20 Types of Brown Birds (with Photos)

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Brown is one of the most common colors in nature, from tree bark to rocks and soil. Whether you live in the desert southwest or the rocky, windy New England coast, you’re guaranteed to spot a multitude of brown birds in countless habitat niches. Brown helps birds camouflage to their environment. Keep reading to learn about twenty types of brown birds that live in the United States and Canada. 

20 Types of Brown Birds 

1. Brown Thrasher 

Brown Thrasher | pixabay

Scientific name: Toxostoma rufum

You’ll hear this songbird’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. They have warm brown upperparts and a brown streaked chest.


2. Wood Thrush 

wood thrush
Wood Thrush | image by NPS | B. Raeburn via Flickr

Scientific name: Hylocichla mustelina

American birders will spot this migratory thrush in the eastern United States during the spring and summer months. It’s an insect-eating songbird that sings a clear, flute-like “ee-oh-lay” song high in trees. With a brown back and speckled chest, find these melodious songbirds in the forest.


3. Red-Tailed Hawk

Scientific name: Buteo jamaicensis

Red-tailed hawks are a dark ruddy-brown color. Spot them throughout the year in most of the United States, and in the warmer months in Canada. They’re predatory raptors that eat rodents and small birds. They perch on power lines and trees to spot prey. Only adults develop the brick red tail, while juveniles are very brown and streaky. 


4. Great Horned Owl

great horned owl
Great Horned Owl | image by Cape Hatteras National Seashore via Flickr

Scientific name: Bubo virginianus

The widespread Great Horned Owl can be found across most of North America and parts of South America. They can thrive in nearly any habitat from forests to grasslands and deserts, even suburban parks and neighborhoods. Their mottled brown feathers help them blend seamlessly with tree bark as they roost during the day. While they don’t actually have horns, two tufts of feathers that stick up from their head give them their horned appearance.


5. Eastern Whip-poor-will

Scientific name: Antrostomus vociferus

This brown bird is a familiar summer sound to many in the eastern United States, as the males continually call their “whip-poor-will” song through the night during the breeding season. Their plumage is the perfect camouflage to blend in with the forest floor. This fact, plus the fact that they are only active between dusk and dawn, makes them quite hard to find. 


6. Song Sparrow

Scientific name: Melospiza melodia 

These common insect-eating, shrub-dwelling sparrows live throughout North America. They love to perch in bushes and look for insects. During the breeding season males perch on branches out in the open to sing, making them relatively easy to spot. Song sparrows will sometimes visit backyard feeder, and do enjoy a bird bath. They are streaked brown all over, but look for the large dark spot in the middle of their chest to identify them.


7. House Sparrow

Scientific name: Passer domesticus

House Sparrows are fully adapted to human disturbance and infrastructure, and can be a real nuisance at outdoor cafes, beaches, and anywhere people are likely to bring food. They’re not originally native to the United States, but after being introduced time has allowed them to fit into ecological niches. They regularly visit bird feeders for most types of seeds, sometimes in large groups. Unfournately they are known to kick native birds out of bird houses.  


8. American Tree Sparrow 

Image: Fyn Kynd / flickr / CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Spizelloides arborea

You’ll only see this active songbird in the winter if you live in the United States. American Tree Sparrows spend the spring and summer in the northern reaches of Canada and Alaska. 

Offer this sparrow regular food, like sunflower seeds, and they may visit a feeder. The brown on their head and back has a warm, rusty hue. 


9. Veery

Veery | image by Christopher Eliot via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Catharus fuscenscens

The Veery can be seen in only spring and summer in the northern United States and southern Canada. They dwell in humid forests and prefers areas near beaver habitats. They aren’t common visitors to feeders, as they mainly eat insects and berries. You’re most likely to spot one on a walk through the woods during the warm months. They have a plump cinnamon-brown body with light chest. Their descending “veer” song sounds like a ball rolling around inside a metal pipe.  


