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17 Birds That Start With the Letter S (Pictures)

Learn about birds that start with all 26 letters of the alphabet!

From the short-eared owl to the spotted towhee, below is a list of birds from all over the world that have one thing in common. These birds all start with the letter S. 

Let’s take a look at these unique and interesting birds!

Birds that start with S

1. Sage Grouse

Image by iTop Loveliness from Pixabay

Scientific name: Centrocercus urophasianus

The Sage Grouse lives in sagebrush areas in. Estimated at one time to be 16 million in population, today their population is thought to be 200,000 to 400,000. Grouse gather in the early spring in open ground patches known as “leks,” where males strut to attract females for mating.

There are 2 distinct species of sage grouse. The greater sage grouse pictured above occurs in the western United States as well as some areas of southwestern Canada, the Gunnison sage grouse only occurs in a small area of Colorado and Utah.

2. Sage Sparrow

sage sparrow | image credit: Caleb Putnam

Scientific name: Artemisiospiza nevadensis
Lives in: Western United States and Mexico

Sage sparrows are medium-sized sparrows with rounded heads and thick, short beaks with long tails. Experts estimate this species has a population of around 4 million adult breeding birds.

They are typically hidden in shrubs and on the ground, breeding in creosote and saltbush desert shrubs. The sage sparrow creates a melodious, lively song with finely tuned frequencies to carry across wide-open spaces to attract mates.

3. Sandhill Crane

Scientific Name: Antigone canadensis

Sandhill cranes are tall, long-necked birds with broad wings and long legs. They forage on grains and invertebrates around marshes, grasslands, and prairies throughout North America. They travel in large flocks migrating high in the sky to winter grounds.

There are common stopovers for sandhill cranes where the birds are known to gather in huge flocks each year. Many of the migration groups can be in the tens to hundreds of thousands! Perhaps the best known hot spot is Platte River, Nebraska. 

4. Scissored-tail Flycatcher

scissor-tailed flycatcher
Image by Israel Alapag from Pixabay

Scientific name: Tyrannus forficatus
Lives in: United States and Northern Mexico

The scissor-tailed flycatcher eats crickets, grasshoppers, beetles, and other insects. They are found primarily in Texas in the United States but also in neighboring states like Oklahoma, Kansas, Louisiana, and Missouri.

These birds typically breed in patches of brush, shrubs, and trees. Male and female scissor-tail flycatchers search for nesting sites and determine the best spot by pressing their bodies against the potential site to test for strength.

5. Sharp-shinned Hawk

Image: Mike Morel, USFWS | Wikicommons

Scientific name: Accipiter striatus

Sharp-shinned Hawks are the smallest hawk in the United States. These hawks prey on small birds and rodents. They use their long toes and talons to puncture the main arteries in their prey. They will pluck their catches feathers before eating.

Sharp-shinned hawks live in much of North America and the United States during the winter then migrate into far Northern U.S. and Canada to breed each year.

You can spot them in open spaces, with their flap and glide flight pattern. They won’t be easy to spot. You will be more likely to spot these guys during migration. 

6. Short-eared Owl

Image: US Fish & Wildlife Service |

Scientific name: Asio flammeus

Short-eared owls are widespread owls in the Americas and can be found from Alaska to South America. If you’re in the U.S. your best chance to spot a short-eared owl will be in the winter in marshes, gravel and rock quarries, fields, woodlots and thickets. 

As their name implies, they do have “ear tuft” feathers but they are so short as to almost never be visible. Their populations in a certain area can vary year to year in close relation to the population of their prey such as moles, rats, rabbits and weasels.

It is thought that their populations overall are in decline, as they are particularly sensitive to habitat loss and fragmentation from the large open grasslands they require being turned into farm land, grazing land, recreational areas and housing development.

7. Skylark

Image by TheOtherKev from Pixabay

Scientific name: Alauda arvensis

Skylarks are small, dull-colored grayish-brown birds that live in Europe, Asia, and North Africa. They prefer to forage for insects and seeds on the ground and are easily recognizable when in flight with their bubbling, melodic songs. The skylark’s song has from 160 to 400 syllables and is known to be in more poems than any other songbird.

8. Snowy Egret

snowy egret
Image by Susan Frazier from Pixabay

Scientific name: Egretta thula
Lives in: North America

Snowy egrets prefer nesting around marshes, grassy ponds, and wet fields. They feed on aquatic animals, including frogs, worms, fish, and insects. Snowy egrets can be identified by their long legs, bright white feathers, long toes, and bright yellow feet.

During the breeding season, their yellow feet turn reddish-orange, and mates are not recognized until performing an elaborate greeting acceptance.

9. Snowy Owl

Image: Glavo |

Scientific name: Bubo scandiacus

Snowy Owls have a wintering range throughout most of Canada, but this owl has been coming further and further south into the United States each year. 

