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20 Common Birds: Identifying Feathered Friends in Your Own Backyard (2024)

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20 common birdsIn identifying 20 common birds in your backyard, you’ll encounter a diverse array of feathered friends.

From the vibrant American Goldfinch, with its seasonal plumage changes, to the melodious American Robin with its rusty orange belly. You’ll spot the bold Black-capped Chickadee with its distinctive "chick-a-dee-dee" call, and the striking Blue Jay with its bright blue feathers and loud vocalizations. Don’t forget the Mourning Dove, known for its soft brown-gray coloring and woeful cooing.

Each species has unique characteristics that make birdwatching an engaging hobby. As you explore further, you’ll uncover even more fascinating avian neighbors in your own backyard.

Key Takeaways

  • Gaze out your window and become a backyard birdwatcher! Get ready to meet 20 feathered friends that will brighten your day with their unique personalities and appearances.
  • From the vibrant American Goldfinch to the cheerful American Robin and the striking Blue Jay, each bird brings a touch of nature’s artistry to your doorstep.
  • Learn their songs, observe their behaviors, and discover the fascinating adaptations that help them thrive in your backyard ecosystem.
  • Grab your binoculars and let the birdwatching adventure begin! You’ll be amazed at the diversity of feathered wonders right in your own backyard.

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch
You’ll easily spot the American Goldfinch in summer by its vibrant yellow plumage, which contrasts sharply with its black wings and white wing bars. Come winter, you’ll notice a dramatic change as the bird’s feathers transform to a more muted olive color, though the distinctive wing bars remain visible year-round.

Bright Yellow Plumage (summer)

You’ll be dazzled by the American Goldfinch‘s vibrant summer attire. These backyard beauties transform into living sunbeams, their bright yellow plumage catching every eye. Here’s what to look for:

  • Lemon-yellow body, a true summer spectacle
  • Jet-black cap, like a stylish beret
  • Contrasting white wing bars, flashing as they fly
  • Males sport an extra pop of black on wingtips and tail

This sunny wardrobe isn’t just for show—it’s a powerful tool for attracting mates and asserting dominance.

Olive Plumage (winter)

As winter approaches, you’ll notice a striking transformation in the American Goldfinch. Gone is the vibrant yellow, replaced by a subtle olive plumage. This winter coloration serves as natural camouflage, helping these birds adapt to their changing habitat. Unlike the northern cardinal’s constant crimson, the goldfinch’s seasonal changes are remarkable:

Season Plumage Color Visibility
Summer Bright Yellow High
Winter Olive Low
Spring Changing Moderate

This adaptation sets the goldfinch apart from year-round residents like mourning doves and house sparrows.

White Wing Bars

You’ll spot white wing bars on American Goldfinches year-round, even in winter when their plumage dulls. These distinctive markings help identify these small, agile birds. Here’s what to look for:

  1. Two parallel white stripes on each wing
  2. Contrasting strongly against darker feathers
  3. Visible during flight and at rest
  4. More prominent on males

These bars, along with their size and behavior, make Goldfinches easy to recognize among other backyard visitors. Keep an eye out for their acrobatic feeding habits at your feeders!

American Robin

American Robin
You’ll easily spot the American Robin by its distinctive rusty orange belly contrasting with its gray back. Listen for its melodious throaty song, often heard in the early morning or evening, which adds a cheerful ambiance to your backyard.

Rusty Orange Belly

You’ll instantly recognize the American Robin by its distinctive rusty orange belly. This vibrant hue contrasts beautifully with its darker upper parts, making it stand out among other backyard birds.

Unlike the rufous hummingbird or spotted towhee, the robin’s orange belly is a key identifier. It’s not just for show – this coloration helps robins attract mates and establish territories.

Listen for their cheerful song, a melodic harbinger of spring.

Gray Back

While the American Robin’s rusty orange belly catches your eye, don’t overlook its gray back. This plain appearance serves as camouflage, blending with tree bark and urban landscapes.

You’ll spot these common backyard birds hopping across lawns, their gray plumage and brown wings a familiar sight.

