The Most Common Backyard Birds Of North America

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Spinus tristis

The American Goldfinch is a small finch with a short, conical bill and a small head, long wings and short, notched tail. It measures about 4.3 - 5.1 inches in length, and have a wingspan of 7.5 - 8.7 inches. It weighs about 11 - 20 grams.

Males are bright yellow with a black forehead, black wings and white markings.
Females are duller yellow beneath and more olive above the breeding males.

Males are a drab, unstreaked brown, with blackish wings and two pale wingbars.
Females are brownish without any streaking and they have distinctive, bold black wings with whitish wingbars.
Both males and females are much less colorful during the winter months.
Juveniles are similar to adult females.

They prefer open country where weeds thrive, such as fields, meadows, flood plains, as well as roadsides, orchards, and gardens. They may also be found in open deciduous and riparian woodlands and areas of secondary growth.

The American goldfinch is a granivore and adapted for the consumption of seedheads, they feed on seeds exclusively which include seeds from composite plants (in the family Asteraceae: sunflowers, thistle, asters, etc.), grasses, and trees such as alder, birch, western red cedar, and elm. At feeders, they prefer nyjer and sunflower.

The American Goldfinch is the only finch species that molt their feathers twice in a year.

It is migratory, ranging from mid-Alberta to North Carolina during the breeding season, and from just south of the Canada–United States border to Mexico during the winter.


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 Yellow-Rumped Warbler 

Yellow-rumped Warbler

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Setophaga coronata
CONSERVATION STATUS: Least Concern (Population increasing)

The Yellow-rumped Warbler is a fairly large, full-bodied warbler with a large head, sturdy bill, and long, narrow tail. It measures about 4.7 - 5.5 inches in length and has a wingspan of 7.5 - 9.1 inches. It weighs about 12 - 13 grams.

Both sexes are a smart gray with flashes of white in the wings and yellow on the face, sides, and rump. The males are very strikingly shaded while the females are duller and may show some brown.

They are paler brown, with bright yellow rump and usually some yellow on the sides.

The Yellow-rumped warbler spends the breeding season in mature coniferous and mixed coniferous-deciduous woodlands.

There are two forms of the Yellow-rumped Warbler, the Myrtle Warbler and the Audubon's Warbler.

They feed on insects and berries. 

They are the only warbler that is able to digest waxes found in bayberries and wax myrtles. This ability allows them to winter farther north than other warblers.


Mourning Dove

Mourning Dove

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Zenaida macroura

The Mourning Dove, also known as the American Mourning Dove or the Rain Dove, and erroneously as the turtle dove, was once known as the Carolina Pigeon or Carolina Turtledove. It is one of the most abundant and widespread of all North American birds.

They are plump-bodied and long-tailed, with short legs. Their head is small in comparison to their body. They have a long, pointed tail which is unique among the North American doves.
Males measure about 9.1 - 13.4 inches in length, with a wingspan of 17.7 inches and weigh about 96 - 170 grams. The females weigh about 86 156 grams.
Adults are gray above with large black spots on the wing coverts and pale peach-colored below, with a long, thin tail. They have thin, black bills and pinkish legs. They show a long, fan-shaped tail with large white tips when in flight.
Juveniles are similar to the adults but with small white tips to most of their upperpart feathers and white markings in their face.

They occupy a wide variety of open and semi-open habitats, such as urban areas, farms, prairie, grassland, and lightly wooded areas, and avoid swamps and thick forest.

They feed almost exclusively on seeds and rarely take insects or tiny invertebrates.

At feeders, they will attend for sunflower seeds, millet, cracked corn, and other seeds.


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 American Robin 

American Robin

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Turdus migratorius

The American Robin, a migratory songbird is named after the European Robin because of its reddish-orange breast, though the two species are not closely related.

