Sunday, September 19, 2021

Red, Orange, & Yellow Birds of Arizona

Did you see a brightly-colored red bird, orange bird, or yellow bird in Arizona and wonder what is was?

This page is for you!

This article shows you photos and identification of some of the most common birds in Arizona based on color.

The list of birds found in Arizona includes over 565 species. So, I can't show you all of them. I'm going to assume that you saw a common bird of this color, but you certainly could have seen something less common, or even rare!

Shape (including the shape of the bill) and size are often more helpful in starting to identify a bird than the color. In fact, most birds in North American can be easily identified with a black-and-white photo!

Many birds are multi-colored, so that it may be hard to pick out a dominant color. Males and females may be colored quite differently. And some color patterns are similar among otherwise dissimilar species.

Nevertheless, I'm going to try to pick out some of the birds that you are most likely to see in backyards or towns. And I'll show a few others that I get asked about a lot.


The birds with a noticeable amount of red on them in Arizona covered in this article are:

  • House Finch
  • Anna's Hummingbird
  • Northern Cardinal
  • Vermilion Flycatcher
  • American Robin
  • Pyrrhuloxia
  • Painted Redstart
  • Broad-tailed Hummingbird
  • Summer Tanager


The birds with a noticeable amount of orange on them in Arizona covered in this article are:

  • Northern Flicker
  • American Kestrel
  • Spotted Towhee
  • Black-headed Grosbeak
  • Ruddy Duck
  • Barn Swallow
  • Cinnamon Teal
  • Hooded Oriole
  • Bullock's Oriole


The birds with a noticeable amount of yellow on them, including lots of yellow and black birds, in Arizona covered in this article are:

  • Lesser Goldfinch
  • Verdin
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler
  • Yellow Warbler
  • Cassin's Kingbird
  • Common Yellowthroat
  • Western Kingbird
  • Yellow-headed Blackbird
  • Western Tanager
  • Brown Crested Flycatcher
  • Pine Siskin
  • Wilson's Warbler
  • Yellow-breasted Chat
  • Gilded Flicker


Red birds of Arizona


Birds get the red, orange, and yellow in their feathers from carotenoids in the fruit, seeds, and plants they eat (source). 

These carotenoid colors combine with melanin to form an infinite range of red feathers--pink, rusty, scarlet, violet, red-orange.

The following are red birds that you are most likely to see in Arizona.


House Finch

When people ask about a bird with a red head at their feeder, it is usually this bird.


Photo of House Finch in tree top
Male House Finch. Greg Gillson.


Males of this dusty brown striped finch have red limited to the head (specifically the forehead and eyebrow), breast (chest), and rump. The red coloration tends toward orangish, and may rarely be yellowish.

Females are streaked, similar to the males but without red. They lack any strong pattern on the face and head.

Note the small round head and curved upper ridge on the bill.

Some people call these red-headed sparrows. Sparrows and finches are similar, but in general, male finches are brighter than the females and tend to hang out more in trees. Sparrow genders are usually quite similar in coloration and tend to feed mostly on the ground. 

These birds are common in residential areas, especially at bird feeders. In the West more widespread in arid regions near water.

House Finches are year-round residents throughout Arizona. 


Anna's Hummingbird

These are larger hummingbirds with red heads that don't migrate. 


Photo of Anna's Hummingbird on shrub.
Male Anna's Hummingbird. Greg Gillson.


These are big green hummingbirds. Adult males have the entire head red--forecrown and throat, actually. The color of the iridescent feathers is amethyst, a bright reddish purple color, tending towards pink. 

Young males have just a spot of red on the center of the throat.

Females lack red, but often show a spot of iridescent green feathers on the center of the white throat. The upper breast is gray. The lower belly and flanks have a greenish tinge. Many other western hummingbird species have cinnamon color under the tail.

They are common in flower gardens and hummingbird feeders year-round.

Anna's Hummingbirds are year-round residents in central and western Arizona, winter visitors only in southeastern Arizona. 


Northern Cardinal

These are one of the most common backyard birds in the eastern United States. Their bright red color and unique head profile makes them instantly identifiable to most people--whether they are bird watchers or not!


Photo of Northern Cardinal on feeder
Northern Cardinal. GeorgeB2 from Pixabay.


Males of these large seed eaters are bright red with a black face and red crest.

