Thursday, July 25, 2019

25+ Common backyard birds of New York (Photos, ID)

I've put this resource together for you to answer the question: What birds are in my backyard in New York? 

This article tells you what New York birds you can expect in your backyard and when they are most common. I also provide a photo and description section to help you with New York bird identification of the most common birds native to New York backyards.

The most common backyard birds throughout the year in the state of New York, in order, are these:

  1. Blue Jay
  2. American Robin
  3. Northern Cardinal
  4. American Crow
  5. Black-capped Chickadee
  6. Mourning Dove
  7. American Goldfinch
  8. European Starling
  9. Song Sparrow
  10. Downy Woodpecker
  11. House Sparrow
  12. Common Grackle
  13. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  14. White-breasted Nuthatch
  15. Tufted Titmouse
  16. Dark-eyed Junco
  17. Gray Catbird

These birds occur on more than 20% of eBird checklists for the state.


More common birds are listed below. These include common birds at other seasons.



In this article
  • Lists of the most common backyard birds in New York
  • Photos and ID of the most common backyard birds in New York
  • Other birds you might see from your backyard in New York
  • Comparison of the most common backyard birds in Manhattan, New York
  • Beyond your backyard


This page lists the most common backyard birds as determined by actual bird sightings reported to the citizen science birding program, eBird. These birds are ranked according to frequency--the percentage of all bird checklists on which a species occurs. Below I list common backyard birds year-round, and in winter and summer.

Photos and identification are next. I tell a little bit about each species and how you might attract them to your yard.

Farther below I've also added a list of other common birds not typically found in backyards.

I conclude with a list comparing the birds of Manhattan with the birds of the state as a whole.



Lists of the most common feeder birds and backyard birds in New York


The top list on this page is the frequency of birds throughout the year. 

These lists are based on actual bird sightings recorded on the citizen science program, eBird.

Many of the most common birds are year-round residents. However, some are migratory or otherwise vary in abundance between seasons. So the sections following list common birds ranked at various times of year.


Most common backyard birds in New York throughout the year

The following list is those backyard birds that, on average, are most common throughout the entire year.

The list is ordered by the most common birds based on frequency of how often birds are seen on every checklist submitted to eBird.

The most common backyard birds throughout the year in the state of New York are these:

  1. Blue Jay (42% frequency)
  2. American Robin (42%)
  3. Northern Cardinal (41%)
  4. American Crow (39%)
  5. Black-capped Chickadee (39%)
  6. Mourning Dove (38%)
  7. American Goldfinch (34%)
  8. European Starling (33%)
  9. Song Sparrow (32%)
  10. Downy Woodpecker (30%)
  11. House Sparrow (26%)
  12. Common Grackle (23%)
  13. Red-bellied Woodpecker (23%)
  14. White-breasted Nuthatch (23%)
  15. Tufted Titmouse (22%)
  16. Dark-eyed Junco (20%)
  17. Gray Catbird (20%)
  18. White-throated Sparrow (19%)
  19. Northern Flicker (17%)
  20. House Finch (16%)
  21. Rock Pigeon (15%)


Most common backyard birds in New York in winter

The following list is the backyard birds that are most common in winter.

The list is ordered by most common, based on the frequency of sightings reported on checklists submitted to eBird.

The most common backyard birds in New York in winter (December to February) are these:

  1. Black-capped Chickadee (42% frequency)
  2. American Crow (37%)
  3. Blue Jay (36%)
  4. Northern Cardinal (36%)
  5. Downy Woodpecker (33%)
  6. Dark-eyed Junco (33%)
  7. Mourning Dove (30%)
  8. White-breasted Nuthatch (28%)
  9. European Starling (27%)
  10. House Sparrow (25%)
  11. Tufted Titmouse (25%)
  12. American Goldfinch (24%)
  13. Red-bellied Woodpecker (22%)
  14. White-throated Sparrow (20%)

You may be interested in my article: Feeding winter birds in New York


Most common backyard birds in New York in summer

The most frequent backyard birds in summer in New York are primarily resident birds. However, this list also includes common birds that winter farther south.

The following list is the backyard birds that are most common in summer. The list is ordered based on frequency of a species being reported on a checklist to eBird.

The most common backyard birds in New York in summer (June to July) are these:

  1. American Robin (62% frequency)
  2. Song Sparrow (47%)
  3. Gray Catbird (45%)
  4. American Goldfinch (43%)
  5. Mourning Dove (43%)
  6. Northern Cardinal (40%)
  7. Common Grackle (38%)
  8. American Crow (37%)
  9. Blue Jay (36%)
  10. European Starling (33%)
  11. Black-capped Chickadee (31%)
  12. Cedar Waxwing (30%)
  13. Barn Swallow (29%)
  14. House Sparrow (27%)
  15. Chipping Sparrow (24%)
  16. Downy Woodpecker (23%)
  17. House Wren (21%)



Photos and ID of the most common backyard birds in New York


1. Blue Jay

Cyanocitta cristata

A common and well-known bird in the eastern half of the United States.


Photo of Blue Jay enjoying a bath
Blue Jay. skeeze from Pixabay


Range in New York: Blue Jays are year-round residents throughout New York.

Identification: 

Size: About that of American Robin. 

Shape: Fluffy, large crested head, ample tail. Large strong legs. 

Bill: Black, long and stout. 

Color: Blue above, white below. Black neck collar. White patches in wing.

