When you think of animals with stripes, the first thing that comes to mind might be zebras or tigers. But there are several bird species that feature stripes too! Whether bold or subtle, we’ve put together a list of 14 striped birds you can find in the United States. Stripes can be a great help when it comes to identifying a species, and once you learn about these birds you’ll know what to look for.
14 Striped Birds
While there are certainly more striped birds than we can list here, the 14 species of striped birds we will look at are the killdeer, black and white warbler, barred owl, downy woodpecker, song sparrow, red-bellied woodpecker, pine siskin, house finch, magnolia warbler, northern flicker, ladder-backed woodpecker, brown thrasher, yellow warbler, and white-crowned sparrow.
Scientific Name: Charadrius vociferus
Killdeer live throughout most of the U.S. year-round. They are birds of the ground, which is where you’ll find them foraging for food. You’ll often see them scurrying along near the coast or in large gravel parking lots and construction sites. They are also known for their unique nesting habit, which involves laying their eggs on the ground in a shallow depression, often in open fields or gravelly areas.
The bulk of their body isn’t striped, with a plain white belly and brown back. However when viewed from the front you will see two long black stripes that form rings around their neck. They also have a black stripe on the face that goes through their red eye, and when they spread their wings to fly, you can also see a long white stripe along black feathers.
2. Black and White Warbler
Scientific Name: Mniotilta varia
It may be that no other bird embodies stripes as much as the black and white warbler. This is one of the most common and easy to spot warblers that visits the eastern U.S. in the summer. Males and females are both striped with bold black and white feathers.
They typically forage for insects on tree trunks and branches, using their sharp claws to cling to the bark while they search for prey. They move up and down tree trunks similar to the way a nuthatch moves. This behavior sets them apart from most other warblers which tend to forage in thick foliage, and makes them easier to spot.
3. Barred Owl
Scientific name: Strix varia
The beautiful brown and white striped barred owl is found mainly in the eastern United States and Canada, although there are some that have a range in the Pacific northwest. They have a brown back mottled with white, and a white belly with long vertical brown stripes. Barred owls prefer mixed and mature trees near water, especially if there are large tracks of unbroken forest.
You may spot them on a hike roosting in trees during the day. They are mainly nocturnal but can also be active in the morning and evening. Often they will sit quietly on a perch, swiveling their head around to listen for prey. Their loud and unique hooting call is described as 8-9 notes with a cadence of “who cooks for you? Who cooks for you-allllll?”. During courtship a mated pair will perform a duet of all sorts of hoots, honks, caws and gurgles.
4. Downy Woodpecker
Scientific Name: Dryobates pubescens
Downy Woodpeckers are the smallest woodpecker species in North America, and very abundant. They have a black and white striped face, and a black back with white spots so close together they appear as white stripes. Males have a red spot at the back of their head. They mainly eat various insects and beetles they find in tree bark, caterpillars, berries, acorns and grains. Downys are one of the most likely woodpeckers to visit a backyard feeder, enjoying both seeds and suet. They also have a sweet tooth, and many people catch them drinking nectar from hummingbird feeders!
5. Song Sparrow
Scientific Name: Melospiza melodia
Many sparrows can be described as “striped”, including the song sparrow. They are gray and brown with bold warm brown stripes on their head, chest, sides and back. They are very common across the United States and Canada. So common, that they have developed a lot of regional differences in their coloration, size and song. During spring and summer the males will perch on exposed branches and sing to attract mates and defend territory. And they sing a lot! Males and females search for places to nest together, and prefer to build hidden in tall grasses and weeds. Song sparrows will visit bird feeders and aren’t too afraid of nesting near humans.
6. Red-bellied Woodpecker
Scientific Name: Melanerpes carolinus
The red-bellied woodpecker lives throughout much of the eastern United States and is fairly common at feeders and in backyards. Though they are described as “red-bellied” you may first notice the bright red streak along the back of their heads, and their heavily striped black and white wings. They have a plain white breast with an area of pinkish-red lower down in their “belly” area which is often not visible.
Red-bellied woodpeckers can stick their tongue out almost 2 inches past their beak. With a barbed end and sticky spit, they can lash their tongue out to snatch insects from hard to reach places.