Females replace most of the red with brown, The bill is large and orange.

These birds are found in woodlands, stream edges, residential areas.

Northern Cardinals are year-round residents in central and southeastern Arizona.


Vermilion Flycatcher

These small desert birds are a glowing hurt-your-eyes red!


Photo of Vermilion Flycatcher
Male Vermilion Flycatcher. Greg Gillson.


Males are brilliant red on the crown and underparts. The back, wings, and tail are dark sooty brown.

Females and immature birds are paler. They are more grayish brown above, white below with streaked breast and belly that may be peachy yellow to orange-pink.

They are found in deserts near water, pastures, golf courses, ball fields.

Vermilion Flycatchers are year-round residents in southern and southeastern Arizona, summer residents only in central Arizona. 


American Robin

These are familiar lawn birds with red breasts. 


Photo of American Robin on lawn.
American Robin. Greg Gillson.


Male American Robins are brownish-gray above with a brick red breast. Females are paler orange below and paler gray above.

They are widespread in open country with scattered deciduous trees, residential areas.

American Robins are year-round residents through most of Arizona, winter visitors only in southwestern Arizona.


Pyrrhuloxia

These gray and red desert birds are shaped like cardinals, to which they are related.


Photo of Pyrrhuloxia on rock wall
Pyrrhuloxia. Uploaded by berichard, CC BY 2.0, Link


Males are pale gray with red highlights on face, crest, and chest.

Females are gray and buff-colored, with only a hint of red. The bill is yellowish and strongly curved on the culmen (upper ridge).

These birds are found in thorny desert scrub, such as mesquite, and also ranches.

Pyrrhuloxias are year-round residents in southeastern Arizona.


Painted Redstart

These are amazingly red-colored warblers of the Southwest.


Photo of Painted Redstart in tree
Painted Redstart. Greg Gillson.


These small birds are black above, including a hood. There is a large white wing patch. The breast and belly is deep red.  They flash white outer tail feathers.

They are usually found near water in mountain pine-oak woodlands.

Painted Redstarts are summer residents in southeastern and central Arizona.


Broad-tailed Hummingbird

These hummingbirds of the mountain West have rosy-red throats.


Photo of Broad-tailed Hummingbird on feeder
Broad-tailed Hummingbird. Michelle Lynn Reynolds. CC BY-SA 3.0


Both genders are green above, white below, with green and buff flanks. Rusty bases to outer tail feathers.

Males have bright red throats.

Found in dry pine and montane forests.

Broad-tailed Hummingbirds are summer residents in northern and eastern Arizona.


Summer Tanager

These bright red birds are found toward the tops of tall trees in the southern United States.


Photo of Summer Tanager in cottonwood
Summer Tanager. Greg Gillson.


Males are rose red with fairly heavy bill.

Females are yellowish or mustard-colored, some with a faint reddish wash.

In the East these birds are found in pine-oak woodlands. In the West they prefer tall cottonwood trees.

Summer Tanagers are summer residents in central, western, and southeastern Arizona, spring and fall migrants only in southwestern Arizona.



Orange birds of Arizona


True orange-colored birds are not that common. Many birds that I have here are paler rusty.

The common pattern is an orange body and black or brown wings and tail. Another common pattern is for the orange to be restricted to the under parts.

The following are orange birds that you are most likely to see in Arizona.



Northern Flicker

These unusual woodpeckers with orange under wings are just as likely to be found hopping on your lawn eating ants as they are to be calling from a dead tree top.


Photo of Northern Flicker on a stump.
Northern Flicker. Greg Gillson.


Where is the orange color? 

Wait for it...


Photo of Northern Flicker in flight.
Northern Flicker. Greg Gillson.


The shafts and undersides of the wing and tail feathers are a salmon orange color. A large white rump patch also attracts attention as these birds fly away.

Northern Flickers live in open woods, residential areas. Sometimes visit feeders in winter.

Northern Flickers are year-round residents through most of Arizona, winter visitors only in southwestern Arizona. 


American Kestrel

These are the familiar small rusty-orange falcons sitting on power lines on the edge of the highway, or hunting and hovering over the median strip.


Photo of American Kestrel on sign
Female American Kestrel. Greg Gillson.


Females are rusty orange barred with black on their back wings and tail. The under parts are buff with black spots. The head shows two facial stripes.

