Identify the 41 Birds Visiting Backyard Feeders in the Northeast

Here, I share my identification guide for the birds that visit backyard feeders in the northeast region of the United Stated and Eastern Canada. This region includes the states and provinces of Virginia, West Virginia, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, Maryland, Ohio, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Maine, Connecticut, and Delaware. It also includes the Canadian provinces of Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland-and-Labrador, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward.

I have prepared custom identification images and gathered information about the 41 species most frequently reported at feeders by folks that feed backyard birds in the region. I have also included the songs and calls of each bird. Let’s see what I have put together!

  • Click open the table (arrow) of contents below to jump to a species account, or scroll down and navigate this guide.

Backyard birders will find the guide to backyard feeder birds of the Northeastern United States and Canada useful as an identification and reference tool. 

Birds included in this guide are the forty-one (41) most frequently reported species by enthusiasts in the region participating in Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Feederwatch Program. Each species account includes an ID plate, voice, preferred food and feeder, preferred backyard type, presence in the region, behavior at feeders, breeding biology, and lifespan.

Birds that visit backyard feeders in the Northeast Region

Most of the birds visiting backyard bird feeders in the northeast region are widespread and occur in more than one region. Some occur in most of the United States and Canada.

Feeder birds in the Northeast Region are primarily sparrows, finches, and their allies. This group also includes siskins, goldfinches, and juncos.

Other groups are represented by fewer species. For instance, woodpeckers include five species, while blackbirds include four species. The remaining groups include only one or two species.

bird-groups-feeder-birds
Bird groups visiting backyard feeders in the northeastern United States and Canada.

Bird groups and the number of species per group visiting bird feeders in northeastern North America.

  • Sparrows, Finches, and their allies: 17 species.
  • Woodpeckers: 5 species.
  • Blackbirds: 4 species.
  • Doves: 1 species.
  • Mockingbird and Thrashers: 2 species.
  • Bluebirds and Robins: 2 species.
  • Jays and Crows: 2 species.
  • Titmouse and Chickadees: 2 species.
  • Nuthatches: 2 species.
  • Wrens: 1 species.
  • Kinglets: 1 species.
  • Starlings: 1 species.
  • Brown Creeper 1 species

Most backyard feeder birds have flexible diets and behavior

Birds that visit bird feeders are a small subset of the birds in the region. The Northeast Region is home to many birds that eat insects. One would expect that insect-eating birds would make the largest group of birds visiting bird feeders. However, grain and seed-eating birds compose the largest group.

Birds visiting backyard feeders are also a subset with flexible behaviors. Regardless of their diets, these birds have not only learned to live near humans but also to take advantage of the food provided by them. There are many bird species that have not been able to break through either barrier. 

Identification pictures of species that come to backyard bird feeders in Northeast North America

House Finch (Male).

Identifying backyard birds gives many hours of enjoyment to thousands of people in the Northeast Region. This guide will help you recognize male, female, and juvenile plumages, as well as the little brown ones. The illustrations point to birds’ markings to pay attention to.

Each species account includes aspects of the bird’s natural history, enhancing the backyard bird feeding experience.

Recognizing the species of birds visiting your backyard is not only rewarding but can also help them. Backyard birders can contribute to these birds’ study and conservation by submitting their sightings to databases for scientific research.

Knowing which birds come to your bird feeder can help you improve your feeding strategy! If you pay attention to the birds that visit your feeders and those that don’t, you can choose the right food and feeder type to attract and keep the desired birds coming back for more. So, it’s a win-win situation: you get to enjoy watching birds at home, and they get to enjoy a tasty meal.

Cardinals like hulled sunflower seeds, while American goldfinches prefer nyjer or thistle seed.

List of birds that visit backyard feeders in the Northeast

Birds visit backyard feeders at different rates and times of the year. This is because birds can be year-round residents or migratory.

Migratory species move from region to region in search of food, better breeding opportunities, or to avoid harsh weather conditions. This can explain why some birds visit your feeders for a few months or even weeks, and then disappear, while the resident species keep coming back year-round.

Reproductive stages also influence the rate of feeder visitations. Parents that are feeding young in the nest switch their diets to protein-rich foods such as insects. These birds visit feeders offering bird seeds less frequently. 

The following list includes the 41 most frequently reported backyard feeder birds in the Northeastern Region of North America.

NumberBird Name
#1Northern Cardinal
#2House Finch
#3Dark-eyed Junco
#4White-throated Sparrow
#5American Goldfinch
#6Pine Siskin
#7Purple Finch
#8House Sparrow
#9Chipping Sparrow
#10Eastern Towhee
#11American Tree sparrow
#12Evening Grosbeak
#13Common Redpoll
#14Song Sparrow
#15Field Sparrow
#16White-crowned Sparrow
#17Fox Sparrow
#18Downy Woodpecker
#19Red-bellied Woodpecker
#20Hairy Woodpecker
#21Pileated woodpecker
#22Northern Flicker
#23Red-winged Blackbird
#24Brown-headed Cowbird
#25Baltimore Oriole
#26Common Grackle
#27Mourning Dove
#28Northern Mockingbird
#29Brown Thrasher
#30American Robin
#31Eastern Bluebird
#32Tufted Titmouse
#33Black-capped Chickadee
#34White-breasted Nuthatch
#35Red-breasted nuthatch
#36Blue Jay
#37American Crow
#38European Starling
#39Carolina Wren
#40Ruby-crowned kinglet
#41Brown Creeper

SPARROWS, FINCHES, & ALLIES

In the northeast region of North America, sparrows, finches, and their allies constitute the largest group of backyard feeder birds. Most are ground-feeder birds that feed on platforms, hoppers, and tube feeders.

Birds in this group have heavy, conical, seed-crushing bills. Backyard feeders generally offer seeds and grain that sparrows, finches, cardinals, and buntings like. Some birds in this group take more insects and other invertebrates during the breeding season and switch to a large seed and grain diet during the rest of the year. 


Northern Cardinal

Length 9″, Weight 1.6 oz

Identification: The male northern cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) is all red with a conspicuous crest and long tail. The female is a warm brown with red on the wings and tail. Juveniles resemble a female.
Food: Food: Attract cardinals with black oil sunflower seeds, hulled sunflower seeds, safflower, cracked corn, peanut hearts, millet, and milo.
Feeder: It favors large tube, large hopper, and platform feeders. It also feeds on the ground.
Presence: Northern cardinals are year-round residents in the northeast region. They can be expected at feeders any time of the year. 
Behavior: Northern cardinals can be aggressive to smaller birds but are displaced by blue jays, woodpeckers, grackles, and larger birds.
Backyard: Favors dense cover and tall shrubs and trees, but will visit just about any type of yard with enough vegetation in or near it.
Nest: Northern cardinals build a cup-shaped nest in a fork of small branches, shrubs, or vine tangle, 1-15 feet above the ground.
Breeding season: The northern cardinal breeds from March through mid-September.
Breeding period: Northern cardinals lay 2-5 grayish to buffy white eggs speckled with light brown. It takes approximately 22 days from egg-laying (incubation period 12 days, nestling period 10 days) until fledging.
Lifespan: Northern cardinals live at least 15 years and nine months.


House Finch

house-finch-
Length 6″, Weight 0.7 oz

Identification: The male house finch (Haemorhous mexicanus) has red on the head and breast, contrasting with the gray-brown of the rest of the body. A few males have yellow instead of red. Females are gray-brown streaked with black on the back, breast, and belly.
Food: Attract house finches with black oil sunflower seed, hulled sunflower seeds, safflower, and nyjer.
Feeder: It favors large tube feed, small and large hopper, and platform feeders.
Presence: The house finch is a year-round resident in the northeast but does not range as far north as Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Newfound Land, and Prince Edward in Canada.
Behavior: House finches are surprisingly submissive to even smaller birds. They generally interact well with other birds at feeders.
Backyard: Favors human-created habitats and are common in suburban settings.
Nest: House finches build an open cup surrounded by twigs in trees, cactus, and rock ledges. It also nests in light fixtures, house decorations, hanging planters, and building ledges.
Breeding season: The house finch breeds from late March through early August.
Breeding period: The house finch lays 2-6 bluish-white eggs dotted with brown. It takes about 29 days from egg-laying (incubation period 13 days, nestling period 16 days) until fledging.
Lifespan: House finches live at least 11 years and 7 months.


