Tuesday, October 29, 2019

26 Backyard Birds to Know | Alabama

[2022 Rewrite]

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

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 Alabama:

  1. Northern Cardinal
  2. Mourning Dove
  3. Northern Mockingbird
  4. Carolina Wren
  5. Blue Jay
  6. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  7. Tufted Titmouse
  8. Carolina Chickadee
  9. American Crow
  10. Eastern Bluebird
  11. Eastern Towhee
  12. House Finch
  13. Downy Woodpecker
  14. American Robin
  15. Red-winged Blackbird
  16. Brown Thrasher
  17. Eastern Phoebe
  18. Yellow-rumped Warbler
  19. Chipping Sparrow
  20. American Goldfinch
  21. Pine Warbler
  22. European Starling
  23. Common Grackle
  24. White-throated Sparrow
  25. Indigo Bunting
  26. White-eyed Vireo




What's in this article?

  • State overview of birds and bird watching in Alabama
  • Photos and identification of common backyard birds
  • Most common birds by season
  • Common birds of Birmingham, Madison, Mobile, Montgomery, Alabama



Alabama Birds and Birding in Alabama State


eBird lists over 455 types of birds as occurring in the state of Alabama.

The most common bird in Alabama: the most frequently seen bird in the state is Northern Cardinal. It is reported on 61% of bird watching lists.

The official State Bird of Alabama is Northern Flicker.

If you are serious about knowing the birds native to Alabama, then check out eBird for Alabama. 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 Alabama:

Red, Orange, & Yellow Birds of Alabama

Feeding Winter Birds in Alabama





Alabama Bird Identification (Pictures of backyard birds of Alabama)


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 an image. 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 images (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 North Alabama? South Alabama? Central Alabama? Northeast or Southeast Alabama? To appear in this article, most birds are widely distributed throughout the state and are often year-round residents. In fact, the common birds in backyards in Alabama are similar to other states in the Southeast. 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 Alabama: Northern Cardinals are year-round residents throughout Alabama.

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 grayer, 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: 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 Alabama: Mourning Doves are year-round residents throughout Alabama.

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.


3. Northern Mockingbird

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.


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


Range in Alabama: Northern Mockingbirds are year-round residents throughout Albama.

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.


4. 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 Alabama: Carolina Wrens are year-round residents throughout Alabama.

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.


5. Blue Jay

Cyanocitta cristata

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


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


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

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.

Found 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.


6. 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 Alabama: Red-bellied Woodpeckers are year-round residents throughout Alabama.

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.


7. Tufted Titmouse

Baeolophus bicolor

Related to chickadees, they lack the black bib, but have a crest instead.


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


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

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.


8. Carolina Chickadee

Poecile carolinensis

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


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


Range in Alabama: Carolina Chickadees are year-round residents throughout Alabama.

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.


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 Alabama: American Crows are year-round residents throughout Alabama.

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. Eastern Bluebird

Sialia sialis

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


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


Range in Alabama: Eastern Bluebirds are year-round residents throughout Alabama.

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.


11. Eastern Towhee

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.


Photo of Eastern Towhee in a tree
Eastern Towhee. skeeze from Pixabay.


Range in Alabama: Eastern Towhees are year-round residents throughout Alabama.

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.


12. 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 ones most likely in residential areas.


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


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

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.


13. Downy Woodpecker

Dryobates pubescens

This tiny woodpecker is found across the United States.


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


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

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.


14. American Robin

Turdus migratorius

This familiar bird is a resident 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 Alabama: American Robins are year-round residents throughout Alabama.

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.


15. 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 Alabama: Red-winged Blackbirds are year-round residents in Alabama.

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.


16. Brown Thrasher 

Toxostoma rufum

This excellent songster delivers its varied songs from a tall perch. Otherwise, it hides in dense tangles.


Photo of Brown Thrasher on a fence
Brown Thrasher. Linda Jones Creative Commons (CC0)


Range in Alabama: Brown Thrashers are year-round residents throughout Alabama.

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.


17. Eastern Phoebe

Sayornis phoebe

This plain bird is common in backyards in the East.


Photo of Eastern Phoebe on branch
Eastern Phoebe. Greg Gillson.


Range in Alabama: Eastern Phoebes are year-round residents throughout most of Alabama, winter visitors only in southwestern Alabama.

Identification:

Size: About the size of bluebirds. Larger than House Sparrows. 

Shape: Rather stout, with long wings, medium-length tail. Pointed but flat bill. Upright posture.