Despite their unassuming look, robins are migratory species, often returning to the same treetop nesting sites year after year.

Throaty Song

You’ll recognize the American Robin’s throaty song as a cheerful herald of spring. Its melodic warble varies by location, often echoing at dawn and dusk. Listen closely, and you might distinguish it from other songbirds like the Northern Mockingbird or Song Sparrow.

Here’s how to appreciate the Robin’s serenade:

  1. Wake early to catch their dawn chorus
  2. Learn to identify regional song variations
  3. Compare their tunes with other backyard vocalists like the Carolina Wren

Black-capped Chickadee

Black-capped Chickadee
You’ll easily recognize the Black-capped Chickadee by its distinctive black cap and chin contrasting with bright white cheeks. Listen for its cheerful "chick-a-dee-dee" call, which varies in length and intensity depending on the bird’s level of alarm or excitement.

Black Cap and Chin

You’ll instantly recognize the Black-capped Chickadee by its distinctive black cap and chin. This little acrobat’s bold markings set it apart from other small birds. Unlike the Common Grackle or Dark-eyed Junco, the chickadee’s cap extends down to its chin, creating a striking contrast.

Listen for their cheerful "chick-a-dee-dee" call as they flit about.

Don’t confuse them with Carolina Chickadees, which have similar markings but a slightly different range.

White Cheeks

You’ll easily spot a Black-capped Chickadee by its striking white cheeks. These distinctive markings stand out against its black cap and chin, making facial recognition a breeze. To sharpen your birdwatching skills and species identification, remember these key points:

  1. Contrast with other birds like white-breasted nuthatches
  2. Smaller size compared to American crows
  3. More defined cheek patch than dark-eyed juncos
  4. Lack of iridescence seen in European starlings

Don’t confuse their call with other birds – that’s coming up next!

Chick-a-dee-dee Call

You’ll know you’ve spotted a Black-capped Chickadee when you hear its distinctive "chick-a-dee-dee" call. This common woodland bird’s vocalization is as unique as its appearance. Listen closely, and you’ll notice variations in the call:

Call Type Meaning Duration Intensity
Short Casual 1-2 secs Low
Medium Alert 2-3 secs Moderate
Long Danger 3-4 secs High
Rapid Alarm 4-5 secs Urgent

Understanding these calls can deepen your bird identification skills and connection with nature.

Blue Jay

Blue Jay
You’ll easily spot a Blue Jay by its striking bright blue plumage and distinctive crest atop its head. Listen for its loud, harsh calls which can include a variety of sounds, from piercing screams to soft, bell-like notes.

Distinctive Crest

You’ll spot the Blue Jay’s distinctive crest from afar. It’s a feathered crown that sets this bird apart. The crest’s shape and size are unique, often compared to other crested birds. Here’s what to look for:

  1. Pointed shape, unlike the rounded crest of a Cardinal
  2. Larger than a Tufted Titmouse’s crest
  3. Located centrally on the head, not swept back like a Steller’s Jay
  4. Dark blue color, contrasting with the bird’s lighter plumage

Bright Blue Plumage

You’ll instantly recognize the Blue Jay’s bright blue plumage, a striking feature that complements its distinctive crest. This vibrant color sets it apart from other North American birds, like the purple finch or house finch.

The Blue Jay’s range extends across much of the continent, making it a common sight in backyards.

While not typically considered a game bird, its bright color and bold personality make it a favorite among birdwatchers.

Loud Calls

You’ll quickly recognize Blue Jays by their raucous calls, rivaling the noise of Black-billed Magpies and Starlings. These vocal acrobats aren’t shy about making their presence known.

Like their cousin, the Steller’s Jay, Blue Jays have a repertoire of sounds that’ll catch your ear.

Among the 20 common birds you’ll encounter, their calls stand out, helping you identify them even before you spot their striking blue plumage.

Mourning Dove

Mourning Dove
You’ll recognize the Mourning Dove by its soft brown-gray plumage and distinctive dark spots on its wings. Listen for its woeful cooing call, which sounds like a mournful lament and gives this gentle bird its name.

