Wednesday, November 6, 2019

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

The most common backyard birds throughout the year in the state of Kansas are these:
  1. Northern Cardinal (46% frequency)
  2. Mourning Dove (42%)
  3. American Robin (41%)
  4. Blue Jay (37%)
  5. American Crow (33%)
  6. European Starling (32%)
  7. Red-bellied Woodpecker (31%)
  8. Black-capped Chickadee (30%)
  9. American Goldfinch (28%)
  10. Downy Woodpecker (27%)
  11. House Sparrow (25%)
  12. Eastern Bluebird (25%)
  13. Dark-eyed Junco (22%)
  14. Tufted Titmouse (22%)
  15. Northern Flicker (22%)
  16. Carolina Wren (22%)
  17. House Finch (20%)
These birds occur on more than 20% of eBird checklists for the state.


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


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 Wichita with the birds of the state as a whole.



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


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 Kansas in winter (December to February) are these:
Dark-eyed Junco (53% frequency)
Northern Cardinal (47%)
American Crow (38%)
Black-capped Chickadee (36%)
Red-bellied Woodpecker (34%)
Downy Woodpecker (34%)
Blue Jay (34%)
European Starling (33%)
American Robin (32%)
American Goldfinch (28%)
Northern Flicker (28%)
House Sparrow (27%)
House Finch (24%)
Tufted Titmouse (24%)
Mourning Dove (23%)
Eastern Bluebird (21%)
American Tree Sparrow (20%)

The most common backyard birds in Kansas in summer (June to July) are these:
Mourning Dove (60% frequency)
Northern Cardinal (47%)
American Robin (42%)
Common Grackle (34%)
Blue Jay (34%)
Barn Swallow (34%)
Brown-headed Cowbird (31%)
House Sparrow (30%)
European Starling (29%)
Indigo Bunting (28%)
Eastern Kingbird (28%)
American Goldfinch (26%)
Baltimore Oriole (25%)
American Crow (25%)
Eastern Bluebird (24%)
Red-bellied Woodpecker (23%)
Black-capped Chickadee (22%)
Western Kingbird (22%)
Carolina Wren (21%)
Brown Thrasher (21%)

How do birds differ between winter and summer?

Dark-eyed Juncos, American Crows, Black-capped Chickadees, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Downy Woodpeckers, American Tree Sparrows are more common in winter.

Mourning Doves, American Robins, Common Grackles, Barn Swallows, Brown-headed Cowbirds, Indigo Buntings, Eastern Kingbirds, Baltimore Orioles, Western Kingbirds are more common in summer.



Photos and ID of the most common backyard birds in Kansas


Photo of Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal
Image by GeorgeB2 from Pixaby
1. Northern Cardinal (46%)
Cardinalis cardinalis
This is one of the most common and popular backyard birds in the eastern half of the United States.
Identification: Size: Cardinals are a bit smaller than American Robins, about the same size as Red-winged Blackbirds. Shape: Plump body with fairly long full tail. Wispy crest. Bill: Short, heavy, conical, pink. Color: That bright red color is matched by few other birds. Black face. The female is more gray, but with hints of red in wings and tail, and has a crest, too. Habitat, range & behavior: Cardinals are year-round residents in shrubby woodland edges from the eastern United States to Texas and Arizona south into Mexico. That large conical bill is made for chewing seeds. Watch them crack open sunflower seeds, spit out the hulls, and pluck the kernel with their tongues! Food and feeder preference: Black oil sunflower seeds. Many types of seeds, berries, nuts in larger hopper or tray feeders.

Photo of Mourning Dove in a tree
Mourning Dove
Photo by Greg Gillson
2. Mourning Dove (42%)
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 (41%)
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 Blue Jay enjoying a bath
Blue Jay
Image by skeeze from Pixabay
4. Blue Jay (37%)
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
5. American Crow (33%)
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 European Starling
European Starling
Photo by Greg Gillson
6. 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 Red-bellied Woodpecker climbing a tree
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Image by skeeze from Pixabay
7. Red-bellied Woodpecker (31%)
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 Black-capped Chickadee on bird bath
Black-capped Chickadee
Photo by Greg Gillson
8. Black-capped Chickadee (30%)
Poecile atricapillus
This is a common backyard bird in the northern half of the United States.
Identification: Size: Chickadees are small birds, the same general size as an American Goldfinch. Shape: Round body, big round head, long tail with rounded tip. Bill: Short, straight, stout. Color: Gray above, buffy below. Black cap and bib with white lower face. White edges on wing feathers. Habitat, range & behavior: Deciduous and mixed forests. They range from the northern half of the United States, southern half of Canada, and most of Alaska. Small flocks flit actively from tree to tree acrobatically gleaning insects from twig tips. In winter chickadees make up the core of mixed-species flocks also containing nuthatches, kinglets, creepers, woodpeckers and others. Food and feeder preference: Seeds, insects, berries. They eat at tube, hopper and tray feeders. They love black oil sunflower seeds and suet.

Photo of American Goldfinch
American Goldfinch
Photo by Greg Gillson
9. American Goldfinch (28%)
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."

