backyard birds of illinois

Backyard Birds of Illinois: 15 Most Common with Pictures

The Prairie State lies in the heart of the United States. Despite being a medium-sized state, Illinois is considered an awesome spot for bird watchers and enthusiasts because it has a very high density of birds to enjoy!

In fact, out of all the bird documented species that mainland U.S.A has, about 50% of them are found in Illinois alone with over 400 bird species, according to the Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine.

In today’s guide, we’ll dive in deeper and take a closer look at some of the most impressive backyard birds of Illinois, ranking the most impressive and common species. Let’s check them out!

1. Northern Cardinal

northern cardinal

There are plenty of reasons to kick off the list with the Northern Cardinals. Not only because they’re so vibrant and widely common in Illinois, but also because they’re the official state bird of Illinois since 1929.

The beautiful male rock rocks an incredibly brilliant red plumage all over its body along with a characteristic red-orange crest and a black face mask.

Author Note: Females are less vibrant with a pale brown plumage, although they share the same orange-red crest and black face mask as the males.

Cardinals typically feed on seeds, whether they’re sunflower seeds or mixed seeds. They can also eat millet and peanuts from both ground and hopper feeders.

These birds are usually found all year round in the state and are well adapted to residential areas. Keep in mind that male cardinals are a bit aggressive towards other birds and will defend their territory viciously.

2. Baltimore Oriole

balitmore oriole

The Baltimore oriole belongs to the family of passerines. The reason they’re called so is that they share the same shade of orange as the coat of arms of Lord Baltimore of the Maryland Colony.

The orange plumage in the male oriole extends throughout most of the rumps and underparts of the bird as well as their shoulder. The rest of the body, including the head and the back, is mostly dark with some white markings.

Females also share the same color pattern but they have a wider range of orange shades that lean towards yellow but can also be deep flaming orange like the males.

The bird is mostly spotted in the state from April to October and they typically visit feeders for seeds and suet although they mainly feed on insects and worms.

3. American Robin

american robin backyard

The American Robin is one of the most frequently spotted birds in the State of Illinois, as you can easily find the bird anywhere from dense forests outside towns to bird feeders in your backyard.

Another reason why it’s fairly easy to spot the bird is the unique coloration that it has. The bird is about 9 to 11 inches long and has a characteristic reddish-orange plumage that covers both the male’s and female’s underparts.

The rest of the bird’s body is dark brown to black with a small yellow peak. You can also find the bird’s nest with relative ease because they lay tiny but vibrant sky blue eggs.

Despite the male’s aggression towards each other, they’re quite friendly around humans, although it may take a lot of patience to approach them.

4. White-Breasted Nuthatch

white breasted nuthatch

The white-breasted nuthatch is a pretty common bird that is found throughout the year in the United States, including Illinois.

The bird is generally small and is characterized by having long pointed bills and very short necks and tails.

Author Note: As the name suggests, you’ll easily identify the bird’s thanks to its white breast, which contrasts with the nuthatch’s blue-gray back.

White-breasted nuthatches have a wide habitat range that extends from the backyards and residential areas all the way to deciduous forests around the state.

You can usually spot them perching on fence posts and telephone wires while looking for insects. However, they can also feed on a variety of seeds, berries, and mealworms, so you can attract them to your bird feeder.

5. Blue Jay

blue jay

Blue Jays are native to North America, so they’re found all year round in Illinois. Not only that, they are among the most common birds that will land in your backyard.

The bird is extremely smart and is one of the few bird species that are capable of cracking a nut open, so you can easily attract them to your yard by scattering some of these peanuts on any kind of feeder.

You can use suet and various types of seeds as well. However, you should know that blue jay is considered a nuisance to some people due to its loud and frequent calls. They also imitate the sound of hawks to warn and scare off other birds.

Despite this annoying behavior, the bird has the looks to make up for it. Blue jays have a brilliant coat of bright blue along with stripes of white and black at the tail as well as an upright blue crest on the top of their heads.

6. American Goldfinch

american gold finch

The American Goldfinch is another pretty bird that ranks quite high in the list of the most common backyard birds in the State of Illinois.

The bird has a characteristic appearance, especially during the summer months where the bird’s plumage is golden yellow, especially at the back, wings, and cap. The rest of the bird’s body is usually dark black.

In winter the birds molt and switch their plumage to relatively less vibrant colors that range between brown and dark olive green.

The American goldfinch is an avid eater of seeds and suet, and they typically feed through various types of bird feeders.

7. House Finch

house finch backyard

The American house finch is yet another extremely abundant bird that can be found all over the country and is quite common in Illinois. Additionally, the bird is adapted to urban regions and residential areas, so they can be found nesting in backyard bird boxes.

The males of this species are known for their rosy red plumage that covers most of the bird’s head and wings.

