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10 Red Birds in North Carolina

red birds in north carolina
Painted Bunting in Wake, North Carolina: Photo by Baxter Beamer


North Carolina’s diverse ecosystems provide habitat for a stunning array of bird species, including those adorned in striking shades of red. From the vibrant plumage of summer visitors to the year-round residents, these red birds add a burst of color to the state’s landscapes. Let’s explore some of the fascinating red-feathered avian inhabitants of North Carolina.

Jump to a species!

Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis)

  • Features: The male Ruddy Duck boasts a brilliant chestnut body, contrasting with a bright blue bill and striking white cheeks during the breeding season. Females are more understated, with mottled brown plumage.
  • Locations: Ruddy Ducks can be found in freshwater lakes, ponds, and marshes across North Carolina, particularly during the winter months.
  • Fun Fact: During courtship displays, male Ruddy Ducks inflate their necks to create dramatic bubbles in the water.

Red Knot (Calidris canutus)

  • Features: The Red Knot displays a rich rufous plumage during the breeding season, fading to a paler gray-brown in winter. They have a stout, straight bill and a distinctive black patch on the belly.
  • Locations: Red Knots migrate through coastal habitats in North Carolina, including sandy beaches and mudflats, where they forage for mollusks and crustaceans.
  • Fun Fact: Red Knots undertake one of the longest migrations of any bird species, traveling from their Arctic breeding grounds to wintering areas in South America.

Roseate Spoonbill (Platalea ajaja)

  • Features: The Roseate Spoonbill is adorned in soft shades of pink, with a vibrant red patch on its wings and a distinctive spoon-shaped bill. They have a graceful, sweeping flight.
  • Locations: While rare, Roseate Spoonbills can occasionally be spotted in coastal marshes and wetlands in North Carolina, particularly during the summer months.
  • Fun Fact: Roseate Spoonbills feed by sweeping their bills through shallow water, detecting prey by touch.

American Robin (Turdus migratorius)

  • Features: The American Robin is well-known for its rusty red breast, contrasting with a dark gray back and head. They have a cheerful, melodious song and are often associated with the arrival of spring.
  • Locations: American Robins can be found in a variety of habitats across North Carolina, including woodlands, parks, and suburban areas.
  • Fun Fact: Despite their name, American Robins are actually thrushes, not true robins.

House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus)

  • Features: Male House Finches display a warm reddish hue on their heads, throats, and chests, while females are more subdued with streaked brown plumage. They have a distinctive warbling song.
  • Locations: House Finches are common residents in urban and suburban areas throughout North Carolina, often found nesting in trees and shrubs.
  • Fun Fact: House Finches were introduced to North America from the western United States and have since become widespread across the continent.

Purple Finch (Haemorhous purpureus)

  • Features: Male Purple Finches exhibit a rich raspberry-red plumage, contrasting with a brown back and streaked underparts. Females are more subtly colored with brown and white streaks.
  • Locations: Purple Finches inhabit coniferous and mixed forests across North Carolina, particularly during the breeding season.
  • Fun Fact: Purple Finches have a distinctive call that is often described as a musical “tink.”

Summer Tanager (Piranga rubra)

  • Features: The male Summer Tanager is a brilliant crimson red, while females are a subdued yellow-green. They have a distinctive, melodious song.
  • Locations: Summer Tanagers breed in deciduous forests and wooded areas across North Carolina, particularly in the western part of the state.
  • Fun Fact: Summer Tanagers are primarily insectivorous, catching prey on the wing or plucking them from foliage.

Scarlet Tanager (Piranga olivacea)

  • Features: Male Scarlet Tanagers are a vibrant scarlet red, contrasting with black wings and tail. Females are olive-yellow with darker wings. They have a series of clear, whistled notes.
  • Locations: Scarlet Tanagers breed in deciduous and mixed forests across North Carolina, particularly in the mountains.
  • Fun Fact: Scarlet Tanagers undergo a striking transformation from their dull winter plumage to their vibrant breeding colors.

Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)

  • Features: The Northern Cardinal is perhaps one of the most iconic red birds of North Carolina, with males displaying bright red plumage and a distinctive crest. Females are a more subdued brownish-red.
  • Locations: Northern Cardinals inhabit a variety of habitats, including woodlands, suburban areas, and parks, across North Carolina.
  • Fun Fact: Northern Cardinals are fiercely territorial and will defend their territories from intruders, often engaging in aggressive displays.

Painted Bunting (Passerina ciris)

  • Features: Male Painted Buntings are a kaleidoscope of colors, with vibrant blue, green, and red plumage. Females are a more subdued greenish-yellow. They have a musical, warbling song.
  • Locations: Painted Buntings breed in shrubby habitats and forest edges in the coastal plain of North Carolina, particularly in the southeastern part of the state.
  • Fun Fact: Painted Buntings are highly sought after by birdwatchers for their stunning plumage.

Threats and Conservation

While many of North Carolina’s red birds are common and widespread, some species face threats from habitat loss, climate change, and human disturbance. Protecting and restoring critical habitats, such as forests, wetlands, and grasslands, is essential for ensuring the long-term survival of these birds. Conservation efforts, including land protection, habitat restoration, and public education, are crucial for preserving North Carolina’s rich avian diversity.

Citizen Science

Citizen science plays a vital role in monitoring bird populations, tracking migration patterns, and documenting changes in habitat use over time. Birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts across North Carolina can contribute valuable data to scientific research by participating in bird counts, surveys, and monitoring programs. By recording their observations and sharing their findings with researchers on platforms like eBird, citizen scientists can help inform conservation efforts and promote the protection of red birds and their habitats.



North Carolina’s red birds add beauty, diversity, and vitality to the state’s natural landscapes. From the striking hues of summer Tanagers to the familiar sight of Northern Cardinals at backyard feeders, these birds enrich our lives and remind us of the importance of preserving the natural world. By appreciating and protecting these feathered wonders, we can ensure a brighter future for North Carolina’s avian treasures.