Brown-gray Coloring

Moving from the vibrant Blue Jay, you’ll find the Mourning Dove‘s subtle beauty in its soft brown-gray coloring. This gentle hue helps these birds blend seamlessly into their surroundings, whether perched on a branch or foraging on the ground.

As you observe doves in flight, you’ll notice how their plumage shimmers in the sunlight, revealing delicate undertones that make them a joy to watch in your backyard or local park.

Dark Spots on Wings

As you observe the mourning dove’s wings, you’ll notice distinctive dark spots that set it apart from its brown-gray plumage.

These spots aren’t just for show; they serve as camouflage, helping the bird blend in with its surroundings.

Next time you’re outside, look for these telltale markings. They’re like nature’s fingerprints, unique to each dove and a key identifier for birdwatchers in the know.

Woeful Cooing

Beyond their distinctive wing spots, you’ll recognize mourning doves by their woeful cooing. This soft, mournful call is a key part of their mating ritual. Listen carefully, and you might hear:

  1. A gentle "ooOOoo-woo-woo-woo"
  2. A rhythmic "coo-oo, coo-oo, coo-oo"
  3. A plaintive "hoo-ah, hoo-hoo, hooo"

    These calls serve multiple purposes, from attracting mates to warning of predators. During nesting season, their cooing intensifies, creating a soothing backyard soundtrack.

Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinal
You’ll easily spot the Northern Cardinal with its distinctive black face mask and vibrant crimson plumage covering its crest, beak, and body. Unlike many bird species, both male and female cardinals are accomplished singers, with the females matching their mates in vocal prowess.

Black Face

You’ll instantly recognize a male Northern Cardinal by its striking black face. This mask-like feature contrasts beautifully with the bird’s vibrant crimson plumage, creating a bold, unforgettable appearance.

While males sport this distinctive look, don’t overlook the females. They may lack the black face, but they’re equally impressive songsters.

Listen closely, and you might hear their melodious tunes rivaling those of their flashy mates.

Crimson Crest, Beak, and Body

You’ll instantly recognize a male Northern Cardinal by its striking crimson plumage. From its crest to its beak and body, this bird is a vivid scarlet masterpiece.

The cardinal’s conical beak is perfect for cracking seeds, while its robust body shape allows for powerful flight.

This feathered beauty isn’t just eye-catching; its vibrant color serves as a bold statement in nature’s grand design.

Female Sings Equally Well

You’ll be surprised to learn that female Northern Cardinals are accomplished songstresses, rivaling their male counterparts. Unlike many female songbirds, they don’t just mimic – they’ve got their own repertoire.

This vocal equality plays a key role in their monogamous relationships and nesting habits.

Northern Mockingbird

Northern Mockingbird
You’ll easily recognize the Northern Mockingbird by its sleek gray body and contrasting black wings with white patches. This skilled mimic is renowned for its endless repertoire of songs, which it’ll enthusiastically perform from prominent perches throughout the day and even into the night.

Gray Body

You’ll spot the Northern Mockingbird‘s elegant gray body from afar. Its feathers, a uniform slate hue, cover its head, belly, wings, and tail.

This sleek appearance helps it blend into urban landscapes, where it often perches on fences or rooftops.

The mockingbird’s gray plumage isn’t flashy, but it’s a canvas for its remarkable vocal talents. Look closely, and you’ll appreciate its subtle beauty.

Black Wings

You’ll notice the Northern Mockingbird’s black wings stand out against its gray body. Unlike the Mourning Dove’s dark spots or the Blue Jay’s bright blue plumage, the mockingbird’s wings are distinctly black with prominent white wing bars. These contrasting features make it easy to spot as it flits from tree to tree, ready to showcase its impressive vocal abilities.

