This list will feature predominantly North American birds that start with the letter W. Some of the birds are migratory, some are partially migratory, while some do not migrate at all. The idea was to make the list as varied as possible so these birds are from all over the world!
27 types of birds that start with W
1. Wood duck
Scientific name: Aix sponsa
There was a serious decline in the number of these birds during the 19th century. The Wood duck was hunted for its meat as well as plumage, which was used to make hats for the European market. In addition, habitat loss added to the declining numbers.
Wood ducks found in the southern region of their North American range are not migratory. However, birds in the northern region do migrate south.
2. Western bluebird
Scientific name: Sialia mexicana
Male western bluebirds have a beautiful blue on their head, throat, wings and tail. They have a rusty orange on their breast which continues down their sides and above their wings onto their back. Females will appear duller, sometimes significantly duller, and lack any blue on their throat.
They are just about the most sought after tenants of birdhouses in the U.S. making the bluebird house industry pretty popular. They are very common in backyards, though not so much at feeders. Put up a birdhouse and try to attract a mating pair.
Western Bluebirds can be found throughout most of New Mexico all year. However they may be absent from the northeastern corner, and may only be present during the winter along the southern border. Bluebirds don’t typically eat seeds, but can be enticed to visit feeders with mealworms on a tray feeder or in a dish.
3. White-winged scoter
Scientific name: Melanitta deglandi
These North American birds are monogamous and usually form pairs during late summer. White-winged scoters start breeding from as young as two years old. Their nests are built on the ground close to the ocean, rivers, or lakes.
Females lay around five to 11 eggs and incubation lasts for approximately 25 to 30 days. They are benthic feeders and can dive as deep as 25 meters to find food.
4. Wild turkey
Scientific name: Meleagris gallopavo
Males older than one year will gobble in an attempt to announce their presence to both females and competing males. This behavior also occurs in males younger than one year old, but to a much lesser extent.
Their calls are varied and include a range of sounds, such as “whines”, “kee-kees”, “putts”, “clucks”, “gobbles”, and “purrs”. Turkeys live in north America and are actually agile, fast flyers, despite their size and weight.
5. Willow ptarmigan
Scientific name: Lagopus lagopus
The willow ptarmigan lives in Europe, Scandinavia, Siberia, Alaska, Canada, as well as North America and is Alaska’s state bird. They are herbivorous and their diet mainly consists of leaves, flowers, seeds, twigs, and berries.
The young may feed on insects during the first part of their lives due to an underdeveloped cecum.
6. White-tailed ptarmigan
Scientific name: Lagopus leucura
The White-tailed ptarmigan is also known as the snow quail. An interesting point about these birds is their plumage, which is cryptic and varied. They live in Alaska, Canada, Western United States.
During the winter, its plumage is completely white, but in the summer time it is speckled with shades of white, brown, and gray. Males of this species showcase tale feathers and strut in order to attract a female. They are monogamous and will breed for one season.
7. Western grebe
Scientific name: Aechmophorus occidentalis
This species is the largest North American grebe, measuring roughly 30 inches long and weighing up to 4.5lbs, with a wingspan of up to 40 inches.
Western grebes are known to nest in very large colonies, up to a few hundred. These birds will advertise themselves during ceremonies in the breeding season.
8. White-winged dove
Scientific name: Zenaida asiatica
Breeding season is a very interesting time for these birds. The male, in an attempt to attract a female, will coo and preen while circling females with their tails spread, wings raised, all while flapping their tails.
The young are raised by both parents who work together. Young doves that leave the nest may start to nest themselves within two to three months. White-winged doves are native to North America, Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean.
9. White-throated swift
Scientific name: Aeronautes saxatalis
These birds are medium in size and their plumage is primarily black and white. You will not be able to determine the sex of the bird by its plumage, as males and females look alike.
They do not migrate and can be found in southern Arizona, southern New Mexico, southern California, western Texas, and central Mexico. The White-throated swift is described as a social bird. Groups of birds will roost and forage for food together.
