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The 30 Most Common Birds in New York

common birds in new york
Downy Woodpecker in Tompkins, New York: Photo by Jay McGowan

Introduction

When you think of birds in New York, you probably think of pigeons, a much-maligned animal. But New York is more than just one big city and throughout the state, there is a great diversity of birdlife, with well over 400 species making their homes in the state. The best way to start birding in New York is to nail down the most common species. This article gives a nice overview of the thirty most common birds in New York, including key identification features, behavioral habits, habitat, and their range within the state (hint: they’re all pretty common – hence the list).

Common Birds in New York

Jump to a species!

Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata)

  • Features: A sizable crested songbird sporting a wide, rounded tail. Blue Jays fall between crows and robins in size, with a white or light gray underbelly and feathers showcasing hues of blue, black, and white above.
  • Behavior: Blue Jays emit a diverse range of calls that can be heard over considerable distances, often while perched in trees. They typically traverse open spaces without making much noise, particularly during migration. These birds have a habit of storing food in their throat pouches to cache elsewhere. When dining, they grip a seed or nut with their feet and crack it open with pecks.
  • Habitat: Blue Jays prefer habitats at the edges of forests. They particularly enjoy acorns as a staple food and are commonly spotted near oak trees in forests, woodlands, urban areas, and parks.
  • Range: These birds are very common (and I mean very common) all over the state.

American Robin (Turdus migratorius)

  • Features: American Robins are moderately sized songbirds boasting a substantial, rounded body, elongated legs, and a fairly lengthy tail. They rank as the largest thrush species in North America, serving as an excellent model to understand the fundamental shape of most thrushes. Utilizing robins as a reference point facilitates comparisons of size and form with other avian species. These birds exhibit gray-brown plumage with vibrant orange underparts and dark heads. During flight, a noticeable white patch on the lower belly and under the tail catches the eye. Female robins typically feature lighter heads, creating less contrast with their gray backs compared to males.
  • Behavior: American Robins are diligent birds often seen hopping across lawns or standing upright, with their beaks tilted upwards, scanning their surroundings. Upon landing, they frequently flick their tails downward several times. During the fall and winter seasons, they congregate in sizable flocks, assembling in trees to roost or feast on berries.
  • Habitat: American Robins are widespread throughout the continent, inhabiting gardens, parks, yards, golf courses, fields, pastures, tundra, as well as deciduous woodlands, pine forests, shrublands, and forests undergoing regeneration after fires or logging.
  • Range: Common year-round all over the state.

Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)

  • Features: The Northern Cardinal is a moderately sized songbird characterized by a long tail, a short yet robust bill, and a striking crest. Cardinals frequently adopt a hunched-over stance with their tails pointing downwards. Males display a vibrant red plumage throughout their bodies, complemented by a reddish bill and a black face encircling the bill. In contrast, females showcase an overall pale brown hue with subtle reddish tints on the wings, tail, and crest. They share the same black face and red-orange bill as their male counterparts.
  • Behavior: Northern Cardinals typically perch low within shrubs and trees or search for food on or near the ground, frequently in pairs. While they are frequently observed at bird feeders, they may blend into the surroundings when away from them, at least until you become familiar with their distinct, loud, metallic chip call.
  • Habitat: Search for Northern Cardinals in populated areas like backyards, parks, wooded areas, and the edges of shrubby forests. They construct their nests within dense tangles of shrubs and vines.
  • Range: Easy to find anywhere in the state during the entire year.

Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)

  • Features: This diminutive bird boasts a short neck and a sizable head, resulting in a unique, somewhat spherical body shape. It features a lengthy, slender tail and a short bill slightly thicker than that of a warbler but thinner than that of a finch. Its head and bib are adorned in black, while the cheeks sport a white hue. The back displays a soft gray coloration, with the wing feathers edged in white. Its underparts transition from a soft buffy shade on the sides to white underneath. The black cap extends just beyond the small, elusive eyes, making them somewhat challenging to discern.
  • Behavior: Black-capped Chickadees rarely linger at feeders, typically grabbing a seed to consume elsewhere. They exhibit acrobatic behavior and often gather in flocks, creating a noticeable burst of activity upon their arrival. When in flight, they frequently traverse roads and open spaces individually, characterized by a lively, bouncing motion.
  • Habitat: Chickadees inhabit various habitats containing trees or woody shrubs, ranging from forests and woodlots to residential areas and parks, and occasionally even weedy fields and cattail marshes. They commonly choose birch or alder trees as nesting sites.
  • Range: New York is where these birds become very common all year, having phased out the similar, more southerly Carolina Chickadees.

Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)

  • Features: With a plump body and elongated tail, paired with short legs and a small bill, Mourning Doves exhibit a head that appears notably diminutive in relation to their body. Their distinctively long, pointed tail sets them apart from other North American doves. These doves frequently blend in with their open-country environments, showcasing a delicate brown to buffy-tan coloration overall. They feature black spots on their wings and white-tipped tail feathers bordered by black.
  • Behavior: Mourning Doves swiftly navigate the air with powerful wingbeats, occasionally executing abrupt ascents, descents, and maneuvers, with their elongated tails trailing behind them.
  • Habitat: Mourning Doves are nearly ubiquitous, except in dense woodland areas. Keep an eye out for them in fields, patches of bare ground, or perched atop overhead structures like telephone wires.
  • Range: The most common dove species in New York, found all over the state throughout the year.

American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)

  • Features: A sizable bird with long legs and a thick neck, characterized by a robust, straight bill. During flight, American Crows display fairly broad and rounded wings, with wingtip feathers spread out resembling fingers. The short tail typically ends in a rounded or squared-off shape. American Crows exhibit uniform black coloring throughout their bodies, including their legs and bills. During molting, old feathers may appear brownish or scaly in comparison to the glossy new feathers.
  • Behavior: American Crows are highly social birds, occasionally congregating in flocks numbering in the thousands. Known for their curiosity and occasional mischief, crows are adept learners and problem-solvers, frequently scavenging from garbage cans and inspecting discarded food containers. They also exhibit aggression, often driving away larger birds such as hawks, owls, and herons.
  • Habitat: American Crows are frequently spotted in fields, open woodlands, and forests, thriving in close proximity to human activity. They can often be found in agricultural fields, lawns, parking lots, athletic fields, roadsides, towns, and city garbage dumps.
  • Range: Extremely common everywhere in New York.

Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)

  • Features: Song Sparrows are medium-sized sparrows with a relatively robust build. They feature a short and stout bill compared to other sparrows, along with a fairly rounded head. Their long, rounded tail and broad wings complete their distinctive silhouette. Sporting streaky brown plumage, Song Sparrows display thick streaks on their white chest and flanks. Upon closer inspection, their heads showcase an appealing blend of warm red-brown and slaty gray tones, although the exact hues and amount of streaking can vary significantly across different regions of North America.
  • Behavior: Song Sparrows dart among thick, low vegetation or perch on low branches, sometimes venturing onto open ground in search of food. Their flights are brief and fluttering, often accompanied by a distinctive downward pumping motion of the tail. Male Song Sparrows serenade from exposed perches, such as small trees.
  • Habitat: Search for Song Sparrows in a wide range of open habitats, such as marsh edges, overgrown fields, backyards, desert washes, and forest edges. These sparrows frequently visit bird feeders and construct nests in residential areas.
  • Range: New York’s most common sparrow species, Song Sparrows are super common, especially their call, throughout the state.

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)

  • Features: Canada Geese are sizable waterfowl characterized by a long neck, large body, substantial webbed feet, and a broad, flat bill. They sport a black head with white cheeks and a chinstrap, along with a black neck, tan breast, and brown back.
  • Behavior: Canada Geese feed by dabbling in the water or grazing in fields and expansive lawns. They are commonly observed in flight, either traveling in pairs or flocks. When flying in flocks, they frequently adopt a V formation.
  • Habitat: Canada Geese can be found in a wide range of habitats, including lakes, rivers, ponds, and other bodies of water, as well as yards, park lawns, and farm fields.
  • Range: One of North America’s most familiar birds, Canada Geese are common all over New York.