Habitat, range & behavior: Woodlands and towns in the eastern half of the United States. In summer into southern Canada.  

Bold and brash. May bully smaller birds. Jays gulp lots of seeds or other food at once, storing it in their crop. Then they fly off and bury food items in a hidden cache.

Food and feeder preference: Omnivorous. They can quickly empty your feeder! Because they are also aggressive toward other feeder birds, some people put mesh cages around smaller bird feeders. Small birds can go through, squirrels and larger "pest" birds are prevented entry. Some people feed jays peanuts, perhaps away from the seed feeders.


2. American Robin

Turdus migratorius

This familiar bird is a resident in the northern half of the United States and a winter visitor in the southern half.


Photo of American Robin
American Robin. Greg Gillson


Range in New York: American Robins are a summer resident in the northeastern portion of New York, a year-round resident in the rest of the state.

Identification: This is a key species for comparing with an unknown bird. 

Size: 10 inches long from bill tip to tail tip. About the same size as a Blue Jay or one of the Scrub-Jays. Larger than Red-winged Blackbird. Smaller than a Mourning Dove. 

Shape: Very plump with a fairly long tail. 

Bill: Straight and fairly slender, curved at the tip. 

Color: Gray-brown upperparts, rusty orange breast.

Habitat, range & behavior: Open woodlands, farmlands, urban parks and lawns. 

Migratory, breeds north across Alaska and Canada. Resident in most of the United States (lower 48). Winters in the United States, Mexico, to central America. 

Hops on your lawn turning head this way and that looking for food. Their caroling song is one of the early signs of spring in the north.

Food and feeder preference: Worms and other invertebrates in the lawn. May eat fruit from a tray feeder or the ground. Eat small berries from trees and bushes.


3. Northern Cardinal

Cardinalis cardinalis

This is one of the most common and popular backyard birds in the eastern half of the United States.


Photo of Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal. GeorgeB2 from Pixaby


Range in New York: Northern Cardinals are year-round residents throughout New York except they are absent in mountains in the northeastern corner of the state.

Identification: 

Size: Cardinals are a bit smaller than American Robins, about the same size as Red-winged Blackbirds. 

Shape: Plump body with fairly long full tail. Wispy crest. 

Bill: Short, heavy, conical, pink. 

Color: That bright red color is matched by few other birds. Black face. The female is more gray, but with hints of red in wings and tail, and has a crest, too.

Habitat, range & behavior: Cardinals are year-round residents in shrubby woodland edges from the eastern United States to Texas and Arizona south into Mexico. 

That large conical bill is made for chewing seeds. Watch them crack open sunflower seeds, spit out the hulls, and pluck the kernel with their tongues!

Food and feeder preference: Black oil sunflower seeds. Many types of seeds, berries, nuts in larger hopper or tray feeders.

You may like my in-depth article on attracting Northern Cardinals.


4. American Crow

Corvus brachyrhynchos

This larger all-black bird is common in cities and country. Its cawing call is familiar to most people.


Photo of American Crow
American Crow. Greg Gillson


Range in New York: American Crows are year-round residents throughout New York.

Identification: This is a key species for comparing with an unknown bird. 

Size: About 17-1/2 inches long from bill tip to tail tip, though there is much size variation throughout its range. Larger than blackbirds and grackles. Smaller than ravens. 

Shape: Thick neck, large head, rather short square-ended tail. Longer legs. In flight has rounded wing tips with each primary feather separated from others forming "fingers." 

Bill: As long as head, thick, black. 

Color: Glossy black throughout.

Habitat, range & behavior: They prefer open areas with trees, fields, farms, cities. 

They are common across most of the United States lower-48, except in the desert southwest. They move into southern Canada in summer. 

They gather in evening communal roosts in large flocks that may number into the thousands and then move out at dawn into the surrounding area.

Food and feeder preference: Omnivorous, they feed on large insects, grain, small mammals, carrion. You probably don't want these large entirely-black birds in your backyard feeders. So don't feed table scraps to birds.


5. Black-capped Chickadee

Poecile atricapillus

This is a common backyard bird in the northern half of the United States.


Photo of Black-capped Chickadee on bird bath
Black-capped Chickadee. Greg Gillson


Range in New York: Black-capped Chickadees are year-round residents throughout New York.

Identification: 

Size: Chickadees are small birds, the same general size as an American Goldfinch. 

Shape: Round body, big round head, long tail with rounded tip. 

Bill: Short, straight, stout. 

Color: Gray above, buffy below. Black cap and bib with white lower face. White edges on wing feathers.

Habitat, range & behavior: Deciduous and mixed forests. 

They range from the northern half of the United States, southern half of Canada, and most of Alaska. 

Small flocks flit actively from tree to tree acrobatically gleaning insects from twig tips. In winter chickadees make up the core of mixed-species flocks also containing nuthatches, kinglets, creepers, woodpeckers and others.

Food and feeder preference: Seeds, insects, berries. They eat at tube, hopper and tray feeders. They love black oil sunflower seeds and suet.

You may like my in-depth article on attracting Black-capped Chickadees.


6. Mourning Dove

Zenaida macroura

Mourning Doves are the most widespread and most frequent backyard bird in the Lower 48 states of the United States.


Photo of Mourning Dove in a tree
Mourning Dove. Greg Gillson


Range in New York: Mourning Doves are year-round residents throughout New York exept summer residents only in the mountains of the northeastern part of the state.

Identification: This is a key species for comparing with an unknown bird. 