Purple Finch

Length 6″, Weight 0.88 oz

Identification: The male purple finch (Haemorhous purpureus) is raspberry red, more saturated on the head and breast. The female is brown, heavily streaked with black below, and has a patterned head.
Food: Attract purple finches with black oil sunflower seeds, hulled sunflower seeds, nyjer, and millet.
Feeder: It favors large and small tube feeders. It also uses hoppers and platform feeders.
Presence: Purple finches breed in Canada. It can be expected in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, West Virginia, and Virginia during the winter months.
Behavior: It is not aggressive at feeders. The purple finch is a semi-nomadic bird that may visit your feeder in one year but not the next.
Backyard: Purple finch favors edges of woodlands, particularly coniferous ones. Feeders near woodlands are more likely to attract purple finches.
Nest: It builds a cup-shaped nest on branches of coniferous trees or trees in deciduous forests. The height from the ground varies from 5 to 50 feet above the ground.
Breeding season: Purple finches breed from April through August.
Breeding period: The purple finch lays 2-7 grayish eggs with dusky specks. It takes approximately 26 days from egg-laying (incubation period 12 days, nestling period 14 days) until fledging.
Lifespan: Purple finches live at least 12 years and 8 months.


Chipping Sparrow

Length 5.5″, Weight 0.4 oz

Identification: The chipping sparrow (Spizella passerina) in breeding plumage is grayish below with a rusty cap and black eyeline. Birds in non-breeding plumage have a dusky-brown cap and darker brown plumage. Juveniles are gray-brown with black streaks below.
Food: Attract chipping sparrows with hulled sunflower seeds, nyjer, cracked corn, millet, and milo.
Feeder: They favor large and small hoppers and platform feeders. They are also ground feeders eating spilled seeds below elevated feeders.
Presence: The chipping sparrow is a breeding resident in all states of the northeast and can be expected in backyard feeders any time of the year.
Behavior: Chipping sparrows are submissive to most other birds at feeders, even birds smaller in size.
Backyard: It favors semi-open habitats, often in suburban areas. Shrubs and small trees at the edges of your yard are used by chipping sparrows for hiding.
Nest: It builds a cup-shaped nest in dense foliage or the tip of a branch, usually within 15 feet above the ground, but sometimes higher.
Breeding season: Chipping sparrows breed in late March through late August.
Breeding period: Chipping sparrows lay 2-7 bluish eggs lightly streaked and spotted with dark gray. It takes about 24 days from egg-laying (incubation period 13 d, nestling period 11 d) until fledging.
Lifespan: Chipping sparrows live at least 10 years and 11 months.


White-throated Sparrow

Length 6.7″, Weight 0.91 oz

Identification: The white-throated sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis) has a patterned head showing a yellow patch in front of the eye. This sparrow has two plumage morphs: white-striped and tan-striped.
Food: Attract white-throated sparrows with black oil sunflower seeds, hulled sunflower seeds, safflower, cracked corn, peanut hearts, millet, and milo.
Feeder: It feeds mostly on the ground, eating birdseed spilled by elevated feeders. It also uses platform feeders.
Presence: The white-throated sparrow is a year-round resident in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward. Above these states, it is found as a Spring and Summer breeder. Below these states, it can only be found during the winter.
Behavior: Not an aggressive bird easily displaced by more aggressive ones.
Backyard: The white-throated sparrow forages in semi-open areas with some vegetation cover. Favors backyards that offer vegetation cover near the feeders.
Nest: White-throated sparrows build a cup-shaped nest on or near the ground.
Breeding season: The white-throated sparrow breeds in late May through mid-August.
Breeding period: The white-throated sparrow lays 2-6 pale bluish-green eggs speckled with chestnut-brown. It takes approximately 23 days from egg-laying (incubation period 12 days, nestling period 11 days) until fledging.
Lifespan: White-throated sparrows live at least 14 years and 11 months.


White-crowned Sparrow

Length 9.5″, Weight 1 oz

Identification: The white-crowned sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys) has black and white stripes on the crown (adults). The head and breast areas are gray. It is a large and relatively long-tailed sparrow. Immature birds have tan and brown head stripes. The bill color varies from yellow-orange to pink.
Food: Attract white-crowned sparrows with black oil and hulled sunflower seeds, cracked corn, millet, and milo.
Feeder: White-crowned sparrows feed mainly on the ground but take platform feeders.
Presence: The white-crowned sparrow breeds in northern Canada during the spring and summer. It can only be expected in the American Northeast during the winter months.
Behavior: Like other ground feeders, white-crowned sparrows interact peacefully with other ground feeders. They can be pushed aside from platform feeders by more aggressive birds.
Backyard: The white-crowned favors overgrown fields and brushy areas, particularly during migration. Yards that resemble this habitat type are likely to attract white-crowned sparrows.
Nest: White-crowned sparrows build a cup-shaped nest in shrubs or bushes at various heights (2-5 feet) from the ground. They can also nest on the ground where tall shrubs are not available. 
Breeding season: The white-crowned sparrow’s breeding season varies regionally but is generally from May through mid-August.
Breeding period: The white-crowned sparrow lays 3-7 bluish to greenish eggs spotted with brown concentrated on the wide side of the egg. It takes about 22 days from egg-laying (incubation period 13 days, nestling period 9 days) until fledging.
Lifespan: White-crowned sparrows live at least 13 years and 4 months.


Fox Sparrow

Length 7″, Weight 1.1 oz

Identification: The Fox Sparrow (Passerella iliaca) has a characteristic rufous ear patch bordered by gray. The upper back is streaked with rufous. The underparts are whitish with streaks formed by arrow-head-like rows, which concentrate in the breast area, forming a cluster.
Food: Attract fox sparrows with black and hulled sunflower seeds, nyjer, cracked corn, millet, and milo.
Feeder: They generally feed on the ground under elevated feeders. They typically use hoppers or platform feeders.
Presence: The Fox Sparrow breeds in northern Canada during the spring and summer. It can be expected in the American Northeast during the winter months.
Behavior: Like other ground feeders, fox sparrows interact peacefully with other ground feeders. They can be pushed aside from platform feeders by more aggressive birds.
Backyard: The Fox Sparrow is a bird that needs cover. They tend to visit feeders close to vegetative cover and are reluctant to visit feeders far away from it.
Nest: It builds a cup-shaped nest on the ground tucked under grasses or shrubs.
Breeding season: Fox sparrows breed in mid-May through late July.
Breeding period: Fox sparrows lay 2-5 bluish-green eggs with brown markings. It takes about 23 days from egg-laying (incubation period 13 days, nestling period 19 days) until fledging.
Lifespan:  Fox Sparrows live at least 10 years and 4 months.


Song Sparrow

Length 6.2″, Weight 0.7 oz

Identification: The song sparrow (Melospiza melodia) has a patterned back and dark brown or rusty streaks in the underparts. Notice the brown spot in the breast and the unstreaked pale center of the belly. Males and females look alike.
Food: Attract song sparrows with black oil sunflower seeds, hulled sunflower seeds, safflower, cracked corn, peanut hearts, millet, and milo.
Feeder: It typically feeds on the ground eating the seed spilled from the hanging feeders. It can use platform feeders as well.
Presence: Song sparrows are year-round residents in most of the northeast and can be expected any time of the year..
Behavior: As with other ground feeders, song sparrows are not aggressive to other birds while feeding on the ground.
Backyard: Song sparrows use a wide variety of semi-open habitats. They visit just about any backyard type in their preferred habitat.
Nest: Song sparrows build a cup-shaped nest, usually in tall grass or shrubs on the ground. They also nest on branches above the ground and in flower beds in urban areas.
Breeding season: Song sparrows breed from mid-April to late July.
Breeding period: Song sparrows lay 2-5  greenish spotted with brown eggs. It takes approximately 24 days from egg-laying (incubation period 13 days, nestling period 11 days) until fledging.
Lifespan: Song sparrows live at least 11 years and four months.


Field Sparrow

Length 5.8″, Weight 0.44 oz

Identification: The field sparrow (Spizella pusilla) is a small sparrow with a relatively long tail. Adult birds can be gray or brown overall but always have pink bills and white eyering. Juveniles have a dark red bill that turns lighter with age.
Food: Attract field sparrows with hulled sunflower seed, cracked peanuts, and cracked corn. They seem to like millet particularly.
Feeder: Field sparrows regularly feed on the ground but use large hoppers and platform feeders.
Presence: Expect field sparrows during the spring and summer in the states of Wisconsin, Michigan, Vermont, southern Maine, and New Hampshire. Also in the southern tip of Ontario. The field sparrow is a year-round resident in the rest of American states and can be expected at feeders throughout the year.
Behavior: Field sparrows, like other small sparrows, are non-aggressive to other birds. Larger, more aggressive ones more often displace them.
Backyard: The field sparrow favors overgrown fields and brushy areas. Yards that resemble this habitat are likely to attract field sparrows.
Nest: Field sparrows build a cup-shaped nest on the ground, usually in a clamp of grass or under shrubs.
Breeding season: The field sparrow breeds in May through mid-August.
Breeding period: The field sparrow lays 2-5 white eggs with brown to purple spots. It takes about 23 days from egg-laying (incubation period 15 days, nestling period 8 days) until fledging.
Lifespan: Field sparrows live at least 10 years and 11 months.


