Friday, February 25, 2022

Red, Orange, & Yellow Birds of Rhode Island

Did you see a brightly colored red bird, orange bird, or yellow bird in Rhode Island and wonder what it was?

This page is for you!

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

The list of birds found in Rhode Island includes over 410 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 Rhode Island covered in this article are:

  • American Robin
  • Northern Cardinal
  • House Finch
  • Ruby-throated Hummingbird
  • Scarlet Tanager


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

  • Eastern Towhee
  • Barn Swallow
  • Baltimore Oriole
  • Cooper's Hawk
  • American Redstart
  • Wood Thrush
  • Ruddy Duck


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

  • American Goldfinch
  • Northern Flicker
  • Yellow Warbler
  • Common Yellowthroat
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler
  • Cedar Waxwing
  • Pine Warbler
  • Great Crested Flycatcher
  • Prairie Warbler


Red birds of Rhode Island


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 Rhode Island.



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 in Rhode Island.


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 throughout Rhode Island.


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 Rhode Island.


Ruby-throated Hummingbird

These red-throated birds are the only hummingbird nesting in the eastern United States.


Photo of Ruby-throated Hummingbird at feeder
Male Ruby-throated Hummingbird. GeorgeB2. Pixabay.


Males are dark green above and on the belly. They have a white upper chest. The throat is ruby-red.

Females are green above, white below, including white throat.

These birds are found in woodland edges, residential yards. Readily come to hummingbird feeders.

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are summer residents throughout Rhode Island.


Scarlet Tanager

A brilliant red and black bird!


Photo of Scarlet Tanager on a branch
Male Scarlet Tanager. USF&WS. Public Domain.


Males are unmistakable with brilliant red with black wings and tail.

Females are olive-green above, darker wings and tail, yellower under parts. Pale bill.

These birds live in deciduous woods.

Scarlet Tanagers are summer residents throughout Rhode Island.



Orange birds of Rhode Island


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 Rhode Island.



Eastern Towhee

These birds with rusty-orange sides like to hide in dense bushes.


Photo of Eastern Towhee in tree branches
Female Eastern Towhee. Skeeze. Pixabay.


Males are black above with white wing patch, white tail corners. The sides are rusty. The belly white. Eyes variable: brown, red, orange, white, tending toward whiter southward.

Females are similar, but upper parts brown.

These birds are found in forest understory, dense brush, backyard hedges. Come to feeders.

Eastern Towhees are summer residents throughout Rhode Island.


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 throughout Rhode Island.


Baltimore Oriole

These bright orange and black birds are fairly common breeders in wooded areas in the East.


Photo of Baltimore Oriole eating and orange
Baltimore Oriole. Michael McGough. Pixabay.


Males have a black hood and back. Wings black with white patches. Tail black with orange sides to the base. Bright orange under parts.

Females are similar to males, but more olive above, less black. Immature birds for their first year or more are olive above orangish-yellow on the breast, fading to yellow on the belly. Two white wing bars.

These birds are common in deciduous woods, shade trees.

Baltimore Orioles are summer residents throughout Rhode Island.


Cooper's Hawk

These crow-sized hawks with reddish orange bars on the under parts may show up in fall or winter to hunt birds at your feeder. Oh no!


Photo of Cooper's Hawk on branch
Cooper's Hawk. Greg Gillson.


Adults with long gray and black banded tail. Dark gray above and cap on head. Under parts barred with rusty orange.

Immatures similar, brownish, streaked with brown on under parts.

Found in forests and woodlands, residential shade trees.

Cooper's Hawks are year-round residents throughout Rhode Island.


American Redstart

In flight these small warblers flash orange or yellow in the wing and base of the tail.


Photo of American Redstart on branch
American Redstart. Dennis Jarvis. Flikr. CC BY-SA 2.0


Males are black above, white on the belly. They have bright orange patches on side of breast, wings, and base of the tail.

Females are grayer, especially on the head. The orange of males is replaced by yellow on the females.

These birds are found in regenerating woods after a clear cut, and willow tangles along streams.

American Redstarts are summer residents throughout Rhode Island.


