Woodland Edges

Ruby-throated Hummingbird


Archilochus colubris

Sparrow-sized or smaller

Ruby-throated hummingbirds fly straight and fast but can stop instantly, hover, and adjust their position up, down, or backwards with exquisite control. They often visit hummingbird feeders and tube-shaped flowers and defend these food sources against others. You may also see them plucking tiny insects from the air or from spider webs. 

Photo by Karen Oakes

Red-breasted Nuthatch


Sitta canadensis

Sparrow-sized or smaller, noticeably smaller than a White-breasted Nuthatch

Red-breasted Nuthatches move quickly over trunks and branches probing for food in crevices and under flakes of bark. They creep up, down, and sideways without regard for which way is up, and they don't lean against their tail the way woodpeckers do. Flight is short and bouncy. These long-billed, short-tailed songbirds travel through tree canopies with chickadees, kinglets, and woodpeckers. 

American Goldfinch


Spinus tristis

Sparrow-sized or smaller, smaller than a Tufted Titmouse

These are active and acrobatic little finches that cling to weeds and seed socks, and sometimes mill about in large numbers at feeders or on the ground beneath them. Goldfinches fly with a bouncy, undulating pattern, and often call in flight, drawing attention to themselves. They often flock with Pine Siskins and Common Redpolls. 

Photo by Kerry Hardy

Common Yellowthroat


Geothlypis trichas

Sparrow-sized or smaller, larger than a Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Common Yellowthroats spend much of their time skulking low to the ground in dense thickets and fields, searching for small insects and spiders. Males sing a very distinctive, rolling wichety-wichety-wichety song.

Photo by Kirk Gentalen

Yellow Warbler


Setophaga petechia

Sparrow-sized or smaller, about the same size as a Yellow-rumped Warbler, slightly larger than an American Goldfinch

Look for Yellow Warblers near the tops of tall shrubs and small trees. They forage restlessly, with quick hops along small branches and twigs to glean caterpillars and other insects. Males sing their sweet whistled songs from high perches. 

Yellow-rumped Warbler


Setophaga coronata

Sparrow-sized or smaller, larger warbler, about the size of a Black-capped Chickadee

Yellow-rumped Warblers typically forage in the outer tree canopies at middle heights. They're active, and you'll often see them sally out to catch insects in midair, sometimes on long flights. In winter, they spend lots of time eating berries from shrubs, and they often travel in large flocks.

Photo by Kirk Gentalen

Black-capped Chickadees


Poecile atricapillus

Smaller than a sparrow


Their habit of investigating people and everything else in its home territory, and quickness to discover bird feeders, make it one of the first birds most people learn. They seldom remain at feeders except to grab a seed to eat elsewhere. They are acrobatic and associate in flocks - the sudden activity when a flock arrives is distinctive.

House Finch


Haemorphous mexicanus

Same size as a house sparrow, but more slender overall


The House Finch is a recent introduction from western into eastern North America. They are gregarious birds that collect at feeders or perch high in nearby trees. When they're not at feeders, they feed on the ground, on weed stalks, or in trees. They move fairly slowly and sit still as they shell seeds by crushing them with rapid bites. Flight is bouncy, like many finches.

House Sparrow


Passer domesticus

About the size of a Song Sparrow, but stockier


You can find House Sparrows most places where there are houses (or other buildings). Along with two other species, the European Starling and the Rock Pigeon, these are some of the most common birds. Their tendency to displace native birds from nest boxes causes some people to resent them.

White-breasted Nuthatch


Sitta carolinensis

Larger than a Red-breasted Nuthatch, smaller than a Tufted Titmouse


These are active, agile little birds with an appetite for insects and large, meaty seeds. They get their common name from their habit of jamming large nuts and acorns into tree bark, when whacking them with their sharp bill to "hatch" out the seed from inside. They may be small, but their voices are loud, and often their insistent nasal yammering will lead you right to them. 



Seiurus aurocapilla

Slightly larger than a Yellow Warbler, smaller than a Eastern Bluebird

The Ovenbird's rapid teacher-teacher-teacher song rings out in summer hardwood forests. It's so loud that it may come as a surprise to find this inconspicuous warbler strutting like a tiny chicken across the dim forest floor. It's olive-brown back and spotted breast are excellent disguise as it gleans invertebrates from the last letter.

