Wednesday, July 17, 2019

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

The most common backyard birds throughout the year in Florida are these:
  1. Northern Cardinal (46% frequency)
  2. Mourning Dove (42%)
  3. Red-bellied Woodpecker (40%)
  4. Northern Mockingbird (39%)
  5. Blue Jay (34%)
  6. Palm Warbler (26%)
  7. Carolina Wren (24%)
  8. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (24%)
  9. Common Grackle (21%)
  10. Yellow-rumped Warbler (20%)
  11. Gray Catbird (20%)
  12. Tufted Titmouse (18%)
  13. Downy Woodpecker (18%)
These species occur on more than 18% of all eBird checklists for the state.

In this article
Lists of the most common backyard birds in Florida
Photos and ID of the most common backyard birds in Florida
Other common birds you might see in your backyard and neighborhood in Florida
Comparison of the most common backyard birds in Miami, Florida

Florida is unique as a state. There's no other place quite like it. Its birds, too, are rather unique. Most places are near water. So backyard bird lists often feature herons and egrets and ibises and other fly-over waders and water birds.

Interestingly, though, the most common backyard feeder birds are similar to other states on the East Coast. The most common species in Florida is Northern Cardinal. It occurs on 46% of all bird checklists in the state.

This page will list the most frequent backyard birds as determined by actual bird sightings reported to the citizen science birding program, eBird. Then we will display photos of the most common birds, and tell a little about them. We'll list a few other common birds, other than the typical backyard birds. Finally, we will compare the backyard birds in Miami with those in the state as a whole, and see if there are any difference.

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

The list of birds at the top of the page is based on their frequency throughout the year. Bird populations vary by season. So next we will look at the winter and summer status of the typical backyard birds.

The most common backyard birds in Florida during the winter (December to February) are these:
Palm Warbler (39% frequency)
Yellow-rumped Warbler (38%)
Northern Cardinal (38%)
Mourning Dove (37%)
Red-bellied Woodpecker (36%)
Northern Mockingbird (34%)
Blue Jay (28%)
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (27%)
Eastern Phoebe (26%)
Gray Catbird (23%)

The most common backyard birds in Florida during the summer (June to July) are these:
Northern Cardinal (51% frequency)
Mourning Dove (50%)
Northern Mockingbird (42%)
Red-bellied Woodpecker (39%)
Blue Jay (34%)
Carolina Wren (27%)
Common Grackle (23%)
Tufted Titmouse (19%)
Great Crested Flycatcher (18%)

Two migrant warblers actually are more frequent than the cardinal in winter. And notice how Mourning Dove is almost as common as the Northern Cardinal. The Eastern Phoebe and Gray Catbird are primarily winter visitors.

The Carolina Wren and Great Crested Flycatcher are more expected in summer. For the flycatcher, which is migrant, this makes sense. Perhaps the resident wren is detected more frequently in summer because of its loud and obvious song, even if it hides in the shadowy tangles.

Photos and ID of the most common backyard birds in Florida

Photo of Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal
Image by GeorgeB2 from Pixaby
1. Northern Cardinal (46%)
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.

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

Photo of Mourning Dove in a tree
Mourning Dove
Photo by Greg Gillson
2. Mourning Dove (42%)
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 Red-bellied Woodpecker climbing a tree
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Image by skeeze from Pixabay
3. Red-bellied Woodpecker (40%)
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 Northern Mockingbird on the ground
Northern Mockingbird
Photo by Greg Gillson
4. Northern Mockingbird (39%)
This bird sings from exposed perches most of the year and often through the night. They have an unending supply of their own unique short phrases that they repeat about 3 times each, but frequently intersperse songs of other birds.
Identification: Size: The length of an American Robin. Shape: Slender and long-tailed. Long legs. Bill: Medium length, slender, slightly curved. Color: Gray, darker above, with white patches in wing and tail. Habitat, range & behavior: They prefer edge habitat with scattered trees and bushes, parks and residential areas. It is found in eastern and southern parts of the US, West Indies, and south into Mexico. In summer birds are found a bit farther north. They boldly defend their nests from other birds, cats, and intruders. Food and feeder preference: Eats insects, berries, and fruit. You may attract mockingbirds to your feeder with grapes, raisins, apple slices. They will come to a suet block. They readily use a bird bath.