American Tree Sparrow

Length 5.5 ” , Weight 0.7 oz

Identification: The American tree sparrow (Spizelloides arborea) has a rusty back streaked with black. It has a rusty cap bordered by gray. The eyeline is rusty. The bill is bicolored. The underparts are pale brown with rusty sides of the breast.
Food: Attract American tree sparrows with hulled sunflower seeds, cracked corn, peanut hearts, millet, and milo.
Feeder: Feeder: It usually feeds on the ground but can use large hoppers and platform feeders.
Presence: Presence: American tree sparrows breed in northern Canada and can be expected at feeders in N. Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland-and-Labrador during the spring and summer. They return to winter to the lower parts of the Canadian Provinces and the American northeast during the Fall and Winter.
Behavior: The American tree sparrow is not aggressive to other birds on the ground or at feeders. It may be submissive to other, even smaller birds.
Backyard: The American tree sparrow favors overgrown fields and brushy areas. Yards that resemble this habitat are likely to attract field sparrows.
Nest: The American tree sparrow builds an open cup that the birds tuck in grass or shrubs on the ground.
Breeding season: American tree sparrows have a rather narrow breeding season starting in late mid-June through early August.
Breeding Period: American tree sparrows lay 4-6 2 white with brown spots. It takes about 23 days from egg-laying (incubation period 15 days, nestling period 8 days) until fledging.
Lifespan: American tree sparrows live at least 10 years and 9 months.


Eastern Towhee

Length 8.5″, Weight 1.4 oz

Identification: The male eastern towhee (Pipilo erythrophthalmus) has a black hood and back. The female has brown instead of black. Both sexes have a white belly with rich brown sides.
Food: Attract eastern towhees with black oil sunflower seeds, hulled sunflower seeds, safflower, cracked corn, peanut hearts, millet, and milo.
Feeder: This towhee is largely a ground feeder that takes seeds spilled below elevated feeders. It uses platform feeders and, less often, hopper feeders.
Presence: The eastern towhee is a year-round resident in Virginia and southern West Virginia. Further north, it can be expected in all states and southern Canadian provinces only during the spring and summer that corresponds to this towhee’s breeding season.
Behavior: Eastern towhees feed mostly on the ground along with other ground feeders, which are generally not aggressive to each other.
Backyard: This bird occurs in dense low vegetation and is reluctant to venture away from it. It is more likely to visit backyard feeders located adjacent to this habitat type.
Nest: Eastern towhees nest in accumulations of leaf litter on the ground. Less often in vine tangles above the ground.
Breeding season: Eastern towhees breed in May through mid-August.
Breeding period: It lays 2-6 creamy or grayish speckled with reddish spots eggs. It takes approximately 24 days from egg-laying (incubation period 12 days, nestling period 12 days) until fledging.
Lifespan: Eastern towhees live at least nine years.


Dark-eyed Junco

Length 5.5″, Weight 0.5 oz

Identification: The male dark-eyed junco (Melospiza melodia) is slate gray and white. Females are a dull grayish-brown version of the male. Both sexes have pink bills and white outer tail feathers.
Food: Attract juncos with black oil sunflower seeds, hulled sunflower seeds, safflower, cracked corn, peanut hearts, millet, and milo.
Feeder: It feeds mostly on the ground, eating birdseed spilled by elevated feeders. It readily uses platform and hopper feeders.
Presence: The dark-eyed junco can be expected at backyard bird feeders in northern Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, the Appalachian mountains, Maine, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, and Prince Edward, where it is a year-round resident. During the Spring and Summer, they can be expected in the Canadian provinces of Ontario, and Quebec. It can also be expected further south only as a non-breeding visitor during the Fall and Winter.
Behavior: Not an aggressive bird that visits backyards often in flocks. Easily displaced by more aggressive birds.
Backyard: The dark-eyed junco forages in semi-open areas with some vegetation cover. Favors backyards that offer vegetation cover near the feeders.
Nest: The Dark-eyed junco builds a cup-shaped on sloping ground or similar structures, such as among the large roots of upturned trees.
Breeding season: The dark-eyed junco breeds from mid-April through late August.
Breeding period: Dark-eyed juncos lay 3-6  pale greenish spotted with brown eggs. It takes approximately 25 days from egg-laying (incubation period 13 days, nestling period 12 days) until fledging.
Lifespan: Dark-eyed juncos live at least 11 years and four months.


Evening Grosbeak

Length 6.8″, Weight 2.3 oz

Identification: The male evening grosbeak (Coccothraustes vespertinus) has a yellow forehead and dark head that fades to bright yellow underparts. The wings are mostly black with bright white secondaries. Females are overall gray with some white on the wings. Both sexes have thick pale bills and notched tails.
Food: Attract evening grosbeaks with its favorite food, oil sunflower seeds, and hulled sunflower seeds.
Feeder: It appears comfortable feeding on platform and hopper feeders.
Presence: The evening grosbeak can be expected at backyard bird feeders year-round in Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward, parts of Wisconsin, Michigan, Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. In random years, it can expand further south only during the winter months.
Behavior: This large grosbeak often travels in flocks and may temporarily overtake feeders driving other birds away.
Backyard: Favors forested and semi-open woodland and backyards with plenty of trees.
Nest: The evening grosbeak builds a relatively large nest made of twigs. It has a central cup lined with fine material.
Breeding season: They breed in late mid-May through early August.
Breeding Period: The evening grosbeak lays 2-5 bluish eggs with brown spots. It takes about 27 days from egg-laying (incubation period 13 days, nestling period 14 days) until fledging.
Lifespan: The evening grosbeak lives at least 16 years and 3 months.


American Goldfinch

Length 5″, Weight 0.5 oz

Identification: The American goldfinch (Spinus tristis) is in its winter plumage consisting of an unmarked brown with blackish wings and two broad pale wing bars. Breeding males replace the brown with bright yellow and a black cap.
Food: Attract American goldfinches to your yards with hulled sunflower and nyjer seeds.
Feeder: It favors large and small tube feeders, large hopper and platform feeders, and the ground.
Presence: The American goldfinch is a year-round resident in most of the northeast, and can be expected at feeders any time. During the spring and summer months, the American goldfinch expands its range further north to Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward.
Behavior: Non-aggressive and easy-going at feeders. Submissive to most other feeder birds. Often clings to feeders horizontally.
Backyard: Shrubs, tall weeds, and seed-producing weeds attract American goldfinches.
Nest: American goldfinches build a neat cup-shaped nest on twigs, dense shrubs, and dense foliage in overhanging branches of trees 4 to 15 feet above the ground. 
Breeding season: Goldfinches breed in early June through late September.
Breeding period: The American goldfinch lays 2-7 pale bluish-white eggs with brownish dots on the wide side of the egg. It takes about 27 days from egg-laying (incubation period 13 d, nestling period 14 d) until fledging.
Lifespan: American goldfinches live at least 7 years.


Pine Siskin

pine-siskin
Length 5″, Weight 0.5 oz

Identification: The pine siskin (Spinus spinus) is a small finch, all brown and streaked with black. It has a pointed bill and a notched tail. Males show a variable amount of yellow on the wing.
Food: Attract pine siskins with small seeds such as thistle or nyjer, millet, and hulled sunflower seeds. They can also take peanut hearts and suet.
Feeder: Pine siskins tend to cling to vertical stems and also do so on bird feeders. They favor large tube, large hopper, and platform feeders.
Presence: Pine siskins can be expected at backyard bird feeders year-round in parts of Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward, parts of Wisconsin, Michigan, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. During the fall and winter months, pine siskins move further south, where they are frequent visitors to backyard bird feeders.
Behavior: A nomadic bird, pine siskins can visit feeders one year and disappear the next. Non-aggressive and displaced by larger birds. Thistle feeders exclude most other birds.
Backyard: It is attracted to yards with shrubs and plenty of weeds with small seeds.
Nest: Pine siskins build a cup-shaped nest concealed in dense foliage on overhanging branches. Several pairs may nest in close proximity.
Breeding season: This siskin breeds between March through August.
Breeding period: Pine siskins lay 3-5  greenish with light brown specks eggs. It takes approximately 28 days from egg-laying (incubation period 13 days, nestling period 15 days) until fledging.
Lifespan: They live at least nine years and 2 months.


