Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Common backyard birds in North Carolina (lists, photos, ID)

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

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

The most common backyard birds throughout the year in the state of North Carolina are these:

  1. Northern Cardinal (59% frequency)
  2. Carolina Wren (52%)
  3. Carolina Chickadee (51%)
  4. Tufted Titmouse (46%)
  5. American Crow (45%)
  6. Mourning Dove (42%)
  7. Red-bellied Woodpecker (38%)
  8. Blue Jay (37%)
  9. American Robin (34%)
  10. Eastern Towhee (33%)
  11. Eastern Bluebird (32%)
  12. Northern Mockingbird (31%)
  13. American Goldfinch (31%)
  14. Downy Woodpecker (31%)
  15. House Finch (26%)
  16. Song Sparrow (25%)
  17. White-breasted Nuthatch (22%)
  18. White-throated Sparrow (21%)
  19. Yellow-rumped Warbler (20%)
These birds occur on more than 20% of eBird checklists for the state.

In this article
Lists of the most common backyard birds in North Carolina
Photos and ID of the most common backyard birds in North Carolina
Other birds you might see from your backyard in North Carolina
Comparison of the most common backyard birds in Charlotte, North Carolina
Beyond your backyard

This page lists the most common backyard birds as determined by actual bird sightings reported to the citizen science birding program, eBird

These birds are ranked according to frequency--the percentage of all bird checklists on which a species occurs. Below I list common backyard birds in winter and summer.

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

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

I conclude with a list comparing the birds of Charlotte, North Carolina with the birds of the state as a whole.

Lists of the most common feeder birds and backyard birds in North Carolina

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

Many birds are migratory or otherwise vary in abundance between seasons. So the next two lists are the common birds ranked in winter and then in summer.

The most common backyard birds in North Carolina in winter (December to February) are these:
Northern Carinal (55% frequency)
Carolina Chickadee (54%)
Carolina Wren (49%)
Tufted Titmouse (47%)
American Crow (41%)
Mourning Dove (38%)
Red-bellied Woodpecker (38%)
White-throated Sparrow (35%)
Dark-eyed Junco (33%)
Downy Woodpecker (32%)
Eastern Bluebird (32%)
Blue Jay (31%)
Song Sparrow (31%)
American Goldfinch (30%)
American Robin (30%)
Yellow-rumped Warbler (30%)
Northern Mockingbird (29%)
House Finch (28%)
Eastern Towhee (25%)
White-breasted Nuthatch (24%)

Feeding winter birds in North Carolina

The most common backyard birds in North Carolina in summer (June to July) are these:
Northern Cardinal (59% frequency)
Carolina Wren (50%)
Mourning Dove (47%)
Carolina Chickadee (41%)
American Crow (40%)
Tufted Titmouse (39%)
Eastern Towhee (37%)
American Robin (34%)
Northern Mockingbird (33%)
Blue Jay (32%)
American Goldfinch (30%)
Red-bellied Woodpecker (30%)
Eastern Bluebird (28%)
House Finch (26%)
Indigo Bunting (26%)
Downy Woodpecker (23%)
Common Grackle (23%)
Ruby-throated Hummingbird (22%)
Barn Swallow (22%)
Chipping Sparrow (21%)
Gray Catbird (20%)
Chimney Swift (20%)

How do birds in winter differ from birds in summer?

Carolina Chickadees, White-throated Sparrows, Dark-eyed Juncos, Song Sparrows, Yellow-rumped Warblers are more common in winter than in summer.

Indigo Buntings, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, Barn Swallows, Gray Catbirds, Chimney Swifts are more common in summer than in winter.

Photos and ID of the most common backyard birds in North Carolina

Photo of Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal
Image by GeorgeB2 from Pixaby

1. Northern Cardinal (59% frequency)

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 Carolina Wren
Carolina Wren
Image by theSOARnet from Pixabay

2. Carolina Wren (52%)

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 Carolina Chickadee on bird feeder
Carolina Chickadee
Image by GeorgeB2 from Pixabay

3. Carolina Chickadee (51%)

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

Identification: Size: This small bid 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. They will eat black oil sunflower seeds from hopper feeders.

Photo of Tufted Titmouse in feeder
Tufted Titmouse
Image by anne773 from Pixabay

4. Tufted Titmouse (46%)

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. 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 they like black oil sunflower seeds and suet.

Photo of American Crow
American Crow
Photo by Greg Gillson

5. American Crow (45%)

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 Mourning Dove in a tree
Mourning Dove
Photo by Greg Gillson

6. 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

7. Red-bellied Woodpecker (38%)

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 Blue Jay enjoying a bath
Blue Jay
Image by skeeze from Pixabay

8. Blue Jay (37%)

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 collar. White patches in wing.

