20 Common Birds You Should Know (And How To Identify Them)

common birds

Common birds are so named because they’re widespread and easy to identify, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to misidentify them or overlook them in the first place.
If you live in an area with lots of trees, you’ve probably seen many birds in your yard or in the sky nearby.

But when was the last time you actually looked at these birds and tried to figure out what they were? Birds are among our most common animal companions, but that doesn’t mean they’re easy to identify without some practice.

Whether you’re an expert or novice birdwatcher, it’s always important to know your common birds and their plumage, especially if you’re going on a hike or out on the water and want to avoid bird droppings on your car.

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to identify common birds in North America, whether you use field guides, bird call apps, binoculars, or even just your good old eyes.

Below, you’ll find 20 common birds that people often overlook, with helpful hints about how to tell them apart from their more abundant counterparts (without flipping through an identification guide). If you see one of these common birds out in the wild, don’t forget to look up its name and record it in your field notebook!

Common birds to know

American Robin

American Robin

The American Robin is a common sight across North America, and most people can easily identify this bird by its red breast. males and females look alike, although female usually has a duller plumage.

The American Robin is a thrush and related to other birds in this family such as the Bluebird and the Wood Thrush. These birds are generally 6-8 inches in length with a wingspan of 10-12 inches. They feed on insects and other invertebrates as well as berries, fruit, and seeds.

They nest in cavities or nests that they construct on branches near water sources like streams or ponds. They produce 3-5 eggs per clutch which they incubate for 12 days before they hatch. Both parents care for the chicks until they fledge at around 2 weeks old when they learn to fly.

Black-capped Chickadee

Black-capped Chickadee

The Black-capped Chickadee is a small, sprightly bird with a black cap and bib set against a gray back and wings. They are also distinguished by their white cheeks. Chickadees are found in woods and forests across North America and are a common sight at backyard bird feeders.

These social birds often form small flocks and can be quite vocal, especially during the breeding season. The Black-capped Chickadee is one of the few species that uses its tail for signaling danger or aggression.

When threatened, this species will jerk its tail up over its head as it flies away from danger. If it spots an intruder on its territory, it will flick its tail twice and then point it downward.

Blue Jay

Blue Jay

The Blue Jay is a common bird that can be found in North America. They are known for their blue feathers and white chest. Blue Jays are also known to be very vocal birds. If you hear a loud, harsh jay sound, it is likely a Blue Jay.

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These birds are also known to be friendly and will often approach humans. If you see one of these in your backyard, try to offer some food like peanuts or sunflower seeds so they don’t get too bored. They might even sit on your hand if you do!

European Starling

European Starling

The European Starling is a small to medium-sized bird with glossy black feathers and yellow eyes. It’s native to Europe, Asia, and Africa, but has been introduced to North America and New Zealand.

In the United States, it’s considered an invasive species. The best way to identify a European Starling is by its call, which is a series of chirps that sound like twi-twi-twi. They feed on seeds and insects, as well as grains in orchards. If you see one in your backyard or neighborhood, consider setting up traps to capture it before they reproduce too much!

House Finch

House Finch

The House Finch is a fairly small bird, measuring only about 5-6 inches in length. They have a reddish brown body with dark streaks on their back and wings. The male House Finch has a bright red head and breast, while the female is more subdued in color.

These birds are commonly found in urban areas and will often build their nests near houses or other structures. House Finches are seed eaters and typically forage on the ground for food. They also enjoy eating fruit and berries. You can usually find these birds in large groups of 20 or more during the winter months. The House Finch’s call sounds like fee-bee.

Mourning Dove

common birds

The Mourning Dove is a fairly large bird, measuring up to 13 inches in length. They are pale grayish-brown overall with a long, slender tail. The breast is pinkish with darker streaks, and the belly is white.

The Mourning Dove gets its name from its mournful call, which sounds like coo-oo-oo. To spot one of these birds, look for open areas such as fields or golf courses. You may also see them around parks and neighborhoods where there are trees or other nesting spaces. Their diet consists mainly of seeds, grains, berries, acorns, pine nuts, and corn.

Red-winged Blackbird

common birds

One of the most widespread and easily recognized blackbirds in North America, the red-winged blackbird is a species you’re likely to see often. Look for these birds near wetlands or other water bodies, where they often perch on cattails or other vegetation.

The males have striking white patches at the base of their wings that are visible when they fly. They also have an orange beak, but it’s hard to make out unless you get close enough to catch a glimpse of it through their thick bill.

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch

The American Goldfinch is a small, beautiful bird with bright yellow feathers and black wings. They are found in open woodlands and fields across North America and are a common sight at bird feeders.

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To identify an American Goldfinch, look for a small bird with a pointed bill and distinctive coloring. American Goldfinches are shy but social birds, often seen in flocks. Males usually sing from the tops of trees or bushes, while females build the nest and raise the young alone.

In the fall they migrate southwards together as part of larger groups, which helps protect against predators. They have also been known to show up on Canadian beaches during severe storms when they’re unable to fly inland.

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird

common birds

One of the most common hummingbirds in North America is the ruby-throated hummingbird. The adult male has a bright red throat, while the female has a white throat with some streaks of red. Both sexes have green backs and wings, and white bellies.

Ruby-throated hummingbirds are small birds, measuring only 3-5 inches in length. They are fast flyers and can often be seen darting around gardens and parks. Hummingbirds drink nectar from flowers using their long bills. Females will lay two eggs at a time and both parents take care of the eggs and babies. Hummingbirds migrate south for winter but will return each spring to start breeding again.

Red northern cardinals

common birds

One of the most popular backyard birds, the red northern cardinal is easily identified by its bright red plumage. The male cardinal is especially vibrant, while the female tends to be a duller red. Both sexes have a black mask around their eyes. Cardinals are relatively large songbirds, measuring about 9 inches in length.