Bill: Black, pointed, wide and flat.

Color: Brownish-gray above, slightly yellow-olive on sides. White under tail coverts. No eye ring or wing bars help distinguish them from some other flycatchers.

Habitat, range & behavior: Found in woodlands, suburbs, farms. Frequently nest in rafters, under eaves, porches.

They are summer residents east of the Rocky Mountains from Canada southward. Year-round residents through the interior of the Southeast, to Texas. Winter visitor to Gulf Coast and southern Atlantic.

Phoebes pump their tail down. They also frequently spread their tails.

Food and feeder preference: They eat flying insects that they catch on the wing. Not a feeder visitor.


18. Yellow-rumped Warbler

Setophaga coronata

An abundant winter visitor in the southern United States to treetops and weedy areas.


Photo of Yellow-rumped Warbler on tree branch.
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle). Greg Gillson.


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

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: 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.


19. 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 Alabama: Chipping Sparrows are summer residents throughout Alabama.

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 more likely will feed on mixed seeds on the ground under the feeder.


20. American Goldfinch

Spinus tristis

A beautiful tiny finch familiar to many in its bright yellow summer plumage. Colloquially called a "wild canary."


Photo of American Goldfinch
American Goldfinch. Greg Gillson


Range in Alabama: American Goldfinches are year-round residents in northern Alabama, winter visitors in southern Alabama.

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 are 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.


21. Pine Warbler

Setophaga pinus

These well-named birds are residents in the Southeast and early spring migrants in the East.


Photo of Pine Warbler on deck railing
Pine Warbler. Nikolaus Schultz from Pixabay.


Range in Alabama: Pine Warblers are year-round residents throughout Alabama.

Identification:

Size: A smaller bird, a little longer than a goldfinch.

Shape: These birds have a typical warbler shape, compact with a longer tail.

Bill: Fairly long, sharply pointed.

Color: These are kind of a dull yellowish-green on the head and back. The breast is more yellowish, especially in males. There are some dull greenish streaks on the breast. The wings and tail are rather gray, with two bold white wing bars. The under tail covert and lower belly is white.

Habitat, range & behavior: Almost always found in pines.

Year-round resident in the Southeast; summer resident in the eastern United States northward to southernmost Canada.

Tend to stay high in the pines, where often detected by their dry trilled song.

Food and feeder preference: Usually insects. However, these are one of the few warblers to eat seeds. They will feed on millet and sunflower seeds at hopper feeders. Also eat suet.


22. 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 Alabama: European Starlings are year-round residents throughout Alabama.

Identification: 

Size: About the size of a Red-winged Blackbird. Smaller than an American Robin. Larger than a White-crowned Sparrow or Spotted/Eastern towhee. 

Shape: Stocky with large head, short square-ended tail. Longer legs. 

Bill: As long as head. Sharp pointed. Yellow in spring, otherwise dark. 

Color: They are grayish brown much of the year, with glossy iridescence and white spotting during the spring.

Habitat, range & behavior: Lowland birds that need trees large enough for nest cavities but plenty of open area for feeding. They are most abundant in urban and suburban areas where they find food and artificial nest cavities. 

Resident from coast-to-coast from southern Canada to northern Mexico. In summer north across Canada and Alaska. Native range is Europe to Pakistan, north Africa. 

Often viewed as a pest, starlings often bully other backyard birds, taking over bird feeders, and stealing nest cavities from smaller native birds. 

In winter they can form into flocks of tens of thousands.

Food and feeder preference: European Starlings eat 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.


23. Common Grackle

Quiscalus quiscula

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


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


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

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.


24. White-throated Sparrow

Zonotrichia albicollis

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


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


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

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.


25. 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 Alabama: Indigo Buntings are summer residents throughout Alabama.

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.


26. White-eyed Vireo

Vireo griseus

Vireos are rather sluggish compared to other forest birds like warblers. They may be hard to see as they move slowly through the foliage.


White-eyed Vireo Chuck Homler CC 3.0
White-eyed Vireo. Chuck Homler CC 3.0


Range in Alabama: White-eyed Vireos are summer residents in northern Alabama, year-round residents in southern Alabama.

Identification:

Size: About the size of an American Goldfinch or chickadee. Smaller than a Dark-eyed Junco.

Shape: Fairly chunky. Large head. Medium tail that sticks straight out behind.

Bill: Short, but stout and hooked at the tip.