Common Redpoll

Length 5″, Weight 0.6 oz

Identification: Male and female common repolls (Acanthis flammea) are light gray streaked with black. They have a small red cap, as well as a black face and chin. Males can show pink wash on their breasts. It has a very small yellow bill, a plumb body, and a notched tail.
Food: Attract common redpolls with hulled sunflower seeds, nyjer, and black oil sunflower seeds.
Feeder: It usually feeds at small and large hopper feeders, tube feeders, and ground.
Presence: Common redpolls can be expected at backyard bird feeders year-round in parts of Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward, parts of Wisconsin, Michigan, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. They are rare visitors to states further south during the fall and winter.
Behavior: This small siskin-like bird is not aggressive to other birds at feeders. It may be submissive to most birds at feeders.
Backyard: Favors semi-open and deciduous woodlands. Visits feeders located near its favorite habitat. Some years may become erratic and appear in unexpected places.
Nest: The common redpoll builds a neat cup lined inside with bird feathers, hair, and other fine material.
Breeding season: They breed in late May through late August.
Breeding Period: The common redpoll lays 2-6 bluish eggs spotted with brown. It takes about 24 days from egg-laying (incubation period 11 days, nestling period 13 days) until fledging.
Lifespan: Eurasian collared doves live at least 8 years.


House Sparrow

Length 6.3″, Weight 0.98 oz

Identification: Males house sparrows (Passer domesticus) have rich-brown and patterned back, chestnut napes, and a black bib that varies with age. The forehead and underparts are gray. Females are brown with a patterned back. Immatures look like females. 
Food: House sparrows like black oil sunflower seed, hulled sunflower seed, cracked corn, peanut hearts, millet, and milo.
Feeder: They favor large tube, large hopper, and platform feeders. They also feed on the ground.
Presence: The house sparrow is a year-round resident in the Northeast and can be expected at backyard bird feeders throughout the year.
Behavior: It can be aggressive to other birds at feeders. Dominant over same-sized and smaller birds.
Backyard: Favors open habitats, farmland, and urban areas. Visits all types of backyards. 
Nest: House sparrows build large, bulky, and messy-looking nests with a side entrance. It uses cavities, light fixtures, tangled vines, and just about any structure to place a nest.
Breeding season: House sparrows breed in early March through late September.
Breeding Period: House sparrows lay 1-8 variable whitish, bluish, or greenish eggs spotted with gray. It takes about 26 days from egg-laying (incubation period 13 days, nestling period 13 days) until fledging.
Lifespan: House sparrows live at least 15 years and nine months.


DOVES AND PIGEONS

In the Northeast region, doves are represented only by one species. Doves and pigeons are entirely vegetarian at all times of the year. They have a weak straight bill adapted to pick seeds and grains and swallow them whole. They are unable to crush seeds as finches and sparrows do. Some may take small berries. 


Mourning Dove

Length 12″, Weight 4.2 oz

Identification: The mourning dove (Zenaida macroura) is all brown with dark spots on the wing. Juveniles have pale edging on feathers. 
Food: Attract mourning doves with hulled sunflower seeds, safflower, cracked corn, peanut hearts, millet, oats, and milo.
Feeder: It feeds mostly on the ground, below elevated feeders. The mourning dove also uses platform and large hopper feeders.
Presence: Mourning doves are year-round residents in the Northeast and can be expected at backyard bird feeders throughout the year.
Behavior: The mourning dove is non-aggressive at feeders but stands its ground against other birds. Submissive to blue jays, blackbirds, and crows.
Backyard: It favors relatively open yards where it usually feeds on spilled seeds on the ground below hanging feeders.
Nest: Mourning doves build a precarious platform of twigs placed in a fork, branch, or dense foliage, usually 10 to 15 feet above the ground.
Breeding season: Mourning doves breed in mid-February through early October.
Breeding period: The female lays 2 white eggs. It takes about 27 days from egg-laying (incubation period 14 days, nestling period 14 days) until fledging.
Lifespan: Mourning doves live at least 30 years and four months.


BLACKBIRDS & THEIR ALLIES

Blackbirds are diet generalists that eat seeds, grains, nectar, fruit, insects, and small invertebrates (including nestlings of other birds). Any food offered in birdfeeders is likely to attract blackbirds, often in flocks.


Red-winged Blackbird

Length 8.7″, Weight 1.8 oz

Identification: Adult breeding males red-winged blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus) are black with bright red shoulder patches. Non-breeding males have rusty or whitish feather edges in the winter. Females and juveniles are brown with black streaks.
Food: Attract red-winged blackbird with black oil sunflower seeds, hulled sunflower seeds, cracked corn, peanuts hearts, millet, oats, and milo.
Feeder: It favors platform feeders. It uses visits large tube and large hopper feeders. It also feeds on the ground.
Presence: The red-winged blackbird can be expected at feeders any time of the year in most of the northeast. It occurs as a breeder during the spring and summer months in Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward, parts of Wisconsin, Michigan, Vermont, Maine, and New Hampshire.
Behavior: It is aggressive to other birds taking over the feeders when present in large numbers. Submissive to blue jays, starlings, and red-bellied woodpeckers.
Backyard: Favors backyards near lakes, marshes, and farmland. It is a frequent visitor to feeders in semi-urban areas.
Nest: It builds a cup-shaped nest in vertical shoots of marshes, often mixed with saplings, generally 3 to 6 feet from the water.
Breeding season: The red-winged blackbird breeds from early April through early August.
Breeding period: Red-winged blackbirds lay 2-4 bluish-green eggs with dark markings. It takes about 25 days from egg-laying (incubation period 12 days, nestling period 13 days) until fledging.
Lifespan: Red-winged blackbirds live at least 15 years and nine months.


Common Grackle

Length 12.5″, Weight 4 oz

Identification: Common grackles (Quiscalus quiscula) look black from a distance. They have a shiny greenish head with shades of purple on the rest of the body. Its plumage is variable. Note the pale eye in adults.
Food: Attract common grackles with black oil sunflower seeds, hulled sunflower seeds, safflower, suet, cracked corn, peanuts, peanut hearts, fruit, millet, oats, and milo.
Feeder: It favors large hopper and platform feeders and feeds on the ground.
Presence: Common grackles can be expected at feeders any time of the year in most of the northeast. It occurs as a breeder during the spring and summer months in Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward, parts of Wisconsin, Michigan, Vermont, Maine, and New Hampshire.
Behavior: One of the most aggressive and dominant birds at bird feeders. Takes over feeders when present.
Backyard: Favors open and semi-open habitats. Visit all types of yards often in flocks.  
Nest: Common grackles build a bulky nest with an open cup in trees and shrubs, usually 20 feet or less above the ground. It can also nest in barns, rock crevices, and even stored farm equipment. 
Breeding season: Common grackles breed in early March through early July.
Breeding period: Common grackles lay 1-7 brownish to pale bluish-gray eggs spotted with brown. It takes about 28 days from egg-laying (incubation period 13 days, nestling period 15 days) until fledging.
Lifespan: Common grackles live at least 23 years and 1 month.


Brown-headed Cowbird

Length 7.5″, Weight 1.5 oz

Identification: Males brown-headed cowbirds (Molothrus ater) are glossy black with chestnut-brown heads. Females are gray-brown overall, with faint dark streaks on the breast and belly.
Food: Attract brown-headed cowbirds with black oil sunflower seeds, hulled sunflower seeds, cracked corn, millet, oats, and milo.
Feeder: Brown-headed cowbirds favor large hopper and platform feeders and the ground.
Presence: The brown-headed cowbird can be expected at feeders any time of the year in most of the northeast. It occurs as a breeder during the spring and summer months in Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward, parts of Wisconsin, Michigan, Vermont, Maine, and New Hampshire.
Behavior: Aggressive to other birds, dominant over smaller birds. Attends feeders usually in flocks.
Backyard: Favors backyards that are open and near open woods and farmlands.
Nest: Brown-headed cowbirds do not build nests but lay their eggs (parasitize) in the nest of other birds.
Breeding season: Brown-headed cowbirds breed in early April through the end of August.
Breeding period: A female cowbird lays 1-7 grayish eggs with brown spots. Birds that take over the parental duties for the cowbirds take about 23 days from egg-laying  (incubation period 11 days, nestling period 12 days) until fledging.
Lifespan: Brown-headed cowbirds live at least nine years.


