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26 Most Iconic Backyard Birds in North America (Photos)

This article looks at a hand-selected group of North America’s most iconic backyard birds. Our list includes common backyard species along with more rare and exciting backyard visitors. These birds are known for their bright colors, lovely melodies, or cheerful and interesting behaviors. These species showcase the variety and allure of birds commonly found in our gardens and neighborhoods across the country. 

North America has well over 1,000 bird species, and this list represents just a small fraction of those. We’ve selected these species to best showcase some of the most famous and iconic birds in the U.S. 

1. Eastern Towhee

Scientific name: Pipilo erythrophthalmus

The Eastern Towhee is a widespread species of towhee found in the eastern United States. Their extremely similar cousin is the Spotted Towhee found in the western U.S. These two are so similar, they were lumped together into one species called the Rufous Towhee until fairly recently.  

Eastern Towhee’s have a rusty orange stripe along their side, a white belly and red or dark eye. Males have a black head, back and tail while females have a brown head, back and tail. 

Eastern Towhees forage on the forest floor, picking through leaf litter and hopping back and forth to scrape the ground to uncover insects and seeds. If you want a chance to attract towhees to your yard, leave some brushy edges and leaf litter along your yard line. They don’t tend to visit bird feeders, but may come to investigate the ground beneath your feeder for fallen seed, especially in colder weather.  

Perhaps the most iconic thing about towhees is males easy to recognize song. In spring males sing “drink-your-tea”, with the final note being a trill. Their other common sound is a rising “che-wink”.  They often nest on the ground in a slight depression surrounded by fallen leaves, but also a few feet off the ground in tangles and shrubs. Unfortunately they often fall victim to cowbird parasitism, as do most towhee species.

2. Mourning Dove

mourning doves pair
Mourning Dove nest on top of flood light

Scientific name: Zenaida macroura

About the size of a robin, Mourning Doves are so named for their mournful sounding perch call, where they call “coo-OOO-oo-oo-oo”. This call is often sounded by unmated males. Another familiar Mourning Dove sound you may be familiar with is their take-off sound. As these doves take off, you’ll notice they always make a whistling sound. They aren’t making this with their throat – rather it is their wings that make this sound. It is believed this may help to startle predators.

Mourning doves are mostly gray with black wing spots, with a peachy head and breast, and pink legs. They have large, dark eyes with a bit of pale blue skin around them. Both males and females look the same, and tend to mate for life. These doves are common backyard visitors known for visiting feeders and building flimsy looking nests in all sorts of random locations. This may include your flower pots or in your garage!

The Mourning Dove is the official “symbol of peace” for Wisconsin and Michigan.

3. Summer Tanager

Adult Male
Summer Tanager Plumage Colors

Scientific name: Piranga rubra 

Birdwatchers in the southeast and southwest will be able to spot the Summer Tanager during the spring and summer months. They migrate north from Central and South America to breed, then head back south for the winter. The male summer tanager is the only completely red bird in North America (remember, cardinals have a black face). The female looks exactly the same, but replace the red for yellow. Immature males can be an interesting mix of both red and yellow feathers as they slowly grow into their adult plumage.

Summer tanagers consume wasps and bees, but can also be found foraging on fruit trees and berry bushes. The prefer open forests with a mix of deciduous trees and shrubs. They catch wasps and bees while flying, beat them against a branch, then eat them. Attract them to your yard by planting trees and shrubs that bloom and attract pollinators. They occasionally eat fruit, so berry bushes are a great idea too. Since they enjoy sugary fruits, you may even catch them trying to sip out of hummingbird or oriole feeders.

4. Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker
Red-bellied Woodpecker

Scientific name: Melanerpes carolinus

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. Males have a full red stripe all the way to their beak while females have a gray forehead.

Their name comes from the small red patch they have on their lower belly. This is often not visible when the birds are clinging to tree trunks. The pairing of their red head stripe with bold, horizontal black-and-white wing stripes make them an attractive and easy to recognize backyard bird.