10. White-eared hummingbird
Scientific name: Basilinna leucotis
The plumage of these birds is glorious shades of green, blue, brown, white, and metallic turquoise, with a bright red bill. Females are generally less colorful than their male counterparts.
It is considered to be a relatively small hummingbird. Like other hummingbirds, their diet mainly consists of nectar from flowers and flowering trees. These hummingbirds sometimes occur in U.S. states like Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas.
11. Whooping crane
Scientific name: Grus americana
The Whooping crane is known for its whooping sound and is also the largest bird in North America. This species of crane is considered to be endangered. In addition, there are only two species of crane native to North America.
There are currently only 800 birds left in the wild and captivity combined. The Whooping crane often forages while walking in shallow water as well as in fields.
12. Wilson’s plover
Scientific name: Charadrius wilsonia
Common on most beaches in the Americas is the Wilson’s plover, a partially migratory species. Apart from the birds found in Florida, these birds migrate to Brazil for the winter. You can find these birds on beaches foraging for food.
Their movement across the beach is slow as they search for food. Their diet consists of crabs, marine worms, and insects. The Wilson’s plover was named after Alexander Wilson, a Scottish-American ornithologist, in 1814.
13. White-rumped sandpiper
Scientific name: Calidris fuscicollis
This shorebird is not often spotted, head to Canada or Alaska if you want to see one. However it could be difficult in the summer time, as their breeding location is very obscure. Beware bird watchers, chances are you won’t see them in the winter time either, as they travel too far south for many people.
The best time to observe these birds is in the spring and fall, usually near water in small flocks. The cup-shaped nest is built by the female. Their nests are usually well hidden and difficult to spot. Nests are well hidden in grass/moss clumps.
14. Wandering tattler
Scientific name: Tringa incana
The diet of Wandering tattles consists of crustaceans and marine worms. These birds are known for their jerking, bobbing movements while they forage. They often feed in the same location, repetitively.
You will typically see them flying low across rocky coastlines. The female typically lays up to four eggs. Both parents incubate and raise the young. You can find these birds on Pacific shores from Alaska to South America.
15. Western screech-owl
Scientific name: Megascops kennicottii
Western Screech-Owls can be found all along the coast of western North America and in many states of the western U.S. Screech-Owls are on the smaller size, only about 7-10 inches tall. They nest in tree cavities in both rural and urban areas. They have even been known to use owl boxes provided in urban backyards.
When hiding inside tree cavities their perfectly camouflaged feathers make them very hard to find. Your best bet of finding one is like most owls, to listen for them. Their call is often described as a tooting sound having a pattern like that of a bouncing ball.
16. Western tanager
Scientific name: Piranga Iudoviciana
It’s hard to mistake a male western tanager. They have a bright orange face, and their bright yellow chest and back stand out next to black wings. Females are usually duller in color and may appear more of an olive yellow with gray wings, and they do not have orange on their face.
They are common in the woods, especially among conifer forests. They eat mostly insects which they carefully pluck from foliage at the tops of trees.
Western tanagers don’t often visit seed feeders, so try to attract them with dried fruit or fresh oranges. A bird bath or other water feature may also draw them to your yard.
17. Western sandpiper
Scientific name: Calidris mauri
Western sandpipers are common shorebirds along almost every coast in the Americas. These birds are known to gather in large flocks numbering the hundreds of thousands during migration times.
Adult birds have long bills with black, brown, rufous upperparts and white underneath. They’re often seen foraging along receding shorelines or looking for aquatic invertebrates for their next meal.
18. Warbling vireo
Scientific name: Vireo gilvus
Warbling vireos are common songbirds in the United States and Canada during the summer, they spend their winters in Southern Mexico and Central America. Look for warbling vireos in mature deciduous woodlands where they forage for insects and nest.
The males are highly territorial during the breeding season leaving the female to select the nesting site while he protects it. About the size of sparrows, warbling vireos are a grayish-olive color on top and lighter underneath.
19. Wandering albatross
Scientific name: Diomedea exulans
The wandering albatross has the longest wingspan of any other bird in the world at a massive 11 feet 6 inches across when fully spread. This bird only occurs in Antarctic, sub-Antarctic and subtropical waters.
