Tuesday, August 27, 2019

31 Backyard Birds to Know | New Jersey

[Rewritten in 2022] 

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

This article lists and discusses the identification of the most common birds in your backyard. The birds chosen in this article are compiled from actual data from the citizen science program eBird. Thus, it is more accurate than some other similar articles you may find on the web. I provide pictures of each bird species mentioned. I tell how to attract them to your backyard.

These are the most common backyard birds in New Jersey:

  1. Northern Cardinal
  2. Mourning Dove
  3. American Robin
  4. Blue Jay
  5. Song Sparrow
  6. Red-winged Blackbird
  7. European Starling
  8. Tufted Titmouse
  9. American Crow
  10. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  11. American Goldfinch
  12. Downy Woodpecker
  13. Carolina Wren
  14. White-throated Sparrow
  15. Common Grackle
  16. Gray Catbird
  17. House Sparrow
  18. House Finch
  19. White-breasted Nuthatch
  20. Northern Mockingbird
  21. Northern Flicker
  22. Carolina Chickadee
  23. Dark-eyed Junco
  24. Yellow-rumped Warbler
  25. Barn Swallow
  26. House Wren
  27. Chipping Sparrow
  28. Cedar Waxwing
  29. Eastern Kingbird
  30. Brown-headed Cowbird
  31. Indigo Bunting




What's in this article?

  • State overview of birds and bird watching
  • Photos and identification of common backyard birds
  • Most common birds by season
  • Common birds of Newark, New Jersey



New Jersey Birds and Birding in New Jersey State


eBird lists over 470 types of birds as occurring in the state of New Jersey.

The most common bird: the most frequently seen bird in the state is Northern Cardinal. It is reported on 46% of bird watching lists.

The official State Bird of New Jersey is Eastern Goldfinch, which is a subspecies of American Goldfinch.

If you are serious about knowing the birds native to New Jersey, then check out eBird for New Jersey. It has recent sightings and photos, illustrated checklists with weekly abundance bar charts for state, counties, and individual hotspots of the best birding locations.

If you want to know about other people interested in birds in your area, join a local bird group. The American Birding Association maintains a list of bird watching clubs for each state.


My other pages for birds in New Jersey:

Red, Orange, & Yellow Birds of New Jersey

Feeding Winter Birds in New Jersey





New Jersey Bird Identification (Pictures of backyard birds of New Jersey)


This section is the species accounts. These are designed to help you to recognize birds you see in your backyard. I have used eBird to select the birds that are most common. “Common” means the birds seen most often throughout the year, not necessarily the most numerous.

Each species account starts with a photograph. I have tried to use my own personal photographs of each species, if I have them. But I've done my bird photography mostly in the West. Thus, I've had to rely on others for pictures of some common Eastern birds. I always make sure the bird pictures (mine and others) are correctly identified.

In the identification section I am using size and shape and bill type before considering the color or patterns on the birds. I find these more reliable when trying to identify an unknown bird. Pay attention to body and tail shape and especially bill shape of birds you see, not just plumage color.

I have written an article on how to identify birds, it is slightly different from other popular identification methods. Check it out if you wish: 7 Steps to Identify Birds.

In the section on bird feeders and foods I tell how to attract each species. Not all types of backyard birds will come to feeders. But all backyard birds can be attracted with water. So don't forget to add a birdbath to your bird feeding station.

Do you live in Coastl New Jersey? Northern New Jersey? Central New Jersey? South New Jersey? To appear in this article, most birds are widely distributed throughout the state and are often year-round residents. However, for those birds that are more localized in place or time, I list the general region and seasonality. Please see the section following these species accounts for the lists of common species by season.

Even if a species is found in a general area, they occur only in the habitat they prefer. So, the exact habitat of your neighborhood is important for the presence of absence of certain kinds of birds.



1. 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 Jersey: Northern Cardinals are year-round residents throughout New Jersey.

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 browner, 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. 

They are found 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: Attract with 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.


