Virginia is home to a large variety of wild birds. In this article we’ll take a look at some of the more recognizable and well-known Virginia birds, especially those that can be found in your own yard. Some of these species live in Virginia all year long, others are migratory and are only part-time residents. So let’s take a look at 24 backyard birds in Virginia and learn a little about each species.
After that I’ll show you how to attract them to your yard, give you a crash course in the 10 different types of bird feeders you can use to do so, and even mention a few birdwatching hotspots in Virginia.
How many different species of wild birds are in Virginia?
It’s difficult to get an exact number on how many bird species are found in North America, the United States, or even in the state of Virginia. However, according to the Virginia Society of Ornithology, as of 2020 there were 476 species included on the official state list.
One source claims there are 2,059 species in North America, another older source says there are just 914. So I’m not sure how much I trust these numbers, but they do give us a rough idea of the number of species.
For the purposes of this article we are just going to look at some of our favorite backyard species found in Virginia.
24 backyard birds in Virginia
Below we’ll look at 24 species of backyard birds in Virginia, some are year-round residents and some aren’t. These obviously aren’t all the species in the state, or even close to it, but they are some of the more notable and recognizable Virginia backyard birds, many of which you can see at your bird feeders. Let’s get to it!
1. Northern Cardinal
Scientific name: Cardinalis cardinalis
Length: 8.3-9.1 in
Weight: 1.5-1.7 oz
Wingspan: 9.8-12.2 in
Northern Cardinals are among the most recognizable and common backyard birds in North America. Males have bright red feathers and a black mask, females have duller colors and are more pale brown with some reddish coloring. Both males and females are easily recognized by their “mohawks” and reddish orange beaks.
Northern Cardinals are found throughout the entire state of Virginia all year long, since cardinals do not migrate.
Cardinals will visit most seed feeders, offer them mixed seed blends and black sunflower seeds.
2. Tufted Titmouse
Scientific name: Baeolophus bicolor
Length: 5.5-6.3 in
Weight: 0.6-0.9 oz
Wingspan: 7.9-10.2 in
These little birds are very common at feeders and in backyards within their range. Like Cardinals, they have a small crest (mohawk) that helps you tell them apart from other birds. Titmice are silver-gray on top and lighter on bottom, with a black patch just above their beaks.
The Tufted Titmouse is found throughout Virginia year-round.
Titmice will visit most seed feeders, offer them mixed seed blends and black sunflower seeds.
Scientific name: Poecile atricapillus (Black-Capped), Poecile carolinensis (Carolina)
Length: 4.7-5.9 in (Black-Capped), 3.9-4.7 in (Carolina)
Weight: 0.3-0.5 oz (Black-Capped), 0.3-0.4 oz (Carolina)
Wingspan: 6.3-8.3 in (Black-Capped), 5.9-7.9 in (Carolina)
Chickadees are tiny little birds that are very easy to recognize because of their “black cap” and black bib. Their cheeks are solid white, their wings and backs are gray, and their underbodies are fluffy and light.
The two types of Chickadees found in the east are Black-capped Chickadees and Carolina Chickadees, and they look nearly identical. For most people, they can tell which one they are seeing based on where they are. However in Virginia, both chickadees are present. They are very common at bird feeders and are often seen darting back and forth from a feeder to cover and back again for more.
Black-capped chickadees are much less common and are only found in the far western portion of Virginia. Carolina chickadees can be found throughout the whole state all year.
Chickadees will visit most seed feeders, offer them mixed seed blends and black sunflower seeds.
4. Blue Jay
Scientific name: Cyanocitta cristata
Length: 9.8-11.8 in
Weight: 2.5-3.5 oz
Wingspan: 13.4-16.9 in
Another very well-known bird species in North America and the U.S. is the Blue Jay. They have a large blue crest on top of their heads with mostly blue feathers along their back and wings. They have a black ring around their neck, and beneath that their breast and belly are white. Their wings and tail have black stripes and barring. Females and males share the same coloration. Blue Jays have several loud, metallic sounding calls, and will often be among the first to alert all the birds in the area to a nearby predator such as a hawk.
Blue Jays are another year-round resident to the entire state of Virginia. They are very common in backyards and at feeders.