Photo of Blue Jay enjoying a bath
Blue Jay
Image by skeeze from Pixabay
5. Blue Jay (34%)
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 Palm Warbler on a rock
Palm Warbler
Photo by Greg Gillson
6. Palm Warbler (26%)
This little warbler is probably more likely feeding on the ground under bushes on the edge of your yard.
Identification: Size: This is a smaller bird, between a goldfinch and House Finch in size. Shape: Plump with a short neck and longer tail and long legs. Bill: Rather short, slender, pointed. Color: During winter rather drab with yellow under tail coverts. In breeding plumage has yellowish under parts and rusty cap. Habitat, range & behavior: Brushy, open areas. Breeds in spruce bogs in Canada. In winter often found on open patches of bare soil along fence rows with scattered bushes. Also marshes, grassy lawns and agricultural edges. Winters primarily in the southeastern United States and West Indies. Some along the West Coast. Walks on the ground, constantly wagging tail. Food and feeder preference: They mostly eat insects and some berries. May be attracted to backyard suet feeders.

Photo of Carolina Wren
Carolina Wren
Image by theSOARnet from Pixabay
7. Carolina Wren (24%)
This is a fairly common backyard bird in the much of the eastern United States.
Identification: Size: A smaller bird, between the size of American Goldfinch and House Finch. Shape: Round body, short neck, flat head, long tail flipped about actively. Bill: Fairly long, thin, pointed and slightly curved. Color: Upper parts rusty brown with black bars on the wings and tail. A white eyebrow line and buff under parts. Habitat, range & behavior: Shrubby thickets and brushy suburban yards. It is found in the southeastern United States and Yucatan. Northern parts of range expand and contract depending upon harshness of winters. Males sing throughout the year and are very loud for their size. Food and feeder preference: Feed mostly on insects and spiders. They will feed on suet.

Photo of Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Photo by Greg Gillson
8. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (24%)
Your yard may need to be bordered by unmanaged thickets in order to have this bird visit.
Identification: Size: Tiny. It is between a hummingbird and goldfinch in size. Shape: Round head and long floppy tail. Bill: Short, straight, slightly curved toward tip. Color: Blue-gray above, white below. Black tail with white outer tail feathers that fold to become mostly white below. Habitat, range & behavior: A bird of thickets and woodlands; riparian, juniper woodlands and chaparral in the West. Resident in the southernmost states of the US and south into Mexico. Moves north in summer into much of mid-latitudes of the United States. In winter widespread in Middle America. Actively forages in in outer twigs and leaves of bushes, flipping its tail about. Food and feeder preference: They eat insects. You might try to attract them with suet or a water feature. But, realistically, they want shrubby bushes to glean insects.

Photo of Common Grackle on bird bath
Common Grackle
Image by GeorgiaLens from Pixabay
9. Common Grackle (21%)
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.

Photo of winter plumage Yellow-rumped Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Photo by Greg Gillson
10. Yellow-rumped Warbler (20%)
An abundant winter visitor in southern US to tree tops and weedy areas.
Identification: Size: Small, they are a bit larger than chickadees and goldfinches. They are smaller than House Finches and juncos. Shape: Plump and neckless with a shorter tail. Bill: Short, slender, straight, pointed. Color: Breeding plumage in spring is blue-gray on the upper parts, black sides and chest, yellow rump, yellow on sides. Two forms: western form with yellow throat and large white wing patch; eastern and northern form with white throat and two white wing bars. In winter plumage both forms are gray brown above, pale cream below. Yellow rump and white tail corners in flight. Habitat, range & behavior: In breeding season mostly in coniferous or mixed forests, in mountains in west. In winter open areas with fruiting shrubs and scattered trees. Breed across Canada and Alaska and in conifer forests in the west. Winter along both coasts and the southern states through Middle America. There are also non-migratory forms in Mexico and Guatemala. They tend to forage in outer branches about half way up the tree. Food and feeder preference: Mainly insects in the summer, they switch to waxy berries and fruit in winter. They are thus able to winter farther north than other warblers. They are attracted to suet feeders.