Purple Finch


Haemorhous purpureus

About the same size as a House Finch or a House Sparrow


The Purple Finch is the bird that Roger tory Peterson famously described as a "sparrow dipped in raspberry juice." Separating them from House Finches requires a careful look, but the reward is a delicately colored, cleaner version of that red finch. Look for them in forests too, where you're likely to hear their warbling song from the highest parts of the trees. 

Cedar Waxwing


Bombycilla cedrorum

Between a Sparrow and a Robin


Cedar Waxwings are social birds that you're likely to see in flocks year-round. They sit in fruiting trees swallowing berries whole, or pluck them in mid-air with a brief fluttering hover. They also course over water for insects, flying like tubby, slightly clumsy swallows.

Photo by Kirk Gentalen

Dark-eyed Junco


Junco hyemalis

Slightly larger than a Chipping Sparrow


Dark-eyed Juncos are hooded sparrows of the ground. They hop around the bases of trees and shrubs in forests or venture out onto lawns looking for fallen seeds. You'll often hear their high-pitched notes, given almost absent-mindedly while foraging, or intensifying as they take short, low flights through cover.

Photo by Kirk Gentalen

European Starling


Sturnus vulgaris

Nearly twice the size of a House Sparrow; smaller than an American Robin


First brought to North America by Shakespeare enthusiasts in the nineteenth century, European Starlings are now among the continent’s most numerous songbirds. They are stocky black birds with short tails, triangular wings, and long, pointed bills. Though they’re sometimes resented for their abundance and aggressiveness, they’re still dazzling birds when you get a good look. Covered in white spots during winter, they turn dark and glossy in summer. For much of the year, they wheel through the sky and mob lawns in big, noisy flocks.

Northern Cardinal


Cardinalis cardinalis

Slightly smaller than an American Robin


Northern Cardinals tend to sit low in shrubs and trees or forage on or near the ground, often in pairs. Cardinals don’t migrate and they don’t molt into a dull plumage, so they’re still breathtaking in winter’s snowy backyards. In summer, their sweet whistles are one of the first sounds of the morning.

Photo by Kerry Hardy

American Robin


Turdus migratorius

The largest North American thrush, almost half again as big as a bluebird.

The quintessential early bird, American Robins are common sights on lawns across North America, where you often see them tugging earthworms out of the ground. Robins are popular birds for their warm orange breast, cheery song, and early appearance at the end of winter. 

Photo by Cornell Lab of Ornithology

American Woodcock


Scolopax minor

Bigger and plumper than a Killdeer; slightly smaller than a Rock Pigeon


Camouplaged against the leaf litter, the brown-tailed American Woodcock walks slowly along the forest floor, probing the soil with its long bill in search of earthworms. Unlike its coastal relatives, this plump little bird lives in young forests and shrubby old fields across eastern North America.

Photo by Karen Oakes

Mourning Dove


Zenaida macroura

Smaller, slenderer than Rock Pigeon


Mourning doves perch on telephone wires and forage for seeds on the ground; their flight is fast and bullet straight. Their soft, drawn-out calls sound like laments. When taking off, their wings make a sharp whistling or whinnying.

Photo by Sheri Romer-Day

Rock Pigeon


Columba livia

Larger than a mourning dove, smaller than a crow


 Pigeons often gather in flocks, walking or running on the ground and pecking for food. When alarmed, the flock may suddenly fly into the air and circle several times before coming down again.

Photo by Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Common Grackle


Quiscalus quiscula

Larger than a Red-winged Blackbird; about the same size as a Mourning Dove

You'l often find Common Grackles in large flocks, flying or foraging on lawns and in agricultural fields. They strut on their long legs, pecking for food rather than scratching. At feeders, Common Grackles dominate smaller birds. When resting, they sit atop trees or on telephone lines, keeping up a raucous chattering. Flight is direct, with stiff wingbeats. 

Photo by Karen Oakes

American Crow


Corvus brachyrhynchos

Nearly twice the size of a Blue Jay; about two-thirds the size of a Common Raven


American Crows are very social, sometimes forming flocks in the thousands. Inquisitive and sometimes mischievous, crows are good learners and problem-solvers, often raiding garbage cans and picking over discarded food containers. They're also aggressive and often chase away larger birds including hawks, owls and herons.

Photo by Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Fish Crow


Corvus ossifragus

Slighly smaller than an American Crow

Fish Crows are tough to identify until you learn their nasal calls. Look for them around bodies of water, usually in flocks and sometimes with American Crows. They are supreme generalists, eating just about anything they can find. Fish Crows have expanded their range inland and northward along major river systems in recent decades.

Photo by Cornell Lab of Ornithology