Size: About 12 inches long from bill tip to tail tip. About same size as Northern Flicker. Larger than American Robin. Slightly smaller than domestic city pigeon. 

Shape: Very plump with a small round head. Tail is long and pointed. Legs are short. 

Bill: Small and rather slender. 

Color: Pale brown-pink body, darker wings and tail. White edges on side of tail.

Habitat, range & behavior: Semi-open areas such as urban areas, farmlands, woods. Often seen perched on wires, fences. 

It is a resident across the lower-48 states and Mexico, with some movement out of northern areas in winter. 

Their mournful cooing is a familiar spring birdsong.

Food and feeder preference: Mourning Doves eat seeds almost exclusively. Attract with black oil sunflower seeds on a large sturdy tray feeder or on the ground.


7. American Goldfinch

Spinus tristis

A beautiful tiny finch familiar to many in it's bright yellow summer plumage. Colloquially called a "wild canary."


Photo of American Goldfinch
American Goldfinch. Greg Gillson


Range in New York: American Goldfinches are year-round residents in New York.

Identification: This is a key species for comparing with an unknown bird. 

Size: Very small at about 5 inches from bill tip to tail tip. Similar in size to a chickadee. Larger than hummingbirds. Smaller than juncos and House Finches. 

Shape: Tiny, somewhat plump with larger head and short tail. 

Bill: Short, conical, pink. 

Color: Males in summer are bright lemon yellow with black forehead and black wings and tail with white bars. White under tail coverts. Females dull olive, wings and tail browner. Winter birds are pale grayish-yellow with tan and brown wings and tail.

Habitat, range & behavior: This species is found in weedy fields and similar clearings with thistles and similar plants. 

It is found coast-to-coast throughout the year across most of the middle lower-48 states. In summer moves north to the Canada border. In the winter found south to the Mexico border. 

The flight is highly undulating, rising and falling as they flap in short bursts. 

Besides a long, sweet lilting song, they call in flight a lilting 4-part: "potato chip!"

Food and feeder preference: Feeds on weed seeds, thistle seed. May eat black oil sunflower seeds from tube feeder. Love Nyjer seed in a feeder called a "thistle sock."

You may like my in-depth article on attracting American Goldfinches.


8. European Starling

Sternus vulgaris

Introduced to North America in the late 1800's, they crossed the continent, often to the detriment of native cavity-nesting birds. The prime example of an invasive species.


Photo of European Starling
European Starling. Greg Gillson


Identification: 

Size: About the size of a Red-winged Blackbird. Smaller than an American Robin. Larger than a White-crowned Sparrow or Spotted/Eastern towhee. 

Shape: Stocky with large head, short square-ended tail. Longer legs. 

Bill: As long as head. Sharp pointed. Yellow in spring, otherwise dark. 

Color: They are grayish brown much of the year, with glossy iridescence and white spotting during the spring.

Habitat, range & behavior: Lowland birds that need trees large enough for nest cavities but plenty of open area for feeding. They are most abundant in urban and suburban areas where they find food and artificial nest cavities. 

Resident from coast-to-coast from southern Canada to northern Mexico. In summer north across Canada and Alaska. Native range is Europe to Pakistan, north Africa. 

Often viewed as a pest, starlings often bully other backyard birds, taking over bird feeders, and stealing nest cavities from smaller native birds. In winter they can form into flocks of ten's of thousands.

Food and feeder preference: Primarily insects when available, often feeding on the ground. Discourage them from your backyard hopper and tray feeders by never feeding birds table scraps (including bread or meat). They have weak feet and do not perch well on tube feeders. A cage mesh around smaller hopper feeders may keep them out.


9. Song Sparrow

Melospiza melodia

A common bird, but variable, and similar to many other streaked brown sparrows.


Photo of Song Sparrow in bush
Song Sparrow. Greg Gillson


Range in New York: Song Sparrows are year-round residents throughout most of New York, except found in summer only in the mountainous northeastern portion of the state.

Identification: 

Size: A smaller bird, similar in size to House Finch and juncos. Larger than chickadees and goldfinches. Smaller than White-crowned Sparrows or Spotted/Eastern towhees. 

Shape: Plump with round head, long rounded tail. 

Bill: Short, conical. 

Color: Highly variable in darkness and color saturation across its range (dark rusty to pale gray). Generally gray-brown above with dark brown streaking on back. Complicated head pattern. Streaking on sides and breast converge into dense central breast spot.

Habitat, range & behavior: Thickets, especially near water. Backyard shrubbery. 

Resident in western United States, western Canada, coastal southern Alaska, northeastern US. In summer also moves into mid-Canada and northern half of US. In the winter found in most of the US lower-48. Also a population in central Mexico. 

Forages on ground, never far from low cover to which they fly if startled.

Food and feeder preference: They feed on seeds and insects near the ground. Will visit hopper and tray feeders for mixed bird seed.


10. Downy Woodpecker

Dryobates pubescens

This tiny woodpecker is found across the United States.


Photo of Downy Woodpecker on suet block
Downy Woodpecker. Greg Gillson


Range in New York: Downy Woodpeckers are year-round residents in New York.

Identification: 

Size: Bigger than a junco or House Finch. Smaller than a Red-winged Blackbird. About the same size as a White-crowned Sparrow, but with a much shorter tail. 

Shape: Stocky with large head and short stiff tail. 

Bill: Short, chisel-shaped. 