2. 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 Jersey: Mourning Doves are year-round residents throughout New Jersey.

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. 

They are 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.


3. American Robin

Turdus migratorius

This familiar bird is a common resident in backyards 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 Jersey: American Robins are year-round residents throughout New Jersey.

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

Hop 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. Attract with birdbath.


4. Blue Jay

Cyanocitta cristata

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


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


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

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. 

They live 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 attract jays with peanuts, perhaps away from the seed feeders.


5. 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 Jersey: Song Sparrows are year-round residents throughout New Jersey.

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.


6. Red-winged Blackbird

Agelaius phoeniceus

These noisy flocking birds are most often found in marshes. But in winter they are found in backyards.

Photo of singing Red-winged Blackbird
Male Red-winged Blackbird. Greg Gillson.


Photo of female Red-winged Blackbird in tree
Female Red-winged Blackbird. Greg Gillson.


Range in New Jersey: Red-winged Blackbirds are year-round residents in New Jersey.

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

Size: About 8-3/4 inches long from bill tip to tail tip. About the size of a Northern Cardinal. Smaller than an American Robin.

Shape: Pot-bellied with a longer bill and flat forehead. Tail average.

Bill: Long and sharp pointed.

Color: Males are black with red and yellow shoulder patch. Females are streaked brown and rusty (sparrow-like but pointed bill and flat forehead).

Habitat, range, and behavior: Cattail marshes and wetlands are their summer habitat. In winter they feed in grain fields.

They breed across most of the North American continent. In winter they withdraw from most of Alaska and Canada.

They are found in colonies in summer and large flocks in winter.

Food and feeder preference: They eat insects in summer. In winter they eat grain and seeds. They visit feeders, more often in large winter flocks, and eat most seeds and suet.


7. European Starling

Sturnus 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


Range in New Jersey: European Starlings are year-round residents throughout New Jersey.

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

Size: 8-1/2 inches from bill tip to tail tip. 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 tens 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.


8. Tufted Titmouse

Baeolophus bicolor

Related to chickadees, they lack the black bib, but have a crest instead. They are a common and favorite bird for many people in their backyards.


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


Range in New Jersey: Tufted Titmice are year-round residents throughout New Jersey.

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. 

Backyard bird feeders might be helping this species expand its range northward.

Food and feeder preference: Insects and seeds. At your hopper or tray feeder attract them with black oil sunflower seeds and suet.


9. 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 Jersey: American Crows are year-round residents throughout New Jersey.

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.


10. Red-bellied Woodpecker

Melanerpes carolinus

This is one of the most common 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 Jersey: Red-bellied Woodpeckers are year-round residents throughout New Jersey.

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, they hitch 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.


11. American Goldfinch

Spinus tristis

A beautiful tiny finch familiar to many in its bright yellow summer plumage. Colloquially called a "wild canary." It's always a joy when they visit the backyard feeders.


Photo of American Goldfinch
American Goldfinch. Greg Gillson


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

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. Attract with Niger seed in a feeder called a "thistle sock."

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


12. Downy Woodpecker

Dryobates pubescens

This tiny woodpecker is found across the United States. It is common in backyards,


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


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

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 back. 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.


13. Carolina Wren

Thryothorus ludovicianus

This is a fairly common backyard bird in the much of the eastern United States.


Photo of Carolina Wren
Carolina Wren. theSOARnet from Pixabay


Range in New Jersey: Carolina Wrens are year-round residents throughout New Jersey.

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.


14. White-throated Sparrow

Zonotrichia albicollis

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


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


Range in New Jersey: White-throated Sparrows are winter visitors throughout New Jersey.

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. Dark gray.

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 attract with mixed seeds on a platform feeder and on the ground.


15. Common Grackle

Quiscalus quiscula

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


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


Range in New Jersey: Common Grackles are year-round residents throughout New Jersey.

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.


16. Gray Catbird

Dumetella 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 Jersey: Gray Catbirds are year-round residents in southern New Jersey, summer residents only in northern New Jersey.