Blue Jays like platform feeders, peanut feeders, and feeders with large perches. Offer them black sunflower seeds, mixed seeds, and peanuts.
5. Eastern Bluebird
Scientific name: Sialia sialis
Length: 6.3-8.3 in
Weight: 1.0-1.1 oz
Wingspan: 9.8-12.6 in
True to their name, bluebirds are all blue on top with rusty reddish-orange bellies. Females and males share the same coloration, however the females colors appear much duller and more faded, especially the blue. They are just about the most sought after tenants of birdhouses in the U.S. making the bluebird house industry pretty booming. They are very common in backyards, though not so much at feeders. Put up a birdhouse and try your luck in attracting a mating pair, I was able to with this birdhouse on Amazon.
In certain parts of North America bluebirds do migrate, but not in Virginia. Here the Eastern Bluebird can be found year round. Check out the Virginia Bluebird Society to learn more.
Bluebirds don’t typically eat seeds, but can be enticed to visit feeders with mealworms on a tray feeder or in a dish.
6. Song Sparrow
Scientific name: Melospiza melodia
Length: 4.7-6.7 in
Weight: 0.4-1.9 oz
Wingspan: 7.1-9.4 in
Song Sparrows are very common throughout most of North America and their plumage can vary from region to region. In the east, these sparrows are mostly brown on the back and wings, with heavy brown streaks on their chest and a white belly. The streaks on their chest often converge in a noticeable brown spot, which can help with identification. The male of the species uses his song to attract females as well as to defend his territory.
Song Sparrows migrate in many areas, however they stick around in Virginia all year.
Song Sparrows will sometimes visit bird feeders and snack on mixed seeds and sunflower seeds.
7. American Robin
Scientific name: Turdus migratorius
Length: 7.9-11.0 in
Weight: 2.7-3.0 oz
Wingspan: 12.2-15.8 in
Highly common in backyards, robins are mostly seen hopping around the grass looking for worms and other invertebrates to eat. While they will occasionally visit bird feeders, they do not typically eat seeds. Their bright red, round bellies, and yellow beaks make them easy to identify. In many areas they retreat to the wood during winter and don’t frequent yards again until spring. This gives the illusion that they are migrating out of the state, but in most cases they stick around through the winter.
Robins can be found throughout Virginia all year.
American Robins do not often visit bird feeders, so attract them with meal worms, native fruit-bearing plants, or a bird bath.
8. Mourning Dove
Scientific name: Zenaida macroura
Length: 9.1-13.4 in
Weight: 3.0-6.0 oz
Wingspan: 17.7 in
About the size of a robin, doves are very common in backyards and will often sit perched on telephone wires or in groups in trees. I sometimes see them on my tray feeder, but more often than not they are seen walking around on the ground. Mourning Doves are mostly gray with black spots on top, a pale peachy color below, and pink legs.
Mourning Doves are found all year throughout the whole state of Virginia.
Doves will often visit seed feeders, but prefer scouring the ground for seeds that have fallen. Try a ground feeder with a mixed seed blend, or simply scatter some seeds on the ground.
9. European Starling
Scientific name: Sturnus vulgaris
Length: 7.9-9.1 in
Weight: 2.1-3.4 oz
Wingspan: 12.2-15.8 in
100 starlings were set loose in New York in the 1890s and they have since taken over the country. They destroy other birds’ nests, kill their young, and will overtake feeders not allowing other birds to get any of the food that you put out. They are mostly all dark with white specks on their backs and wings, and have yellow beaks and feet. Starlings can also be a purple and green iridescent color and in the right light can actually be quite pretty.
Unfortunately this invasive species is found in every one of the lower 48 states year-round, Virginia included.
European Starlings will eat almost anything. They are an invasive species so we suggest you do not attempt to attract them, they’ll show up anyway.
10. American Goldfinch
Scientific name: Spinus tristis
Length: 4.3-5.1 in
Weight: 0.4-0.7 oz
Wingspan: 7.5-8.7 in
Goldfinches are among my favorite birds to see at feeders, especially when they have their bright yellow feathers in the Spring and Summer. During this period they are mostly yellow, or “gold”, with black-tipped wings and males have a black cap on top of their heads. During winter they will molt and their bright yellow fades out to a more dull brownish or olive tone. You can always recognize them any time of year by the black on their wings, and their finch-like beaks.