Color: Mostly gray-olive above. White below, with yellow tint on sides and flanks. Yellow spectacles. Two white wing bars.

Habitat, range & behavior: Found in scrubby habitats, forest edges, mangroves.

Year-round resident in coastal Southeast. Summer resident more extensively northward in the Eastern US.

Like other vireos, White-eyed Vireos sing throughout the heat of day in summer, when most other birds are quiet.

Food and feeder preference:  They eat primarily insects, but also small fruits and berries in fall and winter. They are not attracted to bird feeders.





Common Birds in Alabama (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 Alabama throughout the year


The following list is the backyard birds that are, on average, 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 the state of Alabama, in order, 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. Red-winged Blackbird (22%)
  16. Brown Thrasher (21%)
  17. Eastern Phoebe (19%)
  18. Yellow-rumped Warbler (18%)
  19. Chipping Sparrow (17%)
  20. American Goldfinch (17%)
  21. Pine Warbler (17%)
  22. European Starling (15%)
  23. Common Grackle (14%)



Most common backyard birds in Alabama 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 species is recorded on checklists submitted to eBird.


The most common backyard birds in Alabama in winter (December through February) are these:

  1. Northern Cardinal (58% frequency)
  2. Mourning Dove (45%)
  3. Northern Mockingbird (43%)
  4. Carolina Chickadee (43%)
  5. Carolina Wren (40%)
  6. Blue Jay (38%)
  7. Tufted Titmouse (38%)
  8. American Robin (36%)
  9. Red-bellied Woodpecker (36%)
  10. American Crow (34%)
  11. Yellow-rumped Warbler (33%)
  12. Eastern Bluebird (30%)
  13. American Goldfinch (29%)
  14. House Finch (29%)
  15. White-throated Sparrow (28%)
  16. Downy Woodpecker (27%)
  17. Red-winged Blackbird (24%)
  18. Chipping Sparrow (23%)
  19. Eastern Towhee (22%)
  20. Eastern Phoebe (21%)



Most common backyard birds in Alabama in summer


The following list is the backyard birds that are most common in summer (June and July). 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 Alabama in summer (June and July) are these:

  1. Northern Cardinal (63% frequency)
  2. Mourning Dove (48%)
  3. Carolina Wren (48%)
  4. Northern Mockingbird (43%)
  5. Blue Jay (37%)
  6. Tufted Titmouse (34%)
  7. American Crow (33%)
  8. Indigo Bunting (32%)
  9. Red-bellied Woodpecker (31%)
  10. Eastern Towhee (30%)
  11. Carolina Chickadee (27%)
  12. Eastern Bluebird (24%)
  13. 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.





Common Backyard Birds of Birmingham, Alabama


Photo of White-breasted Nuthatch crawling down tree trunk
White-breasted Nuthatch. Greg Gillson.


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


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

  1. Northern Cardinal (71% frequency)
  2. Carolina Chickadee (55%)
  3. Carolina Wren (54%)
  4. Tufted Titmouse (53%)
  5. Mourning Dove (48%)
  6. American Crow (47%)
  7. Eastern Towhee (46%)
  8. Downy Woodpecker (43%)
  9. Northern Mockingbird (43%)
  10. American Robin (41%)
  11. Red-bellied Woodpecker (41%)
  12. Blue Jay (41%)
  13. House Finch (39%)
  14. White-breasted Nuthatch (37%)  Learn about this species on eBird
  15. Eastern Bluebird (31%)
  16. Eastern Phoebe (28%)
  17. Brown Thrasher (27%)
  18. American Goldfinch (27%)
  19. Pine Warbler (25%)
  20. Yellow-rumped Warbler (22%)
  21. White-throated Sparrow (20%)



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

White-breasted Nuthatches are only found in northern Alabama.





Common Backyard Birds of Madison and Huntsville, Alabama


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

The common backyard birds of Huntsville are similar to nearby Madison.


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

  1. Northern Cardinal (66% frequency)
  2. Blue Jay (57%)
  3. Mourning Dove (53%)
  4. Carolina Chickadee (53%)
  5. American Robin (51%)
  6. Carolina Wren (51%)
  7. Tufted Titmouse (51%)
  8. Northern Mockingbird (47%)
  9. House Finch (46%)
  10. Red-bellied Woodpecker (41%)
  11. Downy Woodpecker (40%)
  12. American Crow (31%)
  13. White-breasted Nuthatch (28%)  Learn about this species on eBird
  14. American Goldfinch (28%)
  15. Eastern Bluebird (27%)
  16. European Starling (23%)
  17. Brown Thrasher (23%)
  18. Eastern Towhee (22%)


Blue Jays, Tufted Titmice, Carolina Chickadees, House Finches, Downy Woodpeckers, American Goldfinches, and White-breasted Nuthatches are more common in Madison than the state average.