Red-bellied woodpeckers are fairly comfortable in suburban settings and readily visit backyard feeders. They prefer suet but may also visit seed feeders for sunflower and peanut pieces. Red-bellied woodpeckers are known to wedge nuts, like acorns or hickory nuts, into tree bark crevices 1-3 inches deep. They do this by using their beaks to hammer the nuts into the tree bark, creating storage holes where they can hide food. 

5. Northern Mockingbird

mockingbird perch
Northern mockingbird watching its territory in my side yard | image by: BirdFeederHub

Scientific name: Mimus polyglottos

The Northern Mockingbird is a common, non-migratory bird found across the United States. They are gray overall with a lighter belly, darker wings, a long tail and two white wing patches only visible in flight. 

Mockingbirds get their name from their ability to mimic the songs of other species of birds. They repeat the call of each species 2-4 times then move on to the next in a long stream of song. It’s estimated that a male mockingbird can learn up to 200 different songs in its lifetime.

They are often seen perched on wires or tall bushes, and can often be quite aggressive of intruding birds. Mockingbirds are notorious for dive-bombing humans, pets and just about anything that gets too close to their nest during breeding season. But even during the winter they can remain aggressive, chasing away other birds from winter food sources like berry producing shrubs. 

While mockingbirds are common in yards, they don’t often visit bird feeders. Insects and berries are their preferred food source, but they may visit for seeds or suet when other food is harder to find. They are the state bird of Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas! 

6. American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch
American Goldfinch

Scientific name: Spinus tristis

The American goldfinch is a small, vibrant finch found year-round in much of eastern and northwestern parts of the country. Some head further north into Canada to breed then travel to the southern U.S. for the winter. During the breeding season the male goldfinch dons brilliant yellow feathers with black wings and a black cap, while the female exhibits a more subdued olive-yellow coloration and no black cap. Just before winter, these goldfinches transform into drab olive-colored plumage, lose their orange beak and males and females look more similar.

These delightful birds are often found in open areas such as fields, meadows, and orchards, where they feed on seeds from a variety of plants. Their diet is made up almost entirely of seeds, with a preference for sunflowers, asters, zinnia and thistles. Planting these in your garden can be one way to attract these sunny birds.

Their undulating flight and high-pitched, cheerful, warbling song make them a welcome sight and sound in backyards. American goldfinches are also known for their acrobatic feeding behavior, often hanging upside down to reach seeds from plants. They are the state bird of Iowa, New Jersey and Washington!

7. Cactus Wren

Cactus wren
Cactus Wren | image via Pixabay

Scientific Name: Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus

Cactus wrens are the state bird of Arizona, and seen as one of the most iconic birds in the southwest. You’ll only find these birds in the desert southwest, ranging from California to Texas and Mexico. Males and females share the same plumage, a brown back and warm underbelly covered in speckles, a striped tail, and white eyebrow. They’re also the largest wrens in the United States, measuring up to 9 inches in length and 11 inches in wingspan.

This bird is found in arid deserts with plenty of cactus and spiny plants. Their nests are shaped like a football with a tunnel entrance, and they like to build in cholla, palo verde, mesquite, prickly-pear, and other desert plants where the nest is surrounded by protective thorns. They use these nests year-round, either when breeding or just as roosting sites. Cactus wrens mainly eat insects they pick from vegetation, but also like cactus fruit.  

They are vocal little birds and no doubt if you live in their range you’ll learn their raspy call, often described as sounding like a car engine that won’t turn over. If you have cactus or thorny shrubs are likely to visit your backyard. These wrens may also visit bird feeders for suet or sunflower seed.

8. Ruby-throated Hummingbird

male ruby throated hummingbird hovering

Scientific name: Archilochus colubris

You can’t have a list of iconic backyard birds without including the most populous North American hummingbird, the Ruby-throated Hummingbird. This species is the only hummingbird to breed east of the Mississippi River. So for a large portion of the U.S. and Canada, they are the only hummers around.

