Identifying Backyard Birds: A Full Guide with Pictures

We can categorize birds into many classes as per their flying patterns, behavioral changes, appearances, size, shape, and color. Categorizing them makes it easier to identify them in the future.

11 Most Common Backyard Birds

Birds are not hard to identify. If you have experience with bird watching, you definitely understand this better. Just observe the criteria of each bird closely, and you will quickly identify a lot of them.

Mourning Dove

The Mourning Doves are the most familiar bird any person could come across as picture above. They have kind of a buff coloration. These are average to medium-sized doves. The tips of the wings have darker spots and shades.

The head is spherical, the beak is pointed, and the neck shows patches of colors. Maybe they are called Mourning Doves due to their dull color. The tail is long, narrow, and pointed. Mourning Doves love to feed on sunflower seeds.

Moreover, they like to travel in groups. You could hardly find a solo bird. The adorable cooing sound they make is very distinctive. You won’t miss a mourning dove in your backyard if you hear one.

Dark-Eyed Junco

The Dark-Eyed Junco looks like a ball of grey-colored snow itself. It is small in size and has incredibly dark eyes. The head is spherical, and the tails are pointed. They are called Snowbirds because you can often see them during freezing temperatures. They love to come to visit you during the winter!

In addition, they have variations in their appearances and names as per the region. For example, there are Slate-colored Junco in Alaska, White-winged Junco in the hilly areas of South Dakota and Wyoming, Oregon Junco on the coast of the Pacific, and pink-colored Juncos in the Rocky Mountains.

So, as you can see, they are widespread throughout the entire United States. They have a very delightful voice that soothes the ears. You will always find a Dark-Eyed Junco if you are bird watching in your backyard.

European Starling

These are some blackbirds with a very characteristic long yellow beak. The color is quite extraordinary as it is a mixture of black, purple, and green. Some spots can be seen on their body in the early part of winter. However, the spots gradually fade with time.

These Starlings are also sometimes found to bully other birds for food. So, if you see a fight for food in your backyard, make sure your differentials include a European Starling! They are such feeder bullies! They prey on insects and love to eat seeds.

Usually, the European Starlings are found in huge groups. But you can find solo birds as well. The melody is not really that distinctive. Although, in regards to your backyard, it won’t be hard to find a European Starling lurking around.

Tufted Titmouse

These birds have grey or black backs and a white belly. They look old and experienced. Some would say they look adorable! However, they have no connections with titmouse. The tails are pointed.

They have patterns on their feathers. When they feed on seeds, they hold on to their feet and then peck on the inside to get the food. So, they are pretty fun to watch. The voice is adorable as well.

Blue Jay

You could easily spot a Blue Jay from a hundred miles away! Blue jays are absolutely stunning to look at. They are seen throughout the year around the USA. Blue Jays are kind of bully birds. So, even though humans love blue jays, they are not so popular among other species.

They have a globular head and an absolutely magnificent display of colors throughout their feathers. There is a stunning combination of black, white, and blue. In fact, just like their name, they have a brilliant blue color. They have short beaks, which are slightly pointed at the end.

Most importantly, they have keratin particles on their feathers which transmit light and create stunning patterns. These are unique features of Blue Jays. However, due to their bad habits of bullying other birds for food, they are often regarded as Feeder Bullies. The voice of blue jay is not hard to distinguish. You can surely meet one in your backyard!

Northern Cardinal

This beautiful shade of red bird is actually the mascot of a sports team. In fact, it is one of the most famous state birds. They have a pointed arrangement of feathers at the top of their head. A black face and a red beak make them unique to look at. The entire shade of red has made them popular as the Red Bird in North America.

The body is somewhat pear-shaped with a long tail at the end. Moreover, the female birds have soft brown colored patterns on their feathers. They love to stay in pairs. Some researchers have said Northern Cardinals are toothless.

In fact, if you live in North America, you must have seen a Northern Cardinal lurking in your backyard. The voice is extremely lovely. The song starts with a clicking sound at the beginning, then slowly progresses to a high-pitched melody.

House Sparrows

I think no bird loves humans as much as the House Sparrows. From time immemorial, they love to build nests and houses in human habitats. It’s more like they follow humans wherever they go.

House sparrows are widely spread birds. Not just in America, they can be found in Asia and Africa as well. They are very small in shape and size and hardly make sounds. In the United States, they are often called the English Sparrows.

They have a mixed shade of grey and brown with black patches. Basically, the black patches are seen on the upper part of the chest, between the eyes and the throat, and the neck. The bills have different colors in different seasons. In summer, it is blue-black, and in winter, it is yellowish-brown.