Goldfinches can be found year-round throughout all of Virginia.
Goldfinches prefer thistle feeders, they may also eat sunflower chips but a thistle feeder is your best chance to attract them.
11. Carolina Wren
Scientific name: Thryothorus ludovicianus
Length: 4.7-5.5 in
Weight: 0.6-0.8 oz
Wingspan: 11.4 in
These little birds are mostly reddish-brown on top and a lighter orangish color on bottom. Their longish, slightly curved beak and bold white “eyebrow” are good identifiers. They like to hide in brush and may be hard to spot, however their loud “teakettle-teakettle” song is likely one you would recognize.
Carolina Wrens are found throughout Virginia, and all of the southeastern United States, all year long.
Carolina Wrens are quite common in backyards and are often seen visiting suet feeders, like the picture above of one we saw in our yard.
12. Dark-eyed Junco
Scientific name: Junco hyemalis
Length: 5.5-6.3 in
Weight: 0.6-1.1 oz
Wingspan: 7.1-9.8 in
Juncos are often thought of by people in the U.S as winter birds, since they spend their summers up in Canada. They have many different colorations across the United States. In the eastern U.S., they are dark gray on their head, chest, back, wings and tail. Their belly all the way to the bottom of the tail is white. Females may look similar or appear a buffy brown instead of gray. Two good things to look for when recognizing junco’s are their pale pink beak and roundish body shape. They are most common in forests and wooded areas where they can often be seen hopping around on the ground.
Dark-eyed Juncos are mainly found in Virginia during the fall and winter months, however along the western border of the state they may stay year-round.
Juncos will sometimes visit feeders, but typically prefer to eat seed from the ground underneath your feeders that other other birds are dropping. They like mixed seeds.
13. House Finch
Scientific name: Haemorhous mexicanus
Length: 5.1-5.5 in
Weight: 0.6-0.9 oz
Wingspan: 7.9-9.8 in
The House Finch is yet another very common backyard bird in Virginia. Though they are invasive to the eastern U.S., they are not universally hated like other invasive birds such as House Sparrows or European Starlings. If you attract them, which is fairly easy to do, they may show up in large flocks and mob your feeders. Males are mostly streaked brown in color with some red on the head and chest, females are all brown.
House Finches are common all year throughout Virginia.
Like other finches, House Finches often visit thistle feeders. They are seen at seed feeders more than Goldfinches, so try some black sunflower seeds to attract them as well.
14. Gray Catbird
Scientific name: Dumetella carolinensis
Length: 8.3-9.4 in
Weight: 0.8-2.0 oz
Wingspan: 8.7-11.8 in
Catbirds are robin-sized birds with dark slate gray coloring all over, a black cap on top of their head and a long tail. They have a rusty red patch just beneath their tails which often goes unseen. Catbirds love to eat fruit, so attract them with native fruit-bearing trees and bushes. They get the name catbird from their calls that somewhat resemble that of a meowing cat.
Gray Catbirds are found in the western and central parts of the state in the spring and summer only, however along the eastern coast they may stick around all year.
You may be able to attract catbirds if you offer some fruits, berries, and other sweet things but they prefer to forage on the ground or in bushes for food.
15. Chipping Sparrow
Scientific name: Spizella passerina
Length: 4.7-5.9 in
Weight: 0.4-0.6 oz
Wingspan: 8.3 in
Chipping sparrows have their most crisp feathers in the summer, with a buffy gray breast, brown and tan streaked wings, rusty red cap, and a black line through the eye with white above. In winter their markings may appear less defined and their coloring more buffy-brown. They are common sparrows that like to feed on open ground.
Chipping Sparrows are found throughout most of Virginia all year, however along the western border they may only be present during the spring and summer.
Chipping Sparrows are common at backyard feeders, and often like to remain on the ground picking up what has spilled. Attract them with sunflower and mixed seed, especially scattered on the ground.
16. Red-bellied Woodpecker
Scientific name: Melanerpes carolinus
Length: 9.4 in
Weight: 2.0-3.2 oz
Wingspan: 13.0-16.5 in
These medium-sized woodpeckers are fairly common at feeders and backyards in the eastern U.S. Though they are described as “red-bellied” you may first notice the bright red streak along the back of their heads. They have a plain white break with an area of pinkish red lower down in their “belly” area which is often not visible. Their wings are what really makes them easy to identify though, with the white and black barring.
