Wednesday, November 6, 2019

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

I've put this resource together for you to answer the question: What birds are in my backyard in Mississippi? 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 Mississippi bird identification of the most common birds native to Mississippi backyards.

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

  1. Northern Cardinal (56% frequency)
  2. Blue Jay (48%)
  3. Northern Mockingbird (45%)
  4. Mourning Dove (45%)
  5. Carolina Wren (40%)
  6. Red-bellied Woodpecker (39%)
  7. Carolina Chickadee (34%)
  8. Tufted Titmouse (33%)
  9. Eastern Bluebird (27%)
  10. Eastern Towhee (26%)
  11. American Crow (24%)
  12. Downy Woodpecker (22%)
  13. Yellow-rumped Warbler (21%)
  14. Brown Thrasher (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 Mississippi
Photos and ID of the most common backyard birds in Mississippi
Other birds you might see from your backyard in Mississippi
Comparison of the most common backyard birds in Jackson, Mississippi
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 Jackson with the birds of the state as a whole.

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

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 Mississippi in winter (December to February) are these:
Northern Cardinal (52% frequency)
Blue Jay (43%)
Northern Mockingbird (39%)
Mourning Dove (38%)
Yellow-rumped Warbler (37%)
Red-bellied Woodpecker (36%)
Carolina Chickadee (34%)
Carolina Wren (34%)
American Robin (30%)
Tufted Titmouse (30%)
Eastern Bluebird (28%)
American Goldfinch (27%)
White-throated Sparrow (27%)
American Crow (25%)
Eastern Towhee (21%)
Eastern Phoebe (21%)
Downy Woodpecker (20%)

The most common backyard birds in Mississippi in summer (June to July) are these:
Northern Cardinal (57% frequency)
Mourning Dove (53%)
Northern Mockingbird (50%)
Blue Jay (45%)
Carolina Wren (39%)
Red-bellied Woodpecker (34%)
Tufted Titmouse (30%)
Eastern Towhee (30%)
Barn Swallow (27%)
Carolina Chickadee (26%)
Chimney Swift (25%)
Indigo Bunting (25%)
Brown Thrasher (24%)
Eastern Bluebird (23%)
Eastern Kingbird (22%)
American Crow (21%)
White-eyed Vireo (21%)

How do birds differ between winter and summer?

Yellow-rumped Warblers, American Robins, White-throated Sparrows, Eastern Phoebes are more common in winter.

Mourning Doves, Northern Mockingbirds, Barn Swallows, Chimney Swifts, Indigo Buntings, Brown Thrashers, Eastern Kingbirds, White-eyed Vireos are more common in summer.

Photos and ID of the most common backyard birds in Mississippi

Photo of Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal
Image by GeorgeB2 from Pixaby

1. Northern Cardinal (56% 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 Blue Jay enjoying a bath
Blue Jay
Image by skeeze from Pixabay

2. Blue Jay (48%)

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 Northern Mockingbird on the ground
Northern Mockingbird
Photo by Greg Gillson

3. Northern Mockingbird (45%)

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 Mourning Dove in a tree
Mourning Dove
Photo by Greg Gillson

4. Mourning Dove (45%)

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

5. Carolina Wren (40%)

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

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

7. Carolina Chickadee (34%)

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 Tufted Titmouse in feeder
Tufted Titmouse
Image by anne773 from Pixabay

8. Tufted Titmouse (33%)

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 an Eastern Bluebird on a nest box
Eastern Bluebird
Image by skeeze from Pixabay

9. Eastern Bluebird (27%)

Sialia sialis

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

Identification: Size: Larger than House Finches. Much smaller than starlings. About length of White-crowned Sparrow but differently proportioned. Shape: Chunky, large head, short tail. Bill: Straight, fairly slender, curved at tip. Color: Males are brilliant blue above (including wings and tail), rusty orange below with white belly and under tail. Females are often much paler, almost grayish.

Habitat, range & behavior: Found in pasture, fields, golf courses, open woodland edges. They are resident in most of eastern US, highlands of Middle America. In summer reach northernmost eastern US and southernmost eastern Canada, withdrawing somewhat in winter. They readily use nest boxes, but the entrance hole must be smaller than the head of a starling, and without a perch.

Food and feeder preference: They eat flying insects primarily, but also other invertebrates and berries. They will eat mealworms at your feeder and frequent birdbaths.

Photo of Eastern Towhee in a tree
Eastern Towhee
Image by skeeze from Pixabay

10. Eastern Towhee (26%)

Pipilo erythrophthalmus

This big ground-dwelling sparrow was recently split from Rufous-sided Towhee, creating the Eastern Towhee in the East and the Spotted Towhee in the West.

