40 of the Most Colorful Birds of North America (With Pictures)

In this article I compiled a list of some of the most colorful birds in north America. There are so many different colorful birds in the United States alone, that I found this article getting bigger and bigger until finally I realized I had to stop somewhere. So while I may not have every colorful bird listed here, I have quite an extensive list. Feel free to suggest any you think belong on this list in the comments.

Some of the birds are common and recognizable, others aren’t. Not all will eat at feeders and not all are birds that you will regularly see in your backyards, but when you do they really stand out in a crowd. One thing they all have in common though, is their beautifully bright colors. This is a rather long list and took me quite some time to compile so I hope you enjoy!

Most colorful birds in North America

I’ll start this list off with the bird that a lot of us think of when we think of colorful birds, the Northern Cardinal…

1. Northern Cardinal

male cardinal on deck railing

One of the most eye-catching birds in North America is the Northern Cardinal, particularly the male. The male cardinal is the one bird that starts people off with bird watching more than any other bird, according to the Cornell University Lab of Ornithology. Found mainly in the eastern half of the country, the cardinal is the state bird of Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, West Virginia, and Illinois. Check out my article on interesting facts about the Northern Cardinal.


Bluebirds

As their name suggests, bluebirds are very colorful blue birds! There are 3 species of bluebirds in North America. Eastern and western bluebirds have a very similar blue and orange coloring, while their mountain dwelling relative is entirely blue.

 

2. Eastern Bluebird

eastern bluebird
Pictured here: the eastern bluebird

The Eastern Bluebird’s territory covers a larger range than the western. Easterns can be found throughout the eastern and central states. Bluebird’s striking blue colors really make it a backyard favorite. While it does not often come to feeders, the bluebird will readily eat mealworms if they are provided. The bluebird will use a nest box if one is available and is one of the most loved birds to make its nest in a birdhouse. They feed mainly on insects, fruit and wild berries.

 

3. Western Bluebird

Westerns Bluebirds are only in the states along the west coast and that border Mexico. Eastern and Western bluebirds appear very similar with bright blue heads and backs and rosy-orange on their breast. Western bluebirds have more of a blue chin. The Western Bluebird will also use a nest box if one is available and feeds on the same things as other bluebirds.

 

4. Mountain Bluebird

The mountain bluebird can be found in the western half of the U.S. up into Canada and down into upper Mexico. They like high, open mountain country in the summer, and plains and prairies in the winter. The males are a bright turquoise and sky blue with a white belly, and lack the rosy orange of the eastern and western bluebirds.


 

5. Vermillion Flycatcher

vermillion flycatcher

While more common in Mexico and Central America, the Vermillion Flycatcher can be found in the southern parts of the country such as Florida, Louisiana, Southern Nevada and Texas. The adult male, pictured here, has bright orange or bright red colors and is very easy to spot in a crowd. They feed on insects and as open nesters prefer making their nests in the crooks of tree branches.

 

6. Varied Thrush

male varied thrush
photo credit: VJ Anderson | CC 4.0

The Varied Thrush is found in the Pacific coast states. As with most birds, the male (shown here) has the bright and flamboyant colors. They are known for being aggressive and territorial birds. These beautiful birds may eat bird seed from the ground but also feed on insects. They prefer nesting in the mature evergreen forests of the Pacific Northwest.

 

7. Cedar Waxwing

cedar waxwing

The Cedar Waxwing is a very unique looking bird and can be easily identified by the black mask that wraps around its head, covering its eyes. Their diet consists of mainly fruit and berries but they do feed on insects as well. If you want to attract them to your yard you can plant fruit bearing trees and berry bushes. They are known for having waxy red secretions on the tips of their wings, hence the name waxwing.