American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)

  • Features: This diminutive finch features a short, conical bill and a small head, along with long wings and a short, notched tail. During spring and early summer, adult males showcase vibrant yellow plumage with a black forehead, black wings adorned with white markings, and white patches both above and beneath the tail. Adult females display a less intense yellow hue underneath, with an olive coloration above. In winter, their appearance shifts to a drab, unstreaked brown, with blackish wings and two pale wingbars.
  • Behavior: These energetic and agile small finches exhibit acrobatic behavior as they cling to weeds and seed socks. They can often be seen milling about in large groups at feeders or on the ground beneath them. Goldfinches fly with a distinctive bouncy, undulating pattern and frequently vocalize while in flight, attracting attention to themselves.
  • Habitat: Goldfinches primarily inhabit weedy fields and floodplains, where plants like thistles and asters abound. They are also frequently encountered in cultivated areas, roadsides, orchards, and residential backyards. American Goldfinches are regular visitors to feeders throughout the year, with their highest abundance typically observed during winter.
  • Range: Common throughout the state all year.

Common Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)

  • Features: Starlings are robust birds, similar in size to blackbirds, yet distinguishable by their short tails and long, slender beaks. During flight, their wings appear short and pointed, resembling small, four-pointed stars, hence their name. From a distance, starlings appear black. In the summer, they exhibit a purplish-green iridescence with yellow beaks, while in their fresh winter plumage, they appear brown with brilliant white spots scattered across their bodies.
  • Behavior: Starlings are characterized by their lively and vocal nature, often moving in sizable flocks, sometimes alongside blackbirds and grackles. They dash across fields, diligently probing the grass for food with their beaks lowered, or perch atop wires or trees emitting a continuous stream of rattles, whirrs, and whistles.
  • Habitat: Starlings are prevalent in urban areas, suburban neighborhoods, and rural regions close to human habitation. They forage on the ground in locations such as lawns, fields, sidewalks, and parking lots. Additionally, they often perch and roost at elevated positions on wires, trees, and buildings.
  • Range: An introduced species in North America, starlings have established themselves all over New York.

Downy Woodpecker (Dryobates pubescens)

  • Features: Downy Woodpeckers embody a scaled-down version of the quintessential woodpecker body structure. They possess a straight, chisel-like bill, a robust head, broad shoulders, and a straight-backed posture, often leaning away from tree limbs and onto their tail feathers. Compared to other woodpeckers, their bill appears relatively smaller in proportion to their body size. Downy Woodpeckers create a checkered black-and-white appearance, with black upperparts featuring white checkering on the wings. Their heads display bold stripes, and a broad white stripe adorns the back’s center. Male Downy Woodpeckers sport a small red patch on the back of their heads. Additionally, their outer tail feathers typically exhibit white coloring with occasional black spots.
  • Behavior: Downy Woodpeckers skillfully navigate around tree limbs and trunks, or descend into tall weeds to feast on galls, showcasing a more agile and acrobatic movement compared to larger woodpeckers. Their unique rising-and-falling flight pattern is characteristic of many woodpecker species. During the spring and summer seasons, Downy Woodpeckers are quite vocal, emitting shrill whinnying calls and drumming on trees to make their presence known.
  • Habitat: Downy Woodpeckers can be spotted in open woodlands, especially amidst deciduous trees, as well as along brushy or weedy edges. They also frequent orchards, city parks, backyards, and vacant lots.
  • Range: These small woodpeckers are New York’s most common, being found everywhere in the state.

Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)

  • Features: A robust blackbird with broad shoulders, featuring a slender, conical bill and a medium-length tail. When perched, Red-winged Blackbirds often exhibit a hump-backed silhouette, with males frequently sitting with their tails slightly flared. Male Red-winged Blackbirds are easily recognizable, sporting an even glossy black plumage with distinctive red-and-yellow shoulder badges. In contrast, females display crisp streaking and a dark brownish hue overall, with a paler breast and often exhibiting a whitish eyebrow.
  • Behavior: Male Red-winged Blackbirds go to great lengths to attract attention, often perching on elevated positions and singing their distinctive conk-la-ree! song throughout the day. Meanwhile, females typically remain lower, foraging amidst vegetation for food and meticulously constructing their remarkable nests in silence. During winter, Red-winged Blackbirds congregate in massive flocks, joining other blackbird species and starlings to feed on grains.
  • Habitat: Search for Red-winged Blackbirds in both fresh and saltwater marshes, along waterways, water hazards on golf courses, and damp roadsides, as well as in drier meadows and old fields. During winter, you can spot them in crop fields, feedlots, and pastures.
  • Range: They can be found anywhere in the state, if suitable habitat is present, but are more common between March and August.