Color: Black-and-white striped head. Black wings with white spots. Solid white black. White under parts. Black tail with white outer tail feathers with black bars or spots. Male with small red spot at back of head.

Habitat, range & behavior: Found in small deciduous trees, willows, and even weed stocks such as teasel, especially near water. 

Ranges coast-to-coast across all but northernmost parts of Canada and Alaska south to the southern US. Absent in the desert southwest. 

Interestingly, I learned today that the males may more often be found in smaller plants and twigs, while females are more likely on tree trunks.

Food and feeder preference: Insects, fruits, and seeds. Gleans arthropods from the bark of trees. Attract with suet feeder. Will also eat black oil sunflower seeds.


11. House Sparrow

Passer domesticus

Like the starling, this is another bird introduced from Europe in the 1800's. This sparrow is commonly found in cities and farmlands. It is considered a pest in most areas where it has been introduced.


Photo of House Sparrow on feeder with sunflower seed
House Sparrow. Greg Gillson


Range in New York: House Sparrows are year-round residents throughout New York.

Identification: 

Size: The size of a House Finch or Dark-eyed Junco. 

Shape: Chunkier than native North American sparrows with large head, barrel chest, short neck, medium tail, short legs. 

Bill: Short, conical. 

Color: Males are brown and gray with a black mask. Females lack the black and are tan and brown with a pale line back from the eye.

Habitat, range & behavior: Cities and farms. 

Range in North American from southern Canada through Central America. In summer northward through Canada to southern Alaska. Originated in Middle East and spread to most of Europe and Asia. Introduced in South America, Africa, Australia--nearly anywhere there are people and cities. 

They tend to be messy... and have a good appetite, and may occur in large noisy chirping flocks. They are aggressive toward other feeder birds.

Food and feeder preference: They eat grain, seed, and insects. To discourage them from your hopper and tray feeders do not feed birds human food scraps. They have a bit of difficulty eating from tube feeders.


12. Common Grackle

Quiscalus quiscula

Sometimes considered a pest to crops, grackles are longer and lankier than very similar blackbirds.


Photo of Common Grackle on bird bath
Common Grackle. GeorgiaLens from Pixabay


Range in New York: Common Grackles are year-round residents across southern New York, summer residents only in the northeastern mountains.

Identification: 

Size: Larger than Red-winged Blackbirds, they are near the length of Mourning Doves. 

Shape: Long, with long full keel-shaped tail, long legs, flat crown. 

Bill: Longer than head, pointed, but stouter than other blackbirds. 

Color: Glossy black with hint of bronze or green on head (depending upon population). Yellow eye.

Habitat, range & behavior: They are found in agricultural areas, woodland edges, city parks and lawns. 

Resident in the southeastern United States. In summer they migrate northward and west to the central United States and Canada. 

They monopolize feeders and are bullies toward other birds.

Food and feeder preference: Grain, corn, acorns, small aquatic fish and amphibians. To discourage them, use tube feeders, rather than hopper or tray feeders. Don't over-feed, keep spilled seed picked up.


13. Red-bellied Woodpecker

Melanerpes carolinus

This is one of the most common backyard species in the eastern half of the United States.


Photo of Red-bellied Woodpecker climbing a tree
Red-bellied Woodpecker. skeeze from Pixabay


Range in New York: Red-bellied Woodpeckers are year-round residents in most of New York except absent in the northeastern mountains.

Identification: 

Size: Fairly large for a backyard bird. Between a Starling and American Robin in size. Smaller than a Northern Flicker. 

Shape: Stout with large head and short tail. Clings to tree trunk on strong short legs propped up with short stiff tail. 

Bill: Long, chisel-shaped. 

Color: Pale gray body, many thin black-and-white bars across back and wings. Red nape, extending forward on crown on male.

Habitat, range & behavior: These birds are found in many woodland types, including oak, hickory and pine. 

They are found from the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains in the lower-48 states from Texas to extreme southern Canada, and eastward from Florida northward just to the southern edge of the New England states. 

In typical woodpecker fashion, it hitches up the tree trunk and larger branches.

Food and feeder preference: This species eats insects and nuts. They may eat peanuts from a tray feeder and eat from a suet block.


14. White-breasted Nuthatch

Sitta carolinensis

A favorite feeder bird for many for their active antics and fearlessness. Though small birds, they are the largest nuthatches in North America.


Photo of White-breasted Nuthatch head-first down the tree
White-breasted Nuthatch. Greg Gillson


Range in New York: White-breasted Nuthatches are year-round residents throughout New York.

Identification: 

Size: About chickadee-sized in length. Smaller than a junco or House Finch. 

Shape: Appears large-headed, neckless, very short tailed. Short legs. 

Bill: Nearly as long as head, straight, thin. 

Color: Blue-gray above, white below. Black cap, wing tips, tail. Rusty feathers under tail.

Habitat, range & behavior: Common in oak and oak-pine woodlands, wooded towns. 

Found across the United States, southern Canada, mountains of central Mexico. Absent from treeless grasslands, deserts in the west. 

Crawls over tree branches and head-first down tree trunks searching for insects.

Food and feeder preference: Insects, seeds, acorns and other nuts. Love black oil sunflower seeds feeding on hopper and tray feeders. Suet blocks.


15. Tufted Titmouse

Baeolophus bicolor

Related to chickadees, they lack the black bib, but have a crest instead.