 

8. American Goldfinch

american goldfinch

One of my personal favorite birds to spot, American Goldfinch is found all over the U.S. and year-round in a lot of places. They can be seen in backyards and at feeders snacking on a few different types of seeds including sunflower seeds and thistle. They are vegetarians and pretty much eat only seeds. They nest in shrubs and bushes and will have one to two broods per year. Their plumage becomes a duller olive green color during the non-breeding season, sometimes leading people to believe it is a different bird.


Jays

Many of us may think of the blue jay when we talk about jays, but there are actually 10 species of jays found in North America. Jays are known for being colorful, noisy, and somewhat territorial. Below are 3 species of jays found in North America that are very colorful and worth mentioning.

 

9. Blue Jay

blue jay

Along with the Northern Cardinal, the Blue Jay is one of the most common colorful backyard birds in North America. Their diet consists of seeds, nuts, berries, and insects although they have been known to feed on other bird eggs. They are also known to vocally mimic hawks and birds of prey, whether this is to alert other jays of danger or to scare away other birds is unclear. They are commonly seen at feeders and bird baths.

 

10. Steller’s Jay

steller's jay

Found mainly in the mountainous regions of the western parts of the country and on into Canada, the Steller’s Jay is very similar to the Blue Jay. They are the only two types of jays with crests and with Blue Jays slowly moving west they have been known to interbreed creating a hybrid bird. Like the Blue Jay they are known for nest robbing. They can regularly be seen at feeders and enjoy peanuts and large seeds which they may store in a cache, saving up food for the winter months.

 

11. Green Jay

green jay bird

Only found in the southernmost tip of Texas but mainly in Mexico, Central, and South America, the Green Jay has gorgeous colors and because of that I didn’t want to leave them off the list. They are omnivores and feed on seeds, fruit, insects, and small vertebrates. They nest in trees and can be spotted in wooded areas and thickets.


Orioles

There are 9 species of orioles in North America, most of which have yellow/orange plumage, and 5 that are pretty common. Aside from their bright colors, orioles are known for their love of fruits and sweet things. They relish sliced oranges, jelly, and have even been known to visit hummingbird feeders when food is scarce. For this article I am just listing a few of my favorites as we’ve already got a lot of birds to see!

 

12. Baltimore Oriole

baltimore oriole

Found mostly in eastern North America, the Baltimore Oriole got its name from Lord Baltimore of England, who was the first proprietor of Maryland, because its colors closely resembled his coat of arms. Baltimore Orioles are nectar eating birds and love ripe fruit. You can slice oranges in half and place them in trees and around your yard to attract them, they are also attracted to grape jelly if you offer that to them. Planting fruit trees and bushes around your yard is also enticing to many types of orioles.

 

13. Bullock’s Oriole

bullock's oriole

With a range throughout most of the western half of the U.S., Bullock’s Orioles have a similar diet to other orioles. They love sweet things and will feast on fruit, but also eat insects and mealworms. A mixture of jelly and water presented in a dish or oriole feeder may attract them to your yard. They nest in open woodlands and build gourd shaped nests that hang from tree branches.

 

14. Hooded Oriole

hooded oriole

Also known as the palm-leaf oriole because of their tendency to build their nests in palm trees, the Hooded Oriole is found in the southwestern parts of the country such as California, Nevada, and Arizona. They have the same love of sweets as other orioles and are known for being inconspicuous birds, but their bright colors may give them away if you look hard enough.

 

15. Scott’s Oriole

scott's oriole
photo credit: Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren

The Scott’s Oriole sticks to the arid desert regions of the southwest states. This oriole has a dependency on the yucca plant for many things. They get nectar from the yucca flowers, find insects on the plant, and build hanging nests from the leaves. They are fairly uncommon as far as orioles go and are rarely seen in flocks.


Swallows

There are 7 types of swallows that are native to North America, the most common of these is probably the Barn Swallow which I have listed below. Swallows are eat primarily insects so they will not visit feeders, some people have had success with mealworms. They are cavity nesters so you may see them in your yard in old woodpecker holes or even birdhouses.