Red-bellied Woodpeckers live in the entire state of Virginia all year long.
Attract Red-bellied Woodpeckers with a suet feeder, though they will also sometimes eat at seed feeders, especially if peanuts are offered.
17. Downy Woodpecker
Scientific name: Picoides pubescens
Length: 5.5-6.7 in
Weight: 0.7-1.0 oz
Wingspan: 9.8-11.8 in
Downy’s are very common backyard birds that love to visit bird feeders. They are the smallest woodpeckers in North America and are always one of the first species I see at a new bird feeder. They are easily identifiable by their all white underbodies, black wings with white spots, black and white striped heads, and the red spot on the back of their heads (in males, females have no red). Though they do closely resemble the Hairy Woodpecker, Downy’s are smaller.
Downy Woodpeckers are found all year throughout Virginia.
Downy Woodpeckers are very common at most types of bird feeders. Offer them mixed seed, black sunflower seed, and suet.
18. Common Grackle
Scientific name: Quiscalus quiscula
Length: 11.0-13.4 in
Weight: 2.6-5.0 oz
Wingspan: 14.2-18.1 in
Though they fall into the bully bird category like the starling does, Grackles are also quite pretty in the right light with their iridescent feathers. They often appear black in color, but in the right light you can see hues of blue, green, brown and purple. Grackles sometimes will roost with other types of blackbirds, and appear in massive flocks numbering in the millions of birds. They are easy to identify by their solid coloring, long narrow body and tail, and yellow ringed eye.
Grackles are found throughout the state of Virginia all year.
Grackles are foragers and will eat just about anything, they are often thought of as pests.
19. White-breasted Nuthatch
Scientific name: Sitta carolinensis
Length: 5.1-5.5 in
Weight: 0.6-1.1 oz
Wingspan: 7.9-10.6 in
White-breasted Nuthatches are very common feeder birds found in most backyards within their range. Nuthatches get their name from the fact that they stuff nuts and seeds under tree bark, then use their sharp beaks to hatch the seed from the shell. These birds also have the ability to walk vertically on trees better than many other types of birds. White-breasted Nuthatches have a thick black stripe on top of their heads, with white on either side and on their bellies. Their wings are mostly gray and black.
White-breasted Nuthatches are found year-round throughout Virginia.
Nuthatches will visit most seed feeders, offer them mixed seed blends, black sunflower seeds, peanuts, or suet. They usually like to grab and run, taking a seed and immediately flying off to eat it or cache it in a nearby tree.
20. Northern Mockingbird
Scientific name: Mimus polyglottos
Length: 8.3-10.2 in
Weight: 1.6-2.0 oz
Wingspan: 12.2-13.8 in
Mockingbirds get their name from their ability to mimic the songs of other species of birds. It’s estimated that a male mockingbird can learn up to 200 different songs in its lifetime. These medium sized backyard birds are mostly gray and white in color and can also be recognized by their rather long tail feathers. They are often seen living in tall bushes and can often be quite aggressive of intruding birds.
Northern Mockingbirds are found throughout the state of Virginia year-round.
Northern Mockingbirds are very common in backyards, but don’t really visit bird feeders. Entice them to your yard with some of the other tips below such as fruit bearing bushes or a bird bath.
21. White-throated Sparrow
Scientific name: Zonotrichia albicollis
Length: 6.3-7.1 in
Weight: 0.8-1.1 oz
Wingspan: 7.9-9.1 in
White-throated sparrows are common across much of the U.S. during the winter, and then migrate to Canada in the summer to breed. Their white throat patch makes them easier to identify among sparrows, along with their bold facial pattern of black and white stripe with yellow spots between the eyes. The females often nest on or just above the ground in hidden areas of dense brush and vegetation.
White-throated sparrows are common throughout Virginia, but only during the winter months.
White-throated sparrows readily visit feeders and like to pick up fallen seed below feeders. Offer sunflower, millet and mixed seed blends.
