Are you looking for a backyard bird identification guide? If so, I’ve got you covered.
I love spotting birds in the backyard of my North Carolina home. My husband is a bird enthusiast, too, and makes sure our bird feeders are always stocked with seed.
If you’re into spotting and identifying birds like I am, I highly recommend the book below called Birds of the Carolinas Field Guide. It has photos of each bird, descriptions, and what birds have a similar appearance to help you identify them correctly.
A good pair of birding binoculars is also necessary to spot birds and see their details close up.
I own the Nikon Prostaff Binoculars for birding and wildlife watching. They are easy to focus and give you a nice, clear image, all at a great price.
You can see many of these birds all over North America (and even South America when they migrate). But all of them live in the Carolinas, and I have seen most in my backyard.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
The Eastern Bluebird mostly eats insects and fruit, using its short beaks to crack open seeds. Their diet has made them important players in the ecosystem, helping to control insect populations and disperse the seeds of plants.
The Bluebird is one of my favorite birds to see, as its bright blue color stands out against the green trees in North Carolina.
The Gray Catbird is a familiar sight in North American suburban neighborhoods. I actually see them in my son’s backyard frequently.
This gray bird is a member of the mockingbird family and is often heard before it is seen. It mimics the sounds of other bird species as well as various mechanical noises.
They are fond of collecting bright and shiny objects, such as bits of foil and string, to decorate their nests.
The Indigo Bunting is my husband’s favorite backyard bird! They are part of the cardinal family, and their diet consists of seeds and insects.
When they migrate, they do it at night and use the stars as their guide.
They have an impressive array of blues and purples, making them a beautiful sight. The males turn brown when it’s not mating season. The females are brown year-round.
The Blue Jay is easily recognized by its bold blue feathers and striking crest. These birds are highly intelligent and have been known to mimic the calls of other animals, including hawks, catbirds, and even humans.
In addition to their diet of nuts and seeds, blue jays are known for raiding other birds’ nests for eggs and young hatchlings. Though they may not always be popular with their feathered neighbors, they play an important role in controlling insect populations and dispersing tree seeds.
The Cardinal is recognized by its striking red feathers and charming chirp. Found throughout the eastern half of the United States, cardinals are monogamous, remaining with their mate for life.
They build elaborate nests and feed on seeds, berries, and insects such as caterpillars. One interesting fact about cardinals is that they sometimes place red ants on their feathers.
It is believed they do this because ants secret an acid that prevents infections. Or possibly that the ants eat and repel parasites.
The cardinal is my personal favorite bird.
The Belted Kingfisher has a striking appearance, with its bright blue plumage, white underbelly, and rusty-orange band across its chest.
These birds can often be spotted perched on branches or power lines near water, as they primarily feed on fish and aquatic invertebrates.
The Belted Kingfisher hunts by diving into the water to catch its prey. It uses its large, sharp beak to crack the shells of crustaceans and also uses it to pound larger prey against rocks before consumption.
The Scarlet Tanager has brilliant red feathers and black wings. It lives in deciduous forests in the eastern United States, often high up in the canopy, where it feeds on insects and fruit.
Male and female Scarlet Tanagers look very different. The males are bright red all over, while females have a duller yellowish-green body with dark wings.
This difference in appearance is known as sexual dimorphism and is quite common among birds.
The Tufted Titmouse is a lovely little bird that can be found in woodland areas, primarily in the eastern United States. They are easy to spot due to their pale gray bodies and black foreheads with a distinctive tuft of feathers on top.
These birds are great acrobats and can hang upside down while they cling to feeders and bathe under running water. In addition to seeds, they also love small nuts, fruits, and insects.
Black and White Warbler
The Black and White Warbler is a small bird known for its striking black and white pattern.
It’s native to the eastern United States and Canada, migrating to Central and South America when the weather turns cold.
They enjoy eating small insects like spiders, beetles, bees, and caterpillars. They have an upbeat call that consists of short ‘chip’ sounds. It’s especially fun to hear two warblers counter-singing.
The Barn Swallow is a medium-sized passerine bird with deep blue, red, and orange plumage. This migratory songbird can be found soaring through the skies throughout much of the world.
The Barn Swallow eats only bugs and prefers to catch large bugs over several little ones. They often eat as they fly and can travel large distances in a day.
Barn Swallows usually mate in the air. And be careful not to make them feel threatened, or they may dive-bomb you!
The vibrant Baltimore Oriole is a sight to behold with its bold orange and black feathers.
