common backyard birds of New York

Birds of New York: Top 20 with Pictures (Jan. 2023 Updated)

It’s hard to believe that there are over 10,000 species of birds fluttering around all over the world. From the tiny to the majestic, these amazing creatures have been around for hundreds of millions of years.

Today, we’re focusing mainly on the most common backyard birds of New York. The Empire State is home to countless forests, rivers, and mountains. All these natural habitats provide a safe haven for hundreds of birds.

We’ll tell you which ones are year-round residents and which ones are migratory. We’ll also talk about what they like to eat as well as some of their unique features.

Let’s get started.

Common Backyard Birds of New York: Your Full Guide

According to the New York Avian Records Committee (NYSARC), there are nearly 500 bird species in the Empire State. Considering there are close to 1,500 birds in the US, this means that the state has about a third of the country’s population.

Because we can’t possibly include all of them in this post, we decided to highlight the most notable. The following is a list of the 20 most recognizable species you’ll come across in many backyards in the great state of New York.

Read on to find out more.

1.   American Goldfinch

american goldfinch on post

The American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis) is bright yellow with contrasting black-tipped wings and a black cap. It has a short, orange bill, a short tail, and a large head.

American Goldfinches are notable for their sweet, adorable lilting songs. It sounds like they’re saying, “Potato chip” in mid-flight.

These small birds like snacking on weed and thistle seeds. They also enjoy black oil sunflower and nyjer seeds, especially if you place them in a tube feeder.

Not only are they one of the most common backyard birds of New York, but they are common in many other states

2.   American Robin

American Robin

The American Robin (Turdus migratorius) prefers warmer climates. So, you can spot them in northeastern parts of New York only during spring and summer.

These mid-sized birds appear to be slightly plump. Their tail is long and straight. The same goes for their bill, which is also straight and slender, except at the tips where it curves slightly.

Their favorite meal is worms and other insects. Still, they’ll enjoy snacking on berries, fruits, and seeds from your background feeder.

3.   Barn Swallow

Colorful barn swallow bird with brilliant blue and purple feathers standing on a wooden fence with a soft green background

The Barn Swallow likes to spend their summers in New York. Then, in the winter, they head south where it’s warmer.

You can tell them apart from other swallows by their iridescent plumage. Their upperparts are a shade of purplish-blue, whereas their bellies are pinkish-orange. Other distinguishing factors are their long bodies, pointed wings, and forked tails.

Author Note: Barn Swallows prefer flying insects, like house flies and beetles. However, they may be tempted to visit if you offer something juicy like berries or sunflower seeds.

4.   Black-Capped Chickadee

Black-capped Chickadee

Another common backyard bird of New York is the Black-capped Chickadee. Black-capped Chickadees (Poecile atricapillus) are common in the northern half of the US. They’re especially popular in New York where they’re year-round residents.

They have a black nape and cap, as their name suggests. Yet, the rest of their bodies are either white or light gray.

If you spot one of these cute birds in your backyard, make sure you fill up your feeder with berries and nuts. They also enjoy suet and black oil sunflower seeds.

5.   Blue Jay

A Blue Jay perched on a cold New England winter day.

You can spot Blue Jays (Cyanocitta cristata) in your backyard all year long. They’re famous for their fluffy, crested head and bushy tail. Both are covered in blue plumage of all shades and hues.

They look adorable, but they can get pretty aggressive towards other birds. They tend to empty out birdfeeders by storing huge loads of seeds in their mouths. Then, they fly off and store it somewhere safe.

To put an end to this problem, some homeowners put a mesh cage around their feeders so only small birds can pass through. Another option is to fill a tray with peanuts just for the Blue Jays in your neighborhood. Just make sure you place it somewhere away from the feeders.

6.   Cedar Waxwing

cedar waxwing on a branch

The Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum) gets its name from its colorful tips. The wings are all brown and end with a dash of bright red at their tips.

Author Note: Other distinct features include a black bandit mask and a yellowish tip on its tail. They’re covered in brown and gray plumage with yellow bellies.

Cedar Waxwings don’t usually come to feeders, but they may drop in for a bath. To entice them to come more often, try offering fruit, especially cherries. They love almost all types of berries, so try adding those to your feeders as well.

7.   Common Grackle

Common Grackle

The Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula) is sometimes seen as a pest to crops. They’re year-round New Yorkians, especially in the southern regions.

You can also easily recognize them with the iridescent hints of green or bronze on their caps. Plus, their eyes are a bright shade of yellow.

Bear in mind that these grackles are known to be a bit of a bully at the feeder, especially if there’s corn, grain, or seeds. If they’re a nuisance, use tube feeders instead of trays or hoppers to keep them away.

8.   Common Yellowthroat

common yellowthroat singing

Common Yellowthroats (Geothlypis trichas) are part of the warbler family. Their bright yellow plumage covers their throats and underparts. Yet, their crowns and backs are a dull brown.

They may be small, but they’re not shy about coming into your backyard. In fact, they’re one of the more active warblers.

Although, they don’t care much for feeders. They’re more interested in insects, which is why they’re always near the ground foraging for food. To attract them, fill a tray feeder with dried insects, such as mealworms or crickets.

9.   Dark-Eyed Junco

dark eyed junco in pine tree

Dark-eyed Juncos (Junco hyemalis) sometimes go by ‘snowbirds.’ They’re year-round residents of most of New York, but you’ll see them more often in the winter.

They have a short, stocky build with a round head. Their tails are long and have pointy edges.

You can attract Dark-eyed Juncos to your backyard by laying out a mixture of seeds. Either set them up with a feeder or just put them on the ground.

