Kentucky Backyard Feeder Birds: An Identification Guide

I am excited to share my identification guide for birds that visit backyard feeders in Kentucky. 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 Bluegrass State. I have also included the songs and calls of each bird. Let’s see what I have put together!

  • Click open the table of contents below to jump to a species account, or scroll down and navigate this guide.
Kentucky Backyard Feeder Birds.

Backyard birders will find the guide to Kentucky backyard feeder birds useful as a reference tool. The following are the forty-one (41) most frequently reported birds by Kentucky bird enthusiasts participating in the Cornell Lab of Ornithology Feederwatch Program. Each species account includes an identification plate, voice, preferred food and feeder, bird feeder visitation frequency, preferred backyard type, behavior at feeders, preferred type of backyard, breeding biology, and lifespan.

What types of birds visit backyard feeders in Kentucky?

The type of birds visiting backyard bird feeders in the State of Kentucky are primarily sparrows, finches, and their allies. This group also includes siskins, goldfinches, juncos, and buntings.

Fewer species are included in other groups of backyard birds. Woodpeckers include 5 species that visit backyard bird feeders, but only two, the red-bellied and downy woodpeckers are frequent visitors, and the rest are rare visitors. Blackbirds include four species, the remaining groups include only two or one species.

Bird groups and the number of species per group visiting bird feeders in Kentucky.

  • Sparrows, Finches, and their allies: 14 species.
  • Woodpeckers: 5 species.
  • Blackbirds: 4 species.
  • Doves: 2 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

The majority of birds that come to feeders in the State of Kentucky are seed and grain-eaters. The second largest group is composed of insect eaters. Diet generalists and those that combine fruit and insects are represented in smaller numbers.

Most of the 393 species of birds recorded in Kentucky are insect eaters. One would expect that most birds visiting bird feeders are insectivores (specialized in eating insects). However, grain and seed eaters compose the largest group coming to bird feeders.

This mismatch may be partly explained by the bird’s natural history. More insectivore species may not come to feeders because they have specialized foraging strategies and morphological adaptations or live in specific habitat types. Some insectivore birds catch insects in the air or need a stimulus (such as a moving insect) to catch their prey. All of these factors make those species not “interested” in bird feeders or the “stationary” food offered there.

Birds that visit bird feeders are more flexible and adaptable to obtain their food in different ways and habitats; these birds lean towards the more generalist side of the spectrum.

A second reason for the lack of insectivore representation at feeders is that offering insects is more complicated and expensive than offering bird seed. No doubt that catering to insectivore birds would attract a higher number of them to your feeders.

The birds visiting backyard feeders in Kentucky are divided by their primary diet.

  • Seeds & Grains: 40%
  • Insects: 30%
  • Fruit & Insects: 14%
  • Diet generalists: 13%

Identification pictures of species that come to backyard bird feeders in Kentucky

Downy Woodpecker (female).

Identifying backyard birds gives many hours of enjoyment to thousands of people in Kentucky. This guide will help you recognize the colorful birds’ male, female, and juvenile plumages and the little brown ones. The illustrations emphasize birds’ markings and field marks to pay attention to.

Each species account includes aspects of the bird’s natural history, enhancing the bird feeding and watching experiences.

Recognizing the species of birds in 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.

Also, knowing the types of birds that visit your backyard can help you cater to them by using the type of birdseed and feeders they prefer. Cardinals like hulled sunflower seeds, while American goldfinches prefer nyjer or thistle seed.

List of birds that visit backyard feeders in Kentucky

Birds visit backyard feeders in Kentucky at different rates. The following list includes 30 birds that more often visit bird feeders in the state ranked by frequency. The list and percentages are based on observations of Kentucky residents who feed backyard birds. The more frequent visitors are on top of the list.

This list also gives an idea about what birds one can expect to visit a new bird feeder in Kentucky. The top 10 birds are perhaps those that will almost certainly, visit your backyard if you offer food to our feathered friends. 