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.


17. 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 Jersey: House Sparrows are year-round residents throughout New Jersey.

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.


18. House Finch

Haemorhous mexicanus

Originally a bird of the West, now found across most of the US. There are other red finches, but these are the common ones most likely in residential areas.


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


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

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 treetops 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: They love sunflower seeds and tube feeders. May eat from thistle socks.

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


19. White-breasted Nuthatch

Sitta carolinensis

A favorite feeder bird for many for its active antics and fearlessness in the backyard. Though a small bird it is the largest nuthatch in North America.


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


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

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. Attract with black oil sunflower seeds in hopper and tray feeders. Suet blocks.


20. Northern Mockingbird

Mimus polyglottos

This common 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.


Photo of Northern Mockingbird on the ground
Northern Mockingbird. Greg Gillson


Range in New Jersey: Northern Mockingbirds are year-round residents throughout New Jersey.

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.


21. 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 odd bird on the lawn could be a woodpecker.


Photo of an intergrade Northern Flicker in a tree
Northern Flicker. Greg Gillson


Range in New Jersey: Northern Flickers are year-round residents throughout New Jersey.

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.


22. Carolina Chickadee

Poecile carolinensis

Chickadees are common feeder birds throughout much of North America. This one is common in backyards in the southeastern United States.


Photo of Carolina Chickadee on bird feeder
Carolina Chickadee. GeorgeB2 from Pixabay


Range in New Jersey: Carolina Chickadees are year-round residents in southern New Jersey, but absent in northern New Jersey.

Identification: 

Size: This small bird is the size of an American Goldfinch. 

Shape: Round body, round head, longer tail. 

Bill: Short, straight, stout. 

Color: Gray above. Paler below. Black cap, white face, black bib.

Habitat, range & behavior: Lower elevation deciduous forests, wooded residential areas. 

This chickadee is a resident in the southeastern US. 

Chickadees cannot chew as sparrows do, so they take one large sunflower seed at a time from your feeder and fly off to a branch to pound it open with their stout bills.

Food and feeder preference: Most of their diet is insects, also seeds. Attract with black oil sunflower seeds from hopper feeders.


23. 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 Jersey: Dark-eyed Juncos are primarily winter visitors throughout New Jersey. Some are year-round residents in extreme northern New Jersey.

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.

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

Breeds across most of Canada, Alaska, and the western half of the United States. Winters from southern Canada and all of the lower 48-states to extreme northern Mexico. 

Spend much of their time hopping and feeding on the ground.

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

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


24. Yellow-rumped Warbler

Setophaga coronata

A common winter visitor to treetops and weedy areas.


Photo of Yellow-rumped Warbler in tree
Yellow-rumped Warbler. Greg Gillson.


Range in New Jersey: Yellow-rumped Warblers are winter visitors throughout New Jersey.

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 halfway up the tree.

Food and feeder preference: Yellow-rumped Warblers eat 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.


25. Barn Swallow

Hirundo rustica

These common 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 Jersey: Barn Swallows are summer residents throughout New Jersey.

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.


26. House Wren

Troglodytes aedon

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


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


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

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.


27. 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 Jersey: Chipping Sparrows are summer residents throughout New Jersey.

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 are more attracted to mixed seeds on the ground under the feeder.


28. 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 backyard birds.


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


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

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.


29. Eastern Kingbird

Tyrannus tyrannus

These birds often build nests in trees that overhang streams. Will be in your backyard if you live on the edge of expansive fields.


Photo of Eastern Kingbird on weed stalk
Eastern Kingbird. Greg Gillson.


Range in New Jersey: Eastern Kingbirds are summer residents throughout New Jersey.

Size: About the size of a Red-winged Blackbird. Smaller than a robin.

Shape: Fairly sleek. Perches upright with big puffy head, full tail.

Bill: Fairly long, wide at base,

Color: Black head. Black tail with white band at tip. Dark gray upper parts. White under parts.