Wood Thrush

These spotted birds with the orange-brown upper parts tend to hide in understory trees and on the forest floor.


Photo of Wood Thrush on ground
Wood Thrush. Tony Castro. CC BY-SA 4.0


These birds are reddish brown on the upper parts, especially rusty orange on the crown and upper back. White eye ring. Large heavy black spots on the under parts.

They live in deciduous and mixed woods. Spend much time on the ground, shuffling through the leaf litter.

Wood Thrushes are summer residents throughout Rhode Island.


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 winter visitors in Rhode Island.



Yellow birds of Rhode Island


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 Rhode Island.



American Goldfinch

These small little birds are bright yellow and black.


Photo of American Goldfinch on twig
American Goldfinch. Greg Gillson.


Males are bright lemon yellow with black and white wings and tail, black cap. White under tail coverts. Pink bill.

Females are duller yellow below and brownish above. Lack black cap.

Winter birds are pale brown or gray, a touch of yellow on the throat of males.

These are birds of open country, fields with saplings, clear cuts, residential areas. They avoid dense forests, mountains, deserts. They visit feeders.

American Goldfinches are year-round residents throughout Rhode Island.



Northern Flicker

These woodpeckers spend much time eating ants on the ground.


Photo of intergrade Northern Flicker in tree
Northern Flicker. Greg Gillson.


These birds are larger than robins with brown and black barred upper parts. The underparts are pink with round black spots. There is a black crescent across the chest. When they fly away from you they reveal a large white rump.

Western birds have salmon-red under wings and under tail. Those in the East are colored yellow. The male face differs between the two populations--black whisker on the eastern birds, red whisker on western birds. Intergrades from overlap on Great Plains common. These may show male facial characteristics of both populations, or yellow-orange flight feathers.

These birds live in open woods with bare ground for foraging, residential yards.

Northern Flickers are year-round residents throughout Rhode Island.


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 throughout Rhode Island.


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 Rhode Island.


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 branch
Myrtle 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 Rhode Island.


Cedar Waxwing

These crested birds with yellow band on the end of the tail are often found in flocks. They eat flying insects in summer, fruit and berries the rest of the year.


Photo of Cedar Waxwing in tree
Cedar Waxwing. Greg Gillson.


These birds are fawn-brown above, with dark gray wings and tail. They have a black mask and wispy crest. The belly is yellow. The wings have waxy red drops on the end of the tertials. The end of the tail has a brilliant yellow tail band.

They are found in open habitats with berries, including juniper woodlands and towns in winter.

Cedar Waxwings are year-round residents throughout Rhode Island.


Pine Warbler

This yellow and gray bird is one of the few warblers to visit feeders--and the only one to eat seeds!


Photo of Pine Warbler on railing
Pine Warbler. Nikolaus Schultz. Pixabay.


These birds are yellow-green on head, back, and breast. Wings blue-gray with wide white wing bars. Yellow split eye ring.

Strongly associated with pine forests. Usually high in treetops.

Pine Warblers are summer residents throughout Rhode Island.


Great Crested Flycatcher

These flycatchers have long tails and big heads with big bill and bright yellow belly.


Photo of Great Crested Flycatcher on branch
Great Crested Flycatcher. Simard Francois. Pixabay.


These birds are gray on the face and breast, brownish on rest of upper parts. Bright lemon-yellow belly. The under side of the tail and some feathers of the wing is cinnamon colored.

These birds stay in the canopy of open woods.

Great Crested Flycatchers are summer residents throughout Rhode Island.


Prairie Warbler

These birds with the yellow breasts and odd black line under the eyes are a resident of mangrove swamps.


Prairie Warbler. Public domain.


Males are olive-green on the crown and back with chestnut streaks. Greenish-gray wings have pale wing bars. Yellow face and under parts. Yellow eyebrow, patch under eye. Black line through eye and below yellow under eye patch. Black streaks on sides.

Females are similar but facial pattern fainter, replaces black with green.

They are found in open scrubby woods, mangrove swamps.

Prairie Warblers are summer residents throughout Rhode Island.




Related:

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

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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