Birds’ beaks come in many shapes, sizes, and colors. Raptors have curved beaks to tear apart their prey. Shorebirds’ long, thin beaks help them root out invertebrates in the sand alongside oceans. Finches split open seeds with their chunky, powerful beaks. When it comes to color, a bright yellow beak is easy to identify, especially if you’re new to birding. In this article we will look at 21 species of birds with yellow beaks.
21 Birds With Yellow Beaks
1. Bald Eagle
Scientific name: Haliaeetus leucocephalus
It’s impossible to ignore the majestic sight of a Bald Eagle as it soars across the sky. There aren’t many eagle species present in the U.S., but this striking bird has earned its spot as our national emblem. The bald eagle prefers to live near water sources, where it can catch fish, as well as sometimes stealing them from other creatures.
Its yellow beak is clearly visible, thanks to the white feathers on its head. You can spot bald eagles throughout North America, especially during the winter when they gather in groups at lakes and dams. Once endangered due to DDT use, the bald eagle has been able to make an exceptional comeback through conservation methods.
Scientific name: Cardinalis sinuatus
The cheerful pyrrhuloxia might remind you of a cardinal because of its crest and characteristic finchy beak. The two birds are related, but they live in different parts of North America. You’re likely to spot a pyrrhuloxia in the states of the American Southwest. This desert dwelling songbird prefers to live among the sweltering deserts of Arizona, New Mexico, and western Texas.
Attract pyrrhuloxias to your feeder with seeds that the bird can split open. In the wild they have a varied diet of seeds, fruits, saguaro cacti blooms and insects like grasshoppers and beetles.
Scientific name: Anas platyrhynchos
This native North American duck might be one of the most well-known birds worldwide. Only males have yellow beaks, which complement their bright green iridescent heads during breeding season.
Mallards are not shy of human interaction, and are one of the most common species to find at lakes and ponds in parks, even in urban areas. They can be fun to feed, just make sure you aren’t offering them something unhealthy. They live throughout most of America all year, and throughout Canada during the breeding season.
4. Evening Grosbeak
Scientific name: Coccothraustes vespertinus
Females remain pale yellow and gray, while the male evening grosbeak stands out with a bright yellow body, yellow forehead and pale yellow bill. These large finches live year-round in the conifer forests of Canada and some northern U.S. states. For the rest of the U.S. they can occasionally be spotted during the winter months when some populations move further south.
While they are a songbird, they don’t really sing. Evening grosbeaks have a few simple calls, but no complex sounds or songs that many other birds use to attract their mates.
5. Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Scientific name: Coccyzus americanus
Spot this migrating cuckoo in the United States only during the spring and summer months. The yellow-billed cuckoo flies north from South America to nest and raise young in the forests of the eastern United States.
It’s often easier to hear this songbird than it is to spot it. It makes a call that sounds like knocking and prefers to perch in wait while it looks for caterpillars to eat. Males and females cooperate to raise some of the fastest-growing chicks of any bird species – they mature in just 17 days.
6. European Starling
Scientific name: Sturnus vulgaris
This songbird was introduced to the United States in the late 1800s by a man who wanted Central Park to have all the birds present in Shakespeare’s plays. His hope – that the European Starling would adapt well to the temperate climate – succeeded much more than he had ever dreamed. Today, the European starling is a resident of the lower 48 and Alaska, as well as Canada and northern Mexico.
While they sometimes look black, in the right light you can see their iridescent colors in hues of purple and green. Unfortunately they are often viewed as a problematic bird, traveling in massive flocks which can push away other birds. They have been known to hog backyard bird feeders and go through seed quickly.
7. American Robin
Scientific name: Turdus migratorius
What spring morning is complete without the cheerful song of an American robin? This insectivorous songbird loves to hunt for worms in the early morning hours. Lawns are great hunting grounds, so don’t bother with providing seeds.
Both male and female American robins have yellow beaks. Thanks to their bright orange-red chest, they’re easy to recognize. They live in the lower 48 states, and even some of Alaska.
8. Masked Booby
Scientific name: Sula dactylatra
These attractive seabirds have white bodies with black tails and wingtips, a black rimmed face and large yellow bill. They are found out in tropical seas, so you may see them around Hawaii or Florida’s Dry Tortugas National Park. They sometimes come up to the Gulf Stream waters off North Carolina, but you’d have to be off shore on a boat to see them.
This booby lays its eggs in a depression on the ground, and males will often decorate the edge of the nest with pieces of seashell, coral and small pebbles.
9. Clark’s Grebe
Scientific name: Aechmophorus clarkii
A poised, dignified waterbird, Clark’s grebe is a native of the western United States. It breeds throughout the inland west, but winters along the Pacific Coast. You’ll be lucky to see one if you go to marshes with vegetation along the shore.
Both males and females have the characteristic yellow beak, along with a black crest and a scarlet eye. Like their cousin the western grebe, they perform elaborate, tandem courtship displays where they appear to dance across the water.
Scientific name: Porzana carolina
What a stroke of luck it is to see a sora in its natural habitat! These shy waterbirds forage in the cattails and rushes that line freshwater marshes and lakes. While their feathers are brown, their beaks and legs are bright yellow. A tip to spotting them is to look for the beak first. Beware – you may need binoculars!
Soras’ calls sound like the whinny of a horse. They are also known as “Carolina rails” and “meadow chickens.”
11. Red Phalarope
Scientific name: Phalaropus fulicarius
This long distance migrant breeds all the way up in the Arctic, and can spend winters down on the western coast of South America. In the United States you may catch them along the coast during migration, or some pockets along the southern coasts where they may spend the winter.