Photo of Tufted Titmouse in feeder
Tufted Titmouse. anne773 from Pixabay


Range in New York: Tufted Titmouses are year-round residents in New York, except absent in mountains of northeastern part of state.

Identification: 

Size: A small bird, but a large titmouse, this species is larger than chickadees, about the size of a junco or House Finch. 

Shape: Rounded body, long full tail, big head, long legs. 

Bill: Short and stout, compressed (taller than wide), black. 

Color: Dark blue-gray above, pale below. Black feathers around eye accentuates its size.

Habitat, range & behavior: Lives in deciduous forests with heavy canopy, parks. 

Found in eastern and southeastern United States is expanding its range north and west. 

Food and feeder preference: Insects and seeds. At your hopper or tray feeder they like black oil sunflower seeds and suet.


16. Dark-eyed Junco

Junco hyemalis

Colloquially called "snow birds," they often arrive in backyards in winter from nearby mountain forests or more northern climes.


Photo of Dark-eyed Junco on snow-covered branch
Dark-eyed Junco. skeeze from Pixabay


Range in New York: Dark-eyed Juncos are year-round residents throughout most of New York. They are winter visitors only in the New York city area.

Identification: 

Size: Small birds about the size of a House Finch. 

Shape: Round body, short neck, round head, fairly long square-ended tail. 

Bill: Short, pointed, conical, pink. 

Color: Eastern birds are a darker all-gray with white belly. Western birds have jet black hood over head, brown back, and pink sides; females paler.

Habitat, range & behavior: Breed in coniferous forests. Avoids heavy brush, preferring widely spaced bushes.

Breeds in summer in Alaska and across Canada, in mountains of northeastern US, widely in the West in mountains and conifer forests.

Flashes white outer tail feathers as it feeds on the ground.

Food and feeder preference: Eats mostly seeds, also insects in summer. Readily feed at backyard feeders on mixed seeds on hopper or tray feeders and ground.

You may like my in-depth article on attracting Dark-eyed Juncos.


17. Gray Catbird

Dumatella carolinensis

This bird is rather common where it occurs, but a bit secretive.


Photo of Gray Catbird in juniper
Gray Catbird. Greg Gillson


Range in New York: Gray Catbirds are summer residents in New York, absent in winter.

Identification: 

Size: About the length of a Red-winged Blackbird or Northern Cardinal. 

Shape: Long tailed, round head. 

Bill: Medium-length, pointed. 

Color: Gray with a black tail and black cap. Rusty under tail coverts.

Habitat, range & behavior: Dense woodland edges, scrub, abandoned orchards. 

Breeds in eastern and central US and adjoining southern Canada. Winters in extreme south US Gulf states, southward in eastern Mexico to Panama. 

They spend much time hopping on the ground or in low bushes. They defend a winter territory, unlike most birds.

Food and feeder preference: Insects and berries. You may attract this species with jelly and fruit feeders, suet, and water.


18. White-throated Sparrow

Zonotrichia albicollis

A fairly common bird of northern forests that visits backyards across much of the US.


Photo of White-throated Sparrow on birdbath
White-throated Sparrow. Greg Gillson


Range in New York: White-throated Sparrows are year-round residents throughout much of New York. They are found only in summer in the northern mountains. They are found only in the winter in the New York city area and also in the western parts of the state.

Identification: 

Size: Similar in size to White-crowned Sparrow. Bigger than a House Finch; smaller than a starling. 

Shape: Longer body. Round head on short neck. Long tail with notched tip. 

Bill: Short. conical. 

Color: Striped tan and brown above, pale gray below. White-striped form with black and white head stripes. Tan-striped form with tan and brown striped head. First year birds are similar to tan-stiped adults, but streakier overall. Yellow spot between eyebrow and bill. White throat strongly offset from gray breast and face.

Habitat, range & behavior: Found in forests, brush, and open woodland edges. 

Breeds across Canada and northernmost Eastern United States. Winters in the eastern US, southern central US, and rare but regular along the West Coast. 

Found in small flocks on ground near brush into which they can flee. Kick up leaves to search under for food.

Food and feeder preference: Eat seeds and berries in winter, more insects and fruit in summer. In your feeder will eat mixed seeds on a platform feeder and on the ground.


19. Northern Flicker

Colaptes auratus

Of all the bird identification questions I get asked, this common larger backyard bird is the bird most people ask about. It doesn't occur to those unfamiliar with it that this could be a woodpecker.


Photo of Northern Flicker in tree
Northern Flicker. Greg Gillson.


Range in New York: Northern Flickers are year-round residents throughout most of New York. However they are only found in summer in the northern mountains,

Identification: 

Size: About the size of a Mourning Dove. Larger than a robin. 

Shape: Stocky with short legs, short tail, big head. 

Bill: As long as head, thin, slightly curved. 

Color: Back is brown with black bars. Under parts pinkish with black spots. Undersides of black wing and tail feathers are bright salmon red (West) or yellow (East). Head gray (West) or brown (East) and males with red (West) or black (East) whisker marks and nape marks (East). Black crescent across chest. White rump seen in flight.

Habitat, range & behavior: Found in woodland edges and forests. 

Year-round resident from extreme southern Canada, across all of the lower-48 states and in the mountains of Mexico and Middle America. In summer breeds northward well into Canada and Alaska. 

Frequently noted hopping on ground pecking in the ground for insects. In late spring, males proclaim their territory by rapid pounding on a hollow tree branch, though the ringing of metal downspouts at dawn is louder and carries much farther, to the exasperation of anyone trying to sleep inside!