Common Backyard Birds of Montgomery, Alabama


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


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

  1. Northern Cardinal (72% frequency)
  2. Northern Mockingbird (55%)
  3. Blue Jay (46%)
  4. Carolina Wren (42%)
  5. Mourning Dove (41%)
  6. American Robin (36%)
  7. House Finch (34%)
  8. Red-bellied Woodpecker (30%)
  9. Eastern Bluebird (27%)
  10. Carolina Chickadee (25%)
  11. Tufted Titmouse (23%)
  12. Red-winged Blackbird (22%)
  13. Brown Thrasher (22%)
  14. Yellow-rumped Warbler (21%)
  15. House Sparrow (20%)  Learn about this species on eBird


Northern Cardinals, House Finches, American Robins are more common in Montgomery than in the state as a whole, on average.

Mourning Doves, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Tufted Titmice, Carolina Chickadees, American Crows are a bit less common in Montgomery than the state average.





Common Backyard Birds of Mobile & Gulf Shores, Alabama


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

The common backyard birds of Gulf Shores are similar to those in Mobile.


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

  1. Northern Mockingbird (50% frequency)
  2. Mourning Dove (45%)
  3. Northern Cardinal (43%)
  4. Blue Jay (41%)
  5. Red-winged Blackbird (35%)
  6. Carolina Wren (31%)
  7. Red-bellied Woodpecker (30%)
  8. European Starling (23%)
  9. Brown Thrasher (21%)
  10. Barn Swallow (20%)  Learn about this species on eBird
  11. Yellow-rumped Warbler (20%)



Northern Cardinals, Carolina Wrens, Tufted Titmice, Carolina Chickadees, American Crows, Eastern Bluebirds, Eastern Towhees are less common in Mobile than in the rest of the state, on average.

This is made up for, somewhat, by having Brown Pelicans, Laughing Gulls, and Great Blue Herons as quite common in the area, depending upon how far you are from the beach.




Related

Red, Orange, & Yellow Birds of Alabama

Feeding Winter Birds in Alabama

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







12 comments:

  1. This website had all the info I was looking for. Thanks for all your work.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, I'm so glad this was helpful to you. Thank you for taking the time to give me feedback.

      Delete
  2. How about a checklist? Idk how much work that would involve but a north Alabama checklist where people could check the ones they see?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good idea!

      The subheading "Beyond your backyard" tells you exactly how to make a printable checklist for all the birds in any area you define, down to the size of your county or hotspots (parks, etc.) near you.

      Delete
  3. Thanks for helping me identify the Carolina Wren that built a nest in my Swedish Ivy hanging basket on front porch. She laid 5 eggs and 4 hatched. I had to be careful watering my plant so I took it down every 2 days so I could be sure i didn't pour water on nest. Mother bird fussed a lot at first but figured out I meant no harm. One day I started to take basket down to water and all the babies except one that hatched one week later flew out, the mother flew out also. I was shocked, is it normal not to see fledglings practice flying but she fly out of nest all at same time? Next day, the other one had flown away. I have watched daily for a sign of them in yard, but Nothing? Is this common as I have been an avid bird watcher and I thought the babies would be out on ground or bushes practicing before taking flight, please help me out here, Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Wow, that's great that the birds fledged so quickly. Keep a look out (and an ear). You may see or hear those noisy fledglings begging food even after leaving the nest.

    You know, each species is a bit different as to how ready they are for independent life after leaving the nest. I would expect flight to take some learning. But there is certainly an element of instinctive knowledge, obviously, in your wrens!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Wonderful article Greg, can't thank you enough. You will be my go-to chap.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Very informative and helpful,perfect!

    ReplyDelete

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--

Legal Disclosure
As an Amazon Associate I earn commissions from qualifying purchases.

Legal disclosure

As an Amazon Associate I earn commissions from qualifying purchases. Thank you for your support.

Featured Post

Best budget birding binoculars: Celestron Nature DX ED

My review: Celestron Nature DX ED binoculars for birding Is the Celestron Nature DX ED 8x42 binocular any good for bird watching? My perso...