Habitat, range & behavior: Farms, clearings in woodlands.

Found across Canada and in the United States east from the Rocky Mountains.

These birds perch on fence lines, tips of small trees. Sally out and snatch flying insects and return to perch.

Food and feeder preference: They eat insects and do not come to feeders.


30. Brown-headed Cowbird

Molothrus ater

Cowbirds are small blackbirds lay their eggs in the nests of other smaller birds, such as warblers. The adoptive parents raise their young!


Photo of Brown-headed Cowbird on stump
Brown-headed Cowbird. Greg Gillson.


Range in New Jersey: Brown-headed Cowbirds are year-round residents throughout New Jersey.

Identification: 

Size: Larger than White-crowned Sparrows, but smaller than Rose-breasted or Black-headed Grosbeaks. Smaller than other blackbirds, starlings, and grackles.

Shape: Perhaps a little bit pot-bellied. Medium length tail. Flat forehead as typical for blackbirds.

Bill: Rather thick and stout.

Color: Males are glossy black with rich brown head. Females are dusty gray-brown throughout. Long-held juvenile plumage similar to pale female, scaly, being fed by Yellow Warbler or Song Sparrow or a hundred other host species.

Habitat, range & behavior: They are found in woodlands and farms. Also, with other blackbirds in winter at shopping center parking lots.

In summer they breed across Canada and most of the United States and Mexico. In winter they move south out of Canada and occupy both coasts and southeastern States in the US.

These small blackbirds join other flocks of blackbirds in cattle feedlots. You may see cowbirds riding on the backs of cattle, sheep, or horses. They originally rode on the backs of American bison on the Great Plains but expanded when forests were cut.

Food and feeder preference: Cowbirds eat grains, seeds, and insects. They will readily come to hopper and platform feeders. They are larger and more aggressive, so keep other birds from feeders and have a big appetite!


31. Indigo Bunting

Passerina cyanea

Don't mistake Indigo Buntings for the larger Blue Grosbeak. As the name suggests, the grosbeak has a much larger and thicker bill, along with rusty wing bars, lacking in Indigo Buntings.


Photo of Indigo Bunting in tree
Indigo Bunting. Greg Gillson.


Range in New Jersey: Indigo Buntings are summer residents throughout New Jersey.

Identification:

Size: These birds are a bit smaller than a House Sparrow.

Shape: Plump. Large round head. Medium short tail.

Bill: Large and conical.

Color: Males are deep blue. Females are pale gray-brown with diffuse streaks below.

Habitat, range & behavior: Open woodlands and clearings. Country farm roads.

They are found in the East and parts of the Southwest, north to southern Canada.

Sing from the tallest tip of tree or telephone lines, a cheerful paired bouncy song very similar to American Goldfinch. In fact, they are sometimes called "blue goldfinches" because of this!

Food and feeder preference: These birds will eat seeds from hopper feeders, perhaps more so in the late spring when they first arrive during migration.





Common Birds in New Jersey (Lists of most common feeder birds and most common backyard birds by season)


To determine how common each species is I used the data from actual bird sightings from the citizen science program eBird. Birds are listed by frequency. That is, how often the species is recorded on checklists submitted to eBird (a percentage).

When choosing the birds to include in this article I leaned strongly to birds that are present throughout the year in good numbers. Thus, many of the common birds are year-round residents. This means that they live in the same location all year. They raise their young in your neighborhood. They don't migrate. Or if the species does migrate, the ones living in your area don't. If this is the case, some migrants may move into your area during certain times of year, adding to the same species that are in your yard full time.

Some migrant birds visit your yard during the “summer.” Often, they arrive in spring and remain until late fall. They nest and raise their young in your neighborhood. These are the summer residents.

Other migrant birds visit your backyard during the “winter.” Some of these winter visitors may arrive in July and remain into April. Others may only be found in the cold of December or January. They key here is that they nest and raise their young somewhere else. They only visit your yard in the non-breeding season.