Baltimore Oriole

Length 8.7″, Weight 1.2 oz

Identification: Males Baltimore oriole (Icterus galbula) have a black head and back with a bold white wing bar. The breast and belly are bright orange. Females have a variable plumage going from yellowish to orange below, often with blotchy-black marks on the head and back. Juveniles are similar to females.
Food: Attract Baltimore orioles with fruit, jelly, suet, and nectar.
Feeder: Baltimore orioles favor platform and nectar feeders.
Presence: The Baltimore oriole is a highly migratory bird. It can be expected at feeders in the Northeast only during the breeding season of the spring and summer months.
Behavior: Non-aggressive at feeders. Submissive to other, even smaller birds.
Backyard: Favors backyards in deciduous and open woodlands. Visit feeders alone or in small flocks.
Nest: It builds a hanging bag-like nest attached to thin branches 20 to 30 above the ground.
Breeding season: The Baltimore oriole breeds from early May through mid-July.
Breeding Period: The Baltimore oriole lays 3-7 pale bluish eggs blotched with dark brown. It takes about 27 days from egg-laying (incubation period 13 days, nestling period 14 days) until fledging.
Lifespan: Baltimore orioles live at least 12 years.


MOCKINGBIRDS, THRASHERS, & CATBIRDS

Mockingbirds and thrashers belong to the family Mimidae (Mimids). These birds delight northeastern backyard birders with not only their presence but also their songs. All are great songsters, and some are vocal mimics that incorporate parts of other local birds’ songs into their repertoire.

Mimids feed on insects and fruit. They use their bill to toss leaves and sticks or rake through leaf litter in search of food. They do something similar at bird feeders spilling over birdseed as they search for their favorite seed.


Northern Mockingbird

Length 10″, Weight 1.7 oz

Identification: The northern mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) is gray above and whitish gray below. In flight, it flashes white patches on the wings and white streaks on the long tail. Note its pale eyes.
Food: Attract northern mockingbirds with hulled sunflower seeds, suet, peanut hearts, fruit, and mealworms.
Feeder: It favors platform feeders and the ground.
Presence: The northern mockingbird can be expected at feeder any time of the year in most of the northeast, including the southern portion of the Canadian provinces.
Behavior: Non-aggressive at feeders and submissive to most other birds.
Backyard: Northern mockingbirds do well in all vegetation types, including yards in urban areas with little vegetation.
Nest: The northern mockingbird builds an open cup-shaped nest in dense shrubs, usually 2-10 feet above the ground.
Breeding season: Northern mockingbirds breed in late February through mid-September.
Breeding period: Northern mockingbirds lay 2-6 bluish or greenish eggs blotched with brown. It takes about 25 days from egg-laying (incubation period 13 days, nestling period: 12 days) until fledging.
Lifespan: The northern mockingbird lives at least 11 years and 7 months.


Brown Thrasher

Length 11.5″, Weight 2.4 oz

Identification: The brown thrasher (Toxostoma rufum) has a long tail, reddish-brown back, and pale wing bars. The underparts are heavily streaked with black. The eyes are pale yellow. 
Food: Attract brown thrashers with hulled sunflower seeds, suet cage, cracked corn, and peanut hearts.
Feeder: It favors platform feeders and also feeds on the ground.
Presence: The brown thrasher can be expected at feeders in the Northeast Region only during the breeding season of the Spring and Summer months. It can be found year-round in West Virginia.
Behavior: Rather shy and non-aggressive at feeders. Submissive to most other birds.
Feeder: Favors dense vegetation and thickets it uses to approach feeders and hide.
Nest: It builds a relatively large cup-shaped nest in dense vegetation 2-7 feet above the ground.
Breeding season: Brown thrashers breed in mid-April through late August.
Breeding period: Brown thrashers lay 2-6 pale bluish or greenish eggs with reddish-brown speckles. It takes about 25 days from egg-laying (incubation period 13 days, nestling period 14 days) until fledging.
Lifespan: Brown thrashers live at least 10 years and 11 months.


STARLINGS

The European starling is an introduced bird now common and well-established in North America. Their general appearance in flight resembles that of cedar waxwings and purple martins. Starlings are often not welcome at bird feeders as they often come in flocks and bully other birds.


European Starling

Length 6″, Weight 0.7 oz

Identification: European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) look dark. A close look reveals iridescent purple and green shades with creamy spots. Both the bill and wings are pointed. A juvenile bird is a plain gray color.
Food: European starlings like all types of bird food, including fruit and suet. Some backyard birders deter starlings from their feeders.
Feeder: It favors platform and large hopper feeders, but it is comfortable feeding on the ground.
Presence: The European starling can be expected at feeders any time of the year in all of the Northeast Region.
Behavior: Starlings are one of the most dominant and aggressive birds at backyard feeders. This is why backyard birders dislike them.
Backyard: Starlings favor all types of mainly human-created habitats, including urban and suburban ones.
Nest: The European starling builds a bulky and messy nest with a central cup. Nesting takes place in cavities, enclosures, or unused woodpecker cavities.
Breeding season: The European starling breeds in mid-April through early July.
Breeding period: Pairs lay 3-6 bluish or pale blue unmarked eggs. It takes about 33 days from egg-laying (incubation period 12 days, nestling period 21 days) until fledging.
Lifespan: European starlings live at least 15 years and 3 months.


JAYS & CROWS

Jays and crows belong to the avian family Corvidae (Corvids), which are among the most familiar birds to many. The blue jay is a frequent visitor to bird feeders in the Northeast.

Corvids are diet generalists, including just about anything edible in their diets. They can eat seeds, fruits, insects, and even small mammals. They are bird nest robbers, and some feed on carrion. Corvids are opportunistic and visit all types of backyard feeders that offer any type of food. 


Blue Jay

Length 11″, Weight 3 oz

Identification: The blue jay (Cyanocitta cristata) is blue and black above, with white markings. Below can be whitish to pale gray. It has a conspicuous crest and a black necklace.
Food: Attract blue jays with black oil sunflower seeds, hulled sunflower seeds, safflower, suet, cracked corn, suet, peanuts, peanut hearts, fruit, millet, milo, and mealworms.
Feeder: Blue jays favor large tube feeders, suet cages, large hopper feeders, platform feeders, and the ground.
Presence: Blue jays can be expected at feeders any time of the year in all of the Northeast Region.
Behavior: Aggressive and dominant at feeders. Submissive only to starlings, common grackles, red-bellied woodpeckers, and crows.
Backyard: Favors all yard conditions, including urban yards with sufficient trees.
Nest: Blue jays build a cup-shaped nest in various conditions 10-25 feet above the ground.
Breeding season: Blue jays breed in late March through late August.
Breeding period: Blue jays lay 2-7 bluish to brownish eggs with brown spots. It takes about 27 days from egg-laying (incubation period 18 days, nestling period 20 days) until fledging.
Lifespan: Blue jays live at least 26 years and 11 months.


American Crow

Length 17.5″, Weight 1 lb

Identification: The American crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos) is all black. It is large and social, moving about in flocks of various sizes. Juvenile birds have dull black plumages without the glossy appearance of the adult.
Food: Attract American crows with oil sunflower seeds, hulled sunflower seeds, safflower, nyjer, cracked corn, peanut hearts, fruit, millet, oats, and milo.
Feeder: The American crow favors platform feeders and the Ground.
Presence: American crows can be expected at feeders any time of the year in most of the northeastern American States. It can be expected in the Canadian Provinces only during the breeding months of Spring and Summer.
Behavior: Aggressive and dominant over most other feeder birds. Takes over feeders when present.
Backyard: Favors open country, agricultural fields, and similar open habitats. Present in some urban areas but not in others.
Nest: It builds a simple platform or accumulation of twigs in trees or tall shrubs 10 to 70 above the ground.
Breeding season: American crows breed in mid-March through late July.
Breeding period: The American crow lays 3-9 greenish-olive eggs blotched with brown concentrated on the wide side of the egg. It takes about 47 days from egg-laying (incubation period 17 days, nestling period 30 days) until fledging.
Lifespan: American crows live at least 17 years and five months.


BLUEBIRDS & ROBINS

Bluebirds and Robins belong to the avian family Turdidae. In the northeast, bird feeder visitors in this family include the eastern bluebird and the American robin.