In fact, there is a reason why they are called House Sparrows; because you could easily find one in your backyard.

Northern Mockingbird

Actually, they are called mockingbirds because they have this irresistible habit of mimicking whatever they hear. They can copy your doorbell or your car horn or even the squeaking of doors!

Their head is globular with an orange-colored bill. They can be loud, so look out for their voice. Who knows, you may have a regular visitor in the form of a Northern Mockingbird without you even realizing it!

House Finch

The house finches look old. They have a deep brown and grey texture. In addition, the feathers are streaked. And the male birds display a kind of reddish hue on the upper part of their body. They have tendencies to change colors with every season. So, sometimes you may see them in red or orange or yellow. It will ultimately create the illusion of camouflage.

Moreover, some birds from the eastern side often travel to the south. So, they are capable of migrating. These birds feed on seeds and insects, and dandelions. They also eat up the plant lice, so they are suitable for your horticulture. They like to build nests in open buildings or beside your homestead.

Nevertheless, the house finches are not friendly with the house sparrows. There are records that they have evicted and thrown out the sparrows from their home.

American Crow

Like any other crow, the American Corvus has a beautiful black, purple, or dark blue texture. It is hard to separate the colors from one another. It is a total blackbird with all black-colored body parts. They are more common in the countryside.

However, now they are widely found in the cities too. Crows are not hard to identify. From our cradles, we are pretty familiar with one kind of bird, and that is the crow!

They like to feed on seeds. So, if you wish to see more American crows, the clever thing to do is to increase the number of your bird feeders or seeds

American Robin

They are a bit different from the regular robins. They have a grey back and a red brick chest. The entire front part is actually brick red in color. You can spot them easily in any yard or garden park. The young birds are a bit spotted, but the juvenile ones have more prominent spots. Being spotted helps them with camouflaging.

In addition, they like to feed on berries or worms. So, you really don’t have to bother much about debugging if you have American Robins in your backyard. Also, they like to take baths in any collection of water they find lying around. Besides, they love to hop across the gardens. The voice of Robins is generally very soothing. You can identify them easily.

Some Ways To Identify Backyard Birds

Our feather friends enhance the beauty of our nature. Getting to know different kinds of birds can grow your love for Ornithology. However, before discussing the ways, let us get to know first what these backyard birds are.

Generally speaking, the birds that lurk around your garden deck or lawns are backyard birds. That is to say, the common birds that reside around your home are called backyard birds. These birds are an essential part of our environment and nature.

As a bird lover, you can try to point out the distinctive features of different birds. Collect all kinds of information on every bird you see. Make a comparative study, and then, you can have a detailed guide. Below, I’m going to explain some ways by which you can identify different kinds of backyard birds.

The Size And Shape Of Birds

The first thing you would notice about any living creature is its shape and size. In the case of birds, this is no exception. The shape of its body, tail, and beak can distinguish it from all the other birds. Not all kinds of birds will have the same shape and size. Some birds are larger, and some are pretty smaller.

For example, it is pretty evident that a snowy owl will be much more prominent in size than a pigeon. So, when you see a snowy owl from a distance, you definitely understand that it is significant in size and shape; and quite different from pigeons.

Try to observe the birds in your backyard. Categorize them as per their sizes and shapes. When you are done gathering other kinds of information on them, you will be able to identify them even outside your backyard!

Appearance Of Birds

The next feature in consideration would be the appearance of any bird. Naturally, our brain is processed in a way that when we see a new creature for the first time, we tend to remember its color first. Any distinctive patterns on its body, like some tuft of feathers, patches of colors, or any unique feature, stays in our minds for the longest time.

So, next time when you notice the same bird, you will recognize it from the features you noticed earlier. For example, the brilliant blue shade of a Blue Jay is hard to miss. Even if you see it from a distance, you will never mistake recognizing a Blue Jay!

Besides colors, birds also have unique patterns around their eyes or tails or any other parts of their body. It will create a separate base for bird identification. However, if you want to note the appearance of any bird, the best thing to do is to observe the bird under direct sunlight.

In this way, you won’t mistake the color or any characteristic markings on its body. Also, under direct sunlight, the specific patterns become more apparent. So, note down everything you see and make separate folders for each bird you study.


If you are familiar with the world of Taxonomy, you definitely understand how helpful it is in the identification of any creature. On the other hand, if this term is new to you, let me explain what it is. In short, taxonomy is the science that categorizes all animals into a number of subheads for easier identification.

For this purpose, there are mainly seven subcategories – kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, and species. All animals fall under the kingdom of Animalia. As per rule, birds will fall under the phylum Aves. Now, there are millions of birds in the world.