The American Robin is a fairly large songbird with a large, round body, long legs, and a fairly long tail. They are the largest North American thrush. They measure about 7.9 - 11 inches in length, with a wingspan of 12.2 - 15.8 inches. They weigh about 77 - 85 grams.
Males have a dark head, yellow bill, black streaks on the throat and a rusty belly.
Both sexes are similar, but the females are duller than the males, with a brown tint on the head, brown upperparts and less-bright underparts.
Juveniles are paler than the adult male and have dark spots on its breast and whitish wing coverts.

They feed mostly on fruit and berries, insects, and earthworms.

Their breeding habitat is woodland and more open farmland and urban areas.
They breed throughout most of North America, from Alaska and Canada southward to northern Florida and Mexico.
They occasionally overwinter in the northern part of the United States and southern Canada, but most migrate to winter south of Canada from Florida and the Gulf Coast to central Mexico, as well as along the Pacific Coast.


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Dark-Eyed Junco

Dark-eyed Junco

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Junco hyemalis
CONSERVATION STATUS: Least Concern (Population stable)

The Dark-eyed Junco is a species of the juncos, a genus of small grayish American sparrows. It was once considered as five separate species, the five races of Juncos are now grouped into one species.  The five races tend to summer in different locations, but multiple races can be found together in winter.

They are common across much of temperate North America and in summer ranges far into the Arctic.

The Dark-eyed Junco is a medium-sized sparrow with a rounded head, a short, stout bill and a fairly long, conspicuous tail. They measure about 5.5 - 6.3 inches in length, with a wingspan of 7.1 - 9.8 inches. They weigh about 18 - 30 grams.
Adults generally have gray heads, necks, and breasts, gray or brown backs and wings, and a white belly, but show a confusing amount of variation in plumage details. The white outer tail feathers flash distinctively in flight and while hopping on the ground. The bill is usually pale pinkish.
Males tend to have darker, more conspicuous markings than the females.
Juveniles often have pale streaks.

They breed in conifer and mixed woods, and open woods, brush undergrowth, and residential areas in winter.

They mostly feed on seeds and insects. Their primary diet in summer is evenly split between insects and seeds, while their winter diets are primarily on seeds of weeds and grasses. At feeders, they typically feed on fallen seeds below the feeder or on tray feeders set on the ground. They feed on seeds, nuts and breadcrumbs.

They forage by hopping or walking along the ground pecking or scratching at the leaf litter or flit very low in underbrush gleaning food from twigs and leaves.


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Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinal

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Cardinalis cardinalis

The Northern Cardinal, also known colloquially as the redbird, common cardinal or just cardinal is one of the most popular birds and the official state bird of 7 states.

The Northern Cardinal is a fairly large, long-tailed songbird with a short, very thick bill and a prominent crest. It measures about 8.3 - 9.1 inches in length and have a wingspan of 9.8 - 12.2 inches. It weighs about 42 - 48 grams.
They have a distinctive crest on the head and a mask on the face which is black in the males and gray in the females.
Males are vibrant red all over and females are pale brown overall with warm reddish tinges in the wings, tail and crest.
Juveniles are similar to the females, but they have a gray to black bill.

Their habitat is a wide variety of semi-open habitats with nearby thickets for nesting, including woodland edges and clearings, shelterbelts, parks, and residential areas. They can be found in southern-eastern Canada, through the eastern United States from Maine to Minnesota to Texas, and south through Mexico, Belize, and Guatemala.

They primarily feed on the ground, or while moving through low brush and undergrowth. They also readily adapt to using feeders. Males can be very aggressive when defending nesting territories.

They feed mainly on seeds and fruit, supplementing these with insects. They will attend feeders for sunflower seeds, safflower seeds, and various other seeds.