Each spring they enter the U.S. in droves from their wintering grounds in Central America. Many of them cross the Gulf of Mexico, over 500 miles, in a single non-stop flight. Eagerly awaited, they show up in the Gulf states in late February and make their way north to Canada by mid-May.   

These hummingbirds have a green back and white underparts. Males have ruby red throat feathers, although they can appear much darker in certain lighting. Females throats remain unmarked or may have slight streaking. Nearly anyone can attract these sweet little birds to their yard by putting out a hummingbird feeder, or even by having nectar producing flowers like honeysuckle, scarlet beebalm, cardinal flower and trumpet creeper. 

9. Blue Jay

blue jay crest
Blue Jay | image by David A Mitchell via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Cyanocitta cristata

With their bright blue coloring, expressive head-crest and loud vocals, the Blue Jay is often one of the first bird species people learn to identify. Blue Jays live year-round in the eastern half of the country, and may extend into the northwest during the winter months.

Males and females have the same coloring and aren’t easy to tell apart. Interestingly, the black ring around their neck and black markings on their face are slightly different from bird to bird. Blue Jays may use this as one of the cues to distinguish individuals, and astute bird watchers can use this to identify specific jays.

Blue Jays are found in most types of woodland, but especially those with oaks due to their love of acorns. They will readily visit bird feeders, especially for whole peanuts and suet. Many of the sounds in their large collection of calls are familiar to bird enthusiasts – such as the “squeaky gate”, sharp jeer, liquid churr or even their impression of screeching hawks. Blue Jays do a great impression of red-shouldered hawks, either to warn birds when the hawk is around or to scare off birds from food sources to keep the food to themselves. Perhaps both! 

10. Baltimore Oriole

Scientific name: Icterus galbula

This colorful oriole is the state bird of Maryland, and their name comes from their resemblance to the black and orange colors on the coat-of-arms of 17th century Englishman, Lord Baltimore. 

Males are flame-colored, except for a black back and head. Females tend to be yellow with gray wings, but their coloring can vary. Some will show gray scaling on their head and neck. Baltimore Orioles are common in the eastern United States during the summer. In the winter you can find them in Florida, the Caribbean, Mexico, Central America and parts of northern South America. Orioles as a group are pretty iconic backyard birds, due to their bright colors, arrival with spring and love of fruits. You can learn about all the U.S. species here

But unlike many other oriole species that will eat just about any kind of fruit, the Baltimore Oriole tends to prefer only the darkest color fruits in the wild like mulberries, dark cherries and purple grapes. However you can still attract them to your yard by putting out orange halves, and they also like grape jelly. Aside from fruit these orioles also eat insects. You’ll often see them in early spring hoping around the blossoms on flowering trees searching for caterpillars and other bugs.

11. Pileated Woodpecker

pileated woodpecker male female

Scientific name: Dryocopus pileatus

The Pileated Woodpecker is the largest of all woodpeckers in North America. With their famous “Woody Woodpecker” appearance and large size, they make an impression on anyone that sees them. They have a black body, black and white striped face and large red crest. Males have a red stripe on each cheek, while females have a black stripe.

Pileated woodpeckers are found in the east and west, but need large stands of mature forest. So they are largely absent from the plains states and the desert southwest. These large woodpeckers are known for going after carpenter ants, their favorite food source. They are experts at finding nests of these ants inside trees, and will excavate impressively large holes to reach them. 

Pileated woodpeckers will sometimes come to backyard feeders, although they are much less common visitors than other species and often are too large for all but the biggest suet feeder. You’re most likely to spot these large woodpeckers in the yard if you have a stand of trees, especially with some dead or dying trees mixed in. 