Migration is an amazing spectacle. There will be birds that fly through your region in spring or fall (or both). They may visit your backyard only a few days or weeks a year. They aren't regular enough, or stay long enough, to be included in this article. But the number of briefly visiting migrant birds could double the number of species presented here. You may see them over time. Consult checklists in eBird for your county to see what is possible.

I have generally excluded common waterfowl, birds of prey, shorebirds, seabirds, and others that aren't usually found in residential areas. But they may certainly fly over or be seen regularly if your home is on a shoreline, for instance.


Most common backyard birds in New Jersey throughout the year

The following list is the backyard birds that, on average, are most common throughout the entire year. The list is ordered by most common based on the frequency of how often each species is recorded on checklists submitted to eBird.

The most common backyard birds throughout the year in New Jersey, in order, are these:

  1. Northern Cardinal (47% frequency)
  2. Mourning Dove (45%)
  3. American Robin (44%)
  4. Blue Jay (41%)
  5. Song Sparrow (37%)
  6. Red-winged Blackbird (34%)
  7. Red-bellied Woodpecker (32%)
  8. European Starling (31%)
  9. Tufted Titmouse (31%)
  10. American Goldfinch (31%)
  11. Carolina Wren (31%)
  12. American Crow (30%)
  13. Downy Woodpecker (30%)
  14. White-throated Sparrow (26%)
  15. Common Grackle (25%)
  16. Gray Catbird (25%)
  17. House Sparrow (23%)
  18. House Finch (23%)
  19. White-breasted Nuthatch (22%)
  20. Northern Flicker (22%)
  21. Northern Mockingbird (21%)
  22. Carolina Chickadee (19%)
  23. Dark-eyed Junco (18%)
  24. Yellow-rumped Warbler (15%)


Most common backyard birds in New Jersey 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 how often each bird is recorded on checklists submitted to eBird.

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

  1. Northern Cardinal (41% frequency)
  2. White-throated Sparrow (38%)
  3. Dark-eyed Junco (37%)
  4. Mourning Dove (35%)
  5. Blue Jay (33%)
  6. Downy Woodpecker (31%)
  7. Tufted Titmouse (31%)
  8. Song Sparrow (31%)
  9. European Starling (28%)
  10. Red-bellied Woodpecker (28%)
  11. American Crow (27%)
  12. Carolina Wren (26%)
  13. White-breasted Nuthatch (25%)
  14. American Robin (24%)
  15. House Finch (23%)
  16. House Sparrow (21%)
  17. American Goldfinch (20%)

You may enjoy the article: Feeding winter birds in New Jersey


Most common backyard birds in New Jersey in summer

The following list is the backyard birds that are most common in summer. The list is ordered by most common based on the frequency of how often each species is recorded on checklists submitted to eBird.

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

  1. American Robin (60% frequency)
  2. Mourning Dove (55%)
  3. Gray Catbird (54%)
  4. Red-winged Blackbird (51%)
  5. Northern Cardinal (50%)
  6. Song Sparrow (43%)
  7. Common Grackle (40%)
  8. American Goldfinch (39%)
  9. Blue Jay (39%)
  10. Barn Swallow (37%)
  11. European Starling (35%)
  12. House Sparrow (30%)
  13. Carolina Wren (29%)
  14. Red-bellied Woodpecker (28%)
  15. American Crow (27%)
  16. Northern Mockingbird (27%)
  17. Tufted Titmouse (27%)
  18. House Wren (26%)
  19. House Finch (26%)
  20. Downy Woodpecker (25%)
  21. Chipping Sparrow (24%)
  22. Cedar Waxwing (24%)
  23. Eastern Kingbird (22%)
  24. Northern Flicker (21%)
  25. Brown-headed Cowbird (21%)
  26. Indigo Bunting (20%)


How do birds in winter differ from birds in the summer?

Dark-eyed Juncos and White-throated Sparrows are more common in winter than in summer.