Endless Songs

You’ll be amazed by the Northern Mockingbird’s endless songs. These vocal virtuosos don’t just sing; they put on a concert. Their musical intelligence shines as they imitate other birds and even non-avian sounds. Here’s what makes their vocals so impressive:

  1. Can learn up to 200 different songs
  2. Mimic car alarms, sirens, and creaky gates
  3. Often sing at night, especially during full moons
  4. Males with larger repertoires attract more mates

Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker
You’ll easily identify the Downy Woodpecker as the smallest woodpecker in North America, sporting a distinctive black and white plumage pattern. Its enlarged brain case, which helps absorb the shock from repeated pecking, is a unique adaptation that sets it apart from other small birds you might spot in your backyard.

Smallest Woodpecker

You’ll be charmed by the Downy Woodpecker, nature’s pint-sized powerhouse. Despite its small stature, this bird’s brain size is proportionally larger than other woodpeckers, making it a clever survivor. Its habitat differences and behavioral patterns set it apart:

Habitat Behavior Conservation
Forests Acrobatic Stable population
Parks Curious Nest box programs
Gardens Social Habitat protection
Suburbs Vocal Citizen science

Nesting habits? They’re master carpenters, excavating cozy homes in dead trees. Keep your eyes peeled for these feathered dynamos!

Black and White Plumage

You’ll spot the Downy Woodpecker by its striking black and white plumage, resembling a tiny avian tuxedo. Its contrasting colors create a bold pattern, with spotted wings that catch your eye.

The zebra-like stripes on its back and head make it stand out against tree bark.

This dapper little bird’s attire isn’t just for show—it helps camouflage it while foraging for insects on tree trunks.

Enlarged Brain Case

You’ll be amazed by the Downy Woodpecker’s enlarged brain case, which packs a cognitive punch. This unique feature boosts their memory capacity and problem-solving skills, making them nature’s little geniuses.

Watch as they expertly navigate complex food-hiding behavior, remembering countless stash locations.

Their impressive brain size relative to body weight showcases evolution’s clever design, enabling these small birds to thrive in diverse environments.

Hairy Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpecker
You’ll notice the Hairy Woodpecker looks strikingly similar to its smaller cousin, the Downy Woodpecker, but with a larger body and thicker bill. This woodland bird’s size difference is key to identification, as it’s about 9 inches long compared to the Downy’s 6-7 inches, with a more robust build that’s noticeable even from a distance.

Larger Than Downy

You’ll notice the Hairy Woodpecker is noticeably larger than its Downy cousin. While they may look similar at first glance, this size difference is a key identifier. Their larger stature gives them a more commanding presence in your backyard. Here are some key points to help you spot a Hairy Woodpecker:

  • Wingspan up to 16 inches
  • Length ranges from 9-13 inches
  • Often seen on larger tree trunks
  • More powerful drumming sound

Thicker Body and Bill

You’ll notice the Hairy Woodpecker‘s thicker body and bill compared to its Downy cousin. This forest habitat dweller uses its robust build for more powerful drumming and foraging.

Its nesting behavior involves excavating deeper cavities in larger trees. Listen for its sharp, distinctive woodpecker call echoing through the woods.

During winter feeding, it’s a common sight at suet feeders, supplementing its insect diet with this high-energy food.

Similar to Downy Woodpecker

You’ll find the Hairy Woodpecker remarkably similar to its downy cousin, but with a few key differences. At your bird feeder, look for:

  1. A larger body, about 9 inches long
  2. A more substantial bill, almost as long as the head
  3. Cleaner white outer tail feathers

These subtle distinctions in size and proportion are essential for accurate identification. Understanding their nesting habits and preferred backyard habitat will enhance your spotting skills for these fascinating woodpeckers.

House Sparrow

House Sparrow
You’ll easily spot a House Sparrow by its brown back, contrasting with its gray chest and cap. Look for the distinctive black patch on the male’s throat, which stands out against its otherwise muted plumage.

Brown Back

You’ll easily spot a House Sparrow by its distinctive brown back. These small birds sport a rich tapestry of brown feathers, creating a camouflage that’s perfect for urban environments.

Their brown plumage isn’t just for show – it helps them blend in with tree bark and buildings.