Most common to
least common
SpeciesPercentage backyard
bird feeders visited
in Kentucky
1Northern Cardinal100
2House Finch96
3Carolina Wren96
4Dark-eyed Junco92
5Tufted Titmouse92
6Carolina Chickadee92
7Downy Woodpecker90
8White-throated Sparrow88
9Blue Jay88
10Red-bellied Woodpecker88
11American Goldfinch87
12American Robin87
13Mourning Dove81
14Northern Mockingbird75
15White-breasted Nuthatch63
16Pine Siskin62
17Purple Finch56
18Eastern Bluebird56
19House Sparrow54
20Red-winged Blackbird48
21American Crow48
22European Starling44
23Common Grackle40
24Northern Flicker40
25Chipping Sparrow38
26Eurasian Collared Dove<38
27Hairy Woodpecker<38
28Brown-headed Nuthatch<38
29Ruby-crowned kinglet<38
30Brown Thrasher<38
31Eurasian Collared Dove<38
32Northern flicker<38
33Red-breasted nuthatch<38
34Pileated woodpecker<38
35Northern Flicker<38
36Red-breasted Nuthatch<38
37Field Sparrow<38
38White-crowned Sparrow<38
39Baltimore Oriole<38
40Fox Sparrow<38
41Brown Creeper<38

What type of bird feeder should I get in Kentucky?

The type of bird feeder to get in Kentucky is a platform 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 Kentucky 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 use of feeder types by birds 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 Kentucky.

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 Kentucky? 

Attracting birds to your bird feeders in Kentucky is as simple as putting up a feeder with food or 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.

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. In the past, I have recommended starting spraying food on the ground or putting food on a platform feeder or simply using a piece of plywood to start attracting birds. 

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 Kentucky?

My preferred food for beginners is birdseed mixes available in grocery 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.

Key to Species Information

A fair amount of the information in this guide is obtained from observations made by individuals in the community. The Federwatch Program and eBird collect citizen reports while making the data openly available to the public.

  • Voice: The voice of each species includes the vocalizations more frequently given by the bird.
    Preferred food and feeder type: Species’ food and feeder preferences were obtained from monitoring reports submitted to the FeederWatch Program by Kentucky residents who feed birds in their backyards.
  • Bird visitation frequency: Kentucky backyard bird enthusiasts observe and report each species they record at their feeders. A species visitation history provides insight into the frequency that such species are expected to visit bird feeders in the future.
  • Monthly frequency/abundance at feeders: The monthly abundance bar is based on the number of times a species is reported on checklists submitted to eBird for the State of Kentucky. Monthly overall abundance in the state is likely to reflect abundance in backyards.
gray-catbird-presence
In months with a thick blue bar, the species was frequently reported on lists submitted to eBird. Blue bars with narrow sections indicate that the species is scarce during those months.
  • Group or flock Size at feeders
    Kentucky residents also report each species’ approximate flock or group size at their feeders. Past observations provide insight into the flock size a species is expected to visit a backyard bird feeder in Kentucky.

Birds that visit backyard bird feeders in Kentucky

SPARROWS, FINCHES, & ALLIES

In the State of Kentucky, 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 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.
Frequency: Northern cardinals visit 100% of backyard bird feeders in Kentucky in groups of 2.6 individuals. 
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.

mourning-dove-status
The Northern Cardinal is the most popular and common bird feeder visitor in the State of Kentucky. They do not turn dull in the winter and maintain their plumage year-round.

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.
Frequency: The house finch visits 96% of backyard bird feeders in the State of Kentucky in groups of 2.9 individuals. Sometimes much larger flocks.
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.

The House Finch is now a year-round resident bird in most of the State of Kentucky. It has been expanding its geographic range in the last decades.

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 below with 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.
Frequency: Purple finches visit 56% of backyard bird feeders in Kentucky in groups of 3.1 individuals.
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.

Purple finches are non-breeding visitors in the State of Kentucky. Expect them at your feeders in November through May.

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.
Frequency: The chipping sparrow visits 38% of backyard bird feeders in Kentucky in groups of 4.3 individuals.
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.

The Chipping Sparrow is a breeding resident in the State of Kentucky. Expect them at your feeders in the winter and summer months.

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.
Frequency: The white-throated sparrow visits 88% or fewer backyard bird feeders in the State of Kentucky in groups of 1.5 individuals.
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.

The White-throated Sparrow is a winter visitor in the State of Kentucky. Expect them at your feeders from November through May.

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.
Frequency: The white-crowned sparrow visits fewer than 38% of backyard bird feeders in the State of Kentucky in groups of 1.6 individuals.
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.

The White-crowned Sparrow is a winter visitor in the State of Kentucky. Expect them at your feeders from November through May.

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.
Frequency: The Fox Sparrow visits fewer than 38% of backyard bird feeders in the State of Kentucky in groups of 1.4 individuals.
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.

In eastern North America, the Fox Sparrow breeds in northern latitudes. They are winter visitors in most lower 48 states; expect them at your feeders from November through April.

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. Male 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.
Frequency: Song sparrows visit <45% of backyard bird feeders in the State of Kentucky in groups of 1.3 individuals.
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.

The Song Sparrow is a year-round resident in the State of Kentucky. Expect it at your feeder any time of the year.

