American goldfinch
American goldfinch Meet the birds in your neighborhood! © Matt Williams

Stories in the Great Lakes

Backyard Birding

Meet the birds in your neighborhood!

10 Birds You Can Spot in Your Backyard

No matter how stressful life gets, nature is always there for us. In our busy day-to-day routines, it’s easy to forget about the flowers blooming on our block or the birds singing just outside our window.

But when we pause, take a deep breath and look around, we are reminded that we can connect with nature anytime and anywhere.

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Post your bird photos on social media using the hashtag #BackyardBirding!

One great way to dive deeper into the natural world right from the comfort of your own home is through birding. When you have a few seconds to watch for them, these birds are pretty fascintating and abound in both rural and urban neighborhoods.

To get you started, here are 10 backyard birds that are easy to spot from your window:

Downy woodpecker
Downy woodpecker Fun fact: The downy is the smallest of the North American woodpeckers. © Matt Williams

1. Downy Woodpecker

Not all woodpeckers will visit your bird feeder, but the tiny-but-mighty downy will! Suet, black oil sunflower seeds, millet, peanuts and chunky peanut butter are all known to attract these feathered visitors. If you live near a forest, you can spot them there, while city dwellers can find them in residential areas and city parks.

Northern cardinal
Northern cardinal When it comes to songbirds, males are typically the ones who sing. Female cardinals are among the few that are known to belt out a tune of their own! © Matt Williams

2. Northern Cardinal

Watch for these striking red birds as they grab a snack from nearby bird feeders, forage along the ground and nest in the undergrowth along property edges.

Black-capped chickadee
Black-capped chickadee Found in Michigan and Wisconsin © Matt Williams
Carolina chickadee
Carolina chickadee Found in Illinois, Indiana and Ohio © Matt Williams
Black-capped chickadee Found in Michigan and Wisconsin © Matt Williams
Carolina chickadee Found in Illinois, Indiana and Ohio © Matt Williams

3. Chickadees

Even if you are a birdwatching novice, the black-capped chickadee is a little songster you may recognize mainly because it is curious about everything, including people! If you live in southern Illinois, Indiana or Ohio, you are more likely to see its close relative the Carolina chickadee.

Fun fact: Both chickadees occur in some of the same places, and where they do, they may mate with each other. These hybrid chickadees can sing each other’s songs!

American goldfinch
American goldfinch Fun fact: No insects for goldfinches, please! They are strict vegetarians and rarely eat an insect if they can help it. © Matt Williams

4. American Goldfinch

If you want to attract this sunny yellow bird to your feeders, fill them with sunflower and nyjer seed. If you plant native milkweeds in your yard, you might get a two-fer: American goldfinches and monarch butterflies.

5. White-Breasted Nuthatch

The active and acrobatic white-breasted nuthatch can be seen foraging for insects up, down and sideways on tree trunks and branches. But they’ll come to your feeder too if you put out suet, sunflower seeds and peanuts.

White-breasted nuthatch
White-breasted nuthatch Fun fact: They are called “nuthatches” because they jam large nuts into tree bark, then strike them with their sharp bill to “hatch” out the seed. © Matt Williams
Red-bellied woodpecker
Red-bellied woodpecker Red-bellied woodpeckers have a barbed, sticky tongue that helps them snag their meals. It can reach as far as two inches past the tip of their beaks! © Matt Williams
White-breasted nuthatch Fun fact: They are called “nuthatches” because they jam large nuts into tree bark, then strike them with their sharp bill to “hatch” out the seed. © Matt Williams
Red-bellied woodpecker Red-bellied woodpeckers have a barbed, sticky tongue that helps them snag their meals. It can reach as far as two inches past the tip of their beaks! © Matt Williams

6. Red-Bellied Woodpecker

To spot red-bellied woodpeckers, look up! You’ll want to watch for them along the main branches and trunks of trees at mid-height. They are also attracted to the same kinds of feed as the downy woodpecker, so stock your feeder accordingly.

Blue jay
Blue jay Fun Fact: Male and female blue jays look the same, which is relatively rare in the bird world. © Matt Williams

7. Blue Jay

Blue jays are a bright and noisy presence at birdfeeders throughout the eastern and central areas of the United States and southern Canada. Not picky eaters, they’re happy to eat nuts, seeds, suet and corn, and will often dominate a bird feeder. Like squirrels, blue jays are known to hide nuts to eat later.

House finch
House finch Fun Fact: Originally found only in Mexico and the western United States, the house finch became widespread in the United States beginning in the 1940s, when some were released in New York City after failed attempts to sell them as caged birds. © Matt Williams

8. House Finch

As its name suggests, the house finch is commonly found nesting and feeding near homes. They frequent bird feeders throughout the year, particularly if those feeders are stocked with sunflower seeds.

9. American Robin

The American robin is one of the most recognized birds in the United States. They’re often seen on suburban lawns, with their heads cocked, searching for earthworms and insects. A great time to spot them is after a spring rain.

American robin
American Robin Fun Fact: A male robin will be more diligent in caring for its young if the eggs are a brighter shade of blue. © Matt Williams
Mourning dove
Mourning Dove Fun Fact: When they grab seeds off the ground, mourning doves aren’t necessarily eating them; instead, they are stockpiling in an enlarged part of their esophagus for later. © Matt Williams
American Robin Fun Fact: A male robin will be more diligent in caring for its young if the eggs are a brighter shade of blue. © Matt Williams
Mourning Dove Fun Fact: When they grab seeds off the ground, mourning doves aren’t necessarily eating them; instead, they are stockpiling in an enlarged part of their esophagus for later. © Matt Williams

10. Mourning Dove

This bird’s mournful woo-oo-oo-oo call gives it its namesake and is commonly heard throughout the United States. Mourning doves who have successfully raised a brood will return to the same nesting site, so you may be hearing this woeful call from the same individuals year after year!

Take Flight!

We hope you enjoy watching for these feathered friends in your neighborhood! And as your birding skills grow, we hope you’ll continue to learn more about the myriad bird species that thrive in the wetlands, prairies, forests and other wild places The Nature Conservancy and our partners work hard toprotect for people and nature. Special thanks to The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, as their excellent resources helped inform the content in this feature.

Show Us the Birds in Your Neighborhood

Please share your birding adventures with us by posting your bird photos on social media using the hashtag #BackyardBirding!

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