Habitat, range & behavior: Woodlands and towns in the eastern half of the United States. In summer into southern Canada. Bold and brash. May bully smaller birds. Jays gulp lots of seeds or other food at once, storing it in their crop. Then they fly off and bury food items in a hidden cache.

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

Photo of American Robin
American Robin
Photo by Greg Gillson

9. American Robin (34%)

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 Eastern Towhee in a tree
Eastern Towhee
Image by skeeze from Pixabay

10. Eastern Towhee (33%)

This big ground-dwelling sparrow was recently split from Rufous-sided Towhee, creating the Eastern Towhee in the East and the Spotted Towhee in the West.

Identification: Size: About the length of a White-crowned Sparrow; larger than a House Finch, smaller than a Starling or Red-winged blackbird. Shape: Rather bulky compared to other sparrows, large head, long rounded tail. Bill: Short, conical. Color: Blackish above, rusty sides, white belly. Females paler and browner. White tail corners. White wing patch.

Habitat, range & behavior: They live in brushy areas, hedges, woodland edges. Found in the eastern United States. Resident in SE US, in summer the move north to the border with Canada. They rummage around in leaf litter under thick bushes, kicking and scratching the ground with both feet at once.

Food and feeder preference: Eat mostly insects and invertebrates in summer, adding berries, fruits, and especially seeds in winter. At your feeder they will visit a hopper feeder, but may prefer a wide platform feeder. They may more often feed on the ground under the feeder.

Photo of an Eastern Bluebird on a nest box
Eastern Bluebird
Image by skeeze from Pixabay

11. Eastern Bluebird (32%)

A beloved bird of open fields with trees and fence lines for perching.

Identification: Size: Larger than House Finches. Much smaller than starlings. About length of White-crowned Sparrow but differently proportioned. Shape: Chunky, large head, short tail. Bill: Straight, fairly slender, curved at tip. Color: Males are brilliant blue above (including wings and tail), rusty orange below with white belly and under tail. Females are often much paler, almost grayish.

Habitat, range & behavior: Found in pasture, fields, golf courses, open woodland edges. They are resident in most of eastern US, highlands of Middle America. In summer reach northernmost eastern US and southernmost eastern Canada, withdrawing somewhat in winter. They readily use nest boxes, but the entrance hole must be smaller than the head of a starling, and without a perch.

Food and feeder preference: They eat flying insects primarily, but also other invertebrates and berries. They will eat mealworms at your feeder and frequent birdbaths.

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

12. Northern Mockingbird (31%)

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 American Goldfinch
American Goldfinch
Photo by Greg Gillson

13. American Goldfinch (31%)

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."

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

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

14. Downy Woodpecker (31%)

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 a House Finch in a bird bath
House Finch in bird bath
Photo by Greg Gillson

15. House Finch (26%)

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

Identification: This is a key species for comparing with an unknown bird. Size: About 6 inches from bill tip to tail tip. Larger than goldfinches and chickadees. Smaller than a White-crowned Sparrows or Spotted/Eastern towhees. Shape: Medium build with a medium-long notched tail. Round head. Bill: Short, conical. Color: Brown and gray above with streaks on the sides of the pale underparts. Males with red (sometimes orange or rarely yellow) crown, chest, rump.

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

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

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

Food and feeder preference: They love sunflower seeds and tube feeders. May eat from thistle socks.
You may like my in-depth article on attracting House Finches.

Photo of Song Sparrow in bush
Song Sparrow
Photo by Greg Gillson

16. Song Sparrow (25%)

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

17. White-breasted Nuthatch (22%)

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 White-throated Sparrow on birdbath
White-throated Sparrow
Photo by Greg Gillson

18. White-throated Sparrow (21%)

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

Identification: Size: Similar in size to White-crowned Sparrow. Bigger than a House Finch; smaller than a starling. Shape: Longer body. Round head on short neck. Long tail with notched tip. Bill: Short. conical. Color: Striped tan and brown above, pale gray below. White-striped form with black and white head stripes. Tan-striped form with tan and brown striped head. First year birds are similar to tan-stiped adults, but streakier overall. Yellow spot between eyebrow and bill. White throat strongly offset from gray breast and face.

Habitat, range & behavior: Found in forests, brush, and open woodland edges. Breeds across Canada and northernmost Eastern United States. Winters in the eastern US, southern central US, and rare but regular along the West Coast. Found in small flocks on ground near brush into which they can flee. Kick up leaves to search under for food.

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

Photo of winter plumage Yellow-rumped Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Photo by Greg Gillson

19. 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.