House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)

  • Features: House Sparrows are distinct from other North American sparrows in both lineage and physical appearance. They possess a chunkier build, with a fuller chest, a larger and more rounded head, a shorter tail, and a stouter bill compared to most American sparrows. Male House Sparrows exhibit bright coloring, featuring gray heads, white cheeks, a black bib, and a rufous neck—though in urban environments, some individuals may appear dull and unkempt. Females, on the other hand, are characterized by a plain buffy-brown overall with dingy gray-brown underparts. Their backs are prominently striped with buff, black, and brown.
  • Behavior: House Sparrows are lively and vocal birds that descend from eaves and fencerows to hop and peck at crumbs or birdseed. Keep an eye out for them flying in and out of nest holes concealed behind shop signs or in traffic lights, or lingering around parking lots, eagerly awaiting crumbs and picking insects off car grills.
  • Habitat: House Sparrows have lived around humans for centuries. Look for them on city streets, taking handouts in parks and zoos, or cheeping from a perch on your roof or trees in your yard. House Sparrows are absent from undisturbed forests and grasslands, but they’re common in countryside around farmsteads.
  • Range: Another European species introduced to North America, just like the starlings, House Sparrows are now common and regular across the entire state.

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)

  • Features: Mallards are sizable ducks, boasting hefty bodies, rounded heads, and wide, flat bills. Similar to many “dabbling ducks,” they have long bodies with tails that ride high out of the water, giving them a blunt shape. During flight, their broad wings are positioned toward the rear. Male Mallards are distinguished by their dark, iridescent-green heads and bright yellow bills. Their gray bodies are flanked by a brown breast and black rear. In contrast, females and juveniles display mottled brown plumage with orange-and-brown bills. Both sexes feature a distinctive white-bordered, blue “speculum” patch in the wing.
  • Behavior: Mallards belong to the category of “dabbling ducks,” known for their feeding behavior of tipping forward in the water to graze on underwater plants. They rarely dive and can often be found in city ponds, where they can become quite tame. Mallards frequently congregate with other Mallards as well as other species of dabbling ducks.
  • Habitat: Mallards are adaptable and can thrive in nearly any wetland environment, whether natural or man-made. Keep an eye out for them on lakes, ponds, marshes, rivers, and coastal areas, as well as in city parks, suburban areas, and residential backyards.
  • Range: Common all over New York throughout the year.

Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus)

  • Features: A slender, round-headed woodpecker, comparable in size to a Hairy Woodpecker but lacking its blocky appearance. Often sporting a pale overall coloration, including the boldly striped black-and-white back, with a striking red cap and nape. Keep an eye out for white patches near the wingtips as this bird takes flight.
  • Behavior: Search for Red-bellied Woodpeckers as they move along branches and trunks of medium to large trees, frequently pecking at the bark surface rather than drilling into it. Like many woodpeckers, they exhibit a distinctive undulating flight pattern.
  • Habitat: Red-bellied Woodpeckers are prevalent throughout numerous Eastern woodlands and forests, ranging from mature stands of oak and hickory to younger hardwoods and pine forests. Additionally, they frequently venture from wooded areas to visit backyard feeders.
  • Range: Common in most of New York, though a little less regular in the north of the state.

White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis)

  • Features: Despite being the largest nuthatch, the White-breasted Nuthatch remains a small bird characterized by a large head and minimal neck. It possesses a very short tail and a long, narrow bill that is either straight or slightly upturned. These nuthatches feature gray-blue plumage on their backs, complemented by a frosty white face and underparts. A black or gray cap and neck encircle the face, giving the appearance of the bird wearing a hood. The lower belly and under the tail are often chestnut-colored.
  • Behavior: White-breasted Nuthatches display remarkable agility as they traverse tree trunks and large branches, utilizing their straight, pointed bills to probe into bark furrows. Similar to other nuthatches, they frequently adopt sideways and upside-down positions on vertical surfaces while foraging. Unlike woodpeckers, they do not rely on their tails for support.
  • Habitat: White-breasted Nuthatches inhabit mature woods and woodland borders, with a particular affinity for deciduous forests containing trees such as maple, hickory, basswood, and oak. However, they can also be spotted in certain coniferous forests.
  • Range: Very common throughout the state, given suitable habitat.

Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor)

  • Features: Tufted Titmice stand out among the smaller birds frequenting feeders, largely due to their prominent features such as their large head and eye, thick neck, and robust bodies. Their pointed crest and stout bill are distinguishing characteristics, even when seen in silhouette. They sport soft silvery-gray plumage above and white below, with a rusty or peach-colored wash along the flanks. Additionally, a black patch situated just above the bill gives the bird a distinctive snub-nosed appearance.
  • Behavior: Tufted Titmice demonstrate acrobatic foraging skills, although they tend to be slightly slower and more deliberate compared to chickadees. They commonly associate with chickadees, nuthatches, and woodpeckers in flocks and are frequent visitors to feeders, where they assertively compete with smaller birds. Their flight is typically fluttery but level, lacking the undulating pattern seen in some other species.
  • Habitat: Tufted Titmice are widespread in eastern woodlands below 2,000 feet elevation, encompassing both deciduous and evergreen forests. Additionally, they are frequent visitors to feeders and can often be spotted in backyards, parks, and orchards.
  • Range: Common throughout the state, but seen less frequently in the state’s northern parts.

Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula)

  • Features: Common Grackles are sizable blackbirds, possessing long legs and tails. Their heads are flat, and their bills are longer than those of most blackbirds, with a slight downward curve. During flight, their wings appear relatively short compared to their tails. Males are slightly larger than females. While Common Grackles may appear black from a distance, their glossy purple heads contrast with bronzy-iridescent bodies when viewed up close. Their bright golden eyes give them an intent expression. Females exhibit slightly less glossiness than males. Young birds are characterized by dark brown plumage and dark eyes.
  • Behavior: Common Grackles are frequently encountered in sizable flocks, either in flight or foraging on lawns and in agricultural fields. They confidently strut on their long legs, pecking for food rather than scratching. At feeders, Common Grackles assert dominance over smaller birds. When resting, they often perch atop trees or telephone lines, maintaining a raucous chatter. Their flight is characterized by direct movements and stiff wingbeats.
  • Habitat: Common Grackles flourish in a variety of environments, including agricultural fields, feedlots, city parks, and suburban lawns. They are also frequently observed in open habitats such as woodlands, forest edges, meadows, and marshes.
  • Range: Regular and common in the entire state, even more so during the spring and summer months.

Grey Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis)

  • Features: A medium-sized, slender songbird distinguished by its long, rounded, black tail and narrow, straight bill. Catbirds possess relatively long legs and broad, rounded wings. While they may initially appear entirely slaty gray, closer inspection reveals a small black cap, blackish tail, and a rich rufous-brown patch under the tail.
  • Behavior: Catbirds exhibit a blend of secrecy and energy, hopping and fluttering from branch to branch amidst tangled vegetation. Males often perch atop shrubs and small trees while singing. They tend to avoid flying across open spaces, instead opting for quick, low flights over vegetation.
  • Habitat: Search for Gray Catbirds amidst dense thickets of shrubs, small trees, and vines, along the edges of forests, streamside thickets, old fields, and fencerows.
  • Range: Regular everywhere in New York between May and October, but some birds can be observed year-round.

Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis)

  • Features: The Ring-billed Gull is a medium-sized bird with a relatively short, slim bill. While perching, its long, slender wings extend well past its square-tipped tail. In flight, these gulls move gracefully on gentle flaps of their fairly slender wings. Adults exhibit clean gray plumage above, complemented by a white head, body, and tail, with black wingtips adorned with white spots. They boast yellow legs and a yellow bill with a distinctive black band encircling it. Nonbreeding adults feature brown-streaked heads. During their first two years, Ring-billed Gulls display a patchy mix of brown and gray feathers, accompanied by a pink bill and legs.
  • Behavior: These gregarious gulls are frequently seen flying overhead in large groups or gathering to feed at locations such as golf courses, beaches, or fields. Demonstrating strength and agility in flight, Ring-billed Gulls circle and hover acrobatically while searching for food. They are opportunistic feeders, foraging both afloat and on foot.
  • Habitat: Ring-billed Gulls frequently gather near humans, congregating at locations like garbage dumps, parking lots, and freshly plowed fields. Although they are commonly found on coastal beaches, especially during winter, many Ring-billed Gulls primarily inhabit inland areas and may never encounter the sea.
  • Range: These birds are very common where suitable habitat occurs. This means they are best observed on the Atlantic coast at and around New York City and in the northeast, along Lakes Erie and Ontario.

Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis)

  • Features: The Dark-eyed Junco is a medium-sized sparrow characterized by a rounded head, a short, stout bill, and a relatively long, noticeable tail. While juncos exhibit variations across different regions of the country, they are typically dark gray or brown birds adorned with a pink bill and white outer tail feathers. These white feathers periodically flash open, especially during flight, adding a bright accent to their appearance. The “slate-colored” junco found in the eastern United States and much of Canada exhibits a smooth gray coloration on its upper parts.
  • Behavior: Dark-eyed Juncos are primarily ground-dwelling birds. They hop around the bases of trees and shrubs in forests or explore lawns in search of fallen seeds. Their high chip notes can often be heard, uttered almost absent-mindedly while foraging, or becoming more intense as they take short, low flights through cover.
  • Habitat: Dark-eyed Juncos breed in coniferous or mixed-coniferous forests spanning across Canada, the western United States, and the Appalachians. In winter, they can be found in open woodlands, fields, parks, roadsides, and backyards.
  • Range: These small birds are regular all over New York year-round, although some birds will move further north to breed in the summer.

White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis)

  • Features: The White-throated Sparrow is a robust sparrow with a notable bill, rounded head, long legs, and elongated, slender tail. These sparrows are brown above and gray below, featuring a distinctive head pattern. Their black-and-white-striped heads are complemented by a bright white throat and yellow markings between the eye and the bill, which is gray. Additionally, a less boldly marked variation, known as the “tan-striped” form, displays a buff-on-brown face pattern instead of the white-on-black pattern.
  • Behavior: White-throated Sparrows prefer to remain close to the ground, foraging by scratching through leaves in search of food, often seen in flocks. They may also be observed low in bushes, especially during spring when they feed on fresh buds. These sparrows frequently sing their distinctive songs, even during the winter months.
  • Habitat: Search for White-throated Sparrows in wooded areas, along forest edges, in regrowth areas following logging or forest fires, at the edges of ponds and bogs, and in small groups near treelines. During winter, you may encounter these birds in thickets, overgrown fields, parks, and wooded suburban areas. They readily visit backyards in search of birdseed.
  • Range: A common sparrow species everywhere in the state, White-throated Sparrows tend to be slightly less prevalent during the summer months when some birds move even furthernorth.

Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)

  • Features: Flickers are sizable woodpeckers characterized by a slender, rounded head, a slightly downcurved bill, and a long, flared tail that narrows to a point. They typically exhibit a brownish hue overall, featuring a distinctive white rump patch that stands out in flight and is often visible while perched. Eastern flickers showcase bright yellow undersides on their wing and tail feathers. Upon closer inspection, their brown plumage reveals a rich pattern adorned with black spots, bars, and crescents.
  • Behavior: Northern Flickers frequently forage on the ground, and when found in trees, they often adopt an upright posture on horizontal branches rather than leaning against the trunk with their tails. Their flight pattern consists of an up-and-down trajectory, characterized by heavy flaps interspersed with glides, a behavior shared with many other woodpeckers.
  • Habitat: Search for flickers in open habitats adjacent to trees, such as woodlands, forest edges, yards, and parks.
  • Range: Very common woodpeckers all over the state throughout the year.

House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus)

  • Features: House Finches are petite finches characterized by relatively large beaks and somewhat elongated, flat heads. Their wings are short, giving the impression of a longer tail in comparison. While many finches display distinctly notched tails, the House Finch’s tail notch is relatively shallow. Adult males feature a rosy red hue around the face and upper breast, accompanied by streaky brown plumage on the back, belly, and tail. During flight, the red rump is noticeable. Conversely, adult females lack the red coloring; they exhibit a plain grayish-brown appearance with thick, blurred streaks and an indistinctly marked face.
  • Behavior: House Finches are sociable birds often found congregating at feeders or perched high in nearby trees. When not at feeders, they forage on the ground, on weed stalks, or in trees. Their movement is relatively slow, and they remain stationary while shelling seeds by swiftly crushing them with bites. Their flight is characterized by a bouncing motion, typical of many finches.
  • Habitat: House Finches are commonly found in city parks, backyards, urban areas, farms, and forest edges throughout the continent.
  • Range: Introduced from western North America, House Finches are now quite common all over the state.