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.
Frequency: The field sparrow visits fewer than 38% of backyard bird feeders in the State of Kentucky in groups of 1.7 individuals.
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.

Field sparrows are year-round resident birds in the State of Kentucky. Expect them at your feeders any time of the year. 

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.

Eastern Towhee

Length 8.5″, Weight 1.4 oz

Identification: The male eastern towhee (Pipilo erythrophthalmus) has a black hood and back while 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.
Frequency: The eastern towhee visits 60% of backyard bird feeders in Kentucky in groups of 1.4 individuals.
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.

The Eastern Towhee is a common year-round resident in the State of Kentucky. Expect them at your feeders any time of the year.

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.
Frequency: The dark-eyed junco visits 92% of backyard feeders in Kentucky in groups of 2.1 individuals.
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.

The Dark-eyed Junco is a non-breeding visitor in the State of Kentucky. Some birds stay throughout the year.

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.


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.
Frequency: The American goldfinch visits 87% of backyard bird feeders in Kentucky in groups of 2.6 individuals.

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.

The American Goldfinch is a year-round resident in Kentucky. Expect them at your feeders any time of the year.

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.
Frequency: Pine siskins visit 62% of backyard bird feeders in the State of Kentucky in groups of 6.8 individuals. 
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.

The Pine Siskin is a non-breeding visitor in the State of Kentucky. Expect it at your feeders between November through mid-May.

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.


House Sparrow

Length 6.3″, Weight 0.98 oz

Identification: Males house sparrow (Passer domesticus) have rich-brown and patterned back, chestnut nape, 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.
Frequency: The house sparrow visits 54% of backyard bird feeders in Kentucky backyard feeder birds. I have prepared custom identification images and gathered lots of information about each of the 30 birds most frequently reported at backyard bird in groups of 3.9 individuals.
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. 

house-sparrow-presence
The House Sparrow is a year-round resident in Kentucky.

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 Kentucky, 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.
Frequency: Mourning doves visit 81% of bird feeders in the State of Kentucky in groups of 3.3 individuals.
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.

mourning-dove-presence
The Mourning Dove is a fairly common year-round resident in the State of Kentucky.

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.


Eurasian Collared-Dove

Length 13″, Weight 7 oz

Identification: The Eurasian collared-dove (Streptopelia decaocto) is buffy-brown with a black incomplete collar on the neck. It has a relatively long tail with a pale terminal band. Both sexes look alike.
Food: Attract Eurasian collared-doves with hulled sunflower seeds, cracked corn, peanut hearts, millet, oats, and milo.
Feeder: It usually feeds on the ground but can use large hopper and platform feeders.
Frequency: The Eurasian collared-dove visits less than <38% of backyard bird feeders in the State of Kentucky, usually in pairs or singles.
Behavior: This dove is not aggressive to other birds at feeders. It may be submissive to other, even smaller birds.
Backyard: Favors semi-open woodlands, farmland, and urban areas. Visits open yards, usually in pairs feeding on spilled seeds on the ground, below hanging feeders.

The Eurasian Collared-dove is a recently established exotic species in Kentucky, where it is present year-round.

Nest: The Eurasian collared-dove builds a simple platform of twigs, usually at about 10 feet above the ground.
Breeding season: They breed in late March through mid-September.
Breeding Period: The Eurasian collared-dove lays 1-2 white unmarked eggs. It takes about 30 days from egg-laying (incubation period 16 days, nestling period 14 days) until fledging.
Lifespan: Eurasian collared doves live at least 13 years and 8 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.
Frequency: The red-winged blackbird visits 48% of backyard bird feeders in Kentucky in groups of 4.6 individuals.
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.

Red-winged blackbirds are year-round residents in Kentucky. They are more likely to visit bird feeders during the non-breeding months of Fall and Winter.

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 in 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.
Frequency: Common grackles visit 40% of backyard bird feeders in the State of Kentucky in groups of 4 or more individuals.
Behavior: One of the most aggressive and dominant birds at bird feeders in Kentucky. Takes over feeders when present.
Backyard: Favors open and semi-open habitats. Visit all types of yards often in flocks.  

The Common Grackle is a year-round resident in the State of Kentucky. Expect them at your feeders any time of the year.

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.
Frequency: The brown-headed cowbird visits 71% of backyard bird feeders in Kentucky in groups of 7.6 individuals.
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.

The Brown-headed Cowbird is a year-round resident in the State of Kentucky. Expect it at your feeders any time of the year.

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.
Frequency: The Baltimore oriole visits 6% or less of backyard bird feeders in the State of Kentucky in groups of 1.2 individuals.
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.