12. Northern Cardinal

male cardinal about to feed a seed to a female cardinal as they stand on a deck railing

Scientific name: Cardinalis cardinalis

Perhaps one of the most iconic birds in the United States is the Northern Cardinal. They are the state bird for a whopping 7 states, West Virginia, Virginia, Ohio, North Carolina, Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois. Credit for this mainly goes to males, who are bright red all over with a black mask around the eyes and chin. They are also the ones that sing loud, whistling songs from open perches all year round. But we can’t exclude sweet females cardinals, who have warm brown feathers with red accents. Aside from their attractive appearance and easy to identify songs, these birds are ubiquitous in backyards.

Almost any bird feeder will attract them, but their favorite are larger tube, hopper or platform feeders with sunflower seeds. They are generally non-migratory and can be found in wooded areas, gardens, and parks throughout their range in the eastern half of the U.S. In the spring, males sing with a sweet, clear whistle, which is often heard in the early morning and evening.

They can highly territorial birds during the breeding season and will defend their territories against intruders, including other cardinals. But once fall arrives, they stop competing and will travel together in small groups during the winter.

13. Western Meadowlark

Western Meadowlark | image by Larry Lamsa via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Sturnella neglecta

An iconic silhouette across the grassland and plains of the western United States is the Western Meadowlark. They are known for their beautiful “flutelike” song, often sung from open perches on atop fence posts. Males sing when courting females, when chasing away competing males and even in response to intruders. 

Its striking appearance includes a bright yellow underbelly with a black V-shaped band across the chest, complemented by intricate brown and black streaks on its back and wings. They forage for insects and seeds in grassy areas, often perching on fence posts or shrubs to survey their surroundings.

The western meadowlark’s preference for open landscapes has made it a symbol of the American prairie and a cherished sight for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts. It is the state bird of Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon and Wyoming.

During the breeding season, the female meadowlark constructs a cup-shaped nest on the ground, hidden among the grasses. The nest is often lined with soft materials such as grass and feathers, providing a safe haven for the eggs and young chicks. These birds may visit backyards and platform-style seed feeders in open habitats for sunflower seed and cracked corn. 

14. Black-capped Chickadee

black capped chickadee on a tree branch

Scientific name: Poecile atricapillus

Chickadees are small birds with rounded bodies that are very easy to recognize because of their “black cap”, white cheek and black bib. They have a grayish back, cream belly, short stubby bill and a long, narrow tail. There are several chickadee species in the U.S. and they look very similar to each other.

Black-capped Chickadees are a populous species found year-round in the northern half of the U.S. and are the state bird for Maine and Massachusetts. They are primarily insect eaters, but also eat seeds. They are known for their curious and friendly nature, often seeming less shy around humans than many other small bird species. Black-capped Chickadees are also known for their distinctive vocalizations, which include a “chick-a-dee-dee-dee” call that they use to communicate with each other.

Interestingly, these little birds have an amazing memory and are able to remember the location of thousands of individual food caches that they have hidden throughout their territory. Chickadees will visit most types of seed feeders and are pretty easy to attract to backyards. During the winter they often travel with small groups of sparrows and titmice.

15. Steller’s Jay

Steller's jay
Steller’s Jay | image by Veronika_Andrews via Pixabay

Scientific name: Cyanocitta stelleri

The Steller’s jay is a striking and intelligent bird that inhabits the coniferous forests of western North America. If you live in or around evergreen forests, you can attract these jays to your yard by leaving out whole peanuts and other large nuts and seeds. They are even known for hanging around campgrounds and parks, ready to pick up any interesting food you may have left behind. 

Adults have a sooty, dark brown head and upper body, with a brilliant blue lower body and tail. They also sport an impressive, tall head crest. Steller’s jays that live along the Pacific Coast have blue streaks that run from their forehead up their crest, while birds that live in the interior away from the coast have white streaks.

Those familiar with these birds say Steller’s jays have a charismatic and often noisy presence in their woodland habitat. These resourceful birds are skilled foragers, often seen searching for acorns, seeds, insects, and small vertebrates among the forest floor and in the trees. They can carry several large seeds like acorns or pinyon pine in their beak at once, and may then bury them one at a time to keep as a winter food source.

