Saturday, July 20, 2019

Common backyard birds of Ohio (lists, photos, ID)

The most common backyard birds throughout the year in the state of Ohio are these:
  1. Northern Cardinal (55% frequency)
  2. American Robin (50%)
  3. Blue Jay (45%)
  4. Mourning Dove (40%)
  5. Song Sparrow (40%)
  6. American Goldfinch (39%)
  7. Downy Woodpecker (38%)
  8. Red-bellied Woodpecker (36%)
  9. European Starling (34%)
  10. American Crow (32%)
  11. White-breasted Nuthatch (31%)
  12. Tufted Titmouse (30%)
  13. House Sparrow (29%)
  14. Common Grackle (25%)
These species occur on more than 25% of all eBird checklists for the state.


In this article:
Lists of the most common backyard birds of Ohio
Photos and ID of the most common backyard birds in Ohio
Other common birds you might see from your backyard in Ohio
Comparison of the most common backyard birds of Columbus, Ohio


When we say "most common" when discussing eBird checklists, we're really talking about frequency, not absolute numbers. What birds do you see and hear the most frequently? Let's consider an example that explains the difference.

Downy Woodpeckers may occur widely over a large area in small numbers. But there may be far more Northern Pintails by number that only occur on one marsh in your area. The Downy Woodpecker would occur on checklists from many areas, the ducks from only checklists near the marsh, and not on other checklists except as occasional flyover sightings. So the woodpecker would be seen on a higher percentage of checklists from the larger area.

The percentage in parentheses, following the names on the above list, is the percentage of total bird checklists for the entire state that recorded each species. I created each of these lists from real bird watcher data on the eBird site.


Lists of the most common feeder birds and backyard birds in Ohio

The above list summarizes the most common backyard birds for the entire year. However, many birds are migratory and may be much more common in one season than another. Let's compare those.

Let's start with the birds of winter.
The most common backyard birds in Ohio during winter (December to February) are these:
1. Northern Cardinal (51% frequency)
2. Downy Woodpecker (41%)
3. Blue Jay (40%)
4. Red-bellied Woodpecker (36%)
5. Dark-eyed Junco (35%)
6. White-breasted Nuthatch (35%)
7. Mourning Dove (33%)
8. House Sparrow (32%)
9. Tufted Titmouse (32%)
10. European Starling (30%)
11. American Crow (30%)
12. American Goldfinch (30%)
13. House Finch (26%)

In summer, things change.
The most common backyard birds in Ohio during the summer (June-July) are these:
1. American Robin (68% frequency)
2. Northern Cardinal (60%)
3. Song Sparrow (54%)
4. American Goldfinch (52%)
5. Mourning Dove (51%)
6. Blue Jay (43%)
7. Gray Catbird (40%)
8. Common Grackle (38%)
9. European Starling (36%)
10. House Sparrow (34%)
11. Barn Swallow (32%)
12. Indigo Bunting (32%)
13. Red-bellied Woodpecker (31%)
14. American Crow (31%)
15. Downy Woodpecker (31%)
16. House Wren (31%)
17. Chipping Sparrow (29%)
18. Tufted Titmouse (28%)
19. White-breasted Nuthatch (26%)
20. Eastern Wood-Pewee (25%)
21. Chimney Swift (25%)


Photos and ID of the most common backyard birds in Ohio

From the list above I present photos of the most common backyard birds throughout the year in the state of Ohio. They are ranked by the percentage of total bird watching checklists that have recorded the given species. The percentage rate is given in parenthesis after the name of each bird below. I also tell you a bit about each bird. I include a brief identification description, and then perhaps what the bird eats or otherwise what might attract it to your yard.

Photo of Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal
Image by GeorgeB2 from Pixaby
1. Northern Cardinal (55% of eBird checklists for the state)
This is one of the most common and popular backyard birds in the eastern half of the United States.
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.

Photo of American Robin on the lawn
American Robin
Photo by Greg Gillson
2. American Robin (50%)
This familiar bird is a resident in the northern half of the United States and a winter visitor in the southern half.
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.

Photo of Blue Jay enjoying a bath
Blue Jay
Image by skeeze from Pixabay
3. Blue Jay (45%)
A common and well-known bird in the eastern half of the United States.
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 strap. 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.

Photo of Mourning Dove in a tree
Mourning Dove
Photo by Greg Gillson
4. Mourning Dove (40%)
Mourning Doves are the most widespread and most frequent backyard bird in the Lower 48 states of the United States.
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.

Photo of Song Sparrow in bush
Song Sparrow
Photo by Greg Gillson
5. Song Sparrow (40%)
A common bird, but variable, and similar to many other streaked brown sparrows.
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.

Photo of American Goldfinch
American Goldfinch
Photo by Greg Gillson
6. American Goldfinch (39%)
A beautiful tiny finch familiar to many in it's bright yellow summer plumage. Colloquially called a "wild canary."
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."

Photo of Downy Woodpecker on suet block
Downy Woodpecker
Photo by Greg Gillson
7. Downy Woodpecker (38%)
This tiny woodpecker is found across the United States.
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.

Photo of Red-bellied Woodpecker climbing a tree
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Image by skeeze from Pixabay
8. Red-bellied Woodpecker (36%)
This is one of the most common species in the eastern half of the United States.
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.