 

16. Violet-green Swallow

NPS / Jacob W. Frank

These small swallows are know for their aerial acrobatic skills when they are catching insects in mid flight. As their name implies they have green and violet colors with white underbodies. Their range is all throughout the western half of North America including western Canada and into Alaska. They like living near rivers, streams, ponds, or lakes so they can hunt for bugs near the water.

 

17. Barn Swallow

barn swallow

The Barn Swallow is known for building its nests in barns, sheds, carports, under bridges, and other man-made structures. They do not visit bird feeders and like other swallows, feed on insects. The can be attracted to your yard by providing nesting sports for them in outbuildings, such as a barn, or in nesting boxes. Barn swallows have a large range in North America and are found just about everywhere in the U.S. and much of Canada.

 

18. Tree Swallow

Another swallow with a very wide range, the Tree Swallow can be found throughout all of North America at different times of the year. They feed on insects, fruits, and berries and will use nest boxes if you want to attract them to your yard. They naturally nest in tree cavities, hence the name tree swallow. During migrations they can be seen in flocks of hundreds of thousands.


Tanagers

There are 5 species of tanagers found in North America;  scarlet, summer, western, flame-colored, and hepatic. I have included scarlet, summer, and Western Tanagers on this list. Male tanagers have the bright red, orange, or yellow colors with the females being more of a duller greens and yellows.

 

19. Scarlet Tanager

scarlet tanager
photo credit: Kelly Colgan Azar

The male Scarlet Tanagers have the bright red plumage you can see here with black tails and wings. The females are more of a green and yellow color but still with dark wings. Their range is mainly the eastern United States and they eat insects and berries. They nest in trees and build them fairly high off the ground, sometimes 50 ft or more. You won’t often spot them in your yard, most likely to see them in the woods.

 

20. Western Tanager

western tanager

The Western Tanager has an orange and red head with a yellow body and as you may have guessed has a range throughout pretty much all of western North America. They do not usually visit bird feeders and don’t normally eat seeds, but may visit your backyard if you have fruit bearing trees or bushes. A birdbath or maybe a small garden pond with moving water may also attract a Western Tanager.

 

21. Summer Tanager

summer tanager

Mainly found in the southeastern region of the United States and some of the southwestern states. They feed mainly on insects such as bees and wasps, but may also eat berries and fruit in your yard similar to other tanagers. The males are a brilliant bright red and the females are more of a yellowish color. They can often be spotted hanging out in the treetops of open woodlands throughout their range. If you put out orange slices they may be tempted to visit your feeders.


Grosbeaks

There are 5 common species of grosbeaks in North America; Pine Grosbeak, Evening Grosbeak, Rose-Breasted Grosbeak, Blue Grosbeak, and the Black-Headed Grosbeak. There are also the pine, yellow, and crimson-collared grosbeaks that aren’t very common in the United States. Grosbeaks are very colorful birds and each has a unique look. What they do have in common are their big and powerful beaks (for which they got their name) that they use for cracking open large nuts and seeds.

 

22. Rose Breasted Grosbeak

rose-breasted grosbeak

Common to most of the eastern half of the U.S., the male Rose-Breasted Grosbeak has a rose-red patch on his chest and is very easy to identify if you see one. They can commonly be seen at bird feeders eating sunflower seeds, peanuts, and safflower seeds. Both the male and female build the nests together and will also take turns incubating their up to about 5 eggs.

 

23. Evening Grosbeak

evening grosbeak

The Evening Grosbeak has a declining range throughout most of North America, however they are only common in northern parts of the US and into Canada. Male Evening Grosbeaks are yellow, white and black with a yellow patch just above or over the eyes and white on the wings. They aren’t commonly seen at feeders but do eat bird seed and since they travel in flocks may visit them in numbers occasionally.