Burying seeds requires a good memory if they want to find them later. Research has shown these jays have excellent spatial memory. They can recall several personal cache locations and will even raid other birds seed caches, like the Clark’s Nutcracker. 

16. Eastern Bluebird

male and female eastern bluebird perched together
Eastern bluebirds, male left and female right | image by 611catbirds, too via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Sialia sialis

The Eastern Bluebird is a charming and iconic bird species native to eastern North America. Eastern Bluebirds are the state bird of New York and Missouri.

Admired for its brilliant blue plumage, rusty-orange breast, and white belly, the male bluebird is a delightful sight in fields, meadows, and open woodlands. Its quiet, warbling song and gentle demeanor make it a beloved symbol of happiness and hope. The female bluebird shares a similar coloration to the male but with a slightly duller hue, blending beautifully with the natural landscape.

These cavity-nesting birds often make their homes in abandoned woodpecker holes, nest boxes, or other suitable hollows, where they raise their broods of young. They primarily feed on insects and berries, often perching on low branches or wires to hunt for their prey. The eastern bluebird’s adaptability to human-made nest boxes has contributed to successful conservation efforts and the preservation of this beloved species.

Bluebirds don’t typically eat seeds, but can be enticed to visit feeders with mealworms on a tray feeder or in a dish. Bird baths can also help to attract them to backyards, as will native plants that support insect populations. 

In the western regions of North America, a similar species known as the western bluebird can be found. While sharing many similarities with its eastern counterpart, the western bluebird exhibits subtle differences in plumage and habitat preferences. 

17. Carolina Wren

Carolina wren perching on wood
Carolina wren perching on wood | image by Shenandoah National Park via Flickr

Scientific name: Thryothorus ludovicianus

The Carolina Wren, a small but charismatic bird, is a familiar sight and sound along the eastern United States. These medium sized wrens used to be predominately found in the southeast, but have slowly been expanding their range further and further north. Carolina Wrens have rich reddish-brown plumage, expressive white “eyebrows”, and a perky tail often held upright.

One of the most charming aspects of these little birds is their vibrant and melodious song. While the song isn’t complex, it is a bright, clear whistle with a repeated phrase. This wren’s vocalizations can be heard even past the breeding season, being one of the only songbirds that continues to sing in the winter.

Carolina wrens are adept foragers, searching for insects, spiders, and small fruits among the leaf litter and crevices of trees and shrubs. Their curious and energetic nature often leads them to explore nooks and crannies in search of food, making them a joy to observe for bird enthusiasts. These wrens are also known for their remarkable adaptability, often nesting in a variety of locations, including flowerpots, mailboxes, and even hanging baskets. Suet is most attractive to them, but they may also visit seed feeders on occasion.

18. Painted Bunting

painted bunting sexes

Scientific name: Passerina ciris

The Painted Bunting is a stunning and colorful bird that graces the woodlands and brushy areas of the southern United States during the spring and summer (and winter in southern Florida). The male painted bunting is a breathtaking sight, displaying a vibrant mix of blue, green, and red plumage, resembling a living work of art. Its striking appearance has earned it the nickname “nonpareil,” which means “without equal” in French. In contrast, the female painted bunting showcases a more subtle green and yellow coloration, but still in a vibrant shade.

Painted buntings forage for seeds, insects, and berries, often frequenting brushy thickets and overgrown areas. Despite their dazzling appearance, these birds can be elusive, often hidden within dense vegetation, making a sighting all the more special for birdwatchers. If you live within their range, they are most likely to visit bird feeders with seed after the breeding season is complete at the end of the summer. They also prefer if there are shrubs and dense vegetation nearby to make them feel more secure.

The painted bunting’s captivating beauty and make it a cherished symbol of the southern landscape and a sought-after sighting for bird enthusiasts. 