Robins and bluebirds feed mostly on insects and little fruit during the breeding season. During the non-breeding season, their diet includes a greater proportion of fruit. They generally visit bird feeders that offer mealworms and suet.


Eastern Bluebird

Length 7″, Weight 1.1 oz

Identification: Adult male eastern bluebirds (Sialia sialis) are deep blue above with a red-brick breast and belly. Females have a bluish-gray back, blue on the wings and tail, and rich brown breasts. Juveniles are a darker gray with white spotting in the breasts.
Food: Attract eastern bluebirds with mealworms, suet, peanut hearts, and fruit.
Feeder: It favors platform feeders and the ground.
Presence: Eastern bluebirds can be expected at feeders any time of the year in southeast Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, and West Virginia. Further north, it can be expected as a breeding visitor during the months of Spring and Summer.
Behavior: Non-aggressive and easy-going at feeders. Submissive to others, even smaller birds.
Backyard: Favors open fields, open woodlands, and park-like habitats. Favor feeders in open spaces.
Nest: It builds a cup-shaped nest within natural or woodpecker-excavated cavities at any height from the ground. It readily takes nesting boxes.
Breeding season: The eastern bluebird breeds from mid-February through late September.
Breeding period: Eastern bluebirds lay 2-7 pale blue or rarely white or pink eggs. It takes about 35 days from egg-laying (incubation period 16 days, nestling period 14 days) until fledging.
Lifespan: Eastern bluebirds live at least 10 years and 6 months.


American Robin

Length 10″, Weight 2.7 oz

Identification: The American robin (Turdus migratorius) is gray above with a blackish head and yellow-orange bill. Reddish-brown below. Colors are more saturated during the breeding season.
Food: Attract American robins with hulled sunflower seeds, suet, peanut hearts, fruit, and mealworms.
Feeder: It favors platform feeders and the ground.
Presence: The American robin can be expected at feeders any time of the year in most of the northeast. It occurs as a breeder only during the spring and summer months in Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward, northern Wisconsin, and Northern Michigan.
Behavior: Non-aggressive at feeders. Usually feeds on the ground and jumps to platform feeders.
Backyard: Favors relatively open habitats and yards with feeders in open spaces.
Nest: It builds a well-shaped cup on forks or horizontal branches 5-25 feet above the ground. They can also nest on the ground, light fixtures, house ledges, and bridges.
Breeding season: American robins breed in April through mid-August.
Breeding period: The American Robin lays 3-5 distinctively blue eggs with no markings. It takes about 26 days from egg-laying (incubation period 13 days, nestling period 14 days) until fledging.
Lifespan: American robins live at least 13 years and 11 months.


WOODPECKERS

Four woodpeckers are regular visitors to backyard bird feeders in the Northeast. Woodpeckers feed on insects, other arthropods, fruit, nectar, and seeds. The red-bellied woodpecker often takes seeds from feeders to cash elsewhere for later consumption.


Red-bellied Woodpecker

Length 9.3″, Weight 2.2 oz

Identification: The red-bellied woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) has black-and-white barring on the back and wings, plain brownish breast and face, and red nape. Young birds lack the red on the nape. It shows a red wash on the belly.
Food: Attract red-bellied woodpecker with black oil sunflower seeds, hulled Sunflower seeds, safflower, suet, cracked corn, peanuts, peanut hearts, nectar, fruit, and mealworms.
Feeder: It favors suet cages, large hopper, platform, and nectar feeders.
Presence: The red-bellied woodpecker can be expected at feeder any time of the year in most of the northeast. It is absent from northern portions of Wisconsin, Michigan, Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire, and all of Maine.
Behavior: It is among the most aggressive and dominant over most other birds at feeders. Submissive only to common grackles and crows.
Backyard: Favors relatively open yards but is not picky about yard conditions.
Nest: It excavates its cavities in dead trees, uses pre-existing cavities, and takes nesting boxes.
Breeding season: Red-bellied woodpeckers breed in mid-April through mid-September.
Breeding period: The red-bellied woodpecker lays 2-6 white eggs. It takes about 32 days from egg-laying (incubation period 12 days, nestling period 25 days) until fledging.
Lifespan: Red-bellied woodpeckers live at least 12 years and 3 months.


Downy Woodpecker

Length 6.7″, Weight 0.95 oz

Identification: The downy woodpecker (Dryobates pubescens) is a tiny black and white woodpecker. Males have a red spot on the nape, which is missing in the female. Note the relatively short bill.
Food: Attract downy woodpeckers with suet, black oil sunflower seeds, hulled sunflower seeds, peanuts, peanut hearts, and mealworms.
Feeder: Downy woodpeckers favor suet cages, large and small hopper, and platform feeders.
Presence: The downy woodpecker is a year-round resident in the Northeast Region and can be expected at backyard bird feeders throughout the year.
Behavior: Generally non-aggressive but dominant over smaller birds and submissive to larger ones.
Backyard: Downy woodpeckers favors semi-open woodlands and wooded urban areas. They are more likely to visit backyard feeders located in or near these habitat types.
Nest: Downy woodpeckers nest in cavities they excavate in dead branches at variable heights from the ground.
Breeding season: Downy woodpeckers breed in early March through early July.
Breeding period: Downy woodpeckers lay 3-8 white round eggs. It takes about 31 days from egg-laying (incubation period 12 days, nestling period 19 days) until fledging.
Lifespan: Downy woodpeckers live at least 11 years and 11 months.


Hairy Woodpecker

Length 6″, Weight 0.7 oz

Identification: The hairy woodpecker (Leuconotopicus villosus) has a black and white head, back, wings, and white underparts. Adult males have a red nape patch, which is missing in females. It is larger and longer-billed than the downy woodpecker.
Food: Attract hairy woodpeckers with suet, peanut, and black oil sunflower.
Feeder: It favors suet cages, large hopper, and platform feeders.
Presence: The hairy woodpecker is a year-round resident in the Northeast Region and can be expected at backyard bird feeders throughout the year.
Behavior: Hairy woodpeckers are not aggressive at feeders. It is submissive to grackles, American robins, blue jays, and red-bellied woodpeckers. It is dominant over smaller birds.
Backyard: Like other woodpeckers, it favors wooded areas. It is more likely to visit feeders located in its favorite habitat.
Nest: Hairy woodpeckers excavate their cavities in dead wood. Nest cavities are approximately 10 in deep and typically have a slightly oblong entrance hole of about 2 in high and 1.5 in wide.
Breeding season: Hairy woodpeckers breed in mid-March through late July.
Breeding period: This woodpecker lays 3-6 white round eggs. It takes about 31 days from egg-laying (incubation period 12 days, nestling period 29 days) until fledging.
Lifespan: Hairy woodpeckers live at least 15 years and 11 months.


Northern Flicker

Length 6″, Weight 0.7 oz

Identification: The northern flicker (Colaptes auratus) is one of the largest woodpeckers in the Northeast. It is warm brown with black barring on the back and wings and large black spots on the belly. It has a conspicuous black crescent on the chest. Males have a black malar stripe, which is missing in the female.
Food: Attract Northern flickers with black oil sunflower seed, hulled sunflower seeds, and suet.
Feeder: Northern flickers favors suet cages, large hopper, and platform feeders.
Presence: The northern flicker is a year-round resident in most of the Northeast Region and can be expected at backyard bird feeders throughout the year. It occurs in the northern half of the Canadian Provinces only during the breeding months of the Spring and Summer.
Behavior: Northern flickers are not particularly aggressive to other birds at feeders but are dominant over smaller-sized birds. 
Backyard: Favors semi-open habitats with plenty of open ground, including suburban areas.
Nest: The northern flicker nest in cavities it excavates in rotten wood.
Breeding season: The northern flicker breeds from May through early August.
Breeding period: The northern flicker lays 5-8 pure white and unmarked eggs. It takes about 37 days from egg-laying (incubation period 12 days, nestling period 25 days) until fledging.
Lifespan: Northern flickers live at least 9 years and 2 months.