Photo of Gray Catbird in juniper
Gray Catbird
Photo by Greg Gillson
11. Gray Catbird (20%)
This bird is rather common where it occurs, but a bit secretive.
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.

Photo of Tufted Titmouse in feeder
Tufted Titmouse
Image by anne773 from Pixabay
12. Tufted Titmouse (18%)
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 Downy Woodpecker on suet block
Downy Woodpecker
Photo by Greg Gillson
13. Downy Woodpecker (18%)
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.

Here's a video showing some of the year-round backyard birds in South Florida:

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

There are many water birds you may see flying over or wading in nearby ponds. In the lists below I've included these birds, as well as some common hawks, and even a couple typical backyard birds that aren't as common as the first lists. These are bonus yard birds, depending upon your adjacent neighborhood habitats. I've included birds over 18% frequency detection in "winter," "summer," and "spring."

Watch for these additional common Florida birds in winter (December to February):
Turkey Vulture (46% frequency)
Great Egret (38%)
White Ibis (36%)
Double-crested Cormorant 34%)
Great Blue Heron (34%)
Osprey (32%)
Little Blue Heron (29%)
Anhinga (29%)
Black Vulture (27%)
Red-shouldered Hawk (27%)
Snowy Egret (25%)
Boat-tailed Grackle (24%)
Ring-billed Gull (24%)
Tricolored Heron (23%)
Pied-billed Grebe (21%)
Belted Kingfisher (20%)
Red-winged Blackbird (20%)
Fish Crow (20%)
Brown Pelican (20%)

Other summer (June to July) birds you may see in your backyard in Florida:
Great Egret (33% frequency)
White Ibis (32%)
Fish Crow (30%)
Osprey (27%)
Red-winged Blackbird (24%)
Boat-tailed Grackle (24%)
Great Blue Heron (24%)
Little Blue Heron (23%)
Anhinga (21%)
Laughing Gull (21%)
Red-shouldered Hawk (19%)
Black Vulture (19%)
Tricolored Heron (19%)
Turkey Vulture (18%)

Here are a couple more common birds you may detect in your backyard in Florida during spring (April to May) migration:
Great Crested Flytcatcher (28% frequency)
Carolina Wren (27%)
Northern Parula (24%)

Comparing the most common backyard birds of Miami, Florida

Photo of a pair of Eurasian Collared-Doves
Eurasian Collared-Doves are common in Miami
Photo by Greg Gillson
Using eBird data I'll next compare the common birds of Miami with Florida as a whole. Miami is in Miami-Dade County, and that county data is what I am using to represent birds in the Miami area.

Here are the most common birds throughout the year in Miami:
Northern Mockingbird (43%)
Northern Cardinal (35%)
Red-bellied Woodpecker (33%)
Palm Warbler (30%)
Blue Jay (30%)
Mourning Dove (30%)
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (28%)
European Starling (26%)
Eurasian Collared-Dove (25%)
Gray Catbird (23%)
Prairie Warbler (18%)
Northern Parula (17%)
Common Grackle (17%)

The first thing that stands out are the urban-dwellers: European Starling and European Collared-Doves. The Prairie Warbler and Northern Parula are resident in the Miami area, but not the entire state. And look how common the Mockingbird is compared to the state as a whole.

What's missing from this list of common birds? Carolina Wren, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Tufted Titmouse, Downy Woodpecker: woodland birds. These are father down the list.

Everything about this list of common birds in the Miami area compared with the rest of the state of Florida screams urban habitat.

Next: Backyard birds in Georgia

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)

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