Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Common backyard birds in Alabama (lists, photos, ID)

The most common backyard birds throughout the year in the state of Alabama are these:
  1. Northern Cardinal (61% frequency)
  2. Mourning Dove (49%)
  3. Northern Mockingbird (47%)
  4. Carolina Wren (46%)
  5. Blue Jay (44%)
  6. Red-bellied Woodpecker (38%)
  7. Tufted Titmouse (37%)
  8. Carolina Chickadee (37%)
  9. American Crow (34%)
  10. Eastern Bluebird (29%)
  11. Eastern Towhee (26%)
  12. House Finch (25%)
  13. Downy Woodpecker (25%)
  14. American Robin (23%)
  15. Brown Thrasher (21%)
These birds occur on more than 20% of eBird checklists for the state.


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


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 Birmingham with the birds of the state as a whole.



List of the most common feeder birds and backyard birds in Alabama


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 Alabama in winter (December to February) are these:
Northern Cardinal (58% frequency)
Mourning Dove (45%)
Northern Mockingbird (43%)
Carolina Chickadee (43%)
Carolina Wren (40%)
Blue Jay (38%)
Tufted Titmouse (38%)
American Robin (36%)
Red-bellied Woodpecker (36%)
American Crow (34%)
Yellow-rumped Warbler (33%)
Eastern Bluebird (30%)
American Goldfinch (29%)
House Finch (29%)
White-throated Sparrow (28%)
Downy Woodpecker (27%)
Chipping Sparrow (23%)
Eastern Towhee (22%)
Eastern Phoebe (21%)

The most common backyard birds in Alabama in summer (June to July) are these:
Northern Cardinal (63% frequency)
Mourning Dove (48%)
Carolina Wren (48%)
Northern Mockingbird (43%)
Blue Jay (37%)
Tufted Titmouse (34%)
American Crow (33%)
Indigo Bunting (32%)
Red-bellied Woodpecker (31%)
Eastern Towhee (30%)
Carolina Chickadee (27%)
Eastern Bluebird (24%)
White-eyed Vireo (23%)

How do birds differ between winter and summer?

Carolina Chickadees, American Robins, Yellow-rumped Warblers, American Goldfinches, White-throated Sparrows are more common in winter.

Indigo Buntings, White-eyed Vireos are more common in summer.



Photos and ID of the most common backyard birds in Alabama


Photo of Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal
Image by GeorgeB2 from Pixaby
1. Northern Cardinal (61%)
Cardinalis cardinalis
This is one of the most common and popular backyard birds in the eastern half of the United States.
Identification: Size: Cardinals are a bit smaller than American Robins, about the same size as Red-winged Blackbirds. Shape: Plump body with fairly long full tail. Wispy crest. Bill: Short, heavy, conical, pink. Color: That bright red color is matched by few other birds. Black face. The female is more gray, but with hints of red in wings and tail, and has a crest, too. Habitat, range & behavior: Cardinals are year-round residents in shrubby woodland edges from the eastern United States to Texas and Arizona south into Mexico. That large conical bill is made for chewing seeds. Watch them crack open sunflower seeds, spit out the hulls, and pluck the kernel with their tongues! Food and feeder preference: Black oil sunflower seeds. Many types of seeds, berries, nuts in larger hopper or tray feeders.

Photo of Mourning Dove in a tree
Mourning Dove
Photo by Greg Gillson
2. Mourning Dove (49%)
Zenaida macroura
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 Northern Mockingbird on the ground
Northern Mockingbird
Photo by Greg Gillson
3. Northern Mockingbird (47%)
Mimus polyglottos
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 Carolina Wren
Carolina Wren
Image by theSOARnet from Pixabay
4. Carolina Wren (46%)
Thryothorus ludovicianus
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 Jay enjoying a bath
Blue Jay
Image by skeeze from Pixabay
5. Blue Jay (44%)
Cyanocitta cristata
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 Red-bellied Woodpecker climbing a tree
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Image by skeeze from Pixabay
6. Red-bellied Woodpecker (38%)
Melanerpes carolinus
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 Tufted Titmouse in feeder
Tufted Titmouse
Image by anne773 from Pixabay
7. Tufted Titmouse (37%)
Baeolophus bicolor
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 Carolina Chickadee on bird feeder
Carolina Chickadee
Image by GeorgeB2 from Pixabay
8. Carolina Chickadee (37%)
Poecile carolinensis
Chickadees are common feeder birds throughout much of North America. This one is common in the southeastern United Sates.
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 American Crow
American Crow
Photo by Greg Gillson
9. American Crow (34%)
Corvus brachyrhynchos
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 an Eastern Bluebird on a nest box
Eastern Bluebird
Image by skeeze from Pixabay
10. Eastern Bluebird (29%)
Sialia sialis
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 Eastern Towhee in a tree
Eastern Towhee
Image by skeeze from Pixabay
11. Eastern Towhee (26%)
Pipilo erythrophthalmus
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 a House Finch in a bird bath
House Finch in bird bath
Photo by Greg Gillson
12. House Finch (25%)
Haemorhous mexicanus
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.