This is where taxonomy comes into play. It helps to categorize birds with similar features under the same group. Naturally, this can be the most accessible tool for bird watchers to identify birds.

But not everyone is familiar with the rules of taxonomy. So, to make it easier, choose a group on which you have gathered sufficient information. All this information will help you in the future. In fact, these resources will help you to understand the order or family, or class of this bird better.

In this way, slowly, you will get acquainted with several kinds of birds. You can enrich your knowledge of birds. That being said, you can be a mini ornithologist yourself!

Behavioral Pattern

The behavior of different birds is different. Behavior refers to the way they eat, their food habits, living habitats, locomotion, etc. Not all birds will hop on the ground or jump from tree to tree. Not all birds will feed on plants or insects. Again, some birds love to stay in groups while some fly solo. On the other hand, some love to stay in pairs.

The food habits can differ as well. For instance, a kingfisher will feed on fishes, whereas a Robin looks for the usual insects or ants to feed on. Behavioral patterns can play a significant role in separating different species of birds.

Although, this feature will take some time to master. You can’t expect to learn the food habits of different birds just by watching them lurking around your backyard. Get binoculars and spend some time observing them closely. Your efforts won’t go in vain. Their behavioral patterns will help you to categorize them more carefully.

The Pattern Of Flying

The flying pathway of each bird is different. Not all birds will fly in circles, and not all birds will fly in linear paths. In fact, some birds also move in zigzag patterns! Understandably, the orbits of different birds will be different.

Basically, it depends to a great extent on the area of your backyard. If you have an enormous backyard, the birds will have a larger orbit to fly. But if the room is small, the birds tend to move in smaller orbits.

Also, the velocities of each bird are different. Not all birds fly faster than air! A flesh-eating vulture will fly fast to catch its prey but slow during other times. On the other hand, magpies and crows fly at the usual speed. However, smaller birds like warblers fly faster than you can see! So, the pattern of flying can actually provide you with important clues.

The Shape, Color, And Size Of Their Beaks

The bills are an essential criterion to differentiate among different kinds of birds. Some birds have shorter and thicker bills or beaks whereas others have longer and thinner ones. It helps you to create another differentiating column in your database.

The best thing to do is to keep pictures of the birds to make the comparison. In this regard, you can download photos from the internet or just simply click some yourself. Then match the features with what you saw. You may end up noticing one or two more features that you missed during bird watching.

Reference pictures help to understand each category in more detail. Always try to keep some supporting data to your resources. This will help you identify them more easily in the future.

Tail Of Birds

You might be thinking it is absurd. But it’s true! Think of it this way. You know, magpies have longer tails, and sparrows have shorter tails. So, when you see a bird with an enormous tail from a distance, you will obviously rule out the ones you know have shorter tails. Hence, you can cut short a large portion of birds from researching while identifying the backyard birds.

Again, some birds also have characteristic markings on their tails. Some have unique patterns of feathers on their tails. This helps to create a big difference. Sometimes, the tail can be narrow and pointed. Sometimes, it can be turned upside down. So, observe closely what you see.

Note down every feature about the tail you can. This will help you to make a comparative study. As a result, you will end up with a lot of resources on each bird eventually.

The Sweet Melody

Our feather friends and their sweet melody have kept nature alive. Who doesn’t love to hear the sweet chirping, their singing, and humming! Each bird sings in a different way and at different times. The melody of their songs will help you to recognize them even from a distance.

To be fair, the sweet melody can be heard better in the countryside. In the country, there is no crowd or undue noise. Nature is calm and peaceful, and you can listen to the birds singing. In the cities, it is pretty difficult to distinguish the chirping of birds from the constant buzzing of the town life.

It is better if you record the song. You can use it for future reference. Also, these days, many ornithologists upload bird songs on the internet. If you search for their melody, you will find many voice clips related to this.

But, of course, it takes a great deal of experience and a high level of expertise to distinguish between the voices of different birds. Even experienced ornithologists can go wrong while trying to identify them from their tone. So, don’t jump to conclusions. Take your time to observe a group very carefully and then make conclusions on their melodies.

How To Attract More Birds To Your Backyard?

Backyard birds are a sucker for love and care. It is understandable that any creature will love to stay in its ambient environment. If your backyard is providing them with the optimum temperature and breeding facilities, you will see more birds in no time! They need food to survive, so the prime factor behind attracting more birds is actually more food.

Most birds love to feed on insects, worms, seeds, berries, dandelions, etc. These are the most standard food habits of almost all birds. So, what you can do here is that you can plant more and more berries and dandelions. The Blue Jays are a sucker for seeds. So, try to keep some seeds thrown around. It will help you to attract more Blue Jays.

