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Common Winter Birds Across North America

By Minette Layne (Flickr: [1]) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Minette Layne (Flickr: [1]) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Chestnut Backed Chickadee By Minette Layne (Flickr: [1]) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

In North America, there only two dozen common winter feeder bird species that are widespread and can be seen in both the west and east. In both the eastern and western regions there are about another ten species that visit bird feeders.

There are a few surprise visitors, but as you will see in the lists below, there are not that many species that will make birding convenient for you by visiting your backyard.

A Sharp-shinned Hawk perches on my garden fence. Photo by Donna L. Long
A Sharp-shinned Hawk perches on my garden fence. Photo by Donna L. Long

There are other birds in the U.S. and Canada during winter, they just won’t visit your feeders regularly. You may be lucky (or is it unlucky) enough to have a Red-tailed Hawk or a Sharp-shinned Hawk hunt at your feeders for the small, delicious birds you attract. A Great-horned Owl may hang out in a nearby tree.

The birds that live in wet habitats, like shorebirds and waterfowl, are hanging out by the last patches of unfrozen water. If you want to see those birds, you will have to go where they are, unfrozen lakes, rivers, bays, and the oceans.

American Tree Sparrow (Spizelloides arborea)
American Tree Sparrow (Spizelloides arborea) Jocelyn Anderson [CC BY 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)]

As the spring gets under way and the far north arctic regions begin to thaw, visiting arctic bird species will return to the taiga and tundra. These birds breed arctic and winter in the lower 48 states of the U.S. or the more southern areas of Canada. Depending where you live, winter maybe the only chance you get to see some of the birds.

Next week’s post will be on the Birds That Breed in the Arctic and spend the winters in southern Canada and the Continental U.S.

Female Hairy Woodpecker eating suet at my buffet.
Female Hairy Woodpecker eating suet at my buffet.

This is a list of the most common birds which visit bird feeders in the winter months. These birds can be observed across North America including the United States and Canada. The list is compiled from Project FeederWatch.org, a citizen science project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

The list is broken down by those species that are widespread and those which are seen either in the east or west.

A male Cardinal and Mourning Dove eating from a platform feeder.
A male Cardinal and Mourning Dove eating from a platform feeder.

Widespread Common Winter Feeder Birds (about 24 species)

Woodpeckers

  • Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens)
  • Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus)

Thrushes

  • American Robin (Turdus migratorius)

Starlings

  • European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)

Doves

  • Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)

Nuthatches

  • White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis)
  • Red-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis)

Chickadees and Titmice

  • Black-capped Chickadee (Parus atricapillus)

Cardinals

  • Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)

Blackbirds

  • Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)
  • Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater)

Finches

  • American Goldfinch (Carduelis tristis)
  • Purple Finch (Carpodacus purpureus)
  • House Finch (Carpodacus mexicanus)
  • Pine Siskin (Carduelis pinus)
  • Evening Grosbeak (Coccothraustes vespertinus)

Sparrows

  • White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys)
  • White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis)
  • Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)
  • Fox Sparrow (Passerella iliaca)
  • American Tree Sparrow (Spizella arborea)

Identifying Savannah and Song Sparrows

Old World Sparrows

  • House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)
Steller's Jay (Cyanocitta stelleri)
Steller’s Jay (Cyanocitta stelleri). Photo: public domain, fws.gov

Western Feeder Birds (about 10 species)

The following is a list of birds that visit feeders in the winter in the western region of North America.

Sparrows

  • Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis) – Oregon form
  • Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis) – pink-sided form
  • Golden-Crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia atricapilla)
  • Cassin’s Finch (Peucaea cassinii)

Chickadees

  • Chestnut-Backed Chickadee (Poecile rufescens)
  • Mountain Chickadee (Poecile gambell)

Thrushes

  • Varied Thrush (Ixoreus naevlus)

Jays

  • Stellar Jay (Cyanocitta stelleri)

Blackbirds

  • Brewer’s Blackbird (Euphagus cyanocephalus)

Woodpeckers

  • Red-Shafted (Northern) Flicker (Colaptes auratus)
bird_dark-eyed Junco
Dark-eyed Junco. Photo by Donna L. Long

Eastern Feeder Birds (about 10 species)

The following is a list of birds that visit feeders in the winter in the eastern region of North America.

Chickadees and Titmice

  • Carolina/Black-capped Chickadee mix
  • Carolina Chickadee (Parus carolinensis)
  • Tufted Titmouse (Parus bicolor)

Sparrows

  • Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis) – Slate-colored form
  • Eastern Towhee (Pipilo erythrophthalmus)

Wrens

  • Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus)

Jays

  • Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata)

Blackbirds

  • Common Grackle (Quscalus quiscula)

Woodpeckers

  • Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus)
  • Yellow-Shafted (Northern/Taiga) Flicker (Colaptes auratus)
American Tree Sparrow (Spizelloides arborea)
American Tree Sparrow (Spizelloides arborea) Jocelyn Anderson [CC BY 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)]

More Posts on Winter Birding

Winter Birding: How to Master It (with video)

Winter Bird Migrations and Irruptions (with video)

Winter Bird Feeding Guide: Attract Birds to Your Backyard (with video)

Citizen science project: The Great Backyard Bird Count

Citizen science project: Project FeederWatch Info, Tips, and Nature Journaling Ideas

Identifying Song and Savannah Sparrows

identifying Birds by Color: A Collection of Photo Galleries

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