Males have blue-gray backs and rufous tail is unmarked except for black tail band.

These birds are found in open country, farms, pastures with perches.

American Kestrels are year-round residents throughout Arizona.


Spotted Towhee

These big sparrows with red sides superficially resemble the coloration of robins. 


Photo of Spotted Towhee in pine tree sapling
Spotted Towhee. Greg Gillson.


These birds have dark hoods and upper parts with rusty rufous-red sides and white bellies. They have white spots over their wings, shoulders, and on their tail corners. The upper parts of the males are jet black, females dark brown. Some populations have paler orange sides.

These are somewhat shy birds that hide in the dense brush and spend most of their time on the ground. They visit feeders during quiet periods.

Spotted Towhees are year-round residents in northern, eastern and northeastern Arizona. 


Black-headed Grosbeak

If you didn't look closely at these big-billed birds, you might mistake these orange-breasted songsters for American Robins--their coloration and song are very similar!


Photo of Black-headed Grosbeak on stump.
Male Black-headed Grosbeak. Greg Gillson.


Males have black and white wings and tail. Huge bill. The under parts are burnt orange, fading to yellow-orange mid-belly. 

Females and first year birds have a striped heads and are brown above, pale buff or butterscotch-orange below. 

These birds are found in deciduous or mixed woods. Visit bird feeders.

Black-headed Grosbeaks are summer residents in northern and eastern Arizona, spring and fall migrants only in west-central and southwestern Arizona.


Ruddy Duck

These small ducks are dark rusty-orange in spring.


Photo of Ruddy Duck swimming on lake
Ruddy Duck. Greg Gillson.


Males in breeding plumage (late winter and spring) are rusty, with a white face, and a blue bill. The long tail is often held sticking up. In winter they are brown, with white face, and dark bill.

Females all year are like winter males. Brown body, dark cap, dark line through eye of pale face. Dark bill.

These birds prefer weedy ponds to breed, but in winter may be found in deeper ponds in city parks.

Ruddy Ducks are year-round residents in the southern 2/3 of Arizona, winter visitors only in northern Arizona.


Barn Swallow

These orange-bellied birds are a familiar sight across North America in summer.


Photo of Barn Swallows on wooden railing.
Barn Swallow. Greg Gillson.


These birds are purple-blue above with orange under parts and long forked tails. The color of the underparts in winter or on females are often cinnamon or buff-colored, but breeding males can be brighter orange-red.

These birds swoop low over fields and wetlands at lower elevations. They may build their mud nests in rafters on porches, garages, or other out-buildings.

Barn Swallows are summer residents in central and southeastern Arizona, spring and fall migrants in northern, western, and southwestern Arizona. 


Cinnamon Teal

What an unusually colored brownish-orange duck!


Photo of Cinnamon Teal on pond
Male Cinnamon Teal. Greg Gillson.


Males are dark cinnamon orange. The wing patches are blue, green, and white. The eye is red. 

Females are more mottled brown with matching wing patches.

These birds are found in ponds and grass-lined ditches.

Cinnamon Teals are summer residents in northern and northeastern Arizona, year-round residents in a small area of central Arizona, winter visitors only in southern Arizona, and spring and fall migrants only in western Arizona.


Hooded Oriole

In the United States no other bird is so closely associated with palm trees as this bright orange oriole.


Photo of Hooded Oriole on branch.
Male Hooded Oriole. Greg Gillson.


Males of the western population are yellow-orange. Texas populations are more orange. The whole head is orange except for the black face and throat. The tail is solidly black, as seen in flight.

Females are yellow-green above and quite yellow below.

These birds are found in residential areas, parks, closely tied to Washingtonia palms.

Hooded Orioles are summer residents in southern, central, and southwestern Arizona.


Bullock's Oriole

These bright orange and black birds are often seen in tall trees.


Photo of Bullock's Oriole in willows.
Male Bullock's Oriole. Greg Gillson.


The males of this species are very bright orange. The back and top of the heads are black. The black wings have large white wing patches. The tail is black with orange sides. The face is orange with a black line through the eye and a black throat.

Females and young are gray with yellow head and breast and tail.

These birds are more common in drier inland regions along watercourses in tall cottonwoods or shade trees. Rarely come to feeders for fruit or nectar in spring.