Several species are more common in summer than winter. These include American Robins, Gray Catbirds, American Goldfinches, Common Grackles, Barn Swallows, Tree Swallows, Northern Mockingbirds, Chipping Sparrows, Cedar Waxwings, Eastern Kingbirds, and Indigo Buntings.





Common Backyard Birds of Newark, New Jersey


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


The following list uses eBird data to create a list of common backyard birds in Newark. The city of Newark is in Essex County. I will use the data for Essex County to represent the birds of the Newark area.

Here are the most common backyard birds throughout the year in Newark:

  1. American Robin (59% frequency)
  2. Blue Jay (59%)
  3. Mourning Dove (55%)
  4. Northern Cardinal (54%)
  5. House Sparrow (49%)
  6. European Starling (45%)
  7. Red-bellied Woodpecker (40%)
  8. Downy Woodpecker (39%)
  9. Song Sparrow (37%)
  10. Common Grackle (35%)
  11. White-throated Sparrow (33%)
  12. American Goldfinch (32%)
  13. Tufted Titmouse (32%)
  14. White-breasted Nuthatch (30%)
  15. Black-capped Chickadee (29%)
  16. Northern Flicker (27%)
  17. Rock Pigeon (27%) Rock Pigeon in Essex County on eBird
  18. Dark-eyed Junco (26%)
  19. American Crow (26%)
  20. Gray Catbird (26%)
  21. House Finch (25%)
  22. Northern Mockingbird (23%)


The birds of Newark match the birds of New Jersey as a whole, with the following exceptions. 

Black-capped Chickadees, Rock Pigeons and House Sparrows are more common in Newark. 

Carolina Wrens are less common in Newark than in the rest of the state, on average.





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

Feeding winter birds in New Jersey

Red, Orange, & Yellow birds of New Jersey






6 comments:

  1. I noticed a family of song sparrows living in a small space between our porch roof & eve of roof. Usually in the winter I get a 10 lb bag of wild bird seed and each night put about 6 oz cup of seed on the ground in our yard. About 20 to 30 sparrows & a few squirrels eat together each morning. Noticed a slightly larger bird appear & from your list looks most like the Mourning Dove. I live in North Bergen NJ near a large county Park that has large squirrel eating, thick legged, predator birds with large wing spans. Once I actually touched the beak of a precious little green bird, maybe a house parrot that got free. Let me take 3 pictures and got close enough to touch. Love my sparrows. Considered making an apartment of a clear bin with dowels for when we get heavy rain & snow, but they usually shelter in the evergreen trees. I've seen a cardinal or two, a blue jay and flocks of pigeons hang out on the wires & buildings near James J Braddock County Park especially near the dog run where feed has been provided regularly, probably by a visitor. I've also seen woodpeckers from time to time.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for sharing! (I do suspect that the "song sparrows" may be house sparrows--do they have streaked breasts or unstreaked?). What a joyful variety of birds you have!

      Delete
  2. I just started feeder-watching over the last couple weeks and the birds I consistently see are house sparrows, grackles, house finches, cardinals, mourning doves, rock pigeons, redwing blackbirds, brown-headed cowbirds, and lately a downy woodpecker. I appreciate this article as I've been curious whether I will see any different birds as summer rolls in. I live in Somerset County NJ.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What a good start, Julie! Keep watching and you'll see even more!

      You should have titmouses. And goldfinches may show up soon.

      Delete
  3. I was sitting outside in the morning and I saw a large shiny black bird with a very large wing span. It was on the edge of the roof and looking around. It swooped down in front of someones apartment and seemed to be pecking at something. It then went back up to another part of the roof. It seemed to be searching around. It then actually flew around. It had a huge wing span. It soared a bit and went back up on the roof. The wing span was impressively long! What kind of bird might it be? I was thinking maybe a raven? It looked a little like it was going to turn into Count Dracula!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It could be a raven. That probably makes the most sense. They are shiny black in the sun. In most places they are birds of wilderness, but occur in cities in some locations.

      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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