Pileated Woodpecker

Length 17.5″, Weight 10.5 oz

Identification: The pileated woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) is mostly black with white stripes on the head and neck. Males and females have red crests, but only the male shows a red malar stripe. In flight, the extended wings show white patches and white underneath.
Food: Attract pileated woodpeckers with black oil and hulled sunflower seed, suet, and mealworms.
Feeder: Suet cages are the preferred feeder type for pileated woodpeckers.
Presence: The pileated woodpecker is a year-round resident in the Northeast Region and can be expected at backyard bird feeders throughout the year.
Behavior: Pileated woodpeckers’ size is enough to dominate the feeder when they visit one. They may be submissive only to crows or ravens.
Backyard: Favors wooded areas, including suburban areas that have enough trees.
Nest: Pileated woodpeckers can excavate a nesting cavity in 3-6 weeks. After excavating and using a cavity, it rarely reuses the same cavity after use for breeding.
Breeding season: Pileated woodpeckers breed in early March through mid-July.
Breeding period: The pileated woodpecker lays 3-5 white round eggs. It takes about 45 days from egg-laying (incubation period 17 days, nestling period 28 days) until fledging.
Lifespan: Pileated woodpeckers live at least 12 years and 11 months.

TITMOUSE & CHICKADEE

Titmice and chickadees belong to the avian family Paridae. They feed mostly on insects, but when they are scarce, they switch to seeds, buds, and fruit.

As the cold winter, months approach, the tufted titmouse and Carolina/black-capped chickadees store food for later consumption. They are often observed taking food from feeders into the woods to consume or cash it in the bark of trees and holes for later consumption.


Tufted Titmouse

Length 6.5″, Weight 0.75 oz

Identification: The tufted titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor) is gray above with pale breast, belly, and orange-brown flanks. It has a conspicuous gray crest and black forehead.
Food: Attract tufted titmouse with black oil sunflower seeds, hulled sunflower seeds, safflower, nyjer, suet, peanuts, peanut hearts, and mealworms.
Feeder: It favors large and small tube feeders, suet cages, large hopper, small hopper, and platform feeders.
Presence: The tufted titmouse is a year-round resident in the Northeast Region of the U. S. and can be expected at backyard bird feeders throughout the year. It occurs only in tiny parts of Southern Canada.
Behavior: Nonaggressive and submissive to most larger birds.
Backyard: The tufted titmouse is a bird of woodlands. It visits feeders placed in its habitat and hardly ever ventures out to bird feeders in open habitats.
Nest: The tufted titmouse nests in natural tree cavities and cavities excavated by woodpeckers. They also use nest boxes.
Breeding season: Tufted titmice breed in early April through mid-July.
Breeding period: The tufted titmouse lays 3-9 white to creamy white eggs spotted with rich reddish-brown. It takes about 29 days from egg-laying (incubation period 13 days, nestling period 16 days) until fledging.
Lifespan: Tufted titmice live at least 12 years and five months.


Black-capped Chickadee

Length 4.7″, Weight 0.4 oz

Identification: The black-capped chickadee (Poecile atricapillus) is bluish gray above and grayish-brown below with a pale center of the belly. It has a distinctive black cap and throat separated by broad white sides of the head.
Food: Attract black-capped chickadees with black oil sunflower seeds, hulled sunflower seeds, safflower, nyjer, suet, peanuts, peanut hearts, and mealworms.
Feeder: It favors Large and small tube feeders, suet cages, large hoppers, and platform feeders.
Presence: The black-capped chickadee is a year-round resident in most of the Northeast Region and can be expected at backyard bird feeders throughout the year. It is absent from parts of Maryland, New Jersey, and West Virginia except for the Appalachian Mountains.
Behavior: Non-aggressive at feeders. It usually takes one seed at a time and leaves to eat it or store it before it returns to the feeder for more. Submissive to most birds visiting feeders.
Backyard: Chickadees are birds of woodlands. Readily visit the feeder placed within its natural habitat.
Nest: It nests in cavities pairs excavate in rotten soft wood. I also use existing cavities, such as those excavated by woodpeckers.
Breeding season: Black-capped chickadees breed in late March through mid-September.
Breeding period: Black-capped chickadees lay 3-10 eggs, white with brown spots concentrated on the wide side of the egg. It takes about 27 days from egg-laying (incubation period 13 days, nestling period 14 days) until fledging.
Lifespan: The black-capped chickadee lives at least 10 years and 8 months.


NUTHATCHES

The Northeast has two nuthatches, which are frequent visitors to backyard bird feeders in the state. Nuthatches are small birds with relatively long bills that belong to the avian family Sittidae.

Nuthatches use a peculiar tree-climbing method using only their strong legs and feet. Unlike woodpeckers, nuthatches do not use their tail as props and climb trees in all directions, including vertically head down.

They feed on small insects and seeds and regularly associate with specific habitat types. They are more likely to visit bird feeders located in backyards near their preferred habitat.


White-breasted Nuthatch

Length 5.7″, Weight 0.7 oz

Identification: The white-breasted nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis) has white sides of the head, throat, and belly. It has a black narrow cap and a bluish-gray back. The lower belly is chestnut.
Food: Attract white-breasted nuthatch with peanut hearts, hulled sunflower seeds, and suet. It also takes millet.
Feeder: It clings, often head-down, to large tube, large hopper, and platform feeders.
Presence: The white-breasted nuthatch is a year-round resident in most of the Northeast Region and can be expected at backyard bird feeders throughout the year.
Behavior: This small nuthatch can be feisty and aggressive toward other birds but loses to cardinals, woodpeckers, grackles, and blue jays.
Backyard: The white-breasted nuthatch is a bird of deciduous and semi-open woodlands. It tends to visit backyard feeders located in or near these habitat types.
Nest: Nesting pairs excavate cavities in decayed wood. They also use existing cavities excavated by woodpeckers.
Breeding season: The white-breasted nuthatch breeds in June through September.
Breeding period: The white-breasted nuthatch lays 5-9 creamy white speckled with light brown eggs. It takes approximately 39 days from egg-laying (incubation period 13 days, nestling period 26 days) until fledging.
Lifespan: The white-breasted nuthatch lives at least nine years and nine months.


Red-breasted Nuthatch

Length 8.5″, Weight 0.35 oz

Identification: The Red-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis) has blue-gray upperparts and brown-orange underparts. It has a distinctive black-and-white head pattern. It typically creeps along tree trunks and branches. The similar Pygmy Nuthatch has a brown head.
Food: Attract red-breasted nuthatches with black oil and hulled sunflower seeds, suet, and mealworms.
Feeder: They typically feed on large and small tube feeders, suet cages, and hopper and platform feeders.
Presence: The red-breasted nuthatch can be expected at backyard bird feeders in Virginia, West Virginia, Illinois, Indiana, southern Wisconsin, Ohio, southern Michigan, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Delaware, during the Fall and winter. It is a year-round resident in states and provinces north of these states.
Behavior: Red-breasted nuthatches are feisty birds; they are not aggressive to others but stand their ground against similar-sized birds at feeders.
Backyard: The red-breasted nuthatch is a forest bird. It is more likely to visit feeders surrounded by woodlands or various types.
Nest: The red-breasted nuthatch excavate their nesting cavities in rotten wood or use existing woodpeckers or natural cavities.
Breeding season: They breed in late April through early August.
Breeding period: A female red-breasted nuthatch lays 2-8 pinkish-white eggs spotted with brown. It takes about 32 days from egg-laying (incubation period 12 days, nestling period 20 days) until fledging.
Lifespan: Red-breasted nuthatches live at least 7 years and 6 months.


BROWN CREEPER

The brown creeper is widely distributed in North America and parts of Central America but is one of the most inconspicuous birds. It has a cryptic coloration blends in on the bark that normally hitches on foraging for food. Woodcreepers prefer coniferous, mixed, and deciduous forests. They are more likely to visit backyard bird feeders during winter when food becomes scarce.

Brown Creeper

Length 5.3″, Weight 0.3 oz

Identification: The brown creeper (Certhia americana) has patterned upper parts with shades of brown, gray, and black. The underparts are white. It has a curved thin bill. The extended wing shows a broad pale band. Males and females look alike.
Food: Attract brown creepers, particularly in the winter, when they visit bird feeders with suet, peanut butter, and hulled sunflower seed.
Feeder: It clings vertically to suet cages and other structures where food is offered.
Presence: The brown creeper can be expected at backyard bird feeders in Virginia, West Virginia, Illinois, Indiana, southern Wisconsin, Ohio, southern Michigan, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Delaware during the Fall and winter. It is a year-round resident in states and provinces north of these states.
Behavior: Brown creepers are small, cryptic, and inconspicuous. They are more likely to visit bird feeders during the wintertime when food is scarce. Generally dominated by most other feeder visitors.
Backyard: Brown creepers favor wooded areas with large and old trees.  It is more likely to visit feeders where this habitat type occurs.
Nest: Brown creepers nest inside split bark or other condition that creates a concealed area. They build a nest with a central cup.
Breeding season: Brown creepers breed in late April through early August.
Breeding period: The brown creeper lays 5-6 white eggs spotted with brownish. It takes about 32 days from egg-laying (incubation period 15 days, nestling period 17 days) until fledging.
Lifespan: Brown creepers live at least 5 years and 5 months.


