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Birds of New York State

Fall and Winter Months

(Cardinalis cardinalis) Striking and popular, the male northern cardinal’s red feathers are a treat at any feeder. Typically spotted in mated pairs of males and females. Female coloring is a duller red-olive or gray color. Usually, the first bird at your feeders in the morning and last to leave at night. Present in New York State year-round.

(Cyanocitta cristata) Boldly colored and behaving, the blue jay is a boisterous addition to any backyard feeder. Known in the birding community to be both beneficial to nearby birds by aggressively challenging predators like hawks, while also being a “bully” and scaring other birds away while it feeds. Present in New York State year-round.

(Zenaida macroura) Peaceful and soothing in appearance and sound, the mourning dove can usually be found foraging for spilled seed below feeders or from platform feeders on the ground. Remarkably prolific breeders, mourning doves are found in great numbers across the entire US. Their distinctive “coo-coo” vocalization is easily recognizable and pleasant. Present in New York State year-round.

(Dryobates pubescens) The smallest of the North American woodpeckers, the downy woodpecker is a frequent visitor to suet and nut feeders. Strikingly similar looking to hairy woodpeckers, the downy woodpecker is commonly heard “drumming” and responding to other downy woodpecker “drummings” as they drill for insects in tree trunks. Present in New York State year-round.

(Passer domesticus) Quite possibly the world’s most abundant wild bird, the house sparrow’s proliferation has been often remarked upon throughout history. Comfortable in urban, rural, or wooded settings, the house sparrow often prefers proximity to humans and as a result is a frequent sighting at bird feeders. Small seeds and insects make up the bulk of their diet. These omnipresent birds are viewable in New York State year-round.

(Haemorhous mexicanus) Appearing similar in size and appearance at first glance to house sparrows, the male house finch can be identified by a colorful, red head, neck and shoulder. Females typically have brown and white streaks and are most easily confused with house sparrows. Prolific across North America currently, these finches have dramatically increased their range over the past 80 years from primarily the western and southern US to the entire United States. Present in New York State year-round.

(Spinus tristis) One of the most popular wild birds to attract to feeders, the American goldfinch brings a streak of golden yellow to your backyard that is breathtaking to see. Males are distinctively golden with streaks of black on head and back in the summer, transitioning to olive colored in the winter. Goldfinch preference for small seeds like thistle and ability to cling to mesh feeders has delighted backyard birders with their uniqueness for many years. Present in New York State year-round.

(Poecile atricapillus) One listen to a chickadee call and you’ll know where their name comes from -- the distinctive “chick-a-dee-dee-dee” call can be identified by almost anyone immediately. Despite the seemingly simple call, scientists have been studying the minute differences in these calls for decades, finding incredible variation in note and tone bringing various meanings from identifying predators to signaling a food source. Strikingly comfortable around humans, black-capped chickadees can even be taught to feed out of your hand! Present in New York State year-round.

(Baeolophus bicolor) The small, energetic tufted titmouse can appear to be a cross between a northern cardinal’s head on a black-capped chickadee’s body – although coloring is not similar. The namesake “tuft” of plumage on their head gives character to a bird made up primarily of gray, white, and black coloring. Commonly “scouting” bird feeders, tufted titmice like to observe a feeder, fly in and take a seed, and retreat back to a tree branch away from the feeder to eat. Present in New York State year-round.

(Quiscalus quiscula) Aggressive and frequently decried as “bullies” at the feeder, common grackles have long been known to chase or scare other desirable birds away from backyard feeders. Black bodies with a blue iridescent colored head, grackles are fond of emptying a bird feeder and also targeting crops with similar zeal. While some may like to see any birds at their backyard feeder, that hasn’t been the sentiment of most – a group of grackles is called a “plague”! Present in New York State year-round.

(Melanerpes carolinus) Counter-intuitively, the red-bellied woodpecker is identified by a red patch of plumage on the back of its head. Like most woodpecker varieties, the “drumming” heard by them drilling for insects into trees is also a form of communication to other red-bellied woodpeckers. While insects make up the bulk of their diet, suet and/or nut feeders can be popular destinations in the winter. Present in New York State year-round.

(Agelaius phoeniceus) Quite possibly North America’s most populous bird, some flocks have been estimated at over one million(!) birds during the winter. Distinctive red plumage on male wings with a yellow “cap” of color and a black body give the red-winged blackbird a splash of color that’s instantly recognizable. Females are of duller brown plumage. Present in New York State year-round.

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