Although it is easy to focus on rare birds of the world, the birds that frequent our backyards here in North America are just as fascinating.
Dark-eyed Juncos are the most common bird found in North America with an estimated population of 630 million. House sparrows are the most common bird worldwide, with a population of 540 million in North America.
There are so many beautiful yet common birds spread across the continent. These birds are usually so familiar because they are adaptable and can live anywhere. Many of them are comfortable in suburban areas, living right alongside us and we often see them in our yards.
Read on to discover the top 10 most common birds in North America and learn how they thrive here.
10. Northern Cardinal
The Northern Cardinal is a reasonably large, beautiful songbird. They are common throughout North America, from southeastern Canada to southern Mexico and throughout the United States.
The Northern Cardinal is among the most popular birds in the United States. They are the state bird of seven states, the most out of any bird.
It is estimated that there are 120 million cardinals in North America, and they are among the easiest birds to identify. Males are brilliant red, while females are brown with reddish tinges.
Northern cardinals are adaptable, as they tend to hide in woodland edges or grassland landscapes with shrubbery. As adults, they feed mainly on fruits and seeds but provide their young a diet of insects. They also thrive near urban areas and are frequent visitors to bird feeders. This adaptability has allowed their populations to grow and spread across most of North America.
9. Red-eyed Vireo
Red-eyed vireos are small, stocky songbirds. With a population of 130 million, they can be found across Canada and the eastern United States. They migrate south for the winter and spend the season in east Mexico.
Red-eyed vireos are olive green and white and get their name because their eyes turn red after their first year. Their diet varies drastically throughout the year. In the summer, up to 50% of their diet comprises of caterpillars. In fall, when they are getting ready to migrate, the amount of fruit they eat rises, and by winter, they eat almost exclusively fruit.
The red-eyed vireo prefers large expanses of deciduous forest, which is why the eastern United States is the perfect habitat for its population to grow.
8. Yellow-rumped Warbler
Yellow-rumped warblers are striking, active birds. These beautiful singers are small, streaky brown and yellow birds. There are approximately 130 million yellow-rumped warblers in North America.
They spend their summers in Canada before migrating southeast to Mexico and the Eastern United States. They typically spend their time foraging in the outer tree canopies of coniferous forests and can be seen flying after bugs and insects.
In the winter, they often travel in large flocks and consume much of their time eating berries.
7. Red-winged Blackbird
Red-winged blackbirds are medium-sized, stocky birds. They are ubiquitous in North America, with a population of about 150 million birds. Males are most commonly seen and are hard to mistake with their black body and striking red and yellow shoulder patches. Females are brown and prefer to hide unseen in the undergrowth.
In many cultures, red-winged blackbirds are seen as good omens. They are spread from coast to coast and range from northern Canada to Southern Mexico. They thrive in a variety of habitats but prefer wetlands. They primarily feed on seeds, but 25% of their diet consists of insects and other small animals. Red-winged blackbirds can be found throughout most of North America.
6. European Starling
European starlings are one of North America’s most numerous songbirds. They are a black bird with an iridescent sheen and a long, pointed bill. European starlings are not a native species in North America. Approximately 200 million birds here descended from 100 birds released in Central Park in New York City.
They are common in cities and towns, and their adaptability to humans has contributed to their success. However, many people view them as a pest and they can often be found hogging bird feeders.
European starlings cause trouble for native birds by pushing them out and stealing their nests. This behavior has been particularly detrimental to bluebirds and woodpeckers. They are often spotted walking across neat lawns, stabbing their bills into the ground every few steps searching for insects. European starlings often travel in large flocks with up to 100,000 individuals, called murmurations.
5. Chipping Sparrow
Chipping sparrows are slender, small birds. They are buff-brown with darkly streaked wings and back and a reddish cap on their heads.
Chipping sparrows thrive in open woodlands and forests with grassy clearings across North America. They can often be seen in parks and backyards, especially around bird feeders. Their ability to thrive in these areas has supported their large population of 230 million birds.
They have a large breeding range throughout Canada and the Northern United States. During winter, they migrate south to the southern United States. Their loud, trilling songs are among the most common sounds of spring, and can often be heard in woodland.
4. American Robin
American robins are familiar sights across North America. Many people view robins as one of the first signs of spring, and can often be seen pulling earthworms out of the ground. There are approximately 320 million robins in North America.