They were named after the coat-of-arms of Lord Baltimore from 17th-century England. They are about the size of a robin and belong to the blackbird family.
The female’s color intensifies with age, and they become deeper shades of orange each year.
They love fruit, nectar, and insects. If you’d like to attract them to your yard, set out fresh oranges or jelly, or better yet, plant some fruit trees. They can be seen in the eastern United States as far west as the Great Plains, but my husband and I have seen them in Utah on rare occaision.
The Song Sparrow is found throughout the Americas, from Canada and Alaska all the way to Panama.
Their distinctive chestnut-colored breast patches and pale brown wings make these small birds easily recognizable. They have complex songs that actually change by geographic location.
Despite their hardiness and adaptability, Song Sparrow conservation efforts like habitat protection are still necessary to ensure that future generations get to enjoy their delightful songs.
The Common Grackle is known for its glossy feathers and iridescent black color.
They are found in the eastern and central regions of North America. However, they have been spotted as far west as California.
They are social creatures, often seen in large flocks ranging anywhere from 20 to even 1,000 members. Grackles are very noisy and can quickly empty your bird feeder as they travel in large groups, often knocking smaller birds away.
The American Robin is a widely recognizable bird and is often thought of as a sign of the arrival of spring.
It has bright orange plumage and white dots along its wings and tail edges. A beautiful sight in any garden or nature reserve, these birds range all across North America and can be found year-round in some areas.
Robins are omnivorous; they eat fruits, seeds, insects, and even small snakes and reptiles. Surprisingly, they outrank many other avian species when it comes to intelligence; some have even been noted using tools to extract food from hard-to-reach places.
The American Goldfinch can be found throughout the United States, Mexico, and Canada. Its distinctive color palette of bright yellow, black, and white makes it easily identifiable.
They mainly eat seeds and are known to feed heavily on thistle and sunflower seeds. In the winter months, their feathers become darker with brownish tones. During the summer, their yellow feathers return in time for nesting season.
Their natural song has delightful notes – it has been described as “per-chic-o-ree” or “potato chips”.
The Yellow-Billed Cuckoo is found across much of the United States. Its distinct yellow bill and established song easily identify it, sounding like a kooo-ooo.
They are found in orchards, thickets, woodlands, and beside streams.
They are carnivores and eat grasshoppers, caterpillars, cicadas, and even frogs and lizards. They are sensitive to forest fragmentation caused by logging and are on the endangered species list in California.
The White-Throated Sparrow is a songbird found across much of the United States. Hosting a beautiful grey, brown, and white striped pattern on its wings, this sparrow has a distinct white throat patch, making it easy to identify.
The White-Throated Sparrow prefers to inhabit dense shrubs, often close to bodies of water, to hide from predators while they feed.
Both male and female sparrows sing during the breeding season and form long-term monogamous pairs.
The Northern Flicker is a woodpecker native to all of North America and parts of Central America, the Cayman Islands, and Cuba.
It is light brown with black bars on the wings and black spots on the chest. The upper chest has a black patch. Males in the eastern range have a black streak by the beak, while males in the western range have a red streak.
It feeds mainly on ground-dwelling insects such as grasshoppers, beetles, and ants. It’s also one of the few woodpecker species that migrate.
The Pileated Woodpecker is a large and striking bird, typically around 16 inches long, with a wingspan of up to 32 inches. Their feathers are black, with striking white stripes down their rumps and red crescents on their head.
They can be found all over North America, from British Columbia to Florida.
Pileated Woodpeckers prefer to call larger trees home, though they may use snags or dead trees during nesting season. These woodpeckers feed on insects hidden under the bark and nuts and fruits they discover while foraging.
The Red-Bellied Woodpecker has an eye-catching red cap that stands out among its black-and-white feathered body. The bottom of its belly is also speckled with a subtle red hue but is not as vibrant as its head.
The wing shape and length of this species allow for fast and awkward flights, making them seem clumsy compared to their relatives.
Their diet consists of insects, spiders, and even tree frogs. They are also known to enjoy nuts like acorns and pecans.
The Downy Woodpecker is a small and active bird species native to woodlands throughout North America.
It has black-and-white striped feathers and is small at just 6–7 inches long.
They mainly feed on insects but will eat seeds, berries, nuts, and even peanut butter.
Downy Woodpeckers have unique feathers around their beak that keep them from breathing in wood fragments.