Also, the Robins love to eat worms. So, in fertile lands, finding more Robins won’t be very surprising. You can make a bird-friendly corner by making a birdhouse or a nest. You can also keep some water sources so the birds can drink water whenever they want to.

In fact, bird feeders and birdbaths are very important for attracting more backyard birds. Plant more trees that your birds will love. Probably the nectar-containing plants are more preferred by the backyard birds. You can try planting Daylily, Honeysuckle, Hibiscus, Rose, Spirea, etc.

All these measures will significantly attract Hummingbirds, Mockingbirds, Sparrows, Warblers, Woodpeckers, Robins, Crows, and many more! Also, try to create more opportunities for bird nesting. Keep a store of organic materials and hays.

Gradually, you will learn what to do to attract more birds. You will start to learn from the habits and needs of these birds once you begin to observe them more closely. You will slowly adapt to what you should do and what you shouldn’t. So, try to follow these simple, easy tricks, and you will see more visitors in your backyard in no time!

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Q: How can I identify the birds in my backyard without feeling like a clueless detective?

A: Don’t worry, even Sherlock Holmes had his share of bird identification challenges! Start by observing the birds’ distinct features like their size, shape, color, and behavior. Take notes, but feel free to add some dramatic flair to your observations. After all, birdwatching is like starring in your own avian detective movie!

Q: What do I do if I can’t tell one brown bird from another?

A: Ah, the infamous LBB (Little Brown Bird) dilemma! If you find yourself lost in a sea of indistinguishable brown feathers, focus on the little details. Does it have a prominent beak? A unique pattern on its wings? Or perhaps a secret dance move that sets it apart? Embrace the mystery and give your best guess—it’s all part of the birding adventure!

Q: Can I use bird feeders to bribe the birds into staying put for identification?

A: Well, birds can be a bit like picky eaters at a buffet. While bird feeders can attract a variety of species, they might not always cooperate with your identification plans. But hey, offering them a tasty snack certainly won’t hurt! Just remember, bribing birds is not illegal, but it might not guarantee their cooperation.

Q: How do I handle those sneaky birds that won’t sit still for a proper identification?

A: Ah, the infamous “Birds-on-the-Go” crew! When faced with these speedy avian acrobats, try to keep your cool. Quick glimpses and disappearing acts are part of their charm. Embrace the challenge, sharpen your reflexes, and enjoy the thrill of the birding chase. It’s like playing hide-and-seek, but with feathers!

Q: Are there any birds that purposely disguise themselves to confuse birdwatchers?

A: Well, birds can be quite the masters of disguise. Some may blend seamlessly into their surroundings or have cryptic plumage that leaves you scratching your head. It’s like they have their own avian fashion show! Just remember, it’s all part of the fun—celebrate the mystery and keep your eyes peeled for those expert hiders.

Q: What should I do if I mistake a squirrel for a bird in my backyard?

A: Ah, the classic case of “Squirrel vs. Bird: The Case of Mistaken Identity.” If you find yourself fooled by a furry imposter, don’t worry—it happens to the best of us! Take a moment to appreciate the squirrel’s acrobatic antics and then refocus your detective skills on the true feathered residents of your backyard. Remember, even Sherlock Holmes had his share of mistaken identities!

Q: Can I hire a personal bird identification assistant to follow me around in my backyard?

A: Oh, wouldn’t that be the dream—a personal bird identification assistant on demand! Unfortunately, such a service is not readily available, but fear not! With a good field guide or a birding app in hand, you can be your own avian detective. Just remember to channel your inner Watson and stay curious!

Q: Are there any birds that intentionally photobomb my backyard birding pictures?

A: Ah, the infamous “Photobombing Bird Bandits”! While birds may not have mastered the art of photobombing like mischievous humans, they do have a knack for stealing the spotlight. Embrace their unexpected appearances in your pictures—they add a touch of avian charm and make for memorable moments. Consider it a bonus feature in your birding album!

Q: Can I use a secret bird call to summon specific species to my backyard?

A: Ah, the allure of secret bird calls and summoning avian allies! While some birds respond to specific calls, it’s important to remember that they have their own social circles and dialects. So, if you decide to try your luck, make sure you’re well-practiced in the art of bird communication. Just don’t be surprised if they respond with a puzzled look—avian networking can be a tricky business!

Q: What do I do if I accidentally start a neighborhood birdwatching rivalry?

A: Ah, the perils of competitive birding! If your backyard birdwatching skills ignite a friendly rivalry among your neighbors, remember to keep it lighthearted and fun. Share sightings, compare notes, and maybe even host a “Best Bird Photo” contest. After all, birding is about fostering a sense of community and appreciating the wonders of nature together!