 

24. Blue Grosbeak

blue grosbeak
photo credit: Dan Pancamo

The Blue Grosbeaks breeds throughout much of the southern U.S. and are expanding their range north. Genetic evidence suggests that the Lazuli Bunting, also on this list, is the closest relative to the Blue Grosbeak. They prefer doing their nesting in shrubs and may visit feeders for seeds to accompany their mostly insectivorous diet.

 

25. Pine Grosbeak

pine grosbeak
photo credit: Ron Knight

The Pine Grosbeak is only found in a few random pockets in the northwest part of the lower 48 states but on into Canada and even Alaska they are much more widespread. The males plumage is a vibrant rosy red and pink color that is quite unique. If you live in one of the areas were they are found, they will relish black sunflower seeds at feeders.


Buntings

There are 9 species of buntings that are native to the United States. An additional 7 Asian species have been occasionally spotted in the U.S. and reported by savvy birders.  Several of these 9 native species are quite colorful with the painted bunting coming to mind first.

 

26. Painted Bunting

painted bunting

The Painting Bunting can be found in Florida, Texas and a few other southern states at different times of the year. In my opinion this one is one of the most colorful birds on this list with the blue, green, yellow, and red feathers. Because of their flamboyant colors they are often captured and sold illegally as pets in Mexico and other places. Painted buntings do eat seed and may visit feeders if you live within their range.

 

27. Indigo Bunting

The Indigo Bunting has a breeding range throughout all of the middle and eastern U.S. You can try attracting them to feeders around mid-summer with thistle, nyjer, or  even mealworms. These birds migrate in large flocks by night and supposedly navigate by the stars. The Indigo Bunting sometimes interbreeds with the Lazuli Bunting in places where their ranges overlap.

 

28. Lazuli Bunting

lazuli bunting

The Lazuli Bunting is found throughout most of the western U.S. where the males are recognized by their brilliant blue plumage. They can commonly be seen at bird feeders and eat seeds, insects, and berries. If you want to attract them to your yard try white proso millet, sunflower seeds, or nyjer thistle seeds.


Warblers

There are 54 species of warblers found in North America broken up into two families, old world and new world warblers.  Warblers are small song birds and most of them are very colorful. Rather than adding every single one I picked out a few of my favorites.

 

29. Northern Parula

northern parula

The Northern Parula is a new world warbler found in the eastern half of the country. They do not visit bird feeders as they feed primarily on insects, but will eat fruits and berries occasionally. If you want to attract them to your yard you should have plenty of trees, bushes and shrubbery. They breed and nest in dense, mature forests and the female will build her nest as high as 100 feet from the ground making them hard to observe.

 

30. American Redstart

american redstart
photo  credit: Dan Pancamo

 

The American Redstart is widespread from Canada south into Central and South America, they are however absent in some of the western states in the U.S. While the males are mostly black, they have some brilliant flashes of yellow and orange making them really stand out. They eat mainly insects but in late summer are known to feed on berries and fruit. They will not visit feeders for seed but having berry bushes in your yard may attract them.

 

31. Yellow Warbler

yellow warbler
photo credit: Rodney Campbell

The Yellow Warbler is a very small bird that has a big range and is common throughout all of North and Central America. The male is bright yellow with dark streaks on his body and the females actually don’t look much different. Like other warblers they feed almost exclusively on insects and prefer living and nesting in thickets and small trees. They build their nests at least 10 feet off the ground, sometimes much higher.

 

32. Cerulean Warbler

Photo credit: USDA, (CC BY 2.0)

The sky blue male and the green blue female Cerulean Warblers have a small range in eastern U.S. They mainly breed in the northeastern states and migrate into southern states and into Central America. These warblers are also small insectivorous songbirds that like to hang out in the treetops of mature forests. The Cerulean Warbler is considered uncommon with a declining population.