As you observe these common brown birds, you’ll notice how their brown wings and coloration serve as both protection and identity.

Gray Chest and Cap

You’ll notice the House Sparrow‘s gray chest and cap, a stark contrast to its brown back. This coloration helps it blend into urban environments seamlessly.

As you observe these common birds, you’ll find their adaptability fascinating. They’ve made themselves at home in cities worldwide, nesting in building crevices and feasting on scraps.

Their gray features are key identifiers in distinguishing them from other sparrow species.

Black Patch on Throat

Beyond the gray chest and cap, you’ll spot the distinctive black patch on the male house sparrow’s throat. This feature sets them apart from females, who lack the patch. House sparrows are small, measuring about 5-6 inches in length. Their compact size and bold markings make them easy to identify. Look for:

  • Confident, chirpy behavior
  • Flocking in urban areas
  • Aggressive nest defense
  • Frequent visits to bird feeders
  • Adaptability to human environments

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are the top 20 bird names?

You’ll often spot American Robins, Northern Cardinals, and Blue Jays in your backyard. Other common birds include Mourning Doves, American Crows, European Starlings, House Sparrows, Black-capped Chickadees, Dark-eyed Juncos, and Downy Woodpeckers. Keep your eyes peeled!

What bird has 20 species?

You might think there’s no bird with 20 species, but you’d be wrong. The woodpecker family boasts over 200 species worldwide. You’ll find about 20 species in North America alone, from the tiny Downy to the impressive Pileated.

What are the most common birds?

You’ll often spot American Robins, Northern Cardinals, and Blue Jays in your backyard. These feathered friends, along with Mourning Doves and American Crows, are among the most common birds you’ll encounter. They’re nature’s daily visitors, bringing life to your surroundings.

What is the name of 10 birds?

You’re about to begin a feathered adventure. Can you guess the names of these common birds? Here’s your challenge: American Robin, Blue Jay, Northern Cardinal, Mourning Dove, Chickadee, Sparrow, Finch, Woodpecker, Starling, and Hummingbird.

How can I attract more birds to my backyard?

You’ll attract more birds by offering diverse food options, fresh water, and shelter. Plant native species, set up feeders with different seeds, and create a bird-friendly habitat. Don’t forget to maintain cleanliness to keep your feathered friends coming back!

Whats the best time of day to observe birds?

You’ll witness a bird bonanza at dawn! Early morning, when birds are most active, is prime observation time. Dusk offers another opportunity as they settle for the night. Consistency in your viewing schedule enhances your chances of spotting diverse species.

Are there any birds I shouldnt feed?

You shouldn’t feed bread to birds as it lacks nutrition and can cause health problems. Avoid offering salted or sugary foods, chocolate, avocado, or onions. Stick to natural seeds, fruits, and nuts appropriate for wild birds.

How do birds survive harsh winter conditions?

You’ll see birds fluffing feathers for insulation, huddling together, and seeking shelter. They’ll boost metabolism, shiver for warmth, and gorge on high-fat foods. Some migrate, while others adapt physically, growing extra feathers or increasing body fat.

Why do some birds migrate while others dont?

You see birds migrating due to seasonal changes in food and habitat, while non-migratory birds have adapted to survive in stable environments year-round, facing different challenges like climate variability and resource availability (Source).


Imagine your backyard as nature’s canvas, each bird a brushstroke adding to its vibrant portrait. By identifying these 20 common birds, you’ve peered into an ecosystem rich with unique behaviors and adaptations.

The brightly adorned American Goldfinch, the melodic American Robin, and the boisterous Blue Jay each play a role in this intricate tapestry.

Continue your birdwatching journey, and you’ll gain a deeper appreciation for these feathered neighbors and the natural world they inhabit.

Avatar for Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim Sweileh is a passionate bird enthusiast and author with a deep love for avian creatures. With years of experience studying and observing birds in their natural habitats, Mutasim has developed a profound understanding of their behavior, habitats, and conservation. Through his writings, Mutasim aims to inspire others to appreciate and protect the beautiful world of birds.