The Baltimore Oriole is a breeding visitor in Kentucky. Expect them from April through October.

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 Kentucky 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.
Frequency: The northern mockingbird visits 75% of backyard bird feeders in Kentucky in groups of 1.1 individuals.
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.

The Northern Mockingbird is a common year-round resident in the State of Kentucky.

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.
Frequency: The brown thrasher visits <38% of backyard bird feeders in Kentucky in groups of 1.1 individuals.
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.

The Brown Thrasher is a year-round resident in Kentucky.

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.
Frequency: The European starling visits 44% of backyard bird feeders in the State of Kentucky in groups of 6 individuals. Sometimes in large flocks.
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.

The European Starling is an introduced species now common and widespread in North America. They are year-round residents in Kentucky.

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 Kentucky.

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 Kentucky 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 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 cage, large hopper feeders, platform feeders, and the ground.
Frequency: Blue jays visit 88% of backyard bird feeders in Kentucky in groups of 1.8 individuals.
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.

The Blue Jay is a common year-round resident in the State of Kentucky.

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. Juveniles have a dull black plumage without the glossy appearance of the adults.
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.
Frequency: American crows visit 48% of backyard bird feeders in Kentucky in groups of 2.3 individuals.
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.

The American Crow is a year-round resident in Kentucky.

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 Kentucky, 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 Kentucky 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.
Frequency: Eastern bluebirds visit 56% of backyard bird feeders in Kentucky in groups of 2.2 individuals.
Behavior: Non-aggressive and easy-going at feeders. Submissive to other even smaller birds.
Backyard: Favors open fields, open woodlands, and park-like habitats. Favor feeders in open spaces.

The Eastern Bluebird is a year-round resident in the State of Kentucky.

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.
Frequency: The American robin visits 87% of backyard bird feeders inKentucky in groups of 2.4 individuals.
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.

The American Robin is a year-round resident in the State of Kentucky.

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

Only two woodpeckers, the red-bellied and downy woodpeckers, are regular visitors to backyard bird feeders in Kentucky. 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 cage, large hopper, platform, and nectar feeders.
Frequency: The red-bellied woodpecker visits 88% of backyard bird feeders in Kentucky in groups of 1.6 individuals.
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.

The Red-bellied Woodpecker is a common year-round resident bird in Kentucky.

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.
Frequency: The downy woodpecker visits 90% of backyard bird feeders in the State of Kentucky in groups of 1.3 individuals.
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.

The Downy Woodpecker is a fairly common year-round resident in the State of Kentucky.

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.
Frequency: The hairy woodpecker visits <38% of backyard bird feeders in the State of Kentucky in groups of 1.2 individuals. Sometimes much larger flocks.
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.

The Hairy Woodpecker is an uncommon year-round resident bird in the State of Kentucky. 

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 Kentucky. 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.
Frequency: The northern flicker visits 40% of backyard bird feeders in the State of Kentucky in groups of 1.1 individuals.
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.

The Northern Flicker is a year-round resident bird in the State of Kentucky.

Nest: The northern flicker nest in cavities it excavates in rotten wood.
Breeding season: The northern flicker breeds in 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. Male and female 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.
Frequency: The pileated woodpecker visits fewer than 38% of backyard bird feeders in the State of Kentucky in groups of 1 individual.
Behavior: Pileated woodpecker’s 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.

The Pileated Woodpecker is a year-round resident in Kentucky. Hence it is expected at bird feeders any time of the year.

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 chickadee 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 cage, large hopper, small hopper, and platform feeders.
Frequency: The tufted titmouse visits 92% of backyard bird feeders in the State of Kentucky in groups of 1.8 individuals.
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.

The Tufted Titmouse is a common year-round resident in the State of Kentucky.

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.


Carolina Chickadee

Length 4.7″, Weight 0.4 oz

Identification: The Carolina chickadee (Poecile carolinensis) 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 Carolina 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.
Frequency: The Carolina chickadee visits 92% of backyard bird feeders in Kentucky in groups of 1.7 individuals.
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 in Kentucky.
Backyard: Chickadees are birds of woodlands. Readily visit the feeder placed within its natural habitat.

The Carolina chickadee is a year-round resident in the State of Kentucky.

Nest: It nests in cavities pairs excavate in rotten soft wood. I also use existing cavities such as those excavated by woodpeckers.
Breeding season: Carolina chickadees breed in late March through mid-September.
Breeding period: Carolina 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 Carolina chickadee lives at least 10 years and 8 months.