22. American Crow
Scientific name: Corvus brachyrhynchos
Length: 15.8-20.9 in
Weight: 11.2-21.9 oz
Wingspan: 33.5-39.4 in
American Crows are solid black in color, and quite large in size. They are also know for being highly intelligent problem solvers, like their cousin the raven. Crows will roost higher up in the tree tops in large groups where they can get a birds eye view of everything below. If an owl or a hawk shows up, the roost will call out and let everyone known that there is danger nearby.
Crows are found throughout the entire state of Virginia all year long.
American Crows are omnivorous and generally do not visit bird feeders, they are much too large.
23. Eastern Towhee
Scientific name: Pipilo erythrophthalmus
Length: 6.8-8.2 in
Weight: 1.1-1.8 oz
Wingspan: 7.9-11.0 in
The Eastern Towhee is a lovely species of backyard bird that is always a treat to see. Both sexes have a dark head and back with white wing spots, orange sides and a white belly. However the dark color on males is black while on females it is brown. They have a beautiful song that is a familiar sound in the woods during spring and summer. Master foragers, towhees search through leaf litter and vegetation for insects, seeds and berries.
Eastern Towhees live throughout most of Virginia all year, however in the far northern tip of the state they are only spring-summer residents.
Eastern Towhees do not eat directly from bird feeders very often in my experience, but I regularly see them hopping around the ground beneath my feeders. So bird feeders may attract towhees in that sense.
24. Indigo Bunting
Scientific name: Passerina cyanea
Length: 4.7-5.1 in
Weight: 0.4-0.6 oz
Wingspan: 7.5-8.7 in
These beautiful buntings migrate at night, traveling up from their wintering grounds in Mexico and southern Florida. While females are mostly brown with just hints of blue, males are bright blue all over with some black on their wings. This coloring comes from the way their feathers reflect light rather than blue pigment. Look for them in summer singing along the edges of fields and woods.
Indigo Buntings can be found throughout Virginia during the spring and summer.
While not as common at feeders, they will sometimes visit especially if you offer mixed seed and nyjer.
How to attract birds to your yard
Interested in attracting some of these birds to your backyard? Take a look at these 5 simple tips, starting with the most obvious.
1. Put out bird feeders
The best and most obvious way to attract birds to your yard is to put out a bird feeder or two. I suggest starting with a simple tube feeder, hopper feeder, platform feeder, or a window feeder. See below for suggestions for each.
2. Add a water source
A pedestal birdbath like this one on Amazon is great, but you can also use something as simple as a terra cotta flower pot saucer, like this one. Birds need water not only to bathe in but also to drink and adding a water feature to your yard will only increase your chances of attracting birds. Also consider adding a solar fountain since moving water will entice the birds to visit the water even more.
3. Offer birdhouses
Many species of birds will readily take up residence in birdhouses if put out in the right spot at the right time of year. Eastern Bluebirds are among the most common sought after birds to attract to birdhouses. I have this birdhouse in my backyard and a mating pair of bluebirds were checking it out the same day I installed it.
4. Provide shelter
Make sure that your yard has trees, bushes, and shrubs that the birds can dart back and forth to when they sense danger. This is their main defense from predators. If your yard is perhaps in a new subdivision with no mature trees then do your best to add some landscaping features that will allow birds to look at your yard as safe.
5. Add native plants
For many birds that eat nuts, berries, and seeds, having native plants that produce these things will only aide your efforts to attract more birds. Not only that, but native plants foster caterpillars and other insects that feed many birds and support nesting birds since most songbirds feed insects to their hatchlings. Try to avoid invasive and non-native plants that can out-compete the native plants that foster a healthy ecosystem.
10 different types of bird feeders
Here are 10 of the most common bird feeders people set up in their yards.
- Hopper feeder – Hopper feeders get their name because they have a compartment in the middle, the hopper, that holds the bird seed. There are perches on the sides for birds to land on and eat from. Many hopper feeders are in the shape of a house and are covered on top to keep the seed dry. Use black sunflower seeds or mixed birdseed for this type of feeder. Here’s one of my favorite hopper feeders, it’s squirrel-proof too.