Food and feeder preference: Ants and beetles are their primary foods. Will eat black oil sunflower seeds and are attracted to suet.


20. House Finch

Haemorhous mexicanus

These are one of the United State's most common backyard birds. There are other red finches, but these are the ones most likely in residential areas.


Photo of a House Finch in a bird bath
House Finch. Greg Gillson.


Range in New York: House Finches are year-round residents throughout New York.

Identification: This is a key species for comparing with an unknown bird. 

Size: About 6 inches from bill tip to tail tip. Larger than goldfinches and chickadees. Smaller than a White-crowned Sparrows or Spotted/Eastern towhees. 

Shape: Medium build with a medium-long notched tail. Round head. 

Bill: Short, conical. 

Color: Brown and gray above with streaks on the sides of the pale underparts. Males with red (sometimes orange or rarely yellow) crown, chest, rump.

Habitat, range & behavior: You'll find small flocks on wires, in short tree tops and in bushes. Originally deserts and grasslands. Rural areas and towns are where they're now most common. 

Formerly found in the western United States and Mexico. Then introduced into the northeastern United States, but now found in nearly all of the lower-48 states and extreme southern Canada. Rare in plains states (Dakotas to Texas) and southern Florida. 

House Finches are not territorial, but males sing throughout the year--a lively, wiry song ending in a couple of buzzy notes.

Food and feeder preference: House Finches love sunflower seeds and tube feeders. May eat from thistle socks.

You may like my in-depth article on attracting House Finches.


21. Rock Pigeon

Columba livia

These pigeons are especially common in urban settings. They are also known as Rock Doves or domestic pigeons.


Photo of Rock Pigeon on roof
Rock Pigeon. Greg Gillson.


Range in New York: Rock Pigeons are year-round residents throughout New York.

Identification:

Size: Larger than a Mourning Dove.

Shape: Large chest. Small round head. Pointed wings. Squared tail.

Bill: Short and fairly thin, with bump on nostril.

Color: Variable; may be white, rusty, or pied. "Wild" coloration has a blue-gray body with iridescent sheen on throat. Paler gray wings with two dark broad wing bars. Tail with dark band. White rump.

Habitat, range, & behavior: City streets, building ledges, and commercial parking lots; farms.

Resident across Canada, all of the United States, south into Mexico. Worldwide distribution.

Often seen perched on roofs and ledges in cities. Walk on sidewalks picking up scraps of food garbage dropped by humans.

Food and feeder preference: Eat grain and corn, and human food scraps, especially French fries and other fast food garbage. May eat just about any food at platform and larger hopper feeders.


22. Cedar Waxwing

Bombycilla cedrorum

Waxy red tips to the wing feathers give these birds their unique name. Maybe it's the fancy crest. Maybe it's the bandit mask. Maybe it's the yellow band at the tip of its tail. But these are one of my favorite birds.


Photo of Cedar Waxwing on branch
Cedar Waxwing. Greg Gillson.


Range in New York: Cedar Waxwings are year-round residents throughout New York.

Identification:

Size: Smaller than European Starling. Larger than House Sparrow.

Shape: Similar to European Starling. Rather stocky. Short squared tail, but long under tail coverts. Large head. Pointed wings. Wispy crest.

Bill: Rather short, small, wide.

Color: Warm brown above with wispy crest. Black mask. Yellowish belly. White under tail coverts. Gray wings. Gray tail with yellow tip.

Habitat, range, & behavior: Deciduous woods, wooded streams and lakeshores, residential shade trees, fruit orchards.

Resident across the northern US. Summer resident in Canada. Winter visitor throughout all of US and Mexico.

Keep in tight flocks. Feed in trees and large bushes for berries. Fly catch over ponds and streams.

Food and feeder preference: Berries and flying insects. Usually don't come to feeders unless fruit like cherries offered, but will visit bird baths.


23. Barn Swallow

Hirundo rustica

These swallows are widely distributed throughout the world, primarily breeding in the northern hemisphere, and wintering in the mid-latitudes and southern hemisphere.


Photo of a Barn Swallow on a barbed wire fence
Barn Swallow. Greg Gillson.

Range in New York: Barn Swallows are summer residents throughout New York.

Identification: 

Size: About the size of a House Finch but with a much longer tail. 

Shape: Stocky, short necked but with long body and tail. Tail is forked, with very long outer tail feathers. Wings pointed. 

Bill: Short, wide. 

Color: Glossy dark purplish-blue above. Pinkish-orange below. 

Habitat, range & behavior: Barn Swallows live in open country, frequently near humans. Farmlands. Nest in barns, under small bridges. 

In North America breed from Mexico to northern Canada and Alaska, wintering from southern Mexico throughout most of South America. 

Frequently seen swooping low over the ground hunting flying insects. Perch on wires, fences. Voice is twitters and chirps with grating sounds. 

Food and feeder preference: Eat flying insects on the wing and are not attracted to backyard feeders.


24. Chipping Sparrow

Spizella passerina

Chipping Sparrows are a widespread species adapted to human disturbance. They are rather tame. They are frequently found in cemeteries with large trees.


Photo of a Chipping Sparrow on a white headstone
Chipping Sparrow. Greg Gillson.


Range in New York: Chipping Sparrows are summer residents throughout New York.

Identification: 

Size: These are small sparrows, bigger than goldfinches or chickadees, but smaller than House Finches or Song Sparrows. 