The rest of the bird’s body is typically brown in various shades. Females, on the other hand, have a pale brown body with light touches of gray here and there.

You should also know that the vibrancy of the rosy red plumage heavily depends on the diet of the bird, so you should make sure that you offer a constant supply of millet and seeds to enjoy their beautiful colors.

8. Black-Capped Chickadee

black capped chickadee

The black-capped chickadees are more common in backyards than blue jays but are less common than Northern Cardinals and American goldfinch.

The bird is quite easy to recognize because its most identifiable feature is in the name. The bird is typically white in color, especially on the underparts, but it also has a very dark black cap over its head.

In addition to the black cap, you can also identify the bird from its relatively large head and short neck as well as the long tail.

Black-capped chickadees feed on anything from seeds and berries all the way to insects and vertebrates, so you won’t have a hard time attracting them to your yard.

9. Downy Woodpecker

downy woodpecker

The downy woodpecker is one of the most abundant species of woodpecker in Illinois. Moreover, they’re easily characterized by being the smallest species of woodpeckers in all of North America.

Besides their size, you’ll be able to identify them thanks to their characteristic red patch on the back of the bird’s head and extending down their nape. The rest of the bird’s body is mostly white with streaks of white all over the black wings.

Like many woodpeckers, this one is well adapted to live around residential areas and is commonly seen nesting in bird boxes nearby. They can feed on seeds, fruits as well as food remains and crumbs that are left on tables.

10. European Starling

european starling

Although European Starling isn’t native to America and arrived in the United States in the late 1800s on European ships, the invasive species have managed to outgrow the population of tons of native birds since then!

From a distance, European starlings look dark black. However, if you get up close with the bird, you’ll notice that it has iridescent purplish-green hues all over its body, especially at the bird’s chest and throat area.

The bird has short tails and long wingspans as well as a characteristic yellow bill. The bird is an example of a bird that molts in the winter and changes to a brown plumage with white spots all over the body, similar to how the female starlings look throughout the year.

The bird will feed on just about anything that they come across, but they typically prefer millet and grains like oats and wheat.

11. Common Grackle

common grackle

With an overall length of 11 to 13.5 inches and a wingspan of 14 to 18 inches, the common grackle is a medium-sized bird with a lanky build.

The bird has a relatively long bill as well as a blackbird-style tail that is long and tends to bend upwards. The bird usually gathers in large groups and they communicate using loud calls.

Author Note: Common grackles have unique colors because from a far distance, they look dark. However, as you get closer, they’ll turn out to be dark blue with iridescent hues, especially around the upper chest and the head.

The bird is found in backyards in the same frequency as crows and is found in Illinois’s backyards throughout the year.

12. Mourning Dove

mourning dove

The most common dove that you may find in your backyard in Illinois is the mourning dove. This species is known for its tan color plumage all over the body in addition to black freckling on its wings.

The bird is tubby and feeds on the ground, so it’s essential that you spread the millet and seeds on the ground to encourage them to land in your backyard while foraging.

13. Red-Bellied Woodpecker

red bellied woodpecker

The red-bellied woodpecker has an impressive color pattern that makes them easily identifiable. The bird has an orange red stripe that runs from between their eyes all the way down their necks.

Additionally, they have a heavily checkered pattern of black and white on their back and wings along with the faint red patch on their belly.

These woodpeckers are adapted to living near residential areas and may live in nearby bird boxes.

They mainly feed on insects but wouldn’t mind landing on bird feeders for a quick meal of suet or seeds.

14. American Crow

american crow on fence

The American crow is quite iconic and easy to spot and identify despite its all-black look thanks to its characteristic loud calls.

The bird is intelligent, which makes them a true pleasure to observe. Additionally, they’re quite bold and you can easily befriend them if you offer them food.

Although it’s not very good for their health, they like to snack on human food remains. However, if you want to offer them a healthier snack, you can feed them some peanuts.

15. Purple Martin

purple martin

Last but not least, we end up with one of the most impressive and unique birds that has a color that is quite rare to find in nature.

The purple martin features blue feathers with a tinge of purple on its head, back, shoulders, and belly. The rest of the bird’s body is typically grayish black.

The bird is quite rare and is found in a few spots in Illinois during spring, summer, and the early weeks of the fall.

You’ll have a better chance at spotting purple martins if you have a relatively large backyard or a lawn because they prefer open areas.

You can attract them to a relatively small yard using cooked eggs, but you should keep in mind that these birds are quite shy, so the method doesn’t always work.

Final Thoughts

The location of Illinois makes it an ideal spot for a lot of birds to drop by, and as you can see, the state has a wonderful collection of the most impressive birds that you can enjoy from the comfort of your own backyard!

Of course, some of these birds are trickier than others, so make sure that you look up your favorite birds and their ideal feeders to attract them to your yard!

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