Woods

Golden-crowned Kinglet

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Regulaus satrapa

Smaller than a chickadee; larger than a hummingbird

These tiny song-birds usually stay concealed high in dense trees, revealing their presence with thin, very high-pitched calls. They pluck small insects from clusters of conifer needles, often hovering briefly to reach them. In migration and winter, kinglets frequently join other insectivorous songbirds such as warblers, in mixed flocks.

Photo by Kirk Gentalen

Northern Parula

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Setophaga americana

Larger than a ruby-crowned kinglet, smaller than a red-eyed vireo

A small warbler of the upper canopy, the Northern Parula nests can be found in old man's beard lichen. 

Photo by Kirk Gentalen

Tennessee Warbler

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Oreothlypis peregrina

Sparrow-sized or smaller

A dainty warbler that specializes in eating the spruce budworm. Consequently the Tennessee warbler population goes up and down with fluctuations in the availability of the budworm.


Black-and-white Warbler

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Mniotilta varia
About the size of a black-capped chickadee; slightly smaller than a white-breasted nuthatch

One of the earliest-arriving migrant warblers, the Black-and-white Warbler's thin, squeaky song is one of the first signs that spring birding has sprung. They act more like nuthatches than warblers, foraging for hidden insects in the bark of trees by creeping up, down and around branches and trunks. Despite their arboreal foraging habits, they nest on the ground at the bases of trees.

Photo by Karen Oakes

Black-throated Green Warbler

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Setophaga virens

Larger than a kinglet, smaller than a titmouse

An abundant breeder of the northeastern coniferous forests, the Black-throated green Warbler is easy to recognize by sight and sound. Its dark black bib and bright yellow face are unique amongst eastern birds, and its persistent song of "zoo-zee, zoo-zoo-zee" is easy to remember.

Photo by Kirk Gentalen

Magnolia Warbler

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Setophaga magnolia

Larger than a ruby-crowned kinglet, smaller than a red-eyed vireo

The Magnolia Warbler is a handsome and familiar warbler of the northern forests. Though it often forages conspicuously and close to the ground, we have relatively little information on its nesting behavior.

Photo by Kirk Gentalen at Fox Rocks

Blackburnian Warbler

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Setophaga fusca

Sparrow-sized or smaller

A bird of the coniferous forests of the northeast, the Blackburnian Warbler is breathtaking in its brilliant orange-and-black breeding plumage.

 

Brown Creeper

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Certhis americana

Smaller than a White-breasted Nuthatch; larger than a Golden-crowned Kinglet

Brown Creepers are tiny woodland birds with an affinity for the biggest trees they can find. Look for these little, long-tailed scraps of brown and white spiraling up stout trunks and main branches, sometimes passing downward-facing nuthatches along the way. They probe into crevices and pick at loose bark with their slender, down-curved bills, and build their hammock-shaped nests behind peeling flakes of bark. Their piercing calls can make it much easier to find this hard-to-see but common species.

 

American Redstart

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Setophaga ruticilla

About the size of a Black-capped Chickadee or Yellow Warbler

A lively warbler that hops among tree branches in search of insects, the male American Redstart is coal-black with vivid orange patches on the sides, wings, and tail. True to its Halloween-themed color scheme, the redstart seems to startle its prey out of the foliage by flashing its strikingly patterned tail and wing feathers. Females and immature males have more subdued yellow “flash patterns” on a gray background. These sweet-singing warblers nest in open woodlands across much of North America.

Downy Woodpecker

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Dryobates pubescens

About two-thirds the size of a Hairy Woodpecker

YEAR-ROUND

They join flocks of chickadees and nuthatches, barely out-sizing them. An often acrobatic forager, this black-and-white woodpecker is at home on tiny branches or balancing on slender plant galls and suet feeders.

Photo by Kirk Gentalen

Red-eyed Vireo

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Vireo olivaceus

Slightly larger than a Yellow Warbler, slightly smaller than a Tufted Titmouse

A tireless songster, the Red-eyed Vireo is one of the most common summer residents of Eastern forests. These neat, olive-green and white songbirds have a crisp head pattern of gray, black, and white. Their brief but incessant songs—sometimes more than 20,000 per day by a single male—contribute to the characteristic sound of an Eastern forest in summer. When fall arrives, they head for the Amazon basin, fueled by a summer of plucking caterpillars from leaves in the treetops.

Photo by John Drury

Hermit Thrush

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Catharus guttatus

Smaller than an American Robin, larger than a Song Sparrow

An unassuming bird with a lovely, meloncholy song, the hermit thrush lurks in the understories of far northern forests in summer and is a frequent winter companion across much of the country. It forages on the forest floor by rummaging through leaf litter or seizing insects with its bill. The Hermit thrush has a rich brown upper body with smudged spots on the  breast, with a reddish tail that sets it apart from similar species in its genus.

