Tuesday, November 5, 2019

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

The most common backyard birds throughout the year in the state of Arkansas are these:
  1. Northern Cardinal (61% frequency)
  2. Blue Jay (51%)
  3. American Crow (47%)
  4. Carolina Chickadee (45%)
  5. Tufted Titmouse (43%)
  6. Mourning Dove (41%)
  7. Carolina Wren (41%)
  8. Red-bellied Woodpecker (39%)
  9. American Robin (32%)
  10. Downy Woodpecker (32%)
  11. Northern Mockingbird (31%)
  12. White-throated Sparrow (27%)
  13. Eastern Bluebird (25%)
  14. European Starling (25%)
  15. American Goldfinch (23%)
These birds occur on more than 20% of eBird checklists for the state.


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


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 Little Rock with the birds of the state as a whole.



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


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 Arkansas in winter (December to February) are these:
Northern Cardinal (60% frequency)
Carolina Chickadee (49%)
Dark-eyed Junco (47%)
Blue Jay (47%)
White-throated Sparrow (46%)
American Crow (46%)
Tufted Titmouse (42%)
Red-bellied Woodpecker (41%)
Carolina Wren (38%)
Downy Woodpecker (37%)
American Goldfinch (34%)
Mourning Dove (34%)
American Robin (32%)
Northern Mockingbird (28%)
Eastern Bluebird (28%)
Northern Flicker (25%)
European Starling (25%)
White-breasted Nuthatch (23%)
House Finch (20%)

The most common backyard birds in Arkansas in summer (June to July) are these:
Northern Cardinal (61% frequency)
Blue Jay (47%)
Mourning Dove (45%)
American Crow (44%)
Carolina Wren (42%)
Tufted Titmouse (41%)
Indigo Bunting (41%)
Carolina Chickadee (37%)
Northern Mockingbird (33%)
Red-bellied Woodpecker (32%)
American Robin (29%)
Red-eyed Vireo (27%)
Downy Woodpecker (26%)
House Sparrow (24%)
Brown-headed Cowbird (22%)
Sumer Tanager (22%)
European Starling (21%)

How do birds differ between winter and summer?

Carolina Chickadees, Dark-eyed Juncos, White-throated Sparrows, Downy Woodpeckers, American Goldfinches are more common in winter.

Mourning Doves, Indigo Buntings, Red-eyed Vireos, Summer Tanagers are more common in summer.



Photos and ID of the most common backyard birds in Arkansas


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 Blue Jay enjoying a bath
Blue Jay
Image by skeeze from Pixabay
2. Blue Jay (51%)
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 American Crow
American Crow
Photo by Greg Gillson
3. American Crow (47%)
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 Carolina Chickadee on bird feeder
Carolina Chickadee
Image by GeorgeB2 from Pixabay
4. Carolina Chickadee (45%)
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 Tufted Titmouse in feeder
Tufted Titmouse
Image by anne773 from Pixabay
5. Tufted Titmouse (43%)
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 Mourning Dove in a tree
Mourning Dove
Photo by Greg Gillson
6. Mourning Dove (41%)
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 Carolina Wren
Carolina Wren
Image by theSOARnet from Pixabay
7. Carolina Wren (41%)
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 Red-bellied Woodpecker climbing a tree
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Image by skeeze from Pixabay
8. Red-bellied Woodpecker (39%)
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 American Robin
American Robin
Photo by Greg Gillson
9. American Robin (32%)
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 Downy Woodpecker on suet block
Downy Woodpecker
Photo by Greg Gillson
10. Downy Woodpecker (32%)
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 Northern Mockingbird on the ground
Northern Mockingbird
Photo by Greg Gillson
11. Northern Mockingbird (31%)
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 White-throated Sparrow on birdbath
White-throated Sparrow
Photo by Greg Gillson
12. White-throated Sparrow (27%)
Zonotrichia albicollis
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 an Eastern Bluebird on a nest box
Eastern Bluebird
Image by skeeze from Pixabay
13. Eastern Bluebird (25%)
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 European Starling
European Starling
Photo by Greg Gillson
14. European Starling (25%)
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.
Identification: This is a key species for comparing with an unknown bird. Size: 8-1/2 inches from bill tip to tail tip. About the size of a Red-winged Blackbird. Smaller than an American Robin. Larger than a White-crowned Sparrow or Spotted/Eastern towhee. Shape: Stocky with large head, short square-ended tail. Longer legs. Bill: As long as head. Sharp pointed. Yellow in spring, otherwise dark. Color: They are grayish brown much of the year, with glossy iridescence and white spotting during the spring. Habitat, range & behavior: Lowland birds that need trees large enough for nest cavities but plenty of open area for feeding. They are most abundant in urban and suburban areas where they find food and artificial nest cavities. Resident from coast-to-coast from southern Canada to northern Mexico. In summer north across Canada and Alaska. Native range is Europe to Pakistan, north Africa. Often viewed as a pest, starlings often bully other backyard birds, taking over bird feeders, and stealing nest cavities from smaller native birds. In winter they can form into flocks of ten's of thousands. Food and feeder preference: Primarily insects when available, often feeding on the ground. Discourage them from your backyard hopper and tray feeders by never feeding birds table scraps (including bread or meat). They have weak feet and do not perch well on tube feeders. A cage mesh around smaller hopper feeders may keep them out.

Photo of American Goldfinch
American Goldfinch
Photo by Greg Gillson
15. American Goldfinch (23%)
Spinus tristis
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."



Other common birds you might see from your backyard in Arkansas


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 Arkansas birds in winter (December to February):
Turkey Vulture (25% frequency)
Red-tailed Hawk (20%)
Great Blue Heron (20%)

Watch for these additional common Arkansas birds in summer (June to July):
Yellow-billed Cuckoo (23% frequency)
Red-winged Blackbird (21%)

Watch for these additional common Arkansas birds in spring (April to May):
Red-winged Blackbird (29% frequency)
Turkey Vulture (27%)
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (27%)
White-eyed Vireo (23%)
Brown Thrasher (22%)
Common Grackle (22%)



Comparison of the most common backyard birds in Little Rock, Arkansas


Photo of Mourning Dove in a tree
Mourning Doves are common in Little Rock
Photo by Greg Gillson
The following list uses eBird data to compare the birds of Little Rock with the birds of the state as a whole. Little Rock is in Pulaski County. I will use the data for Pulaski County to represent the birds in the Little Rock area.

Here are the most common backyard birds throughout the year in Little Rock.
Northern Cardinal (66% frequency)
Blue Jay (58%)
Carolina Chickadee (54%)
Mourning Dove (53%)
American Robin (51%)
Northern Mockingbird (48%)
Carolina Wren (48%)
Red-bellied Woodpecker (47%)
Tufted Titmouse (43%)
Downy Woodpecker (43%)
American Crow (39%)
House Finch (38%)
House Sparrow (37%)
White-throated Sparrow (37%)
European Starling (30%)
White-breasted Nuthatch (25%)
Eastern Bluebird (23%)
Northern Flicker (23%)
Common Grackle (22%)
Dark-eyed Junco (22%)
American Goldfinch (21%)

Mourning Doves, American Robins, Northern Mockingbirds, Downy Woodpeckers, House Finches, House Sparrows, White-throated Sparrows are more common in Little Rock than in the state as a whole. These are all common in residential areas, which probably accounts for them being more common in Little Rock.



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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