American robins are beautiful birds with a red-orange underside, grey wings and back, with a slightly darker head. The variety of habitats they live in is remarkable and can be found from the Alaskan wilderness to the backyards of the southern United States.
They often spend their winters in Mexico, where they gather in large groups. These roosts can have 250,000 individuals collected in a single area. American robins are adaptable, iconic birds of North America.
3. Mourning Dove
Mourning doves can often be seen perched on telephone wires across North America. They are a beautiful tan with grey-edged wings and black flecks.
Mourning doves can be heard when flying as their wings make a sharp whistling sound. This is believed to be an adaptation to warn others of danger nearby. Their numbers are monitored closely because they are the only bird on this list that is legal to hunt. Recent estimates have put their numbers at nearly 400 million birds.
Mourning doves can be seen from coast to coast in the United States, with their range dipping into southern Canada and extending through Mexico. They can often be seen foraging in bare patches of ground, gathering seeds and grit.
Mourning doves enjoy a range of habitats, including urban areas, farms, grasslands, and wooded areas. A single pair can nest six times a year, producing up to twelve offspring. This allows the mourning dove population to remain stable despite urban pressures and hunting.
2. House Sparrow
House sparrows are small, chunky birds with short black bills. Males have darkly striped wings with a grey underside and dark tan and grey heads. Females are much lighter, with darkly striped wings and a buff tan.
House sparrows are not native to North America; they originated in the Middle East and spread worldwide. Today, they are believed to be the most common bird in the world. North America has a population of approximately 540 million house sparrows.
House sparrows have lived around humans for centuries, and are not found in undisturbed forests or grasslands, choosing to live in cities and farmlands.
House sparrows can often be seen building a nest in unsuspecting places. Their nests are frequently found in the letters of signs, gas-station roofs, and traffic lights. They live year-round in every state in America and most of Mexico.
1. Dark-eyed Junco
Dark-eyed juncos are dark grey or brown birds with white outer tail feathers. Dark-eyed juncos are the most common bird in America, with an estimated population of 630 million birds.
They are small birds that prefer to forage on the ground. They can often be seen hopping around the bases of trees and shrubs and on lawns looking for fallen seeds. In summer, half of their diet is comprised of insects, along with berries.
They prefer to breed and nest in the conifer forests of Canada. These birds can nest up to three times a year, potentially producing 15 offspring per pair. They can be found everywhere in North America except southern Mexico and Canada’s extreme northern regions. They survive in many different habitats, and their versatility and large numbers of offspring combine to make the dark-eyed junco the most common bird in North America.
Some of the most common birds in our backyards are amazing creatures. There is a good chance that if you get outside today, you could spot one of the birds on this list.
10 Most Common Birds In North America
|Insects and berries (summer); seeds (winter)
|Seeds and grit
|Earthworms, insects, and various invertebrates
|Seeds and insects
|Insects, fruits, and berries
|Seeds and insects
|Insects (summer); berries (winter)
|Caterpillars (summer); fruits (fall and winter)
|Fruits and seeds (adults); insects (young)
References And Further Reading
The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America by David Allen Sibley: This comprehensive guide covers bird species commonly found in Eastern North America, featuring detailed illustrations and descriptions, making it a valuable resource for birdwatchers.
The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Western North America by David Allen Sibley: Similar to its Eastern counterpart, this guide focuses on bird species found in Western North America. It offers detailed illustrations and information, aiding bird enthusiasts in identification.
National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America by Jon L. Dunn and Jonathan Alderfer: This National Geographic guide provides a wealth of information about North American bird species. It features vivid photographs and concise descriptions, making bird identification accessible.
Kaufman Field Guide to Birds of North America by Kenn Kaufman: Known for its user-friendly approach, this guide emphasizes visual cues and key identification features. It’s a great choice for both beginners and experienced birdwatchers.
Peterson Field Guide to Birds of North America by Roger Tory Peterson: A classic among birding guides, this book uses Peterson’s innovative system of identification, focusing on distinctive field marks and illustrations for bird recognition.
Stokes Field Guide to Birds: Eastern Region and Stokes Field Guide to Birds: Western Region by Donald Stokes and Lillian Stokes: The Stokes guides offer detailed illustrations, range maps, and concise descriptions, making them suitable for birders in both the Eastern and Western regions of North America.
Bryan Harding is a member of the American Society of Mammalogists and a member of the American Birding Association. Bryan is especially fond of mammals and has studied and worked with them around the world. Bryan serves as owner, writer, and publisher of North American Nature.