Wandering albatross are monogamous birds and mate for life, breeding just once every 2 years on subantarctic islands. The wandering albatross is one of, if not the most efficient and well-tuned flyer in the entire animal kingdom. These birds can fly 500 miles in a single day, using the winds from the ocean to help with left they barely even flap their wings.
20. Williamson’s sapsucker
Scientific name: Sphyrapicus thyroideus
Williamson’s Sapsuckers are only found in a handful of midwestern states. They feed primarily on the sap of coniferous trees, extracting it by drilling sapwells. Sapsuckers also feed on a variety of insects.
Uncommon in backyards, Williamson’s Sapsuckers are primarily found in the forests of the Rocky Mountains and westward from there. They roost in natural or excavated cavities and prefer nesting in a larger, older trees.
21. Wood thrush
Scientific name: Hylocichla mustelina
The wood thrush has one of the most beautiful songs of any bird in North America. Their have a flute-like song that sounds like “ee-oh-lay” and can really carry across a forest.
We’ve had luck spotting wood thrushes foraging around for food in mature forests that are quiet and away from people. Look for them during the spring and summer in the eastern United States.
22. White-breasted nuthatch
Scientific name: Sitta carolinensis
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.
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.
23. White-headed woodpecker
Scientific name: Dryobates albolarvatus
White-headed Woodpeckers are found year-round in several patches of California, mainly to the North and East, though there are a couple of small spots in Southern California where you might run across one if you’re lucky. They favor mountainous pine forests and aren’t typically found in woodlands without pines.
These woodpeckers love pine seeds and cones, so look for them in forests with lots of ponderosa, Jeffery, Coulter, and sugar pines. Like Black-backed and American three-toed Woodpeckers, White-headed Woodpeckers don’t prefer to drill into trees but rather pull and peel the bark away from trees. They’ll also flock to burned forests to take advantage of the insects there.
White-headed Woodpeckers are about the same size of an American Robin, with mostly inky black plumage all over, except for their bright white heads and white stripes on their wings. Adult Males also have a vibrant red patch on their heads similar to other species of woodpeckers. Compared to other woodpeckers, they have long wings and tails, and a short, pointed bill.
24. White-crowned sparrow
Scientific name: Zonotrichia leucophrys
The white-crowned sparrow is a highly migratory and common bird with a wide range in North America. They breed in Northern Canada or Alaska and spend their winters in the lower 48 states or Mexico.
This species may occasionally visit a bird feeder, but is more likely to be seen near shrubs or overgrown fields. They are easily identified by the adult’s black and white striped head.
25. White-faced ibis
Scientific name: Plegadis chihi
This large water bird is common in much of the western and mid-western U.S. during their breeding season. They stick close to marshes and wet fields where they can find prey which includes things like earthworms, crayfish, and insects.
The white-faced ibis of course gets its name from the white faces that breeding adults of the species have. Immature birds and non-breeding adults are solid brown and lack the white face.
26. White-tailed hawk
Scientific name: Geranoaetus albicaudatus
This neotropical raptor is common in Central and South America, but not at all in North America. In fact, Texas may be the only state in North America where you’ll find the White-tailed Hawk and only in the southern tip of the state. Random sightings have been reported in neighboring states but they were likely vagrants and very uncommon.
This bird is not migratory but may make regional movements in search of food. They are typically gray on top and white below, but like a couple of the others on this list there is a dark and light morph of this species of hawk. Their diet mainly consists of rats, mice, pocket gophers, rabbits, birds, snakes, lizards, frogs, crayfish, crabs, insects.
27. White-tailed kite
Scientific name: Elanus leucurus
White-tailed kites are most common in South and Central America, you’ll only find them in a few places in the United States. Those places include the southern tip of Florida, extreme south Texas, California, and Oregon.
These birds of prey live around grasslands and open woodland areas where they look for small mammals and rodents from high above. White-tailed kites are slightly larger than crows and are gray, white, and black in color.