Photo by Kirk Gentalen

Song Sparrow

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Melospiza melodia

Slightly smaller than a Dark-eyed Junco; slightly larger than a Chipping Sparrow

YEAR-ROUND

A rich, russet-and-gray bird with bold streaks down its white chest, the Song Sparrow is one of the most familiar North American sparrows. Don’t let the bewildering variety of regional differences this bird shows across North America deter you: it’s one of the first species you should suspect if you see a streaky sparrow in an open, shrubby, or wet area. If it perches on a low shrub, leans back, and sings a stuttering, clattering song, so much the better.

 

Ipswich Savannah Sparrow

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Passerculus sandwichensis

About the size of a Song Sparrow

YEAR-ROUND

The Ipswich Sparrow is a subspecies of the Savannah Sparrow with a breeding population isolated to Sable Island, Nova Scotia but a regular winterer along Maine’s coast.

Photo by Kirk Gentalen at State Beach

White-crowned Sparrow

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Zonotrichia leucophrys

Slightly larger than a Song Sparrow

White-crowned Sparrows appear each winter over much of North America to grace our gardens and favorite trails (they live in parts of the West year-round). The smart black-and-white head, pale beak, and crisp gray breast combine for a dashing look – and make it one of the surest sparrow identifications in North America. Watch for flocks of these sparrows scurrying through brushy borders and overgrown fields, or coax them into the open with backyard feeders. As spring approaches, listen out for this bird’s thin, sweet whistle.

Photo by Kirk Gentalen

Nelson's Sparrow

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Ammospiza nelsoni

Sparrow-sized or smaller

A secretive sparrow with a brightly colored face, the Nelson's sparrow breeds along the edges of freshwater marshes and in wet meadows of interior North America, and in salt marshes along the northern Atlantic Coast.

Photo by Kirk Gentalen

Gray Catbird

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Dumetella carolinensis

Robin-sized, slightly smaller than a northern mockingbird

If you’re convinced you’ll never be able to learn bird calls, start with the Gray Catbird. Once you’ve heard its catty mew you won’t forget it. Follow the sound into thickets and vine tangles and you’ll be rewarded by a somber gray bird with a black cap and bright rusty feathers under the tail. Gray Catbirds are relatives of mockingbirds and thrashers, and they share that group’s vocal abilities, copying the sounds of other species and stringing them together to make their own song.

 

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

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Sphyrapicus varius

Larger than a downy woodpecker; slightly smaller than a hairy  woodpecker.

On a walk through the forest you might spot rows of shallow holes in tree bark. In the East, this is the work of the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, an enterprising woodpecker that laps up the leaking sap and any trapped insects with its specialized, brush-tipped tongue. Attired sharply in barred black-and-white, with a red cap and (in males) throat, they sit still on tree trunks for long intervals while feeding. To find one, listen for their loud mewing calls or stuttered drumming.

Hairy Woodpecker

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Dryobates villosus

Robin-sized, about a third again larger than a Downy Woodpecker

The larger of two look alikes, the Hairy Woodpecker is a small but powerful bird that forages along trunks and main branches of large trees. It wields a much longer bill than the Downy Woodpecker's almost thornlike bill. Hairy Woodpeckers have a somewhat soldierly look, with their erect, straight-backed posture on tree trunks and their cleanly striped heads. Look for them at backyard suet or sunflower feeders, and listen for them whinnying from woodlots, parks, and forests.

Photo by Kerry Hardy

Pileated Woodpecker

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Dryocopus pileatus

Almost the size of an American Crow

The Pileated Woodpecker is one of the biggest, most striking forest birds on the continent. It’s nearly the size of a crow, black with bold white stripes down the neck and a flaming-red crest. Look (and listen) for Pileated Woodpeckers whacking at dead trees and fallen logs in search of their main prey, carpenter ants, leaving unique rectangular holes in the wood. The nest holes these birds make offer crucial shelter to many species including swifts, owls, ducks, bats, and pine martens.

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Northern Flicker

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Colaptes auratus

Between a robin and a crow, larger than a Hairy Woodpecker

YEAR-ROUND

Northern Flickers spend lots of time on the ground, and when in trees they're often perched upright on horizontal branches instead of leaning against their tails on a trunk. They fly in an up-and-down path using heavy flaps interspersed with glides, like many woodpeckers.

 

Blue Jay

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Cyanocitta cristata

Smaller than a Crow, larger than a Robin

This common, large songbird is familiar to many people, with its perky crest; blue, white, and black plumage; and noisy calls. Blue Jays are known for their intelligence and complex social systems with tight family bonds. Their fondness for acorns is credited with helping spread oak trees after the last glacial period.

Photo by Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Common Raven

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Corvus corax

Larger than an American Crow
Common Ravens aren't as social as crows; you tend to see them alone or in pairs except at food sources like landfills. Ravens are confident, inquisitive birds that strut around or occasionally bound forward with light, two-footed hops. In flight they are buoyant and graceful, interspersing soaring, gliding, and slow flaps.