Other common birds you might see from your backyard in North Carolina

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

Watch for these additional common North Carolina birds in winter (December to February):
Turkey Vulture (21% frequency)
Canada Goose (21%)
Ring-billed Gull (18%)
Brown-headed Nuthatch (18%)

Watch for these additional common North Carolina birds in summer (June to July):
Brown Thrasher (19% frequency)
Red-eyed Vireo (18%)
Red-winged Blackbird (17%)
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (17%)

Watch for these additional common North Carolina birds in spring (April to May):
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (30% frequency)
Canada Goose (26%)
Turkey Vulture (25%)
Brown-headed Cowbird (25%)
Brown Thrasher (23%)
Red-eyed Vireo (23%)
European Starling (22%)
Red-winged Blackbird (22%)
Gray Catbird (20%)
Pine Warbler (20%)
Chimney Swift (19%)
Barn Swallow (19%)
Common Yellowthroat (19%)
Great Crested Flycatcher (18%)
Northern Parula (17%)
Fish Crow (17%)

Comparison of the most common backyard birds in Charlotte, North Carolina

Photo of Brown Thrasher on a chain link fence
Brown Thrasher is a common bird in Charlotte.
Linda Jones. Creative Commons (CC0).

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

Here are the most common backyard birds throughout the year in Charlotte:
Northern Cardinal (72% frequency)
Carolina Wren (62%)
Carolina Chickadee (61%)
Tufted Titmouse (50%)
Red-bellied Woodpecker (48%)
American Robin (48%)
Mourning Dove (47%)
Northern Mockingbird (45%)
Downy Woodpecker (43%)
American Crow (42%)
Eastern Towhee (42%)
Eastern Bluebird (41%)
House Finch (41%)
American Goldfinch (37%)
Blue Jay (36%)
White-throated Sparrow (32%)
Brown Thrasher (30%)
Eastern Phoebe (29%)
Yellow-rumped Warbler (28%)
Brown-headed Nuthatch (27%)
Song Sparrow (25%)
Common Grackle (24%)
European Starling (23%)
Pine Warbler (22%)

Interestingly, the backyard birds in Charlotte are generally the same birds as the state as a whole. However, they are more common. Compare the Cardinal at 72% in Charlotte with 59% for the state as a whole. It's that way all the way down the list for most birds.

Charlotte also has some common birds that are a lot less common in the state as a whole. So these are more common locally: Brown Thrasher, Eastern Phoebe, Brown-headed Nuthatch, European Starling, Pine Warbler.

There is one bird that is more common in North Carolina as a whole than in Charlotte. That is White-breasted Nuthatch.

Beyond your backyard

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

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

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

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

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

Explore Regions for birds in your own county

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

Now your County page pops up.

There are 100 counties in North Carolina. There are bird lists for each county. The county with the most birds recorded is Dare County with 427 species. The county with the least birds recorded is Greene County with 134 species.

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

1. Printable Checklist

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

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

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

2. Bar Charts

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

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

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

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

3. Hotspots

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

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

You may also like my eBird tutorial with illustrations.

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

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

Next: Backyard birds of North Dakota

Feeding winter birds in North Carolina

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

Learn how the experts identify birds: 7 Steps to accurately identify birds

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


  1. This was a nice resource for a new birder! Thank you!

    1. I'm so glad you found this useful, CW! Thanks for commenting.

  2. This was so straightforward and easy. Thanks for the lists and pictures. Could you provide me a link for pdfs for bar charts and checklists please? Thank you again!

    1. Glad this was useful, Sharon.

      Bar charts and checklists are created in eBird with actual data, including anything added within about the last 24 hours.

      Go to eBird.org

      The last section of this article on Common Birds in North Carolina describes how to do it.

  3. I have a small brown tanisha bird that has made a nest in my living room on top of my shelves..there is no eggs yet...but she fits three my window during morning hours and late afternoon.. she does not seem to be bothered by me at all while I'm cleaning...I'm thinking by the pics I have seen it's either a brown thrasher or a wren..I live in eastern nc..in the country side...I dnt mind her at all..but I just wanted to know your opinion on what type of bird it maybe .her nest is made of mostly pine straw but she does have the white stuffing out of my dog's toy in her nest to..!!!!

    1. In your living room?

      Sounds like possibly a Carolina Wren. The thrasher is much larger.

  4. Thank you for this wonderful list!

  5. Thank you for this wonderful list!

  6. Thank you for this wonderful list!

  7. Your list is so comprehensive and is so helpful for identifying the birds coming to my new birdfeeders! Thanks so much!

  8. Super helpful and insightful page. This helped me identify a Brown Thrasher family - thank you!

  9. This was great! Helped me identify and confirm a couple that I was questioning (piedmont of NC).


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?


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