Bullock's Orioles are summer residents in much of Arizona, spring and fall migrants only in southwestern Arizona.



Yellow birds of Arizona


Yellow is a common bird color! Often it is mixed with black and white plumage in birds.

Many birds with darker upper parts have yellow breast or belly.

The following are yellow birds you are most likely to see in Arizona.



Lesser Goldfinch

Lesser Goldfinches maintain their bright yellow plumage all year--even in the winter when American Goldfinches are rather brown and colorless.


Photo of Lesser Goldfinch in willows
Male Lesser Goldfinch. Greg Gillson.


These tiny birds are bright yellow below (including under the tail), and green or black on the back. The wings and tail are black and white. Males have a black cap, which the females lack.

These birds are found near water in arid regions of the West and Southwest. They are common in residential areas, too, and come to bird feeders.

Lesser Goldfinches are year-round residents through much of Arizona, summer residents only in northeastern Arizona.


Verdin

These are like desert chickadees, but with yellow heads!

Photo of Verdin in Ocotillo
Verdin. Greg Gillson.


Gray throughout. Adults have yellow head.

Found in thorny desert shrubs, residential areas.

Verdins are year-round residents in western, southern, and central Arizona.


Yellow-rumped Warbler

These are abundant warblers across North America. Affectionately called "butter butts" by many birders, because of their bright yellow rumps that flash in flight.


Photo of Yellow-rumped Warbler on weed stock
Male Audubon's Yellow-rumped Warbler. Greg Gillson.


Western form (Audubon's) with bright yellow throat and yellow rump. Large white wing patch.

Northern and Eastern form (Myrtle) with white throat, yellow rump, and two white wing bars.

Winter birds are dull gray brown, with bright yellow rump. Throat may be cream colored or white. Often difficult to tell the two forms apart in winter.


Photo of Yellow-rumped Warbler on tree
Winter Yellow-rumped Warbler. Greg Gillson.


Breed in mountain or boreal conifers. Widespread in migration. Winter in low river bottoms, open weedy deciduous areas. Rarely come to feeders in winter.

Yellow-rumped Warblers are winter visitors throughout Arizona, they breed in high mountains from southeastern Arizona toward central Arizona. 


Yellow Warbler

The golden yellow sun packed all into one little bird! Appears to be an all-yellow bird.


Photo of Yellow Warbler on branch
Yellow Warbler. Greg Gillson.


Some populations are bright yellow, some tend toward greenish on upper parts, some more golden. Yellow internal tail corners in flight.

Males with red breast streaking, again, variable by population.

Females somewhat to much paler yellow, some greenish, some whitish. Lack red streaks.

These birds are found in willow thickets on the edge of wetlands and ditches, stream sides in arid regions.

Yellow Warblers are summer residents in south-central and southeastern Arizona, rare summer residents across northern Arizona, spring and fall migrants throughout Arizona.


Cassin's Kingbird

These noisy yellow-bellied flycatchers of the Southwest are similar to the more widespread Western Kingbirds.


Photo of Cassin's Kingbird in sapling
Cassin's Kingbird. Greg Gillson.


These large-headed birds sit upright. The head is dark gray with sharply-defined white throat. The belly is yellow. The dark brown tail has an indistinct pale tip.

These birds inhabit a wide variety of habitats. They usually include tall trees and open spaces in their home ranges. Open woods, canyons, and parks all suit these birds.

Cassin's Kingbirds are summer residents in northern, eastern, and southeastern Arizona.


Common Yellowthroat

These buttery yellow birds are abundant in the marsh vegetation.


Photo of Common Yellowthroat in maple
Male Common Yellowthroat. Greg Gillson.


These skulkers have bright yellow throats and yellow undertail coverts. Males have a black domino mask edged broadly in white, which females lack. Upperparts are dull olive-green.

Immature males in fall show a shadowed black mask.

Found in damp situations and heavy deciduous brambles following clear cuts.

Common Yellowthroats are summer residents throughout Arizona, they are year-round residents in western Arizona along the Colorado River, and at a few places in southeastern Arizona.


Western Kingbird

These yellow-bellied birds of the prairies often perch on power lines and fence lines.


Photo of Western Kingbird on a branch
Western Kingbird. Greg Gillson.


These birds are pale gray on the head and breast. Brown wings. The belly is lemon yellow. Black tail has white outer tail feathers, especially obvious in flight.