Photo of Downy Woodpecker on suet block
Downy Woodpecker
Photo by Greg Gillson
10. Downy Woodpecker (27%)
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 House Sparrow on feeder with sunflower seed
House Sparrow
Photo by Greg Gillson
11. House Sparrow (25%)
Passer domesticus
Like the starling, this is another bird introduced from Europe in the 1800's. This sparrow is commonly found in cities and farmlands. It is considered a pest in most areas where it has been introduced.
Identification: Size: The size of a House Finch or Dark-eyed Junco. Shape: Chunkier than native North American sparrows with large head, barrel chest, short neck, medium tail, short legs. Bill: Short, conical. Color: Males are brown and gray with a black mask. Females lack the black and are tan and brown with a pale line back from the eye. Habitat, range & behavior: Cities and farms. Range in North American from southern Canada through Central America. In summer northward through Canada to southern Alaska. Originated in Middle East and spread to most of Europe and Asia. Introduced in South America, Africa, Australia--nearly anywhere there are people and cities. They tend to be messy... and have a good appetite, and may occur in large noisy chirping flocks. They are aggressive toward other feeder birds. Food and feeder preference: They eat grain, seed, and insects. To discourage them from your hopper and tray feeders do not feed birds human food scraps. They have a bit of difficulty eating from tube feeders.

Photo of an Eastern Bluebird on a nest box
Eastern Bluebird
Image by skeeze from Pixabay
12. 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 Dark-eyed Junco on snow-covered branch
Dark-eyed Junco
Image by skeeze from Pixabay
13. Dark-eyed Junco (22%)
Junco hyemalis
Colloquially called "snow birds," they often arrive in backyards in winter from nearby mountain forests or more northern climes.
Identification: Size: Small birds about the size of a House Finch. Shape: Round body, short neck, round head, fairly long square-ended tail. Bill: Short, pointed, conical, pink. Color: Eastern birds are a darker all-gray with white belly. Western birds have jet black hood over head, brown back, and pink sides. Habitat, range & behavior: Breed in coniferous forests. Winters widely. Avoids heavy brush, preferring widely spaced bushes. Breeds across most of Canada, Alaska, and the western half of the United States. Winters from southern Canada and all of the lower 48-states to extreme northern Mexico. Spend much of their time hopping and feeding on the ground. Food and feeder preference: Eats mostly seeds, also insects in summer. Readily feed at backyard feeders on mixed seeds on hopper or tray feeders and ground.

Photo of Tufted Titmouse in feeder
Tufted Titmouse
Image by anne773 from Pixabay
14. Tufted Titmouse (22%)
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 Northern Flicker on a branch
Northern Flicker
Photo by Greg Gillson
15. Northern Flicker (22%)
Colaptes auratus
Of all the bird identification questions I get asked, this common larger backyard bird is the bird most people ask about. It doesn't occur to those unfamiliar with it that this could be a woodpecker. Identification: Size: About the size of a Mourning Dove. Larger than a robin. Shape: Stocky with short legs, short tail, big head. Bill: As long as head, thin, slightly curved. Color: Back is brown with black bars. Under parts pinkish with black spots. Undersides of black wing and tail feathers are bright salmon red (West) or yellow (East). Head gray (West) or brown (East) and males with red (West) or black (East) whisker marks and nape marks (East). Black crescent across chest. White rump seen in flight. Habitat, range & behavior: Found in woodland edges and forests. Year-round resident from extreme southern Canada, across all of the lower-48 states and in the mountains of Mexico and Middle America. In summer breeds northward well into Canada and Alaska. Frequently noted hopping on ground pecking in the ground for insects. In late spring, males proclaim their territory by rapid pounding on a hollow tree branch, though the ringing of metal downspouts at dawn is louder and carries much farther, to the exasperation of anyone trying to sleep inside! Food and feeder preference: Ants and beetles are their primary foods. Will eat black oil sunflower seeds and are attracted to suet.

Photo of Carolina Wren
Carolina Wren
Image by theSOARnet from Pixabay
16. Carolina Wren (22%)
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 a House Finch in a bird bath
House Finch in bird bath
Photo by Greg Gillson
17. House Finch (20%)
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.



Other common birds you might see from your backyard in Kansas


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 Kansas birds in winter (December to February):
Canada Goose (40% frequency)
Red-tailed Hawk (35%)
Mallard (30%)
Ring-billed Gull (21%)

Watch for these additional common Kansas birds in summer (June to July):
Red-winged Blackbird (39% frequency)
Dickcissel (39%)
Turkey Vulture (31%)
Killdeer (30%)
Eastern Meadowlark (28%)
Great Blue Heron (26%)
Yellow-billed Cuckoo (21%)

Watch for these additional common Kansas birds in spring (April to May):
Red-winged Blackbird (43% frequency)
Turkey Vulture (39%)
Canada Goose (33%)
Killdeer (29%)
Great Blue Heron (29%)
Blue-winged Teal (27%)
Eastern Meadowlark (25%)
Eastern Phoebe (22%)
Red-tailed Hawk (20%)
Mallard (20%)



Comparison of the most common backyard birds in Wichita, Kansas


Photo of European Starling in a tree
European Starling is a common bird in Wichita
Photo by Greg Gillson
The following list uses eBird data to compare the birds of Wichita with the birds of the state as a whole. Wichita is in Sedgwick County. I will use the data for Sedgwick County to represent the birds in the Wichita area.

Here are the most common backyard birds throughout the year in Wichita.
Northern Cardinal (44% frequency)
American Robin (43%)
European Starling (36%)
Blue Jay (34%)
Mourning Dove (30%)
Black-capped Chickadee (28%)
Downy Woodpecker (26%)
House Sparrow (25%)
American Crow (24%)
American Goldfinch (24%)
Carolina Wren (21%)
Red-bellied Woodpecker (21%)
House Finch (21%)
Dark-eyed Junco (20%)

Mourning Doves and Red-bellied Woodpeckers are less common in Wichita than in the rest of the state on average. Otherwise the most common backyard birds are expected in about the same frequencies in Wichita as in all of Kansas, on average.



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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