Photo of Downy Woodpecker on suet block
Downy Woodpecker
Photo by Greg Gillson
13. Downy Woodpecker (25%)
Dryobates pubescens
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 American Robin
American Robin
Photo by Greg Gillson
14. American Robin (23%)
Turdus migratorius
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 Brown Thrasher on a fence
Brown Thrasher
Photo by Linda Jones Creative Commons (CC0)
15. Brown Thrasher (21%) 
Toxostoma rufum
This excellent songster delivers its varies songs from a tall perch. Otherwise it hides in dense tangles.
Identification: Size: The size of an American Robin or larger, approaching a Mourning Dove in length. Shape: Long. Pot belly. Large head. Long ample tail. Long legs. Bill: Slender, fairly long, slightly curved. Color: Rusty above, with rusty streaks on creamy under parts. Yellow eye. Two white wing bars. Habitat, range & behavior: Woodland, edges, dense thickets, farms. Resident in the southeastern US. In summer breeds north to southern Canada. Forages on ground. Flees to dense cover at first sign of danger. Food and feeder preference: Half of its diet is insects and invertebrates. Also eats fruit and nuts, including acorns. Attract to your backyard with dense berry-producing shrubs. They may clean up spilled seeds on the ground under the feeder.



Other common birds you might see from your backyard in Alabama


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 Alabama birds in winter (December to February):
Red-winged Blackbird (24% frequency)
Great Blue Heron (22%)

Watch for these additional common Alabama birds in summer (June to July):
Barn Swallow (19% frequency)
Great Blue Heron (18%)
Red-winged Blackbird (18%)

Watch for these additional common Alabama birds in spring (April to May):
Great Crested Flycatcher (28% frequency)
Red-winged Blackbird (27%)
Common Grackle (24%)
Brown-headed Cowbird (24%)
Barn Swallow (23%)
Red-eyed Vireo (23%)
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (22%)
Great Blue Heron (21%)
Summer Tanager (20%)
European Starling (20%)



Comparison of the most common backyard birds in Birmingham, Alabama


Photo of White-breasted Nuthatch crawling down tree trunk
White-breasted Nuthatch is a common bird in Birmingham, Alabama.
The following list uses eBird data to compare the birds of Birmingham with the birds of the state as a whole. Birmingham is in Jefferson County. I will use the data for Jefferson County to represent the birds in the Birmingham area.

Here are the most common backyard birds throughout the year in Birmingham.
Northern Cardinal (71% frequency)
Carolina Chickadee (55%)
Carolina Wren (54%)
Tufted Titmouse (53%)
Mourning Dove (48%)
American Crow (47%)
Eastern Towhee (46%)
Downy Woodpecker (43%)
Northern Mockingbird (43%)
American Robin (41%)
Red-bellied Woodpecker (41%)
Blue Jay (41%)
House Finch (39%)
White-breasted Nuthatch (37%)
Eastern Bluebird (31%)
Eastern Phoebe (28%)
Brown Thrasher (27%)
American Goldfinch (27%)
Pine Warbler (25%)
Yellow-rumped Warbler (22%)
White-throated Sparrow (20%)

Northern Cardinals, Carolina Chickadees, Tufted Titmouses, American Crows, Eastern Towhees, Downy Woodpeckers, American Robins, House Finches, White-breasted Nuthaches are more common in Birmingham than in the state as a whole.



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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