7. Pine Siskin
Scientific Name: Spinus pinus
The Pine Siskin is a tough little finch that breeds in Alaska, Canada, and the parts of the western United States. During the winter they travel in flocks with other siskins, sparrows or finches looking for food. They will travel to just about anywhere in the U.S., and you never quite know when or where they will turn up.
Pine siskins have a sharply pointed beak, and a brown striped body with hints of yellow. Males and females have the same plumage. For those that aren’t used to seeing them at the feeder they can often be confused with other finches like the house finch or goldfinch, but look for that tell-tale combo of yellow on the wings and tail with a heavily striped body.
8. House Finch
Scientific Name: Haemorhous mexicanus
The house finch is a common site throughout much of the USA and Mexico. While they aren’t necessarily flashy, they are so common at yards and feeders we felt they should be included since they are a species most people will see frequently. These little finches are a mix of cream and brown. Both males and females have brown striping down their chest and belly, and some on their head and back as well. Males will have a splash of red while females do not.
9. Magnolia Warbler
Scientific Name: Setophaga magnolia
The magnolia warbler passes through most of the eastern half of the U.S. during spring and fall migration, but remains in New England and around the Great Lakes to breed for the summer season. They prefer to breed in pine forests and glean insects from the ends of tree branches.
Like many warbler species, males and females look different during the breeding season. Males have bright yellow underparts with long black stripes running from throat to tail, landing them a spot on our list. Females lack these black stripes. They won’t stop at feeders, but they might overnight during migration season if you have native trees and bushes planted.
10. Northern Flicker
Scientific Name: Colaptes auratus
The northern flicker is a large woodpecker species, measuring up to 12.2 inches long with a wingspan of up to 20 inches. In the world of fashion it may be taboo to mix dots with stripes, but the flicker does it with style. From the front you will notice their pale chest and belly covered in black spots with a big black triangle at the throat. From behind, you’ll see their olive colored wings covered in black horizontal stripes. Rounding out their attractive plumage, they will either have yellow or red accent feathers on the underside of their tail and wings. Yellow in the eastern part of the U.S., and red in the west.
11. Ladder-backed Woodpecker
Scientific Name: Dryobates scalaris
Stripes are extremely common on woodpeckers so we won’t name them all in this list, but one last species to mention is the ladder-backed woodpecker. This species is named for the long, horizontal white stripes on their back that appear as rungs of a ladder. Look for ladder-backed woodpeckers in Texas and other areas of the southwest. They aren’t commonly seen at suet feeders, as they eat mostly insects in the wild.
The ladder-backed woodpecker commonly nests in dead trees, so if you want to attract a pair leave those dead trees in your yard alone. They were once known as “cactus woodpeckers” because they often prefer living in deserts and thorn forests where cacti are present.
12. Brown Thrasher
Scientific Name: Toxostoma rufum
You’ll hear the brown thrasher’s loud and repetitive call throughout the East and Midwestern United States. They prefer to hide in thickets and dense stands of brush. Attract them to your backyard with berry bushes and leaf litter, which they will dig through to find insects. Brown thrashers have a warm brown back, yellow eye an two white stripes or wingbars on each wing. However their chest is what put them on our list. Technically their pale chest is speckled with triangular brown spots, but the spots are often stacked in long lines that appear as stripes. One of the first things people tend to noticed about them, aside from their larger size, is those long brown chest “stripes”.
13. Yellow Warbler
Scientific name: Setophaga petechia
The cheerful Yellow warbler is a small songbird with bright yellow plumage. While females are just yellow all over, males have distinct reddish-brown stripes that streak down vertically along their chest. Found across much of North America during the spring and summer, look for these insect eaters in meadows and woodlands near rivers and streams. They are fairly common and love to sing. List for their “sweet-sweet-sweet-I’m-so-sweet” song.
14. White-crowned Sparrow
Scientific name: Zonotrichia leucophrys
White-crowned sparrows spend the summer far north in Canada and Alaska, then migrate back down across the United States during the winter. In certain areas of the mid-west they stay year round. Stripes are what make this one of the easier sparrows to identify. Both males and females have bold black and white stripes along the top of their head. These stripes stand out against their otherwise pale gray chest and brown back. White-crowned sparrows like to forage in fields, and along the edges of roads and trails. They may visit your yard looking for seeds, but tend to like to stay on the ground and search for spilt seed beneath feeders.