These are birds of prairies, deserts, pastures, often near water.

Western Kingbirds are summer residents throughout Arizona.


Yellow-headed Blackbird

These blackbirds with yellow heads are found in marshes in the West.


Photo of Yellow-headed Blackbird on fence
Yellow-headed Blackbird. Greg Gillson.


Males are glossy black with bright golden-yellow head and breast. White wing patches.

Females are duller brown with mottled yellow breast.

These birds nest in cattail marshes in prairies. Winter in large flocks in agricultural areas.

Yellow-headed Blackbirds are summer residents in east-central Arizona, year-round residents along the Colorado River in western Arizona, winter visitors in southeast Arizona, and spring and fall migrants throughout.


Western Tanager

Numbers of these bright black and yellow birds may show up overnight in backyards in spring migration. Then they disappear the next night.


Photo of Western Tanager in bush.
Western Tanager. Greg Gillson.


Males are brilliant golden yellow with black back, wings, and tail, and a red or orange face. Swollen yellow bill.

Females are more green or gray, with darker wings and tail. Lack red face.

They are found in a variety of wooded habitats, usually conifers or mixed conifer woods, and residential areas with large trees, including mature conifers. Usually don't visit feeders.

Western Tanagers are summer residents in northern and northeastern Arizona, spring and fall migrants throughout. 


Brown Crested Flycatcher

These flycatchers with yellow belly and rusty flight feathers are found in the desert.


Photo of Brown-crested Flycatcher in tree
Brown-crested Flycatcher. Greg Gillson.


These birds are brown above, gray on the upper breast, with yellow belly. The under tail and edges of wing feathers are rusty-orange.

They live in sycamores and desert stream edges.

Brown-crested Flycatchers are summer residents across the southern half of Arizona.


Pine Siskin

These small brown-streaked birds are relatives of the goldfinches. But you would never know it until they fly and sport yellow wing stripes and tail base. Usually in flocks.


Photo of Pine Siskins in bird bath
Pine Siskin. Greg Gillson.


These birds are streaked brown. In flight they have a yellow stripe down the length of the wing. The sides of the base of the tail is also yellow. Some birds are paler, some darker, others brighter yellow, others duller.

These birds are found in summer in northern conifer woods. Irregularly irrupt hundreds of miles southward. Frequent at feeders.

Pine Siskins are year-round residents in mountains through most of Arizona, winter visitors only in southwestern Arizona.


Wilson's Warbler

These bright yellow birds are very common, both on their summer territories and in migration.


Photo of Wilson's Warbler on branch
Male Wilson's Warbler. Greg Gillson.


These birds are bright yellow in the West, more greenish above in the East. Only males have the black cap.

Both genders have a beady black eye in the middle of the yellow face.

These birds live in damp understory, tangles, willows.

Wilson's Warblers are common spring and fall migrants throughout Arizona.


Yellow-breasted Chat

These unique larger yellow birds may sing day and night, and include whistles and crow-like cawing, often given in a display flight.

 

Photo of Yellow-breasted Chat in tree
Yellow-breasted Chat. Greg Gillson.


These birds are greenish above with bright yellow breast and white belly. They have a dark mask bordered with white.

These birds live in tangles and wet streamside woods.

Yellow-breasted Chats are summer residents throughout Arizona in appropriate habitat.


Gilded Flicker

These woodpeckers, very similar to Northern Flickers, are yellow under the wings and tail. They are restricted to the desert Southwest.


Photo of Gilded Flicker on Saguaro
Gilded Flicker. Greg Gillson.


These larger woodpeckers are brown on the back with thin black bars. The under parts are pinkish with round black spots. There is a black crescent across the chest. The face is gray with a brown crown. The undersides of the wing and tail feathers are bright yellow, best seen in flight.

Males have a red whisker, which is lacking in females.

These are birds of the Sonoran Desert, found especially on the large saguaro cacti.

Gilded Flickers are year-round residents in the southwestern half of Arizona.




Related:

See photos and learn about the most common backyard birds in Arizona, regardless of color.

See photos and learn what to feed winter birds in Arizona.

Here's a quick tutorial of how I would teach you to identify birds: 7 Steps to Identify Birds!

Birds with red heads in North America.

Yellow-and-black birds in North America.

Little Brown Birds at your Feeder.



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