The National Audubon Society, named after Naturalist, Ornithologist, and Painter John James Audubon, and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology agree that North America is home to 2,059 diverse bird species.
Narrowing that down to the ten smallest birds in North America was no easy task. However, you should read on to learn more about these birds. We look at their colors, characteristics, behavior, size, wingspan, and habitats.
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10. Downy Woodpecker
One of the largest of the small birds on this top ten list, the downy woodpecker is the smallest woodpecker species. Both males and females reach 5.5-6.7 inches and weigh 0.7-1.0 ounces with a 9.8-11.8 inches wingspan.
Downy woodpeckers inhabit woodlands with deciduous trees, bushes, and weeds. Many species can also be found in orchards, urban settings like parks or backyards.
The downy woodpecker is a common, little black and white spotted woodpecker. They are also rather friendly. Woodpecker species peck into the outer layers and bark on trees in search of insects to eat.
9. Dark-eyed Junco
The second-largest small bird on this top ten list is the dark-eyed junco. Both sexes reach a length of 5.5-6.3 inches. Weighing 0.6-1.1 ounces and having a wingspan of 7.1-9.8 inches.
In the western United States and the Appalachians, the dark-eyed juncos reside in coniferous forests and have black heads on tiny, brown bodies while other species are gray.
The dark-eyed junco is one of the most plentiful and abundant forest bird species. As with most bird species in North America, they face detrimental population issues due to habitat loss caused by urban development. The dark-eyed juncos can also be found in open fields, woodlands, parks, and backyards.
8. Bewick Wren
Wrens are another small bird with many species, such as the Bewick’s Wren, house wren, and the Carolina wren. The Bewick’s Wren is 5.1 inches in length for both females and males, and they weigh 0.3-0.4 ounces and brown in color with white breasts.
Increases in house wren populations have caused declines in the Bewick’s Wren populations in the eastern United States. House Wrens cause perilous scenarios for newborns and have been directly affecting the Bewick’s wrens’ populations. Eggs knocked to the ground become meals for snakes, birds of prey, and squirrels or raccoons.
House Wrens are beautiful songbirds that reach 4.3-5.1 inches and weigh 0.3-0.4 ounces with wingspans of 5.9 inches for both sexes.
The wide range of the house wren is impressive. They live from Central America and the West Indies all the way up to Canada. Some even migrate to the southernmost point of South America.
House wrens inhabit tree holes and nest boxes. The oldest known house Wren, was nine years old. Carolina wrens are more golden on the bottom with a reddish-brown head and are beautiful songbirds.
In 1821, on a Louisiana property, a British man named Thomas Bewick, a friend of John James Audubon, collected the first-ever recognized specimen for scientific study.
Audubon wrote, “I refrained from killing it, to observe its habits…It moved along the bars of the fences, with its tail generally erect, looking from the bar on which it stood towards the one next above, and caught spiders and other insects, as it ran along from one panel of the fence to another in quick succession.”
7. Ruby-crowned Kinglet
The ruby-crowned kinglet’s females and males range from 3.5-4.3 inches in length and weigh 0.2-0.3 ounces with wingspans between 6.3-7.1 inches.
Generally, kinglets are grayish, black, and have red or yellow crowns. There are a number of different kinglet species, such as the golden-crowned kinglet, goldcrest kinglet, and ruby-crowned kinglets.
The ruby-crowned kinglets particularly prefer conifer forests. Conifer forests are comprised of spruce trees, firs, and tamaracks. Ruby-crowned kinglets will migrate for winter but can usually be found in forests with shrubs and urban habitats like parks and backyards.
6. Yellow-rumped Warbler
The yellow-rumped warbler grows between 4.7-5.5 inches in length and weighs 0.4-0.5 ounces with a wingspan 7.5-9.1 inches in both males and females.
The warblers are another bird with numerous species. Habitats include coniferous and deciduous forests. As a migratory bird, the yellow-rumped warbler changes location in the fall before winter to reside in coastal areas, in both urban and wooded and shrubby forests. Warblers range in color, from grays to yellows and blue.
Verdin is grayish-blue and yellow in color and 4.5 inches full-grown. They forage for insects, plants and enjoy the remnants of dried sugars from hummingbird feeders.
Verdin predominately resides in the southwestern United States. Both males and females grow to be 3.5-4.3 inches in length and weigh around 0.2-0.3 ounces.
Verdins usually nest and forage in desert shrubs like cactus with remote tree coverage. They are small but strong and have adapted to living in the hot, arid desert environment.
4. Carolina Chickadee
Chickadees are a small North American bird that hails from the tit family. There are numerous chickadee species, such as the black-capped chickadees, mountain chickadees, and the chestnut-backed chickadees.
The Carolina chickadee, named by John James Audubon himself when he was visiting South Carolina, is 3.9-4.7 inches in length, weighing 0.3-0.4 ounces, and having a 5.9-7.9 inch wingspan.
Chickadee species prefer forested areas, urban backyards, and parks with large trees. Carolina and black-capped chickadees often share territories and are intelligent birds.
3. Brown-headed Nuthatch
Nuthatches have five different species, including the brown-headed nuthatches and brown creeper nuthatches. The male and female brown-headed nuthatches grow to 3.9-4.3 inches in length and weigh 0.3 ounces. The wingspan usually reaches 6.3-7.1 inches.
Brown-headed nuthatches are a tool-using species. They use bark from tees to cover seeds or as a lever to remove other bark pieces. The Brown-headed Nuthatch is also a social bird. They participate in a behavior referred to as allopreening. When birds preen each other, they congregate on branches and groom one another’s feathers.
The oldest known brown-headed Nuthatches were recorded to be 5 years and 9 months in age.
2. American Bushtit
American Bushtits are known to be the smallest of the passerines in North America and ranging from 2.8-3.1 inches in length and weighing 0.1-0.2 ounces.
Bushtits prefer oak forests, woodlands full of evergreen trees, while some will reside in urban areas. You may find this species from sea level to elevations over 10,000 feet.
These small songbirds flutter and tweet as they fly between bushes, hanging upside down in search of spiders and other insects. The American Bushtit is commonly found in western North America. Constantly on the move, Bushtits mix with other small songbirds, such as chickadees, kinglets, and warblers.
1. Calliope Hummingbird
The calliope hummingbird is the smallest native bird in North America at 3.1-3.5 inches long and weighs only 0.1 ounces with a wingspan of 4.1-4.3 inches.
Calliope Hummingbirds thrive in meadows surrounded by mountains, thickets that have a fresh streaming water source nearby, and in forests that have been burned by controlled or natural forest fires.