Sunday, November 10, 2019

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

I've put this resource together for you to answer the question: What birds are in my backyard in Delaware? This article tells you what birds you can expect in your backyard and when they are most common. I also provide a photo and description section to help you with Delaware bird identification of the most common birds native to Delaware backyards.

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

  1. Northern Cardinal (48% frequency)
  2. Mourning Dove (40%)
  3. American Robin (40%)
  4. Carolina Chickadee (36%)
  5. Carolina Wren (35%)
  6. American Goldfinch (33%)
  7. European Starling (32%)
  8. Blue Jay (32%)
  9. Song Sparrow (31%)
  10. Tufted Titmouse (29%)
  11. American Crow (29%)
  12. Red-bellied Woodpecker (28%)
  13. Northern Mockingbird (26%)
  14. Downy Woodpecker (26%)
  15. House Finch (25%)
  16. Common Grackle (25%)
  17. White-throated Sparrow (24%)
  18. Gray Catbird (22%)

These birds occur on more than 20% of eBird checklists for the state.

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

This page lists the most common backyard birds as determined by actual bird sightings reported to the citizen science birding program, eBird. These birds are ranked according to frequency--the percentage of all bird checklists on which a species occurs. Below I list common backyard birds in winter and summer.

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

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

I conclude with a list comparing the birds of Wilmington with the birds of the state as a whole.

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

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 Delaware in winter (December to February) are these:
Northern Cardinal (43% frequency)
White-throated Sparrow (38%)
Dark-eyed Junco (36%)
Carolina Chickadee (35%)
Song Sparrow (34%)
Mourning Dove (31%)
Carolina Wren (29%)
Tufted Titmouse (29%)
European Starling (27%)
Downy Woodpecker (26%)
House Finch (26%)
Blue Jay (25%)
Red-bellied Woodpecker (25%)
American Robin (24%)
American Crow (23%)
American Goldfinch (22%)
Northern Mockingbird (20%)

The most common backyard birds in Delaware in summer (June to July) are these:
Northern Cardinal (49% frequency)
American Robin (49%)
Mourning Dove (48%)
Barn Swallow (45%)
American Goldfinch (42%)
Gray Catbird (42%)
Common Grackle (40%)
European Starling (35%)
Northern Mockingbird (34%)
Carolina Wren (32%)
Indigo Bunting (31%)
Eastern Kingbird (29%)
Song Sparrow (28%)
American Crow (26%)
House Wren (25%)
House Finch (25%)
Carolina Chickadee (24%)
Blue Jay (24%)
House Sparrow (23%)
Chipping Sparrow (22%)
Tufted Titmouse (21%)
Eastern Towhee (20%)
Brown-headed Cowbird (20%)

How do birds differ between winter and summer?

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

American Robins, Mourning Doves, Barn Swallows, American Goldfinches, Gray Catbirds, Common Grackles, Northern Mockingbirds, Indigo Buntings, Eastern Kingbirds, House Wrens are more common in summer.

Photos and ID of the most common backyard birds in Delaware

Photo of Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal
Image by GeorgeB2 from Pixaby

1. Northern Cardinal (48% frequency)

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.

You may like my in-depth article on attracting Northern Cardinals.

Photo of Mourning Dove in a tree
Mourning Dove
Photo by Greg Gillson

2. Mourning Dove (40%)

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 American Robin
American Robin
Photo by Greg Gillson

3. American Robin (40%)

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

4. Carolina Chickadee (36%)

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

Identification: Size: This small bid is the size of an American Goldfinch. Shape: Round body, round head, longer tail. Bill: Short, straight, stout. Color: Gray above. Paler below. Black cap, white face, black bib.

Habitat, range & behavior: Lower elevation deciduous forests, wooded residential areas. This chickadee is a resident in the southeastern US. Chickadees cannot chew as sparrows do, so they take one large sunflower seed at a time from your feeder and fly off to a branch to pound it open with their stout bills.

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

Photo of Carolina Wren
Carolina Wren
Image by theSOARnet from Pixabay

5. Carolina Wren (35%)

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 American Goldfinch
American Goldfinch
Photo by Greg Gillson

6. American Goldfinch (33%)

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."

You may like my article on attracting American Goldfinches.

Photo of European Starling
European Starling
Photo by Greg Gillson

7. European Starling (32%)

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

8. Blue Jay (32%)

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 Song Sparrow in bush
Song Sparrow
Photo by Greg Gillson

9. Song Sparrow (31%)

Melospiza melodia
A common bird, but variable, and similar to many other streaked brown sparrows.