Photo of European Starling
European Starling
Photo by Greg Gillson
9. European Starling (34%)
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.
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.

Photo of American Crow
American Crow
Photo by Greg Gilson
10. American Crow (32%)
This larger all-black bird is common in cities and country. Its cawing call is familiar to most people. 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.

Photo of White-breasted Nuthatch head-first down the tree
White-breasted Nuthatch
Photo by Greg Gillson
11. White-breasted Nuthatch (31%)
A favorite feeder bird for many for its active antics and fearlessness. Though a small bird it is the largest nuthatch in North America.
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.

Photo of Tufted Titmouse in feeder
Tufted Titmouse
Image by anne773 from Pixabay
12. Tufted Titmouse (30%)
Related to chickadees, they lack the black bib, but have a crest instead.
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.

Photo of House Sparrow on feeder with sunflower seed
House Sparrow
Photo by Greg Gillson
13. House Sparrow (29%)
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.
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.

Photo of Common Grackle on bird bath
Common Grackle
Image by GeorgiaLens from Pixabay
14. Common Grackle (25%)
Sometimes considered a pest to crops, grackles are longer and lankier than very similar blackbirds.
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.


What other common birds might you see from your backyard in Ohio?

Depending upon what habitats border your property, you may spot many additional birds from your yard. Some may just fly over your yard. Others may appear in migration or just rarely. Besides the backyard birds listed above, these are the most common species found in Ohio. You may spot one from your backyard or venture further to other habitats to find them.

There are only a few birds in winter as widespread and frequent as those visiting your yard.
Watch for these additional birds in winter (December to February):
Canada Goose (35% frequency)
Mallard (28%)
American Tree Sparrow (21%)
Ring-billed Gull (20%)

Summer brings many more birds to Ohio. Some are common in wetlands. Others may be found in backyard habitats, but less than the 25% frequency of the lists at the top of the page. Here are birds you may spot in your backyard or neighborhood other than those already considered.
Additional common summer birds (June to July):
Red-winged Blackbird (54%)
Turkey Vulture (30%)
Common Yellowthroat (30%)
Great Blue Heron (30%)
Tree Swallow (27%)
Brown-headed Cowbird (26%)
Cedar Waxwing (24%)
Killdeer (24%)
Red-eyed Vireo (23%)
Canada Goose (23%)
Yellow Warbler (23%)
House Finch (23%)
Mallard (22%)
Northern Flicker (21%)
Field Sparrow (21%)
Eastern Towhee (20%)
Carolina Wren (20%)

Waves of migrant birds push through Ohio in spring. You may wake to a bright oriole, tanager, grosbeak, or any number of migrant warblers or flycatchers in your yard. Many will continue on their northward journey, but some may stay for the summer!
Here are some selected spring migrants or others that may find their way to your backyard in late spring (April to May):
Chipping Sparrow (27%)
Baltimore Oriole (27%)
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (27%)
Barn Swallow (25%)
Yellow-rumped Warbler (24%)
White-throated Sparrow (22%)
Black-capped Chickadee (20%)
Eastern Phoebe (19%)
Warbling Vireo (19%)


Comparing the most common backyard birds of Columbus, Ohio

Photo of Carolina Chickadee visiting a feeder
Carolina Chickadees are common in Columbus, Ohio
Image by GeorgeB2 from Pixabay
The most common backyard birds throughout the year in Columbus, Ohio, are these (in order):
Northern Cardinal (65% frequency)
American Robin (55%)
Carolina Chickadee (53%)
Blue Jay (47%)
Downy Woodpecker (46%)
American Goldfinch (45%)
Mourning Dove (44%)
Song Sparrow (44%)
Red-bellied Woodpecker (41%)
House Sparrow (38%)
White-breasted Nuthatch (36%)
European Starling (36%)
House Finch (33%)
American Crow (32%)
Tufted Titmouse (32%)
Carolina Wren (29%)
These backyard species occur on more than 25% of eBird checklists for Franklin County.

Many of the common backyard birds in Ohio are similar across the state. However, there are some differences, depending upon local habitats. Here is what I noticed:

1. The Carolina Chickadee is the 3rd most common backyard bird in Columbus (actually, all of Franklin County) at 53% frequency. It is below 25% frequency for Ohio as a whole.

2. House Finch at 33% frequency in Columbus, Ohio is more common there than in the state as a whole.

3. The Carolina Wren at 29% frequency is slightly more regular in Franklin County than in the state of Ohio as a whole.

4. Common Grackle is above 25% frequency in the state of Ohio, but didn't reach that threshold in the Columbus region.



New in April 2020: Stan Tekiela's Birds of Ohio:



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)


2 comments:

  1. I would like to hear their sounds they make to better help identify.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for visiting, Amelia!

      Recordings of birds, along with maps, photos, and other data can be found on the eBird website: https://ebird.org
      Go to Explore Species and type in the name of the common backyard birds on this list that you think may be in your backyard and learn more about them in near-real time!

      Delete

I'd love to hear from you. What did you think? Is something missing? What else would you like to see in a future article? Comments are moderated to eliminate spam; thanks for understanding that I may not be able to get back to you right away. --Greg--

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