
FAQs Common Backyard Birds In North America
1. What are some of the most common backyard birds?
Some of the most common backyard birds in North America include:
2. How can I attract common backyard birds to my yard?
There are a number of things you can do to attract common backyard birds to your yard, including:
- Provide food and water sources.
- Plant native plants that provide food and shelter for birds.
- Create a birdbath or other water feature.
- Remove or reduce pesticides and herbicides in your yard.
- Install nest boxes.
- Avoid using bird feeders that contain birdseed that has been treated with pesticides.
- Be patient and enjoy watching the birds!
3. What are some of the best ways to identify common backyard birds?
There are a number of ways to identify common backyard birds, including:
- Learn the different bird calls.
- Look for distinctive markings on the birds, such as color, size, and shape.
- Use a bird identification guide.
- Take pictures of the birds and compare them to pictures in a bird identification guide.
4. What are some of the common diseases that affect common backyard birds?
Some of the common diseases that affect common backyard birds include:
- Avian pox
- Avian influenza
- West Nile virus
- Avian botulism
5. What are some of the things I can do to prevent common backyard birds from getting sick?
There are a number of things you can do to prevent common backyard birds from getting sick, including:
- Keep your bird feeders clean and free of mold and mildew.
- Change your birdseed regularly.
- Provide fresh water in your birdbaths daily.
- Remove any dead or sick birds from your yard.
- If you see a sick bird, contact your local wildlife rehabilitator.
6. What are some of the things I can do to help common backyard birds?
There are a number of things you can do to help common backyard birds, including:
- Provide food and water sources.
- Plant native plants that provide food and shelter for birds.
- Create a birdbath or other water feature.
- Remove or reduce pesticides and herbicides in your yard.
- Install nest boxes.
- Be patient and enjoy watching the birds!
By following these tips, you can help to ensure that common backyard birds are able to thrive in your yard.