These beautiful owls migrate far north to arctic regions of Canada and Greenland to breed each year. Snowy Owls that have established a site they winter at, will continue to use that same site.

Snowy Owls roost in obvious places, and unlike most other owls, they are diurnal and thus active during the day. They prefer wide-open spaces for hunting, but they will perch on a high point.

Unlike other owl species, Snowy Owls are not afraid to leave their place of birth. Owls from the same nest, that were tracked, were found hundreds of miles away from each other, in opposite directions.

10. Sooty Tern

sooty tern
credit: Dan O’Malley

Scientific name: Onychoprion fuscatus
Lives in: Tropical Oceans and Islands

Sooty terns spend years soaring around tropical oceans, rarely alighting on the sea. Instead, they feed on fish, or squid, near the ocean surface and snatch the meal, returning to the air for feeding.

The sooty tern can fly for three years without ever touching water and sleeps riding air currents. It’s believed that sooty terns do not mate until they are 6 years old. 

11. Spotted Dove

spotted dove
Image by Peter W from Pixabay

Scientific name: Spilopelia chinensis
Lives in: Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent

The spotted dove travels in small flocks and can be recognized by a black patch and white spots on their necks. Spotted doves are attracted to human habitats and primarily feed on seeds and grains. The spotted dove has special feathers to create a powder type to lubricate the birds’ other feathers.

12. Spotted Owl

Northern Spotted Owl |

Scientific name: Strix occidentalis

California Spotted Owls live in a few patchy areas of California, the Pacific Northwest, and the southwestern United States year-round, but finding them is extremely rare. It’s population has greatly declined due to the logging of old-growth forests, the Spotted Owl’s habitat.

Competition with Barred Owls also makes survival more difficult for these owls. You may also find some Northern Spotted Owls in far north areas of the state.

Spotted Owls are slightly smaller than Barred Owls, with broad, rounded wings, short tails, and round heads. They’re covered in mostly dark brown plumage, with white dappling throughout.

Their facial disks also feature a white “X” marking that helps identify them. Like most owls, Spotted Owls are active at night, when they hunt for small prey, mostly rodents. Their loud, deep hoots can sometimes echo for over a mile on still nights near forests. 

13. Smoky-brown Woodpecker

Smoky-brown woodpecker | image by Francesco Veronesi via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Scientific name: Leuconotopicus fumigatus

Smoky-brown woodpeckers occur in Mexico, Central America, and Northern South America in places like Guatemala, Nicaragua, Argentina,  Colombia, Ecuador,  and Venezuela.

They’re known for being smoky-brown in color, hence the name, with a pale face. These woodpeckers are found in forested woodlands within their range foraging for food on all levels of the forest. 

14. Surfbird

A surfbird on the Alaskan tundra | image: Alaska Region U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Scientific name: Calidris virgata
Lives in: Rocky tundra in Alaska and the Yukon

These birds live on rocky coasts and mountain tundras, nesting along rocky ridges. They breed mostly in and near Alaska, and spend their winters near shorelines from Alaska to Southern Chile. They have a plover-like bill and gray above and orange below with a white base.

Surfbirds feed on mussels, limpets, and barnacles nesting along rocky ridges. Surfbirds will remain in their nest until the last moment when disturbed, then abruptly fly into the face of an intruder to dissuade them.

15. Swallow-tailed Kite

swallow tailed kite flying
credit: Susan Young

Scientific name: Elanoides forficatus

The warm climate raptor has a black and bright white body with a long, elongated, forked tail. These slender raptors are most common in South America but migrate north to breed in places like Florida, South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama in the United States.

Swallow-tailed kites spend most of the day flying high above wooded wetlands searching trees for lizards, frogs, insects, and small birds. 

16. Stellar’s jay

Scientific name: Cyanocitta stelleri
Lives in:  

There are 6 types of American jays, the most common and well-known is probably the blue jay. The bird that’s most closely related to the blue jay is the Stellar’s jay, which occurs west of the blue jay’s range. Adults are half black and half blue with large crests. 

The most common type of jay west of Colorado is going to be Stellar’s jays, and to the east will be the blue jay. Stellar’s jays relish peanuts and are easily attracted to bird feeders with some. 

17. Spotted towhee

spotted towhee
Spotted towhee | Image by Daniel Roberts from Pixabay

Scientific name: Pipilo maculatus

The spotted towhee is most common the United States from Oklahoma and Texas west to California and the Pacific Northwest. Their breeding range is in a few northern states like Idaho and Montana as well as nearby Southern Canada. 

If you live east of this towhee’s range then you are likely used to seeing the eastern towhee, which is very similar in appearance and behavior. Towhees are foragers and do not visit bird feeders, however they are quite common to many backyards if you know where to look for them. We have a breeding pair of eastern towhees every year.