WRENS

Wrens, in general, are not known as regular bird feeder visitors anywhere. However, in the Northeast, the Carolina wren is a regular visitor to backyard feeders. 

Wrens feed on insects and other small invertebrates they find in dense foliage close to the ground. They also supplement their diet with berries and seeds. The Carolina wren is a great songster.


Carolina Wren

Length 5.5″, Weight 0.74 oz

Identification: The Carolina wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus) is Reddish-brown on the back wings and tail, with dusky markings. It has buffy-brown underparts. Note the bold white eyebrow and slightly decurved bill. It is a great songster.
Food: Attract Carolina wrens with hulled sunflower seeds, suet, peanuts, and mealworms.
Feeder: It favors large and small tube feeders, suet cages, large hopper, platform, feeders, and the ground.
Presence: The Carolina wren is a year-round resident in most of the Northeast Region and can be expected at backyard bird feeders throughout the year. It occurs in southern Wisconsin, Michigan, and New Hampshire. It does not occur in Vermont, Maine, or anywhere in Canada.
Behavior: It is often shy at feeders and does not stay out of dense vegetation for long.  Submissive to most other birds.
Backyard: Carolina wrens favor dense vegetation, tangled understory, or brush piles that they use to approach bird feeders and return for cover.
Nest: The Carolina wren builds a bulky oven-shaped nest with a side entrance. The nest is placed in broken-off stumps and limbs 3-6 feet above the ground. It often nests in hanging planters and hanging decorations on porches.
Breeding season: Carolina wrens breed in late March through early October.
Breeding period: Carolina wrens lay 3-7 creamy-white eggs with brown spots. It takes about 27 days from egg-laying (incubation period 13 days, nestling period 14 days) until fledging.
Lifespan: Carolina wrens live at least 7 years and 8 months.


KINGLETS

Kinglets are tiny, relatively drab, hyperactive birds. They flit nervously, flick their wings while foraging, and often hover at the tips of branches to glean insects. They breed in northern latitudes and are winter visitors in most of the lower 48 states, including the Northeast Region.


Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Length 6″, Weight 0.7 oz

Identification: The ruby-crowned kinglet (Corthylio calendula) is tiny and hyperactive. It is plain yellow-olive and has an eye-ring. The ruby color in the crown is present in males only, and it is usually concealed except for occasions when the bird gets excited. Except for the ruby crown, males and females look alike.
Food: Attract ruby-crowned kinglets with suet, hulled sunflower seeds, peanuts, and mealworms.
Feeder: It favors suet cages, large hopper, and platform feeders.
Presence: The ruby-crowned kinglet can be expected at feeders in Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward, northern Wisconsin, N. Michigan, Vermont, Maine, and New Hampshire during the breeding season of Spring and Summer. Birds migrate south to Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, New Jersey, and Virginia during the Fall and Winter months.
Behavior: Ruby-crowned kinglets are infrequent visitors to backyard bird feeders. Their tiny size makes them vulnerable to larger, more aggressive birds at feeders.
Backyard: The ruby-crowned kinglet favors wooded areas. It is more likely to visit feeders located in its favorite habitat.
Nest: Ruby-crowned kinglets build large nests with a central cup. The exterior of the nest is lined with moss and lichen. The interior is lined with fine fibers and hair.
Breeding season: Ruby-crowned kinglets breed in mid-May through early August.
Breeding period: The ruby-crowned kinglet lays 5-12 whitish eggs spotted with brown concentrated on the wide side of the egg. It takes about 30 days from egg-laying (incubation period 13 days, nestling period 17 days) until fledging.
Lifespan: Ruby-crowned kinglets live at least 8 years and 8 months.


What type of bird feeder should I get to attract birds in the Northeast?

The type of bird feeder to get in the northeast is a platform feeder or hopper feeder, particularly if one is starting to feed backyard birds. 

I analyzed the type of feeder most used by backyard feeder birds. The results apply to the Northeast Region and other states as these birds have wide ranges in North America.

According to the data analyzed, most (92.5%) birds use platform feeders, followed by large hopper feeders (64.8%). Many birds (32%) are comfortable feeding on the ground.

The analysis consisted of tallying bird species by bird feeder type used. The data comes from reports from folks that feed backyard birds in the region reported to the FeederWatch Project of the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. 

The table below shows the bird feeder types most frequently used by backyard birds in Northeast North America.

Feeder TypeNumber of Species that use itPercentage
Platform5092.5
Large Hopper3564.8
Ground3259.2
Large Tube2037.0
Suet Cage2037.0
Small Tube1527.7
Small Hopper916.6

How do I attract birds to my bird feeder in my state? 

Attracting birds to your bird feeders is as simple as putting up a feeder with food or simply spraying birdseed on the ground. Once one or two birds find the food source, other birds see them coming and going from your yard to the feeder and follow them.

It is very important to be consistent. Once you put birdseed out for the birds, they will make visiting your backyard a part of their daily routine. If food is unavailable for several days, they will drop your backyard as a reliable source of food and visit it only sporadically.

The time it takes for the birds to discover your feeders depends on the vegetation in your yard and around it. Bushes and trees attract birds, and more birds around are more likely to notice your feeders.

The bird feeder should be located in a place visible to the birds. As indicated above, I recommend spraying food on the ground and putting food on a platform feeder. If you have grass in your yard and food is unlikely to be seen by the birds, you can simply use a piece of plywood to place birdseed. 

Once you have a few birds visiting your yard, you can implement a hopper or tube feeder. You can gradually move the bird feeder to a location in your yard where you can enjoy them from your home, for instance, outside the kitchen window.

What type of food do I need to attract birds in states in the Northeast Region?

My preferred food for beginners is birdseed mixes available in stores. Bird seed mixes include several seeds and grains that appeal to a wider variety of birds.

Once you get birds coming to your feeders, you can begin to offer the type of food that is more likely to attract the birds you want to see in your feeders.

Photo Credits:

The photographic material used in this guide was made available on various websites. Many thanks to Andrew Morffew, Mark Mochell, Elizabeth Milson, Duzan Brinkhuizen, Matt Weller, Troy Anderson, Dennis Church, Wendy Miller, Rick From Alabama, Carlos Sanchez, John Benson, Mick Thompson, Steve Guttman, Victor Espinoza, Kelly Colgan-Azar, Andy Reago, Chrissy McLaren, Garry C., Michael Janke, Cuatro77, Linda Fortuna, Vicky DeLoach, Paul Hurtado, Tom Murray, Tom Wilberding, Patricia Pierce, Kenneth Cole-Schneider, Doug Greenberg, Brian Garrett, David White, Victoria Pickering, Becky Matsubara, Dan Mooney, and Julio Mulero.

Voices:

Most recordings were made by Paul Marvin (Xeno-canto https://xeno-canto.org/contributor/RFTXRYBVBX)

References and Sources:

  • eBird. (https://ebird.org/)
  • Project Feederwatch (https://feederwatch.org/)
  • Sibley, David, 2000, The Sibley Guide to Birds.
  • Species Longevity Data: United States Geological Survey (https://www.usgs.gov/)
  • Wikipedia. (https://www.wikipedia.org/)

Final thoughts:

The Guide to backyard feeder birds of Northeast North America is largely based on the concept of citizen science. Most of the information in this article comes from citizen reports.

This identification guide covers common birds that visit backyard feeders in the northeast region of North America. The area of coverage includes the states and provinces of Virginia, West Virginia, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, Maryland, Ohio, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Maine, Connecticut, and Delaware. It also includes the Canadian provinces of Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland-and-Labrador, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward.

12 thoughts on “Identify the 41 Birds Visiting Backyard Feeders in the Northeast”

  1. A Ruby-crowned Ringlet hit our window and was on the ground on its side… I put gloves on and put it in my hand cradled holding it upright on its feet was able to check it out and all looked good… held it still for about a half hour until it flew away… honored to have helped this beautiful bird … a great morning!!!🙏❤️

    1. Hello Gina,

      Great!! It is unclear what happens to birds that hit windows and recover. I think that if the bird was able to fly away, it is capable of find food and survive.

      Al.

  2. Mary Pinkham

    Thank you for this amazingly easy to read enjoyable app. We have a bird building a nest in my herb garden. It’s in a box about three feet off the ground. It turns out to be a fox sparrow.

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