In addition to being found in woodlands and forests, these adaptable birds have also made their way into urban areas. They prefer trees with dense foliage for nesting and use their sharp claws to strip bark from tree trunks for eating insects living there. They typically mate for life and begin nesting early in the spring, usually before April.

When they’re not looking for food or nesting materials, cardinals spend their time singing from treetops or on the ground as they scratch at leaves on the ground looking for bugs.

Song Sparrow

common birds

The Song Sparrow is a sparrow that breeds in North America. It is a small bird with streaked brown plumage and a light-colored breast. The Song Sparrow gets its name from its song, which is a series of trills and chuckles. To identify a Song Sparrow, look for its streaked plumage and light-colored breast.

This sparrow can also be identified by its song, which is a series of trills and chuckles. In the winter, they are found across most of the continental United States. They tend to live near water sources where they feed on seeds and aquatic insects.

Tufted Titmouse

common birds

The Tufted Titmouse is a small songbird with a gray back and white underparts. They have a black head with a white forehead and a conspicuous tuft of feathers on their head. Male and female Tufted Titmice look alike. These birds are found in woodlands and forest edges in the eastern United States.

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You can identify a Tufted Titmouse by its distinctive call which sounds like peter-peter-peter. These birds mainly eat insects, seeds, fruits, and berries. If a Tufted Titmouse visits your backyard bird feeder it will likely be for sunflower seeds or peanut butter sandwiches. In winter, these birds may gather together in large numbers at bird feeders for easy access to food.

Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

The Downy Woodpecker is one of the most widespread and familiar woodpeckers in North America. This small bird has a black and white striped back, a white belly, and a small red patch on the back of its head. Male Downy Woodpeckers also have a red spot on their forehead.

These birds are found in woods and forests across the continent, where they eat insects that they find by pecking at tree bark. Their plumage helps camouflage them while they are feeding, as well as helps keep them warm in winter when temperatures drop below freezing.

When it comes time to breed, Downy Woodpeckers will often create elaborate nests out of twigs and other plant materials. They do not migrate south for the winter, but will instead stay put unless there is an extreme freeze or snowstorm coming through.

Hairy Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpecker

The Hairy Woodpecker is a medium-sized woodpecker that is native to North America. They are black and white with a black cap, white face, and black stripes running down their back. These birds are most often found in forests, but can also be found in parks and urban areas.

To identify a Hairy Woodpecker, look for its distinctive white stripe that runs down the center of its back. If they have a large crest on top of their head, they may be an Ivory-billed Woodpecker. Otherwise, they are almost certainly a Hairy woodpecker.

Eastern Bluebird

Eastern Bluebird

The Eastern Bluebird is a small thrush with blue upper parts, rusty-red breasts, and a white belly. It’s one of the most popular and easily identifiable backyard birds in North America.

You can find them in open woodlands, farmlands, and suburban areas. To identify an Eastern Bluebird, look for its bright blue plumage, white belly, and rusty-red breast. If you see a bird with these colors in your backyard, it’s likely an Eastern Bluebird!

Be sure to have lots of seeds on hand if you’re trying to attract them.

American Crow

American Crow

The American Crow is a large bird with black feathers and a wingspan of around three feet. They are often seen in fields and woods, and can also be found in cities and suburbs. Crows are very intelligent birds and have been known to use tools and solve complex problems.

To identify a crow, look for its black feathers, as well as its distinctive cawing sound. In addition, the tail will curl up into a hook shape at the end. Unlike most other types of birds, the eyes of an American Crow face forward.

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White-Breasted Nuthatch

common birds

The White-Breasted Nuthatch is a small, stocky bird with a white breast and blue-gray upper parts. They have a black cap and a white stripe over their eyes. Males and females look alike.

These birds are found in wooded areas across North America. They spend most of the year searching for food on the ground or high up in trees. White-breasted nuthatches can fly but they rarely do so except when chasing other birds away from their nests.

Baltimore Oriole

Baltimore Oriole

The Baltimore oriole is a small songbird with orange and black plumage. males have more brightly colored plumage than females. They are commonly found in woods and trees near open fields.

The best time to see them is during the spring migration when they can be seen in large flocks. To identify a Baltimore oriole, look for its small size, orange and black plumage, and foraging behavior in trees and bushes. You may also hear their repetitive dee-dee-dee call or their melodic song.

A better way to identify this bird is by listening to their high-pitched dee-dee-dee call or melodic song that only lasts about two seconds each. If you see an oriole, chances are it’s a Baltimore Oriole!

Red-Bellied Woodpecker

common birds

The Red-Bellied Woodpecker is a small to medium-sized woodpecker with a length of 7-9 inches. The upper parts are black with white bars, while the underparts are primarily white with some black barring. The most distinguishing feature is the bright red patch on the belly.

Both sexes have this coloration, but it is more pronounced in males. This bird can be found in woods and forests across the eastern United States and parts of Canada. They nest in trees close to the ground, making their homes out of wood chips, bark strips, leaves, and twigs.

They eat mostly insects such as ants and beetles that they find around tree trunks or high up in trees. They also feed on seeds such as acorns which they will store for later use by hammering at them with their powerful bills until they break open.

Northern Mockingbird

common birds

The Northern Mockingbird is a medium-sized songbird with a gray body and white wings. It has a long tail that it often cocks to one side. Male and female mockingbirds look alike.
Mockingbirds are found in woodlands, farmlands, and suburban areas across the United States.

They will mimic other bird songs and animal sounds, but they usually sing their own song which sounds like Meeeoooww! They eat insects, berries, seeds, and fruits. If a person sees a mockingbird at their feeder or garden then there’s probably another at least five more nearby!