American Herring Gull (Larus argentatus)

  • Features: Herring Gulls are sizable gulls characterized by their sturdy bills and robust bodies. In flight, they appear barrel-chested and broad-winged, particularly when compared to smaller species like Ring-billed Gulls. Adults exhibit light-gray backs, black wingtips, and white heads and underparts. During winter, dusky streaks can be observed on their heads. It takes four years for Herring Gulls to attain their adult plumage. Juveniles display a mottled brown appearance, while second-year birds exhibit brown feathers with hints of gray on the back. By the third year, more gray is present on the back, along with increased white on the head and underparts. Regardless of age, their legs maintain a dull pink hue.
  • Behavior: Herring Gulls are frequently observed patrolling shorelines and open ocean, where they scavenge for scraps on the surface. They are known to gather around fishing boats or refuse dumps, exhibiting loud and competitive behavior as they vie for food. These gulls are opportunistic feeders, readily seizing another bird’s meal. They typically spend a significant portion of their time perched near food sources, often congregating with other gulls.
  • Habitat: Search for Herring Gulls during the winter months along coastlines and near large reservoirs, lakes, and major rivers. They can be found feeding in a variety of habitats, including open water, mudflats, plowed fields, and garbage dumps, and are often seen congregating in any open area near a food source. During the summer, they are commonly observed along the Atlantic Coast, Great Lakes, and coastal regions of Alaska. Additionally, they breed across the boreal far north.
  • Range: Very common along the coast and by the Great Lakes and scattered less regularly across the rest of the state.

Rock Dove (Columba livia)

  • Features: Rock Doves, or Rock Pigeons, are larger and more robust compared to Mourning Doves, characterized by their tubby bodies, small heads, and short legs. They possess broad but pointed wings and a wide, rounded tail. Their coloration varies, but the majority of individuals exhibit a bluish-gray hue with two black bands on the wings and a black tip on the tail. Many Rock Doves also have iridescent throat feathers. Wing patterns may consist of two bars, dark spots, or may appear plain, while the tail typically features a dark tip.
  • Behavior: Doves frequently congregate in flocks, foraging on the ground by walking or running while pecking for food. When startled or alarmed, the flock may swiftly take flight, circling several times in the air before returning to the ground.
  • Habitat: Doves are commonly observed in urban areas and towns. (Perhaps the unofficial mascot of NYC?) They are also present in agricultural regions and fields, as well as in their typical habitat of rocky cliffs.
  • Range: Introduced from Europe in the 17th century, Rock Doves are now common in much of the state, even outside of the city, believe it or not.

Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)

  • Features: Red-tailed Hawks are sizable raptors with typical Buteo proportions, featuring very broad, rounded wings and a short, wide tail. When viewed from a distance, large females may appear similar to eagles, although this illusion fades upon closer inspection. Most Red-tailed Hawks exhibit a rich brown coloration on their upper parts and pale undersides, often with a streaked belly and a dark bar between the shoulder and wrist on the underside of the wings. Their tails are typically pale below and cinnamon-red above, although in young individuals, they may appear brown and banded. Birds with a “dark-morph” are entirely chocolate-brown with a warm red tail, while those with a “rufous-morph” display a reddish-brown chest and a dark belly.
  • Behavior: You’ll frequently observe Red-tailed Hawks soaring in expansive circles high above fields. When they flap their wings, their movements are robust and deliberate. During strong winds, they may turn into the wind and hover effortlessly without flapping their wings, their gaze focused on the ground below. When hunting, they execute a deliberate dive with their legs extended, a stark contrast to the rapid stoop of falcons.
  • Habitat: You’ll find the Red-tailed Hawk predominantly in open landscapes. Keep an eye out for it near fields, often perched on telephone poles, fenceposts, or solitary trees bordering fields.
  • Range: New York’s (and North America’s) most common roadside raptor, Red-tailed Hawks can be observed fairly easily all over the state year-round.

Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus)

  • Features: The Carolina Wren is a compact bird with a rounded body and a lengthy tail that it frequently elevates. Its head, distinguished by a notably petite neck, features a distinctively wren-like bill: elongated, slender, and curved downward. Both males and females exhibit a vibrant, uniformly reddish-brown upper plumage and a warm buffy-orange underside, complemented by a lengthy white eyebrow stripe, a dark bill, and a white chin and throat.
  • Behavior: The Carolina Wren navigates through dense vegetation and scurries along tree trunks, diligently hunting for insects and fruit. It investigates various locations such as yards, garages, and woodpiles, occasionally selecting them for nesting sites. While foraging, this wren frequently raises its tail upward and lowers it while singing. Carolina Wrens vigorously defend their territories through persistent singing, and they fiercely vocalize and drive away any intruders.
  • Habitat: Search—or tune your ears—for Carolina Wrens singing or vocalizing from thick foliage in wooded regions, particularly in forested gullies and residential areas. These birds prefer to navigate at low levels through dense undergrowth, often frequenting backyard heaps of brush and areas overgrown with vines and shrubs.
  • Range: Not limited to the Carolinas, this species is regular in most of New York, becoming less common as you venture further north.

Hairy Woodpecker (Dryobates villosus)

  • Features: A moderately-sized woodpecker characterized by a relatively square head, a lengthy, straight, chisel-shaped bill, and sturdy, elongated tail feathers utilized for support against tree trunks. The bill is nearly equivalent in length to the head. Hairy Woodpeckers exhibit a striking black-and-white contrast. Their black wings feature a checkered pattern of white, while their heads display two prominent white stripes (along with a red patch towards the rear in males). A broad white stripe extends down the center of their black backs. The “Eastern” Hairy Woodpecker variant showcases abundant white spotting on the wings.
  • Behavior: Hairy Woodpeckers ascend tree trunks and traverse main branches in a distinctive hitching motion. Occasionally, they forage near the bases of trees, along fallen logs, and even on the ground. Their flight pattern typically involves a slow, undulating motion, characteristic of many woodpeckers.
  • Habitat: Hairy Woodpeckers inhabit mature forests throughout the continent. Additionally, they can be found in woodlots, suburban areas, parks, and cemeteries. They are also present in forest edges, open woodlands characterized by oak and pine, recently burned forests, and stands affected by bark beetles.
  • Range: These woodpeckers are very common throughout the state all year.

Double-crested Cormorant (Nannopterum auritum)

  • Features: Double-crested Cormorants are sizable waterbirds characterized by small heads atop long, sinuous necks. They possess thin, sharply curved bills, approximately the length of their heads, and their robust bodies rest close to the water’s surface. Adult birds display a brown-black plumage with a small area of yellow-orange skin on their faces. Immature cormorants exhibit a generally browner appearance, with the lightest coloring on their necks and breasts. During the breeding season, adults develop a small double crest composed of fine black or white feathers.
  • Behavior: Double-crested Cormorants skim low across the water’s surface, plunging beneath to capture small fish. Following their fishing expeditions, they perch on docks, rocks, and branches, extending their wings in a characteristic posture to air dry. While airborne, they frequently navigate in V-shaped formations, their flight pattern marked by intermittent flapping and gliding maneuvers.
  • Habitat: Double-crested Cormorants hold the title of the most prevalent cormorant species across North America, commonly spotted in freshwater habitats. They establish breeding grounds along both coastal regions and expansive inland lakes, constructing their nests from sticks high atop trees on islands or within clusters of submerged timber.
  • Range: Most common by water (the coast and the Great Lakes), these birds can be observed throughout the state.

New York Birding Resources

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Conclusion

New York boasts a rich variety of bird species, with each contributing to the state’s diverse ecosystem. From the soaring Red-tailed Hawk to the ground-dwelling Dark-eyed Junco, these birds inhabit various environments across urban and rural landscapes. Whether in city parks, forests, or along water bodies, New York offers ample opportunities for birdwatchers to observe and appreciate these common avian residents.