NUTHATCHES

Kentucky has two nuthatches, which are frequent visitors to backyard bird feeders in the state. Nuthatches are small birds with a relatively long bill 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 Kentucky 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.
Frequency: The white-breasted nuthatch visits 63% of backyard bird feeders in the State of Kentucky in groups of 1.27 individuals.
Behavior: This small nuthatch can be feisty and aggressive towards 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.

The White-breasted Nuthatch is a year-round resident in the State of Kentucky.

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.
Frequency: The red-breasted nuthatch visits fewer than 38% of backyard bird feeders in Kentucky in groups of 1.1 individuals.
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.

The Red-breasted Nuthatch breeds in northern latitudes. It is a non-breeding visitor fall and winter visitor in Kentucky.

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.
Frequency: The brown creeper visits fewer than 38% of backyard bird feeders in the State of Kentucky in groups of 1.1 individuals.
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.

The Brown Creeper is a year-round resident bird in the State of Kentucky. 

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 Kentucky, 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.
Frequency: The Carolina wren visits 96% of backyard bird feeders in the State of Kentucky in groups of 1.4 individuals
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.

The Carolina Wren is a year-round resident in Kentucky.

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 Kentucky.


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.
Frequency: The ruby-crowned kinglet visits <38% of backyard bird feeders in the State of Kentucky in groups of 1.3 individuals.
Behavior: Ruby-crowned kinglets are infrequent visitors to backyard bird feeders. Their tiny size makes them vulnerable to larger and 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.

The Ruby-crowned Kinglet is a non-breeding fall and winter visitor in the State of Kentucky. Expect them at your feeders between October and April.

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.

WARBLERS

Warblers generally do not visit bird feeders. Most warblers in North America feed on insects and other small invertebrates, but some include fruit, nectar, and small seeds during the winter or non-breeding season. The pine warbler is a year-round resident in Kentucky, while the yellow-rumped warbler is a fall and winter visitor. 


Pine Warbler

Length 5.5″, Weight 0.42 oz

Identification: The pine warbler (Setophaga pinus) has a yellow throat, yellow-olive belly, head, and back. The wings are gray with pale markings and two wing bars. Females and immatures are dull gray-brown. Note the two white wing bars in both sexes and ages.
Food: Attract pine warblers with hulled sunflower seeds, suet, peanuts hearts, and mealworms.
Feeder: It favors large and small tube feeders, suet cages, large and small hopper, and platform feeders.
Frequency: The pine warbler visits 65% of backyard bird feeders in the State of Kentucky in groups of 1.4 individuals.
Behavior: Nonaggressive at feeders. Submissive to other larger birds.
Backyard: Favors pine woodlands. It tends to visit birdfeeders located in or near pine woodlands.

The Pine Warbler is a year-round resident in Kentucky.

Nest: Pine warblers build an open cup, usually in pine trees or hardwoods, 30 to 55 feet above the ground.
Breeding season: Pine warblers breed in late March through late July.
Breeding period: Pine warblers lay 3-5 grayish eggs with brown spots. It takes about 22 days from egg-laying (incubation period 12 days, nestling period 14 days) until fledging.
Lifespan: Pine warblers live at least 7 years and 10 months.


Yellow-rumped Warbler

Length 0.5″, Weight 0.43 oz

Identification: The yellow-rumped warbler (Setophaga coronata) in winter plumage is grayish-brown with blackish streaks. The throat is whitish. The rump and sides of the breast and belly are yellow. It has two distinctive white wing bars.
Food: Attract yellow-rumped warbler with hulled sunflower seeds, suet, peanuts, peanut hearts, nectar, fruit, and mealworms.
Feeder: It favors large and small tube feeders, suet cages, large and small hopper feeders, fruit and nectar feeders.
Frequency: Yellow-rumped warblers visit 67% of backyard bird feeders in the State of Kentucky in groups of 1.4 individuals.
Behavior: A non-aggressive visitor to feeders. It is submissive to most other birds at feeders.
Backyard: Yellow-rumped warblers favor semi-open woodland and yards where it moves about in flocks.

The yellow-rumped warbler is a non-breeding visitor in the State of Kentucky. Expect it at your feeders between October and May.

Nest: It builds an open cup on horizontal branches in coniferous forests 4-50 feet above the ground.
Breeding season: The yellow-rumped warbler breeds in mid-May through late August.
Breeding period: Yellow-rumped warblers lay 1-6 whitish eggs speckled with reddish-brown. It takes about 25 days from egg-laying (incubation period 12 days, nestling period 12 days) until fledging.
Lifespan: Yellow-rumped warblers live at least 10 years.


Photo Credits:

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 McLarren, 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/)

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

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.