Identification: Size: A smaller bird, similar in size to House Finch and juncos. Larger than chickadees and goldfinches. Smaller than White-crowned Sparrows or Spotted/Eastern towhees. Shape: Plump with round head, long rounded tail. Bill: Short, conical. Color: Highly variable in darkness and color saturation across its range (dark rusty to pale gray). Generally gray-brown above with dark brown streaking on back. Complicated head pattern. Streaking on sides and breast converge into dense central breast spot.

Habitat, range & behavior: Thickets, especially near water. Backyard shrubbery. Resident in western United States, western Canada, coastal southern Alaska, northeastern US. In summer also moves into mid-Canada and northern half of US. In the winter found in most of the US lower-48. Also a population in central Mexico. Forages on ground, never far from low cover to which they fly if startled.

Food and feeder preference: They feed on seeds and insects near the ground. Will visit hopper and tray feeders for mixed bird seed.

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

10. Tufted Titmouse (29%)

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 American Crow
American Crow
Photo by Greg Gillson

11. American Crow (29%)

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 Red-bellied Woodpecker climbing a tree
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Image by skeeze from Pixabay

12. Red-bellied Woodpecker (28%)

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 Northern Mockingbird on the ground
Northern Mockingbird
Photo by Greg Gillson

13. Northern Mockingbird (26%)

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 Downy Woodpecker on suet block
Downy Woodpecker
Photo by Greg Gillson

14. Downy Woodpecker (26%)

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

15. 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.

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

Photo of Common Grackle on bird bath
Common Grackle
Image by GeorgiaLens from Pixabay

16. Common Grackle (25%)

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

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.

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

17. White-throated Sparrow (24%)

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 Gray Catbird in juniper
Gray Catbird
Photo by Greg Gillson

18. Gray Catbird (22%)

Dumetella carolinensis
This bird is rather common where it occurs, but a bit secretive.

Identification: Size: About the length of a Red-winged Blackbird or Northern Cardinal. Shape: Long tailed, round head. Bill: Medium-length, pointed. Color: Gray with a black tail and black cap. Rusty under tail coverts.

Habitat, range & behavior: Dense woodland edges, scrub, abandoned orchards. Breeds in eastern and central US and adjoining southern Canada. Winters in extreme south US Gulf states, southward in eastern Mexico to Panama. They spend much time hopping on the ground or in low bushes. They defend a winter territory, unlike most birds.

Food and feeder preference: Insects and berries. You may attract this species with jelly and fruit feeders, suet, and water.

Video showing photos and songs of several common backyard birds in Delaware:

Other common birds you might see from your backyard in Delaware

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 Delaware birds in winter (December to February):
Canada Goose (37% frequency)
Turkey Vulture (31%)
Ring-billed Gull (30%)
Red-winged Blackbird (27%)
Mallard (23%)
Great Blue Heron (21%)
Herring Gull (20%)

Watch for these additional common Delaware birds in summer (June to July):
Red-winged Blackbird (55% frequency)
Laughing Gull (39%)
Great Blue Heron (38%)
Turkey Vulture (37%)
Osprey (35%)
Tree Swallow (35%)
Common Yellowthroat (35%)
Great Egret (31%)
Snowy Egret (31%)
Purple Martin (30%)
Forster's Tern (27%)
Canada Goose (25%)
Blue Grosbeak (22%)
Mallard (21%)
Marsh Wren (21%)

Watch for these additional common Delaware birds in spring (April to May):
Red-winged Blackbird (57% frequency)
Turkey Vulture (45%)
Tree Swallow (39%)
Canada Goose (37%)
Great Blue Heron (34%)
Common Yellowthroat (30%)
Osprey (29%)
Mallard (28%)
Laughing Gull (28%)
Great Egret (23%)
Double-crested Cormorant (22%)
Bald Eagle (21%)
Northern Flicker (20%)
Fish Crow (20%)

Comparison of the most common backyard birds in Wilmington, Delaware

White-breasted Nuthatch is a common bird in Wilmington
Photo by Greg Gillson

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

Here are the most common backyard birds throughout the year in Wilmington.
Northern Cardinal (65% frequency)
Mourning Dove (50%)
American Robin (49%)
Carolina Chickadee (49%)
Carolina Wren (46%)
Blue Jay (46%)
American Crow (44%)
Song Sparrow (44%)
Tufted Titmouse (44%)
American Goldfinch (43%)
Red-bellied Woodpecker (41%)
Downy Woodpecker (40%)
European Starling (38%)
House Finch (36%)
White-throated Sparrow (33%)
White-breasted Nuthatch (32%)
Gray Catbird (28%)
Northern Flicker (25%)
House Sparrow (25%)
Common Grackle (25%)
Dark-eyed Junco (24%)
Northern Mockingbird (24%)

Northern Cardinals, Mourning Doves, Carolina Chickadees, Carolina Wrens, Blue Jays, American Crows, Song Sparrows, Tufted Titmouses, American Goldfinches, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Downy Woodpeckers, House Finches, and White-breasted Nuthatches are more common in Wilmington than in the rest of the state as a whole.