Shape: Plump and fairly long-tailed. 

Bill: Short and conical. 

Color: Striped brown and dark brown above. Grayish under parts. Black line through eye. Crown streaked in winter but in summer becomes solid chestnut. Two white wing bars. 

Habitat, range & behavior: Grassy open conifer woodlands with some shrubs, parks, orchards. 

Breeds from Alaska, across Canada and south into highlands of Middle America. In winter retreats from northern areas to southern United States and northern Mexico. 

In summer solitary or in pairs. In winter they forage in flocks of up to 50 birds. 

Food and feeder preference: Weed seeds, supplemented with insects in summer. They may eat black oil sunflower seeds in your feeder, but more likely will feed on mixed seeds on the ground under the feeder.


25. House Wren

Troglodytes aedon

These birds will readily use nest boxes to raise their young.


Photo of House Wren in bush
House Wren. Greg Gillson.


Range in New York: House Wrens are summer residents throughout New York.

Identification:

Size: About the size of Black-capped Chickadee but with shorter tail.

Shape: Round body. Large head. Thin short tail.

Bill: Fairly long, thin, slightly down curved. Sharply pointed.

Color: Rather dull brownish-gray throughout. Paler throat and breast. Tail barred with black and pale bars along with the brown.

Habitat, range & behavior: Brushy areas, woodland edges, hedge rows, tree stumps in logged areas.

Breed across Canada and the northern and mid-latitudes of the United States. Winter to the southern United States and through Mexico. Found year round at southern edge of breeding range: California, North Carolina to northern Alabama, southern Arizona south through mountains of Mexico.

Stay hidden in brushy areas. Hop among tree roots, logged stumps.

Food and feeder preference: May feed at suet feeder.




Video of birds in New York's Central Park:


Other common birds you might see from your backyard in New York


The following lists contains additional common birds you might see flying over your yard or in a nearby neighborhood. There are also some less common backyard birds in these lists, that don't appear on the above lists.

Watch for these additional common New York birds in winter (December to February):
Canada Goose (29% frequency)
Mallard (25%)
Ring-billed Gull (24%)
Herring Gull (22%)

Watch for these additional common New York birds in summer (June to July):
Red-winged Blackbird (48% frequency)
Common Yellowthroat (31%)
Yellow Warbler (26%)
Red-eyed Vireo (25%)
Tree Swallow (23%)

Watch for these additional common New York birds in spring (April to May):
Red-winged Blackbird (55% frequency)
Canada Goose (42%)
Mallard (32%)
Tree Swallow (27%)
Northern Flicker (27%)
Chipping Sparrow (25%)
Brown-headed Cowbird (24%)
Yellow Warbler (24%)
White-throated Sparrow (23%)
Baltimore Oriole (21%)



Comparison of the most common backyard birds in Manhattan, New York


Photo of a White-throated Sparrow in a bird bath
White-throated Sparrow. Greg Gillson


The following list uses eBird data to compare the birds of Manhattan with the birds of the state as a whole. Manhattan is in New York County. I will use eBird data for New York County to represent the birds in the Manhattan area.

Here are the most common backyard birds throughout the year in Manhattan:
House Sparrow (77% frequency)
American Robin (64%)
European Starling (64%)
Rock Pigeon (59%)
Blue Jay (59%)
Northern Cardinal (52%)
White-throated Sparrow (51%)
Mourning Dove (48%)
Common Grackle (41%)
Red-bellied Woodpecker (32%)
Gray Catbird (31%)
Downy Woodpecker (29%)
Song Sparrow (26%)
Northern Flicker (24%)
Tufted Titmouse (23%)

Three birds, here, are more common in Manhattan than the rest of the state, on average. Seeing House Sparrows top the list, and adding Rock Pigeons is understandable for this highly urban area. But both White-throated Sparrows and Northern Flickers are more common than average, which is a bit of a surprise.

Less common in Manhattan than the rest of the state, on average, are American Crow (surprise!), Black-capped Chickadee, American Goldfinch, White-breasted Nuthatch and Dark-eyed Junco.




Beyond your backyard


To create this page on the backyard birds in New York I used some of the advanced features of eBird.

You can learn more about what birds are in your own backyard using some easy and helpful features of eBird. Rare birds. Common birds. Winter birds, spring birds, summer birds, and fall birds. In fact, you can determine the abundance of all birds likely in your area for every week of the year! You can also see photos of the birds from your own area.

eBird also has numerous photos and voice recordings of the birds. Thus, you can see pictures of all the variation in each species. And you can listen to recordings of bird songs and calls.

Not all birds can be found in backyards. You may find that you wish to see birds in other places. If so, you'll want to check this out.

First, I'm sending you to eBird (www.ebird.org). Please don't forget me! Bookmark this page to come back.


Explore Regions for birds in your own county


From the eBird home page, select the tab for Explore (https://ebird.org/explore). The Explore page offers several options. Please use the Explore Regions form for now. Start entering your county name into the form. Select your county and state from the drop-down list.

Now your County page pops up.

There are 62 counties in New York. There are bird lists for each county. The county with the most birds recorded is Suffolk County with 425 species. The county with the least birds recorded is Hamilton County with 215 species.

From this County page there are 3 selections that I want to share with you. They are Printable Checklist, Illustrated Checklist, and Hotspots.