The Hairy Woodpecker has distinct black and white stripes and is found in North and South Carolina as well as throughout the U.S. and Canada.
They have a particular knack for ants and beetle larvae found within woody crevices. Because of this, their beaks are relatively long and slender with sharp points, making them easily access these hidden areas.
Hairy Woodpeckers look very similar to Downy Woodpeckers, but Hairy Woodpeckers are larger and have longer bills.
The American Crow is found throughout North America. They are highly adaptable and can make their homes in a wide array of environments, including urban areas that were once thought to be unsuitable.
They have more than 20 different calls which they use to communicate with each other. One type of call is the ‘scolding call,’ which they use as an alarm.
Crows live in family groups and are incredibly intelligent. They are so intelligent that they sometimes create tools from twigs, fur, and other objects to accomplish tasks like digging for food in crevices.
Its bright orange-brown feathers and white eyebrow markings identify a Carolina Wren.
It’s a common backyard species that love to nest close to humans. The male and female interweave their songs together to sound like a single song.
Despite their small size, Carolina Wrens can be aggressive towards other birds like bluebirds, chickadees, and other wrens by driving them away from a preferred nesting site.
The Northern Mockingbird is found in most of North America and parts of Mexico and Canada.
It’s known for its unique vocal talents and has a wide repertoire of songs featuring whistles, trills, and mimicry. Each bird has the ability to sing up to 200 different songs.
While they are common birds, they are considered unusually clever. Studies have shown they remember humans and will even dive-bomb them if they feel threatened.
The Eastern Phoebe is a plump songbird commonly found in eastern North America.
They get their name from the fee-bee sound of their song. They typically don’t migrate until late fall, making them one of the last birds to head south for winter – usually to Mexico or another nearby area with a warmer climate.
Even though they are monogamous, they are solitary birds that like to be alone and will only be around their partner during mating season.
Phoebes are omnivores who snack on berries and all sorts of insects like flies, wasps, and grasshoppers, as well as ticks, spiders, and millipedes.
The Mourning Dove is a common backyard bird found across North America.
Their name originates from their low-pitched cooing sound, which reminds some of a lament or mourning cry. Males and females look almost identical, but the female is a bit smaller.
Mourning doves are able to fly up to 55 mph due to their long tails. You can often see these vibrant creatures perched around your garden as they have adapted incredibly well to living near humans though they prefer open habitats such as prairies and farmland.
The Carolina Chickadee is a small bird found throughout the southeastern United States.
While it may look like a common sparrow or finch from afar, its beauty and uniqueness can be seen in its white cheeks, black cap, gray back, and buffy underside on closer inspection.
Its distinct call is heard during early spring days: a loud “chick-a-dee-dee” that gives this beloved bird its name. Their diet mainly consists of insects and seeds.
This is the bird I see most often at my bird feeders.
The Eastern Towhee is a type of sparrow found throughout the eastern and midwestern US, from northern Mexico to southeastern Canada.
Their body is mainly black, with vivid patches of rufous orange along their sides and a white belly. They are slightly smaller than the more familiar American Robin.
Their loud ‘drink-your-tee’ call stands out amongst other birds. They are usually found on the ground or low branches of trees where they scratch in forests and woodlands to find food, such as insects, spiders, and even small snakes and lizards.
The House Finch can be found throughout all of North America.
The male House Finch is brown with bright red around the face, chest, and rump. The female is a grayish brown. It has adapted well to urbanization, often visiting yards for snacks of sunflower seeds.
Despite its flashy colors, the House Finch is actually quite shy, but if you’re patient, you may hear its song, which sounds like a sharp cheep.
The female will build nests as low as 5 feet off the ground and sometimes right on the ground. Occasionally, their nests are found higher up on buildings or rock ledges.
Interestingly, the Chipping Sparrow is the smallest of all sparrows in North America.
They feed on seeds and insects and are seen around open woodlands with nearby cleared spaces like backyards, lawns, parks, or edges of forests.
It has a chestnut-streaked back and a reddish brown cap, with a distinctive narrow black line on the sides of its head. Its song is a melodious trill that sounds very similar to Dark-Eyed Juncos.
The White-Breasted Nuthatch has a gray or black cap with bluish-gray on its back. They have strong feet, which they use to grip tree trunks. This enables them to climb down trees headfirst – an unusual technique for birds.
They create their nests in the crevices of trees and can live up to nine years in the wild. The white-breasted nuthatch is known for hiding seeds for future meals and covering them with bark or moss.