 

33. Prairie Warbler

prairie warbler
photo credit: Charles J Sharp | CC 4.0

The Prairie Warbler can be found throughout much of eastern U.S. and into the Caribbean islands. These little guys are easy to distinguish from other yellow colored warblers by their prominent black streaks around the eyes and down their sides. They live and nest in areas with small shrubbery and open fields and eat small insects. The Prairie Warbler is also known for constantly wagging its tail while in search of insects and as they go about their daily routine.

 

34. Prothonotary Warbler

prothonotary warbler

With his bright yellow plumage, the Prothonotary Warbler is one of the only warblers that might use a nest box if you provide one. This gives you a chance to attract a mating pair to your yard. Naturally they like nesting in standing dead trees in wetlands and swampy wooded areas, because of this they are often referred to as the swamp warbler.


Woodpeckers

Including sapsuckers and flickers, there are at least 20 different species of woodpeckers in North America, here’s an article we did with 17 of those species on it. Woodpeckers aren’t really known for being overly flamboyant with their plumage in terms of color, but they can have very intricate patterns of dots and stripes. I added a few to the list here that I thought were worth mentioning.

 

35. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

yellow-bellied sapsucker
photo credit: Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren | CC 2.0

Not commonly seen at feeders, the Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker eats sap from trees as its main food source. They also eat insects and spiders from the trees as they are drilling for sap. The male has a red crown and throat as well as the famous yellow belly. Their range includes most of the central and eastern parts of the U.S. as well as much of Canada.

 

36. Northern Flicker

northern flicker

The Northern Flicker isn’t as brightly colored as some of the other birds. They do have some very unique markings though, and in this birders opinion are one of the most colorful birds in North America. Their larger size, spotted breast, banded back and multi colored head make them very recognizable. They do have a pop of color that is hidden on the underside of their wings and tail, usually only visible when flying. They have a very wide range are found in all of North America. In the eastern half of the U.S. the flickers have a yellow underwing, while in the western half they have a red underwing. Northern flickers don’t visit feeders as readily as some other woodpeckers, but they may make an appearance if you offer suet cakes.

 

37. Red-headed Woodpecker

red-headed woodpecker

This fella can sometimes be seen at suet feeders, especially in the winter time. They spend their winters in most of the eastern states and migrate into the more north central states for breeding. They are also not extremely colorful but the flame red head of the male really makes them stand out and a treat to spot. Especially since the population is declining and they aren’t seen as often as they once were.


Hummingbirds

There may be as many as 23 different species of hummingbirds in North America. Hummingbirds are the smallest family of birds in all of North America and most are known to be some of the most colorful birds if you can catch them being still long enough to actually see. I have three last birds on this list and I thought I’d make them all hummingbirds, see more about when to expect them at feeders in this article.

 

38. Ruby-throated Hummingbird

ruby throated hummingbird

The Ruby-Throated Hummingbird is very common throughout the eastern and central parts of North America. They are the first ones I expect to see at my feeders and the ruby red throats of the males make them very colorful indeed. Use our easy no-boil hummingbird nectar recipe to fill up your hummingbird feeder and they will show up if you are in their range.

 

39. Costa’s Hummingbird

costa's hummingbird

Costa’s can only be found in pockets in the southwest states of the U.S., Baja California, and coastal areas of west Mexico. The male has a beautiful purple throat area that makes them very pretty if you can spot one. They will also eat hummingbird nectar from a feeder or can be attracted to your yard with certain nectar producing flowers like honeysuckle.

 

40. Anna’s Hummingbird

photo credit: Becky Matsubara, CC BY 2.0

Found only in the Pacific west, in some of the same areas as the Costa’s Hummingbird, Anna’s Hummingbird are the Ruby-Throated of the west and are quite common there. They are also commonly seen at feeders when nectar is offered and the males can be spotted by their pinkish red throats and heads.  The males are known to perform aerial acrobatics to impress the females during mating season.

About Jesse

Jesse enjoys bird watching and feeding birds in his backyard, learning about the different species, and sharing his knowledge and experiences.

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