1. Printable Checklist


The Printable Checklist is exactly what it sounds like. It is a basic bird checklist of all birds with eBird records in the county, state, or country you choose. It is a professional looking checklist, too. You can print it double-sided on card stock for a quite nice and durable bird checklist.

Bird checklists are useful to keep track of birds in your backyard as you identify them. Or, you may want to print a new list for each time you take a bird watching outing.

But this type of list doesn't help you figure out if a bird in your backyard is common or rare. For that, you need the next type of checklist.


2. Bar Charts


Bar charts combine the species list with abundance over time. The thickness of the line (bar) indicates how frequently a bird is seen. A thicker bar indicates a common bird. A thin line indicates a rare bird. No bars are shown when the birds are absent or not recorded.

In the case of the eBird bar charts, there is a space for every week of the year. There is room for 52 lines, or bars, in each chart. This way, you can tell, week by week, how common birds are in your state, even in each county.

One feature that I like on the county page is the Illustrated Checklist. It is a bar chart for the county. But it also includes photos of birds that have been taken in the county. That way, for unusual birds, I can see the plumage. 

Are most of the records for breeding males or perhaps dull-looking immatures? That will let me know exactly what I am looking for when I am out in the field. Of course, I always like to add photos to the Illustrated Checklist if any are missing. But that is easier to do with the following list.


3. Hotspots


Hotspots are public bird watching areas with their own species checklists and bar charts. Sometimes these are very famous birding sites with thousands of bird watchers visiting per year. Other hotspots are very rarely visited by birders. These will give you an idea of what other birds (not just backyard birds) may be found near you.

There are hundreds of hotspots for every state. Each county is likely to have numerous hotspots, too. There is a list of the top 100 hotspots in each state. To see all of them you can go to the map.

You may also like my eBird tutorial with illustrations.

Once you start viewing your backyard birds in New York, you may find that you want to look for more types of birds than just backyard birds. Then you're on your way to exploring the wildlife in a larger world. There are birds everywhere you go. Different ones in every location. In fact, 10,000 of them. That's enough for several lifetimes of joy just to see them once!

All this because you were curious as to what birds were in your backyard!




Next: Backyard birds of North Carolina

You may be interested: Bird books for each individual state in the US

Related: 34 of the most common birds in the United States (with photos)

Feeding winter birds in New York






7 comments:

  1. This was so incredibly helpful! Thank you for compiling all this useful information! I wish I would of found this site a few years ago when I started "seriously" backyard birding. At the time I think the only ones I could of identified were the bluejay and cardinal! I live in Suffolk county and the lists are pretty spot on. My rare bird is the northern flicker, in 3 years I've only seen one twice! Both times they were eating a fruit and nut blend from a platform feeder. They are quite a sight with their yellow wings, I wish I knew the secret to attracting (and keeping) more in my area! My most common bird is the white throated sparrow. I've got dozens of them and they're quite friendly. I was looking for a new gray bird I've seen three times this week. He's not a mocking bird or a catbird, they're frequent visitors so I feel confident of their identities. He's a smokey gray with black wings and is a little smaller than a cardinal. The hunt continues for his identity but that's one of the things I love most, seeing a new addition to your yard and learning about them! Thank you again for all this great info, I'll be back to explore more!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sad news... new bird was in the platform feeder when I came home from work, the perfect time to study it more closely. Then comes a black headed cowbird to eat next to the new bird. I feel a sense of dread as they seem almost friendly. Next thing I know they're chasing each other through the trees and zipping all over the place. Frolicking! Yep, it's a female black headed cowbird. Oh no. I've considered myself lucky because I've only ever seen 2 males in my yard, couldn't even remember what the female looked like from my research a couple years ago. I have many 1&1/4 birdhouses but I have plenty 1&1/2 and some larger woodpecker houses that they can absolutely get into to. Ugh! But I guess they can't help what they are... :/

      Delete
    2. Ah, yes. I was going to suggest female Brown-headed Cowbird. They've just returned to my neck of the woods here in Washington State.

      That's right. the birds do what they do. It is us who judge them. Back in the 1930's birds were judged by the government based on the foods they ate as "good" or "bad."

      Delete
    3. Cowbirds and then here comes the house wrens too... those wrens have already taken over half the birdhouses! I'll have to wait and see which ones are legitimate nests.

      But yes, birds do what they do and it's not our place to think of them as good or bad. They all have a purpose. Makes me think of Chairman Mao and "the great leap forward". The "four pests" theory, one of many disastrous campaigns of the movement. Thinking that killing every sparrow and destroying all their nests and young would increase crop production... well they didn't factor in all the insects they feed their young! When everything was said and done, a horrible famine was the result. Maybe as many as 50 million people died. Just terrible and ludicrous thinking. Personally, I love all my various sparrows! And while I may find the habits of some birds, less than desirable, I'd never wage war on them!

      Delete
    4. Yes, House Wrens can take over nest boxes you may put out for bluebirds. Swallows. Starlings, and House Sparrows can do the same.

      Still, something living is better than no birds at all.

      Delete
    5. Never seen a blue bird here in Long Island for years...lots of Robin's etc but no blue birds, they were common here years ago...also saw a big nest of Quakers.

      Delete
    6. Thanks for sharing the birds of your backyard. Yes, bluebirds are more found in rural and farm areas. I can see why Long Island might no longer provide them the habitat they need.

      I've never seen the nests of Monk Parakeets myself.

      Delete

Thank you so much for visiting! Would you please leave a comment to let me know what you thought and how I can make this resource better for you?

--Greg--

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