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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
Scientific name: Toxostoma 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
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
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.
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.