Identification: Size: About the length of a White-crowned Sparrow; larger than a House Finch, smaller than a Starling or Red-winged blackbird. Shape: Rather bulky compared to other sparrows, large head, long rounded tail. Bill: Short, conical. Color: Blackish above, rusty sides, white belly. Females paler and browner. White tail corners. White wing patch.

Habitat, range & behavior: They live in brushy areas, hedges, woodland edges. Found in the eastern United States. Resident in SE US, in summer the move north to the border with Canada. They rummage around in leaf litter under thick bushes, kicking and scratching the ground with both feet at once.

Food and feeder preference: Eat mostly insects and invertebrates in summer, adding berries, fruits, and especially seeds in winter. At your feeder they will visit a hopper feeder, but may prefer a wide platform feeder. They may more often feed on the ground under the feeder.

Photo of American Crow
American Crow
Photo by Greg Gillson

11. American Crow (24%)

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 Downy Woodpecker on suet block
Downy Woodpecker
Photo by Greg Gillson

12. Downy Woodpecker (22%)

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 winter plumage Yellow-rumped Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Photo by Greg Gillson

13. Yellow-rumped Warbler (21%)

Setophaga coronata

An abundant winter visitor in southern US to tree tops and weedy areas.

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: 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.

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

14. Brown Thrasher (20%) 

Toxostoma rufum

This excellent songster delivers its varies songs from a tall perch. Otherwise it hides in dense tangles.
Identification: Size: The size of an American Robin or larger, approaching a Mourning Dove in length. Shape: Long. Pot belly. Large head. Long ample tail. Long legs. Bill: Slender, fairly long, slightly curved. Color: Rusty above, with rusty streaks on creamy under parts. Yellow eye. Two white wing bars.

Habitat, range & behavior: Woodland, edges, dense thickets, farms. Resident in the southeastern US. In summer breeds north to southern Canada. Forages on ground. Flees to dense cover at first sign of danger.

Food and feeder preference: Half of its diet is insects and invertebrates. Also eats fruit and nuts, including acorns. Attract to your backyard with dense berry-producing shrubs. They may clean up spilled seeds on the ground under the feeder.

Video of backyard birds in the Eastern United States:

Other common birds you might see from your backyard in Mississippi

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 Mississippi birds in winter (December to February):
Great Blue Heron (29% frequency)
Red-winged Blackbird (28%)
Double-crested Cormorant (23%)
Great Egret (20%)
Killdeer (20%)

Watch for these additional common Mississippi birds in summer (June to July):
Red-winged Blackbird (33% frequency)
Great Blue Heron (29%)
Great Egret (24%)
Fish Crow (21%)

Watch for these additional common Mississippi birds in spring (April to May):
Red-winged Blackbird (38% frequency)
Great Crested Flycatcher (29%)
Brown-headed Cowbird (28%)
Great Blue Heron (27%)
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (25%)
Fish Crow (25%)
European Starling (21%)
Turkey Vulture (21%)
Common Grackle (20%)
Red-eyed Vireo (20%)
Laughing Gull (20%)
Summer Tanager (20%)
Ruby-throated Hummingbird (20%)

Comparison of the most common backyard birds in Jackson, Mississippi

Photo of Northern Mockingbird on the lawn
Northern Mockingbird is a common bird in Jackson, Mississippi
Photo by Greg Gillson

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

Here are the most common backyard birds throughout the year in Jackson.
Northern Cardinal (82% frequency)
Mourning Dove (60%)
Carolina Wren (55%)
Red-bellied Woodpecker (55%)
Carolina Chickadee (54%)
Blue Jay (52%)
Tufted Titmouse (51%)
American Robin (49%)
Northern Mockingbird (44%)
Downy Woodpecker (42%)
Eastern Towhee (35%)
Common Grackle (33%)
White-throated Sparrow (31%)
Yellow-rumped Warbler (30%)
Red-headed Woodpecker (30%)
Brown Thrasher (29%)
House Finch (27%)
American Crow (26%)
Eastern Bluebird (23%)
Chimney Swift (22%)
House Sparrow (20%)
Brown-headed Cowbird (20%)
Ruby-throated Hummingbird (20%)

Northern Cardinals, Mourning Doves, Carolina Wrens, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Carolina Chickadees, Tufted Titmouses, American Robins, Downy Woodpeckers, Common Grackles, White-throated Sparrows, Red-headed Woodpeckers are more frequently seen in Jackson than in the state of Mississippi as a whole.

Beyond your backyard

To create this page on the backyard birds in Mississippi 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 82 counties in Mississippi. There are bird lists for each county. The county with the most birds recorded is Jackson County with 347 species. The county with the least birds recorded is Tippah County with 104 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 Mississippi, 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 of Missouri

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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