19. American Robin

American robin
American robin | Image by Veronika Andrews from Pixabay

Scientific name: Turdus migratorius

The state bird of Michigan and Connecticut, the American Robin, is a familiar and beloved bird found throughout North America. American Robins have a distinctive red breast, gray back, and cheerful, melodious song. These iconic songbirds are often associated with the arrival of spring, as they are among the first to return from their wintering grounds, signaling the changing of seasons with their presence. Male and female robins share a similar appearance, with the male typically having slightly brighter plumage.

Robins are versatile foragers, feeding on a varied diet of insects, earthworms, and berries, which they often gather from lawns, gardens, and open spaces. Their characteristic habit of cocking their head to listen for prey in the soil has endeared them to many observers. But they don’t just hear their prey, they also have very keen monocular vision that allows them to detect the slightest movement.

Their habit of nesting in close proximity to humans has made them a familiar sight in urban and suburban areas. Robin often nest in backyard trees and shrubs, as well as around homes on eaves, window ledges and lighting fixtures. Their blue eggs are iconic themselves, and their brilliant color actually helps protect the babies inside from UV radiation while the robin is off the nest.

20. Mountain Bluebird

mountain bluebird
Mountain Bluebird | image by Larry Lamsa via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Sialia currucoides

The Mountain Bluebird is a stunning and iconic bird of the western United States, serving as the state bird for Idaho and Nevada. These azure blue birds grace open meadows, grasslands, and mountainous regions. The male mountain bluebird exhibits a vivid sky-blue coloration, while the female is adorned with more subdued blue-gray feathers. Their striking appearance and gentle, warbling song make them a delightful sight and sound in their natural habitat.

These elegant birds are often observed perched on fences, wires, or other elevated vantage points, where they hunt for insects and forage for berries. In the right locations they are pretty easy to spot, since they aren’t particularly shy of people and are comfortable out in the open. Their adaptability to various habitats, including open fields and mountainous terrain, has contributed to their widespread distribution across the western regions of North America.

Like other bluebirds, the Mountain Bluebird will readily use a nestbox. That is probably the best way to attract them to the yard, although they may come for mealworms as well. During the winter they switch to a berry diet like many birds, and can be seen foraging with Western Bluebirds, robins and Cedar Waxwings in areas abundant with juniper berries.

21. Northern Flicker

split screen comparison of yellow shafted and red shafted flicker
Two Northern Flicker Varieties

Scientific name: Colaptes auratus

The Northern Flicker is a larger woodpecker that stands out due to its brown plumage adorned with black bared wings, a black chest patch, and heavily spotted breast. There are two plumage variations. The “red-shafted” variety found in the western U.S. has red on the underside of their tail and wings, a brown face, and males have a red cheek stripe. The “yellow-shafted” variety found in the eastern U.S. has yellow on the underside of their tail and wings, a peach face with gray cap and males have a black cheek stripe.  

Northern flickers have a unique foraging behavior that sets them apart from other woodpecker species. While many woodpeckers primarily peck and drill into tree bark to find insects, the Northern Flicker relies more on foraging on the ground for its food. They use their slightly curved bill to probe the soil and leaf litter in search of ants, beetles, and other insects.

Northern Flickers are the state bird of Alabama, where they are colloquially known as yellowhammers.

22. Tufted Titmouse

tufted titmouse peeking
Tufted Titmouse | image by:

Scientific name: Baeolophus bicolor

The Tufted Titmouse is a charming and sociable songbird found in the woodlands and suburban areas of the eastern United States. Known for its distinctive crest, black forehead, and peach-colored flanks, the tufted titmouse is a common sight at backyard bird feeders and in wooded habitats. Its clear, whistled peter-peter-peter song and active, inquisitive nature give them a presence all their own.

These small birds are skilled foragers, often seen hopping from branch to branch in search of insects, seeds, and nuts. When searching through buds and leaves, they can be quite acrobatic, hanging upside down in needed to reach what they’re after. They are frequent visitors to bird feeders, where they readily consume sunflower seeds and suet. Their adaptability to human-dominated landscapes has endeared them to many, as they readily make use of nest boxes and backyard habitats for breeding and foraging.