- Platform feeder – Sometimes called tray feeders, platform feeders are open on top and can usually be hung from a tree or hook, or pole-mounted. They are great for feeding most types of birds and are easy to get set up. Though since they are completely open, every animal in your yard that can reach them will eat from them. Use black sunflower seeds or mixed birdseed for this type of feeder. I’m using this platform feeder in my backyard right now.
- Tube feeder – Tube feeders are nothing more than clear plastic tube-shaped bird feeders. They can range in size from holding a few cups of seed to holding 5 lbs or more. They are great because they keep your seed fresh and dry while also allowing you to easily seed when it needs to be refilled. Many types of birds will use a tube feeder. You can use black sunflower seeds and mixed seeds in tube feeders. Squirrel Buster makes some of the best tube feeders on the market, this one is great and is of course squirrel proof.
- Suet feeder – Suet feeders are for one type of bird food, suet cakes. They are a very simple concept, usually made of nothing more than a metal wire cage, sometimes with a tail-prop coming down for larger birds. Suet feeders are popular in the winter time when birds are looking for high-fat foods and are frequently visited by woodpeckers. I suggest getting a suet feeder with a long tail prop so you can attract larger woodpeckers, like the Pileated and Northern Flicker.
- Window feeder – Window feeders are small bird feeders that typically mount right onto a glass window by means of suction cups. They are similar to tray feeders in that they are open on top and you just pour the seed into the tray area to refill them. These feeders are popular with many different types of birds, are super easy to get started with, and great for people who don’t have big yards. Use black sunflower seeds or mixed birdseed for this type of feeder. This is by far the most popular window feeder on Amazon, and maybe the most popular bird feeder on Amazon overall.
- Thistle feeder – Thistle feeders, aka Nyjer feeders, are specialized bird feeders made especially for thistle seed. The main types of birds that thistle feeders attract are birds in the finch family, which includes the American Goldfinch and House Finch whom are both on this list. Thistle feeders are often in a tube shape and have tiny holes all along the sides of the tube allowing the birds to pick out the thistle. Here’s a good thistle feeder from Droll Yankees.
- Ground feeder – Ground feeders are more or less tray feeders that sit on ground level. They will be very popular with birds like Mourning Doves and Juncos as well as squirrels, raccoons, and any other type of ground animal. Use black sunflower seeds or mixed birdseed for this type of feeder. You might like this ground feeder made from recycled plastic.
- Oriole feeder – Oriole feeders are another type of specialty feeder for pretty much one type of bird, orioles. The feeder itself is often orange in color and usually has little plastic or glass dishes made for holding jelly, which orioles love. They also allow you to stick orange halves onto the feeder, another food that orioles relish. Here’s a simple oriole feeder with 4 jelly trays that holds for orange halves.
- Hummingbird feeder – Nectar feeders, aka hummingbird feeders, are designed specifically for hummingbirds to extract sugar water. Even though they are designed for hummingbirds, I frequently see Downy Woodpeckers at mine who also loves that sweet nectar. See this article to learn how to make hummingbird nectar without boiling the water. Hummingbird feeders are simple and inexpensive so there’s no need to spend much on one, here’s one that I’ve personally used and had success with.
- Peanut feeder – Similar to thistle feeders, peanut feeders are tube-shaped and usually composed of a metal wire mesh material. Only the holes in the wire mesh are much further apart to allow for either whole unshelled or shelled peanuts to pass through the holes. These feeders attract birds like Blue Jays and as the name suggests, should be filled with peanuts. If you want to keep squirrels out of your peanut feeder, then this one by Squirrel Buster is your best bet. Otherwise this simple one will do the trick.
Bird watching in Virginia
Virginia is a wonderful state for birding if you want to go take your hobby outside of your own backyard. The Virginia Society of Ornithology has meetups, workshops, field trips, and birding tours, should you want to get a little more involved.
If you are a Virginia resident (or just visiting) and would like to add some new species to your life list, then take a look at this list I’ve compiled some popular birding locations in Virginia.
Virginia birding locations
Learn more about what each of these locations has to offer (and local birding events) from birdwatchersdigest.org
- Henricus Historical Park
- Belle Isle State Park
- Huntley Meadows Park
- Eastern Shore National Wildlife Refuge
- Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge
Learn about backyard birds in all 50 U.S. states!
- Backyard birds in Alabama
- Backyard birds in Alaska
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