The Dark-Eyed Junco is a type of sparrow and one of the most common birds in North America.
It has a mostly dark grey body, white outer feathers, and a unique white patch on its tail. These creatures are known for their ability to survive even in cold weather and are often called snowbirds.
You will usually find them on the ground looking for food. They are monogamous and territorial during mating season.
The European Starling, or Common Starling, are small but abundant birds that live all over the United States and many parts of the world.
Their black feathers are speckled with white spots, and the birds have yellow bills that become more distinctive in summer and winter.
They’re adaptable and can build their nests and reproduce in urban and rural areas. They’re even capable of changing their diet depending on the season and availability of food.
The Yellow-Rumped Warbler is a songbird native to Canada, the U.S., Mexico, and Central America. It can be spotted wintering all the way down to northern South America.
They obtained their name due to the bright yellow patch that they have on their rump feathers and are sometimes called “butter-butt” because of this bright spot.
This feathered friend likes to live in open woodland areas, but they also enjoy visiting gardens and parks in cities.
The Red-Winged Blackbird has a black body and red and yellow patches on its wings.
They build circular nests often found in cattails or other marsh plants, usually near water.
Male Red-Winged Blackbirds are territorial during their mating season and will aggressively defend their space against intruders – both in flight and by hopping along a branch shouting their loud call.
The Ruby-Crowned Kinglet is a songbird that can often be seen flitting around coniferous forests in North America.
It’s a small bird, only slightly larger than a hummingbird.
They are notable for their striking coloration. They have greenish-grey plumage, with white around their eyes and white stripes on their wings.
But the most remarkable feature of this species is its bright ruby red crown feathers which are only present in males and can be spotted from quite far away.
The Golden-Crowned Kinglet measures only 4 inches in length. Its upper body is a beautiful olive color, and its belly is gray.
But what really stands out on this bird is its brilliant orange-yellow crown.
There are six types of Kinglets, and the bright colors on the Golden-Crowned set it apart from its cousins. It can be found in woodlands across North America, feeding on small insects and spiders.
The Brown Thrasher can be found in North and South Carolina as well as most of the eastern half of the United States.
They are very aggressive in defending their nests and have been known to attack dogs and humans hard enough to draw blood.
Their calls are one of their unique traits, as they are believed to have more than 1000 songs!
They are also considered to be quite smart and crafty. Some birds have been seen wedging a nut under a rock before hammering it open with their bills.
The Brown-Headed Cowbird is a small songbird found in North and South America.
This species is mainly an opportunistic brood parasite. This means they lay their eggs in the nests of other bird species, leaving it to foster parents to take care of their offspring.
This bird is known for its distinct brown head, which them its name.
The Ruby-Throated Hummingbird is a gorgeous creature. Its back and crown are metallic green, and the males have brilliant red-pink throats.
These remarkable birds travel thousands of miles south each year when the weather starts turning cold but weigh only a fraction of an ounce when they leave.
Hummingbirds have the ability to hover and fly in all directions, making them the only bird that can fly backward.
The Barred Owl is a bird of prey found across North and Central America, from the Great Lakes to the Gulf Coast.
This owl has a distinguishing look with its big, round face and deep-set eyes. Also known as the “hoot owl” because of its characteristic deep call, the Barred Owl spends most of its day and night roosting in the trees.
In flight, the Barred Owl is surprisingly agile and able to maneuver in sharp turns through dense forests at top speeds.
Because they are camouflaged so well, they can be hard to see. One of the advantages of having Barred Owls around is they provide fantastic pest control.
The Red-Tailed Hawk lives in North and South Carolina as well as all of North America. Its wingspan can reach almost 5 feet in length.
Its distinctive plumage varies from region to region, although it’s always characterized by a bright orangey-red tail.
The Red-Tailed Hawk can soar to tremendous heights and spot a mouse from 100 feet away. They can fly up to 40 miles per hour and even reach speeds of 120 mph when diving. They eat insects, fish, birds, and reptiles.
I hope this bird identification guide helps you enjoy the birds in your backyard! Below are a couple of birds I recently spotted in mine and my son’s backyard.
My favorite items for bird enthusiasts:
- Nikon Prostaff Binoculars – affordable and easy to use.
- Birds of the Carolinas Field Guide – pictures and descriptions of each bird.
- Wild Birdseed – with nuts and fruit.
- Coastal Birds of the Carolinas
- Secret Shelling Beaches in NC
- Most Dangerous Animals in NC
- View Google Story of this post
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