10.  Downy Woodpecker

two downy woodpeckers

Another year-round resident of New York, the Downy Woodpecker (Dryobates pubescens) is smaller than most other peckers. They’re easily recognizable, thanks to the bright red streaks on their cheeks.

These amazing birds have stocky heads and short tails with stiff edges. Their straight backs and wide shoulders provide them with good balance when they lean away from tree branches.

They prefer snacking on fruits, insects, and seeds. You can also attract some to your backyard with a suet feeder.

11.   Eastern Bluebird

eastern bluebirds

The Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis) is the state bird of New York. It’s migratory, but it’ll stay in New York as long as it’s able to find enough food to last it through the winter.

True to their names, Eastern Bluebirds are covered in royal blue plumage. Their chests are a deep shade of reddish-orange. Their bellies are white all the way to their rumps.

They’re a common sight in backyards, but they don’t seem to like traditional feeders. You could try enticing them with a bit of suet or some seeds on a tray feeder.

12.   Gray Catbird

perched gray catbird

The Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis) is one of the few summer residents of New York. In winter, it migrates to warmer areas to breed.

These birds are gray all over, except for their black caps and tails. They have a long tail and their bills are quite pointy.

Gray Catbirds are shy and don’t like being out in the open. One way to invite them to your backyard is to put out a fruit and jelly feeder. Add some suet and water, and they won’t be able to stay away for long.

13.   House Finch

small perched house finch

House Finches (Haemorhous mexicanus) can be spotted all year in New York. they’ve gotten used to humans, so they’ll undoubtedly pop in your backyard for a quick snack.

They have a medium build with a round head and a notched tail. Their bills are short and cone-shaped to be able to break into nuts and seeds.

Top Tip: Put out a birdbath and fill a tube feeder or a thistle sock with some sunflower seeds, then wait. These adorable little birds will soon show up to enjoy your work.

14.   House Wren

House Wren (troglodytes aedon) on a branch singing with a green background

These summer residents of New York are small and adorable. House Wrens (Troglodytes aedon) have a plump and round body with a large head and a short, thin tail.

Their plumage is a dull brown with streaks of gray. In contrast, their breasts and throats are a light shade of brown.

House Wrens can be a bit shy. So, you have to work at luring them out to your feeder. Put out their favorite snacks, which include berries and fruit. They may also stop by if you have a suet feeder.

15.   Mourning Dove

Mourning doves are one of the most beautiful backyard birds of New York. Luckily, they’re year-round residents of the state, which means you’ll be seeing plenty of them.

They’re covered in light brown plumage that turns slightly pink when the light is just right. The wings, backs, and tails have slightly darker plumage.

These cooing birds mostly eat only seeds. Place some black oil sunflower seeds on the ground or on a large tray feeder and watch them line up in your backyard.

16.    Northern Cardinal

A single male cardinal bird perching on the roof of wooden feeder enjoy watching and relaxing on the morning light flare background, Autumn in GA USA.

Northern Cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis) are one of the most popular backyard birds in New York. They’re year-round residents of the state, except in the northeastern parts where they don’t even appear.

These plump birds have a fluffy crest and a long, full tail. Their bills are conical and heavy to help break open seeds and nuts.

They prefer all types, but their favorite is the black oil sunflower seeds. They’ll also eat nuts and berries, especially if you place them in a large hopper or tray feeder.

17.   Ruby-Throated Hummingbird

ruby throated hummingbird close up

All hummingbirds are cute, but the Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) may be the cutest of all. The ruby-red around the throat and the emerald-green on their backs are iridescent.

This species is the most abundant in the US. While other hummers only pass through New York, Ruby-Throated hummers are year-round residents.

They’re pretty social, so they’ll have no hesitation coming into your backyard. Just make sure you put out nectar feeders and they’ll come in droves. You may also see them resting in the early hours of the morning.

18.   Red-winged Blackbird

Red Winged Blackbird

You’d think with a name like ‘Red-winged Blackbird’ (Agelaius phoeniceus), you’d see a bird with red wings. Yet, they only have a broad red band running around the upper part of the wing.

Even more astonishing is that this band appears only on males. The females have no red striations at all!

These year-round residents of New York tend to show up in flocks.  Watch out or they’ll monopolize the feeder and scare away small birds.

19.  Song Sparrow

song sparrow singing

Common in many parts of New York, the Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia) is a cute, little bird. Its plump, round body matches its round head and tail.

You’ll probably find these shy birds popping in your backyard foraging for food. They like to stay near low cover where they can quickly fly off if there’s any danger.

Top Tip: The Song Sparrow typically feeds on insects and seeds. Invite them for an afternoon snack by laying out a mix of delicious seeds.

20.    White-Breasted Nuthatch

Wild blue bird feeding at Ile Saint-Bernard, Chateauguay, in natural decor

White-breasted Nuthatches (Sitta carolinensis) are known for their daredevil tricks and cute antics. They’re the largest member of the nuthatch family. Nonetheless, they’re still pretty small on average.

They have large heads compared to the rest of their bodies. It makes them appear as if they have no neck.

The long bill on these adorable birds allows them to feast on seeds, nuts, and seeds. If you fill your feeders with these goodies, they won’t be able to stay away all year long.

The Takeaway

We hope you enjoyed our guide on the common backyard birds of New York. There are many species of backyard birds of New York that may drop in for some snacks and refreshments. It’s your job to make sure they get what they came for.

Our list only contains 20 species. Nevertheless, there are hundreds more that either live in New York or simply pass through twice a year.

Each species has its unique quirks and traits. Yet, they’re all truly magnificent creatures capable of adapting to their environment.

How else can they have lasted for millions of years?!

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