You’ll often notice them carrying seeds away from the bird feeder. Some they take to a branch to hold between their feet and eat, others they bring to a secret store to stash for leaner times during the winter. Interestingly, these storage areas are usually within 130 feet of bird feeders, so there is probably one in your yard or close by! 

23. Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Scientific name: Pheucticus ludovicianus

The Rose-breasted Grosbeak is a migratory songbird that graces the northeastern United States with its song in the spring and summer.  Males have bold black and white plumage accented by a vibrant splash of rosy red on the breast. The female, while less flamboyantly colored, displays a beautiful pattern of warm browns and whites, blending seamlessly with the forest environment.

In addition to its eye-catching appearance, the Rose-breasted Grosbeak is celebrated for its melodious and varied song, often heard echoing through the leafy canopy of its woodland habitat. These birds have noticeably thick conical beaks to crack open seeds and consume a variety of fruits and insects. They can be attracted to backyard feeders, especially open feeders with sunflower seeds. They tend to retreat to more heavily forested areas when they are ready to breed, so the best time to see them at feeders often is during spring and fall migration.

24. Indigo Bunting

Scientific name: Passerina cyanea

The Indigo Bunting is a strikingly beautiful songbird that graces the woodlands, brushy areas, and open fields. They come to the U.S. during the summer, and can be found in the eastern half of the country as well as the southwest. The male Indigo Bunting is renowned for its brilliant all-blue plumage. In contrast, the female indigo bunting exhibits more subdued brown and olive tones.

These buntings can be found in brushy and weedy areas like woods and field, along open areas of roadsides and abandoned fields. Their small stature allows them to perch on thin weed stems while munching on the seed. They eat seeds, insects, berries and buds. The best time to spot them in backyards, unless you like in their specific habitat, is during spring migration. As they move north and decide where they want to nest, they are much more likely to visit suburban yards. They may even visit bird feeders, especially if you have out small seeds like nyjer, or live mealworms.

25. Scarlet Tanager


Scientific name: Piranga olivacea

The Scarlet Tanager is a stunning songbird that inhabits the woodlands of eastern North America during the breeding season. They migrate from far south and look similar to their summer tanager cousins. The male has brilliant scarlet plumage that contrasts vividly against their solid black wings and tail. In contrast, the female Scarlet Tanager displays a more subdued olive-yellow coloration, allowing her to blend in with the woodland canopy as she tends to her nesting duties. Males will lose their bright coloring in the fall and molt to look similar to the female before they head south.

These striking birds are known for their melodious and distinctive song, which adds a beautiful and vibrant element to the chorus of the forest. Scarlet Tanagers forage for insects and fruits among the treetops, often flitting among the branches in search of prey. Their preference for mature deciduous forests and their tendency to remain high in the canopy make them a sought-after sighting for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts.

Scarlet Tanagers primarily eat insects and supplement with berries. As a result, seeing them at a backyard bird feeder is uncommon. You might still be able to entice them to visit your yard! Keep your tall trees and consider planting some berry bushes like mulberry, blackberry and serviceberry. They also enjoy water features, especially when it’s hot outside. 

26. Rufous Hummingbird

Image: Avia5 |

Scientific name: Selasphorus rufus

One of the most well-known hummingbirds of the west is the Rufous Hummingbird. Males are orange all over with a white patch on the upper breast and an orange-red throat. Females are green with rusty patches and a speckled throat. Rufous hummingbirds, although small, are known for being aggressive. When it comes to defending their food sources, they will chase away not only other hummingbirds but also larger birds! 

These remarkable birds are also celebrated for their extraordinary migration, with some individuals traveling over 3,000 miles from their breeding grounds in western North America to their wintering grounds in Mexico. Their tenacity and endurance during this annual journey are a testament to the remarkable capabilities of these diminutive birds.

The Rufous Hummingbird is known for its amazing memory for location. These birds avoid flowers they have emptied recently and return to flowers they know they left with food remaining. It is believed some may be able to remember the location of specific hummingbird feeders from year to year.

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