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Red Birds In Virginia (8 species with Photos)

The beautiful state of Virginia has diverse habitats that create the ideal environment for all sort of wildlife. There are many different bird species, for example, that take advantage of all that this state has to offer. In this article we will specifically look at the red birds you can find in Virginia, including the official state bird the northern cardinal. 

8 Red Birds In Virginia

Have you seen red birds in Virginia but are not sure what type of birds they are? Well, you’re in luck! Below you will find 8 red birds that can be found in the state of Virginia. These birds range in color and habitat, but they all have red feathers that help them stand out from other birds found in the state. 

1. Northern Cardinal

Male Northern Cardinal

Scientific Name: Cardinalis cardinalis

The Northern cardinal is the state bird of Virginia, and one of the most well-known red birds out there. However, it is only the adult males of the species that are showy with their vibrant red feathers. The females blend in more with other birds, thanks to their brown-colored bodies.

Cardinals are also fairly easy to attract to backyard feeders and will feast on most birdseed mixes. However, sunflowers appear to be their preferred seed. The Northern cardinal is found throughout Virginia year-round.

2. Rose-Breasted Grosbeak

Scientific Name: Pheucticus ludovicianus

While the rose-breasted grosbeak isn’t entirely red, its ruby red breast, thus its name, is easy to spot against its white and black body. Like the cardinal, it is the male of the species that features a bright red colorant. The female has a similar shape, but has no red coloring, rather brown and cream streaks.

This species visits the northern and western part of the state to breed during the spring and summer. You may see them in the south and west as well, but during the spring and fall as they are migrating through. The rose-breasted grosbeak prefers habitats of groves, orchards, and deciduous woods where it feeds on various insects, berries, and seeds.

3. Red-Headed Woodpecker

Image: Linda Jones |

Scientific Name: Melanerpes erythrocephalus

This woodpecker earns a spot on our red birds list due to its entirely red head. Both male and female red-headed woodpeckers have white undersides, a black back with a large white band on the wings, and solid red head. These woodpeckers aren’t as common in suburban areas, so you may have to head toward the woods to find them. However they do reside year-round throughout Virginia. 

You may be able to attract them to a backyard feeder, especially during the winter, with suet, acorns, beechnuts, pecans or fruits. They are known to hide food in caches for later, usually under bark or cracks in trees.

4. Purple Finch

purple finch male
Purple Finch | image by Alan Schmierer via Flickr

Scientific Name: Haemorhous purpureus

Purple finches are small songbirds found in Virginia mainly during the winter months, although some population may remain year-round in the northwestern corner of the state. They resemble the house finch, but aren’t as common.

The males of this species have striking raspberry-colored plumage on their heads that runs down their bodies, fading into brown and cream-colored feathers. Females are just brown and white. If you want to try catch a glimpse of these red birds, put black oil sunflower seeds in your feeders. 

5. Common Redpoll

male common redpoll
Common Redpoll (male) | image by Tom Koerner/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service via Flickr

Scientific Name: Acanthis flammea

These birds are part of the finch family, and while not as obviously red as other birds on this list, they still feature enough red to have it be a distinguishing feature. Both males and females feature a red patch of feathers on top of their heads, but only males have a wash of pinkish-red feathers that run down their chest and sides.  These birds consume seeds, catkins, and the buds of various trees, including alders, birches, and willows. 

Unfortunately, the common redpoll is only seen in Virginia during “irruptive years”. This is when food in their normal range becomes scarce, and they move further south than usual in search of food. Keep an eye out at your feeders during the winter, as they like to travel in flocks of other finches.

6. Summer Tanager

summer tanager male

Scientific Name: Piranga rubra

The male summer tanager is the only completely red bird in North America. The females look like a completely different species, covered in yellow feathers. Summer tanagers consume wasps and bees, but can also be found foraging on fruit trees and berry bushes.

They migrate north from South and Central America to breed in the U.S., including Virginia. So look for them in forested areas from spring to late summer. 

7. Scarlet Tanager

Scarlet tanager
source: Kelly Colgan Azar | CC BY-ND 2.0 | flickr

Scientific Name: Piranga olivacea

The male scarlet tanager is a stunning bird that has a vibrant red body that contrasts with its sleek black wings. Females are olive yellow in color with a darker olive yellow tail and wings. Despite breeding in Virginia, these songbirds can be difficult to spot, thanks to their desire to stay high in the tree canopies. They love to consume the fruits of various berry plants, such as blackberries, strawberries, serviceberries, raspberries, huckleberries, and juneberries. Like the other tanager on this list, the scarlet tanger migrates to south out of the U.S. during the winter months.

8. Red Crossbill

red crossbill male
Red crossbill (male) | image by Charles Gates via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific Name: Loxia curvirostra

Another beautiful red bird sometimes seen in Virginia is the red crossbill. The males of this species are primarily scarlet with darker brown wings and tails. The females are olive-green to yellow in color. The key characteristic of the crossbill is its unique criss-crossed bill that they use to get seeds out of conifer cones.

Virginia isn’t within the red crossbill’s main range, but they are sometimes seen here during the winter and early spring. There is a small year-round population that remains in the national forests along the far western border.