10. Ovenbird 

oven bird
Ovenbird | image by Fyn Kynd via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Seiurus aurocapilla

Ovenbirds may blend into Eastern and Northern forest backdrops due to their warm brown plumage, but their loud calls of “tea-cher, tea-cher, tea-cher” are nearly impossible to miss. In fact, you’ll wonder how such a small bird can make such a loud sound. They forage for insects on the forest floor, where they bob back and forth like miniature chickens. 


11. Brown Creeper 

brown creeper clinging to tree trunk
Brown Creeper | image by Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Certhia americana 

The Brown Creeper is a bird of the forests. They live their entire lives perched on the trunks and branches of trees, searching for insects, building sack-shaped nests, and calling to one another with a high twittering whistle. Recognize them by their white underside and downward curved bill. Their back is a mottled brown to blend with tree bark.


12. Brown Shrike 

brown shrike
Brown Shrike | image by Hari K Patibanda via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Lanius cristatus

Brown Shrikes are native to Asia and Russia, but populations have been seen to migrate over to the Pacific Northwest, especially into urban centers like San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle. Like other shrikes, they are known to impale prey on sharp objects like twigs and barbed wire fences. 


13. Cedar Waxwing 

cedar waxwing
Image: 272447 | pixabay.com

Scientific name: Bombycilla cedrorum

This songbird is feathered with warm brown plumage, a black mask, and a dusky yellow underside. They live year-round in the northern United States. If you live in the south, you’ll spot them wintering in a variety of areas, often feasting on berries. 


14. Savannah Sparrow 

Image: Becky Matsubara / flickr / CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Passerculus sandwichensis

Savannah sparrows live in North America, but they spend springs and summers in Canada and the United States north of Utah and Tennessee. They winter in the Southwest, Texas, and Southeast. As their name suggests, they make their home in grasslands where there are few tall trees. Recognize them from their whistly song, which sounds like a cricket. They have heavy brown streaking all over with a hint of yellow on the face. 


15. Pacific Wren 

pacific wren
Pacific Wren | image by cookierace via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Troglodytes pacificus

It’s a feat of nature that such a small wren can sing so many complex melodies. This songbird doesn’t visit birdfeeders – it eats only insects – but you can entice it to nest in your yard with a well-appointed nest box, plentiful foliage, and native plants. 


16. Bendire’s Thrasher 

bendires thrasher
Bendire’s Thrasher | image by Bettina Arrigoni via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Toostoma bendirei

Birders will spot the Bendire’s Thrasher if they live in the Southwestern United States. They’re a gentle tan color and live among the scrub and sand of the desert landscape. They often perk their tails up similar to a mockingbird. 


17. Chipping Sparrow

Scientific name: Spizella passerine

This forest-dwelling sparrow is a bundle of energy! This small brown, gray, and white songbird has a rusty brown forehead crest. Spot them in the spring and summer in the United States and Canada. They do visit birdfeeders, but often will stay on the ground and pickup fallen seed.


18. Carolina Wren

Scientific name: Thryothorus ludovicianus 

This bird is a native to the southeastern United States, although populations are slowly moving northward. Carolina wrens are a warm brown all over: dark brown on their back, tail, and head, and light brown on the undersides. They gladly visit suet feeders in cold weather and rest in nest boxes. 


19. Bewick’s Wren

Image: Nigel / flickr / CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Thryomanes bewickii

Bewick’s Wren loves arid, scrubby environments of the Western United States and Mexico. They are loud singers and visit backyards planted with native shrubbery. Only the male sings. They used to also be found in the east, however it is believed that as the House wren expanded its range, it pushed out the Bewick’s wren. 


20. Brown-headed Cowbird

Image: Patricia Pierce / flickr / CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Molothrus ater

Female brown headed cowbirds are a light brown all over, while males sport a black body with a warm brown head. Obnoxious and parasitic, they congregate in large flocks, lay eggs in other birds’ nests, and take advantage of human-cleared woodlands and agricultural fields.

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About Anna Lad

Anna is a wildlife biologist who graduated from Texas A&M in 2020. She enjoys feeding, studying, and taking photos of wild birds and hummingbirds. She once worked as the hummingbird department manager at a Wild Birds Unlimited store.