Like some other migrating birds, the red phalarope only has a yellow beak for part of the year. When adults molt into their russet breeding plumage, their beak color changes from black to bright yellow. In the winter, it will turn dark again, and their plumage colors change to white and gray. Interestingly, the female phalarope is the flashier, larger bird. She abandons her mate to incubate and raise their chicks as soon as she lays her eggs.
12. Ring-billed Gull
Scientific name: Larus delawarensis
Gulls are not exclusive to the seacoasts. In fact, the ring-billed gull makes its home across North America, from southern Canada down into Mexico. While you can find them along the coast and at the beach, they actually travel inland to nest in freshwater environments like lakes and ponds.
Both males and females have bright yellow beaks with a dark gray band around them. They breed primarily in the northern United States and southern Canada, where they arrange nests in pebbly areas on the ground.
13. Least Bittern
Scientific name: Ixobrychus exilis
A shy yet acrobatic bird of freshwater swamps and wetlands, the least bittern has a light yellow beak that helps it blend in with its surroundings. Because it is smaller than other bitterns, it can easily perch on reeds and cattails over the water. This gives it a better view to look down into the murky liquid and hunt for prey.
Least Bitterns are especially memorable because of their extendable necks. They often hunt with their neck retracted. Then, when they are making a grab for prey, they extend their necks. When threatened, they often sway in efforts to imitate cattails.
14. Great Blue Heron
Scientific name: Ardea herodias
If you make a trip to a river or the ocean, you’re very likely to see a Great Blue Heron in the estuaries or riparian zones surrounding the open water. These beautiful birds are the largest species of heron in North America, and can be found year-round across most of the United States. Both males and females have yellow beaks, which contrast beautifully with their blue-gray feathers.
They stand stock still in the water, waiting for a fish to swim close enough, then they can extend their long neck and strike with lighting fast speed.
15. Barred Owl
Scientific name: Strix varia
You are much more likely to hear the call of a barred owl than you are to see one. These nocturnal hunters are swift, silent, and difficult to spot. However, it’s easy to tell where they nest and perch because of their regular calls, which sound like the phrase “who-cooks-for-you.”
Barred owls are native to forests in the eastern United States as well as the northern Great Plains and the Pacific Northwest. They aren’t very active during the daytime, but you may spot them perched in trees while hiking through a forested area.
16. Peregrine Falcon
Scientific name: Falco peregrinus
This swift and daring flier can be spotted easily by way of its creamy spotted underside or its characteristic gray head with yellow around the eye. The Peregrine Falcon’s beak is yellow with a black hooked tip.
This raptor is another bird that has almost entirely recovered from DDT poisoning in the mid-20th century. Populations today live in pockets throughout North America and can be seen migrating throughout the flyover states. They have adapted especially well to cities with skyscrapers and towns along the seacoasts.
17. Yellow-billed Magpie
Scientific name: Pica nuttali
The yellow-billed mapgie looks nearly identical to it’s more common cousin, the black-billed magpie, except for that bright yellow beak. This species has a very narrow range, living exclusively along in central California. They frequent areas at the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains as well as shrubbery around agricultural areas.
Habitat for the yellow-billed magpie is currently under threat from the expansion of agricultural fields in California’s Central Valley. They are also suffering from the effects of the West Nile virus. Scientists and conservationists have the species under watch because of their vulnerability to changes in their habitat.
18. Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch
Scientific name: Leucosticte tephrocotis
Native to the harsher, mountain environments of the northern Rockies, Cascades, and even the Alaskan Aleutian islands, these little finches have high tolerance for high winds, snow, and cold temperatures.
If you live in the northern Rockies, you can put out seed in a feeder or on the ground during winter for gray-crowned rosy finches. They enjoy foraging on the ground for seed, since its similar to what they do in the wild in mountainous areas above the tree line.
19. Lapland Longspur
Scientific name: Calcarius lapponicus
During the winter, this insect-eating songbird may seem unassuming. It is mainly brown and white with a brown beak and white belly. However, the breeding season changes all that. Males molt into a dynamic combination of white, rust, and black. Their beaks turn yellow and they congregate in huge flocks.
The Lapland longspur gets its name from the long spur on each hind claw, and the Lapland region of Scandinavia where they breed. This is also the only longspur that can be found outside of North America. They are only found in the U.S during the winter, spending time in flocks of other birds in agricultural fields and bare ground.
20. Herring Gull
Scientific name: Larus argentatus
Known as the quintessential seagull, one population of herring gulls makes its year-round home base in the coastal regions of the Northeast and north Atlantic. Another group migrates between northern Canada and the southeastern United States, Mexico, and the California coast. During migration season, you’re apt to find these easily-recognizable birds throughout the nation.
During the breeding season, males and females feathers molt from mottled gray to creamy white. Their beaks darken to goldenrod yellow, with a red dot on the underside. A mated pair works together to raise their chicks. Some estimates indicate that older chicks eat up to half a pound of food per day!
21. Great Egret
Scientific name: Ardea alba
The beautiful great egret has the honor of being the symbol of the National Audubon Society. One of the society’s earliest missions was to prevent birds being killed for their feathers. In the mid to late 1800’s, feathers from the great egret became so popular as a hat decoration that they were nearly hunted to extinction before plume hunting was officially banned in the early 1900s.
You can find these elegant birds year-round along the coast of the eastern U.S., and during the winter along the west coast. In late summer and fall you may find them at bodies of water across the U.S.