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Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Picoides pubescens

The Downy Woodpecker is the smallest woodpecker in North America. It measures about 5.5 - 6.7 inches in length and has a wingspan of 9.8 - 11.8 inches. It weighs about 21 - 28 grams.
Adults are mainly black on the upperparts and wings, with a white back, throat and belly and white spotting on the wings. There is a white bar above the eye and one below. They have a black tail with white outer feathers barred with black.
Males have a red patch on the back of the head, while the females have none.
Juveniles display a red cap.

They are native to forested areas, mainly deciduous, of North America. Their range consists of most of the United States and Canada, except for the deserts of the southwest and the tundra of the north.

They will forage at nearly any level of vegetation.

They mostly feed on insects. They also eat seeds and berries, as well as nuts and suet at feeders.


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Red-Eyed Vireo

Red-eyed Vireo

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Vireo olivaceus
CONSERVATION STATUS: Least Concern (Population increasing)

The Red-eyed Vireo is a small American songbird, with a long, angular head, thick neck and a strong small bill. It measures about 5.1 - 5.5 inches in length and has a wingspan of 9.1 - 9.8 inches. It weighs about 12 - 26 grams.
Adults are mainly olive-green on the upperparts with white underparts. They have a gray crown and white eyebrow stripe bordered above and below by blackish lines. Flanks and under tail have a green-yellow wash.
They have a red iris that appears dark from a distance. Juveniles have dark eyes.

Their breeding habitat is open wooded areas across Canada and the eastern and northwestern United States. They migrate to South America, where they spend the winter.

They are one of the most prolific singers in the bird world. They usually sing high up in trees for long periods of time in a question-and-answer rhythm. They hold the record for most songs given in a single day among bird species, with more than 20,000 songs in one day.

The Red-eyed Vireo primarily feeds on insects, especially during the summer months. They will also feed on berries and small fruits.


Chipping Sparrow

Chipping Sparrow

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Spizella passerina
CONSERVATION STATUS: Least Concern (Population increasing)

The Chipping Sparrow is a slender, fairly long-tailed sparrow with a medium-sized bill that is a bit small for a sparrow. They measure about 4.7 - 5.9 inches in length and have a wingspan of about 8.3 inches. They weigh about 11 - 16 grams.

They are widespread, fairly tame, and common across most of its North American range. There are two subspecies, the Eastern Chipping Sparrow and the Western Chipping Sparrow.

Breeding adults have a bright rusty crown, black eyeline and unstreaked grayish belly.
Nonbreeding adults are paler with brownish crown, dark eyeline and unstreaked neck and belly.
Juveniles have streaked underparts and a streaked brown crown. They show a dark eye-line, extending both in front of and behind the eye.

They breed in grassy, open woodland clearings and shrubby grass fields across North America.

They feed on the seeds of grasses and weeds year-round, but the diet during the summer breeding season is mostly insects and spiders. Waste grain will be taken if available, and occasionally they may feed on small fruits and berries.


Swainson’s Thrush

Swainson’s Thrush

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Catharus ustulatus
CONSERVATION STATUS: Least Concern (Population decreasing)

Adults are brown on the upperparts, underparts are white with brown on the flanks. The breast is lighter brown with darker spots. They have pink legs and a light brown eye-ring. Eastern birds are more olive-brown on the upperparts; western birds are more reddish-brown.

Their breeding habitat is coniferous woods with dense undergrowth across Canada, Alaska, and the northern United States; also, deciduous wooded areas on the Pacific coast of North America. They migrate to southern Mexico and as far south as Argentina.

The coastal subspecies migrate down the Pacific coast of North America and winter from Mexico to Costa Rica, whereas the continental birds migrate eastwards within North America and then travel southwards via Florida to winter from Panama to Bolivia. They are a very rare vagrant to western Europe, also occurred as a vagrant in northeast Asia.

The Swainson’s Thrush is a shy but vocal bird that skulks in the shadows of their generally dark forest-interior habitat. They forage for insects and other arthropods on or near the ground.

They feed mostly on insects, earthworms, and other invertebrates. However, during migration, they will also sometimes feed on fruits and berries.


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