Beyond your backyard

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

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

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

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

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

Explore Regions for birds in your own county

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

Now your County page pops up.

There are 3 counties in Delaware. There are bird lists for each county. The county with the most birds recorded is Sussex County with 384 species. The county with the least birds recorded is New Castle County with 343 species.

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

1. Printable Checklist

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

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

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

2. Bar Charts

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

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

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

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

3. Hotspots

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

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

You may also like my eBird tutorial with illustrations.

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

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

Next: Backyard birds in Florida

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)


  1. During this pandemic, I am working from home. To make things more interesting while quarantining, I put out some bird feeders. Your site is helping me learn to identify the many, many birds I am seeing. Before this, I could only identify a robin and a mourning dove, believe it or not!Thank you for helping me begin a new hobby. Now I just need to identify a gray bird that I saw for the first time today...

    1. This is so wonderful to hear! Thank you for your kind words. And welcome to a new world of joy opening up before you.

  2. I've got regulars to my feeders such as: red-bellied woodpeckers (male & female plus one juvenile late summer of 2019), downey woodpeckers (male & female plus one juvenile June 2020), hairy woodpeckers (male & female plus one juvenile June 2020), 3 male yellow-tailed northern flickers (had a juvenile late summer of 2019), Carolina wrens, bluejays, pair of cardinals, white-breasted nuthatches, gray catbirds and lots more. Additionally, a nest robins built in summer of 2018 (above our outdoor light fixture under our back porch awning) has resulted in 16 eggs hatched to fruition since the building of the nest, to date as of June 2020.

    1. Nice! 8 birds from the main list, 3 others also mentioned in this article, and the Hairy Woodpecker, which is much less common. Good job! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Forgot to mention I'm located in north Wilmington DE

    1. Did you notice from the article that the White-breasted Nuthatch and Northern Flicker are more common in your Wilmington area than the rest of the state? And there they are in your backyard!

  4. Love it! I'm in Seaford with a bird feeder, hummingbird feeder, and squirrel feeder. Daily I see red-bellied woodpeckers, downy woodpeckers, tufted titmice, house finches, goldfinches, crows, gracled, brown-headed cowbirds, blackbirds, cardinals, and my hummingbirds. That doesn't count all the squirrels, flying squirrels, racoons, and a fox that spend time here. This site has been a huge help identifying some of my feathered friends.

    1. White breasted nuthatches and Carolina weeks and Carolina chickadees as well! I knew I was forgetting some.

    2. It sounds like you are really enjoying your backyard birds (and mammals!). How fun! I'm so glad I could help a bit.

      Thanks for taking the time to share.

  5. I've had many of these frequent my feeder. Grackles pretty much ruin the fun. They show up in massive flocks eat all the seeds they can get and I have to rethink my feeding. Oddly in the winter like about now I get a few Starlings. They seem to only be rude to other starlings but leave all the other birds alone so I don't worry about them. They only pop up when snows on the ground. I had a Goldfinch. It's been about 5 or 6 years since I've seen one ever since. The grackles bullied them away.

    1. BigBoi222,

      I hope you've found the article on getting rid of blackbirds, grackles, and starlings at the feeder. I'm sure trying some of those things should help.

    2. This is the URL for how to get rid of grackles:

  6. I spotted a Yellow Cardinal at my feeder in Dover Delaware I was not able to get a photo.

    1. Wow, that's unusual!

      Keep a camera handy--it may be back!

  7. I live near Millsboro delaware and we have blue birds and they aren't on your list of birds. Why. We get them every summer

    1. You are very fortunate to have bluebirds!

      The list was most common, and I initially included only birds seen at least 20% of the time in Delaware.

      You may see up to 50 species in your backyard, but I included only the most likely ones.

  8. I live in Sussex County Delaware and want to build and put up a few birdhouses. I have no idea what size hole I should make. We have many really tiny birds, I’m still learning what they are, and would like to attract the smaller birds. Any suggestions about hole size for the most common birds in our area?

    1. The Carolina Chickadee, Carolina Wren, and Tufted Titmouse will nest in boxes with nest hole diameter of 1-1/8 to 1-1/4 inches.

      No perches or starlings and house sparrows can get in easier.

      Keep the nest hole LESS than 1-1/2 inches or starlings and house sparrows will take over the boxes. Some birdbox houses come with metal plates so starlings and woodpeckers don't enlarge the holes.


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