But despite birds being all over the place, for most people identifying them begins and ends with the Rock Pigeon. This list covers many of the other birds you are likely to see on a regular basis, from coast to coast, throughout the year. The species here can be seen in urban, suburban, and rural spaces, and the majority frequent backyards and feeders. So whether you’re new to the world of birding or just want to know what that little bird in the bushes is, this primer should help. And in case it doesn’t, you can visit our online field guide or download our free Audubon bird guide app to solve the mystery.
Perhaps no other North American bird is as familiar to the general public as the American Robin. Widespread, common, and conspicuous, these medium-size birds can be found in every state in the Lower 48, every Canadian province, and Alaska. They are easy to spot with their rusty orange bellies and gray backs. Often seen running upright across lawns and meadows while foraging for worms, robins can be found from cities and towns to parks and forests, where their rich, throaty songs provide a constant soundtrack to our daily lives.
Good bird fact: Although Robins are considered one of the key harbingers of spring, only some birds in northern states travel south during winter. Instead, stragglers will join large roaming flocks looking for berries. When spring returns, they disband and spread back out across their full range.
Listen to the American Robin's call below, and learn more about its range and behaviors here.
With its black face and crimson crest, beak, and body, the male Northern Cardinal, or “redbird” to many, is one of the most recognized and well-known birds in North America. Though less showy, females are also splendid, wearing soft, tawny feathers instead of the male's bright red plumage. Cardinals are often in pairs and can be seen at feeders and around mixed habitat throughout the East and parts of the Southwest.
Good bird fact: The Northern Cardinal is the most popular state bird (seven) and the mascot for a whole bunch of sports teams. However, despite what the University of Louisville might think, cardinals most definitely do not have teeth.
Listen to the Northern Cardinal's call below, and learn more about its range and behaviors here.
As with the cardinal, it’s pretty darn hard to mistake a Blue Jay for anything else. A distinctive bird that can be seen year-round in the eastern United States, the Blue Jay is of one of the most striking—and loudest—jays. At home in the forest, they also thrive in suburban habitats and are often unfairly (or, okay, fairly) regarded as feeder bullies. While easy to identify at a glance thanks to its crest and bright coloring, don’t miss the stunning pattern of black, white, and blue on the wings.
Good bird fact: The vibrant feathers of a Blue Jay are magnificent, no doubt, but even more impressive are the microscopic keratin particles throughout each feather that scatter light, producing the cooler colors seen on these and other birds.
Listen to the Blue Jay's call below, and learn more about its range and behaviors here.
When you reach the Rocky Mountains, suddenly Blue Jays are replaced by Steller's Jays. With their contrasting blue lower bodies and black backs, heads, and crests, Steller's are easily distinguishable. Loud and boisterous, they are most common in coniferous forests, but as with all jays, these birds are bold and have grown accustomed to humans, making them common visitors to campsites, parks, and backyards. A solitary nester, Steller's Jays live in flocks for the rest of the year.
Good bird fact: Steller's Jays can vary widely in both body and head color, ranging from extremely dark populations to paler birds with white marks on their heads. In total, 16 subspecies have been described across North America.
Listen to the Steller's Jay's call below, and learn more about its range and behaviors here.
The most widespread dove in North America, the Mourning Dove is an easily startled ground feeder that can be found pretty much anywhere with open habitat, from woodlands to cities. Note the uniform brown-gray coloring, dark spots on the wings, light-blue eye ring, and sharp, pointed tail. These doves can also easily be identified by their woeful cooing, which is often mistaken for the hoots of an owl.
Good bird fact: Here’s a new term for ya: pigeon milk. Secreted from the crops of doves and pigeons (part of their digestive system), this chunky, yellow substance is highly nutritious and fed to baby birds after being regurgitated by the parent. Yum!
Listen to the Mourning Dove's call below, and learn more about its range and behaviors here.
Sure, you know what a crow looks like. But do you know what type of crow you’re looking at? Often found in a variety of semi-open habitat, American Crows are large, all-black birds that can easily be identified by their harsh caw! call, which knowing is key to differentiating the American Crow from the almost-identical-looking Fish Crow and Northwestern Crow. This guide will help you tell the three apart, and this one will explain the key differences between crows and Common Ravens.
Listen to the American Crow's call below, and learn more about its range and behaviors here.
Talk about a bird that’s truly everywhere. Walk outside, look around, and chances are good you’ll see a starling. An introduced species to the U.S., these birds are now omnipresent—much to the disadvantage of many other species. Often found in huge flocks in the winter and fall, this medium-size forager sports a spiky yellow bill and richly detailed black feathers that have an oily sheen to them. Their call often has a metallic or squeaky sound.
Good bird fact: The European Starling was famously introduced in 1890 by Eugene Schieffelin, who, according to legend, thought that America should have every bird mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays. So he released two waves of the birds in Central Park, and now they've taken over the entire U.S. Thanks, Eugene.
Listen to the European Starling's call below, and learn more about its range and behaviors here.
You've definitely heard a Northern Mockingbird before. You know that bird that keeps you up in the middle of the night with its endless stream of songs? That's a mocker. One of the most common suburban birds across the U.S., the Northern Mockingbird is a master mimic, able to imitate hundreds of birds' songs and calls. With their gray bodies marked by black wings and flashy white wing bars, mockingbirds can often be found atop a tree or the eve of a nearby roof—singing away, of course.
Good bird fact: In addition to other species' songs, Northern Mockingbirds have been known to imitate machinery, perform near-perfect versions of human sounds like music and car alarms, and can even mimic frogs and toads.
Listen to the Northern Mockingbird's below, and learn more about its range and behaviors here.
A staple of the American West, this large bird is hard to miss with its black head and back, white breast, long tail, and iridescent feathers. Members of the corvid family along with crows, jays, and ravens, magpies can be found at all elevations in urban and rural habitats, often strutting around open areas foraging for food. The Black-billed Magpie is not a discriminatory eater, either, consuming everything from grasshoppers and beetles to carrion and small rodents.
Good bird fact: Black-billed Magpies construct massive round nests that can reach up to three feet in diameter and look like large bushel baskets. On each side they create entry and exit holes.
Listen to the Black-billed Magpie's call below, and learn more about its range and behaviors here.
Juncos are a popular and widespread winter visitor to almost all of the United States from the boreal forests of the North and high mountains. They prefer mixed woods and coniferous habitat, but they are staples of backyards, where they bounce around under feeders foraging and eating spilled seeds. The eastern version of the junco—the dark-eyed one above—features a white belly and a slate head and back, but there are a few different subspecies of the bird that vary geographically.
Good bird fact: Dark-eyed Juncos are colloquially known as “snowbirds” due to their sudden appearance throughout much of the country when the temperature starts dropping. The term is often used for a variety of winter birds, but juncos are the true snowbirds.
Listen to the Dark-eyed Junco's call below, and learn more about its range and behaviors here.
A permanent resident across the northern U.S. and in parts of the Appalachian Mountains, Black-capped Chickadees are energetic little birds that prefer mixed, open woods and forest edges. Easy to identify by their white cheeks sandwiched between a black cap and chin, chickadees also live in suburban environments and are popular