Home to some of the widest variety of wild birds, North Carolina is a bird watcher’s paradise. But what birds are you likely to see in your backyard?
In this article, we’re going to go through a few of the most recognizable and well-known birds of the state you might stumble across as well as ones that you may never have heard of before now and are curious to find out more after spotting one outside your window.
Some of these birds are residents of North Carolina throughout the year whereas others often migrate, making them part-time residents to the state.
In the state itself, however, there are around 470 species of birds, which is a large percentage of around the 2000 species in the whole of the country. With so many residing in the state alone, you’re going to want to put up the bird feeders, fill up the birdbath, fetch your binoculars and get watching.
Luckily, this article is going to help you identify each one you spot a glimpse of flying into your backyard, helping you pick out the most common birds that keep coming back day after day as well as the rarest species that often come along for a once in their lifetime hop across your lawn. So, let’s dive in!
What Are The Top 20 Backyard Birds In North Carolina?
The birds that you may often spot in your backyard, hopping across your lawn, taking a bath, or perching on your feeder are some of the state’s most beautiful species.
The list we are about to go through is a combination of birds that are spotted in North Carolina during both the summer and winter which means no matter what time of year you are on the lookout, you are guaranteed to spot at least one of them.
They include the Red-bellied Woodpecker, the Ruby-throated Hummingbird, the House Finch, the Indigo Bunting, the Downy Woodpecker, the Yellow-rumped Warbler, the Song Sparrow, the American Robin, the American Crow, the Carolina Chickadee, the Blue Jay, the Mourning Dove, the American Goldfinch, the White-throated Sparrow, the Northern Cardinal, the Red-winged Blackbird, the Tufted Titmouse, the Northern Mockingbird, the Dark-eyes Junco, and the Eastern Bluebird.
1. Red-Bellied Woodpecker
- Scientific Name: Melanerpes carolinus
- Length: 9.4 inches
- Weight: 2.0-3.2 ounces
- Wingspan: 13-16.5 inches
The red-bellied woodpecker can be identified by its pale red belly. This is particularly difficult to spot but it also has a red cap and nape as well as a black and white striped back and wings.
They can be heard from afar and have an extremely loud call in the spring and summertime. When they are not in your backyard, they are often spotted in the woods or the forest. They prefer habitats with deadwood.
If you are eager to spot a red-bellied woodpecker in your backyard, suet feeders are your best option but they will also feed on hummingbird feeders. They are medium-sized and are very common throughout the state.
2. Ruby-Throated Hummingbird
- Scientific Name: Archilochus colubris
- Length: 2.8-3.5 inches
- Weight: 0.1-0.2 ounces
- Wingspan: 3.1-4.3 inches
The Ruby-Throated Hummingbird is more common in the eastern half of the United States, yet they can migrate further south to Central America, yet is the most abundant species of hummingbirds in the whole country.
They are also the only breeding hummingbird on the Eastern side of the US. They can be identified by their bright green back and crown and a gray-white underside.
The males also have an iridescent red throat which is what gives them their famous name. The females however still have green on their back with white underneath and brownish crowns and sides, lacking the red throat feathers.
They are the main hummingbirds in the state and are found in backyards from Spring until Fall. They are the smallest birds you will spot in your backyard.
3. House Finch
- Scientific Name: Haemorhous mexicanus
- Length: 5.1-5.5 inches
- Weight: 0.6-0.9 ounces
- Wingspan: 7.9-9.8 inches
The House Finch is another common bird in the state and though they are invasive to North Carolina, they are generally liked by residents.
They do not cause any problems yet if you manage to attract them, they may show up in a large flock and mob your feeders. They tend to visit thistle feeders and are seen more than Goldfinches at seed feeders.
If you want to spot one in your backyard, try some black sunflower seeds or nyjer seeds. The males have a redhead and breast and the females have a brown streak.
Originally they were only found in the western states but since being introduced to the eastern states, they have pushed out the purple finch. They can be found often in parks or farms, as well as the edge of the forest, and since they are such loud birds, hard to miss.
4. Indigo Bunting
- Scientific Name: Passerina cyanea
- Length: 4.5-5.1 inches
- Weight: 0.4-0.75 ounces
- Wingspan: 7.1-9.1 inches
Indigo Buntings are very small and can be identified if they are a male by their blight blue color with black streaks in the wings and tail, and if they are female, their brown color.
They are often found in weedy fields and areas full of shrubs where they will often be foraging for insects and seeds. If you want to spot them in your backyard, use small seeds such as nyjer or thistle to attract them.
They migrate far from breeding grounds in eastern States to winter grounds in Central and South America, as well as Florida and even the Caribbean.
5. Downy Woodpecker
- Scientific Name: Picoides pubescens
- Length: 5.5-6.7 inches
- Weight: 0.7-1 ounces
- Wingspan: 9.8-11.8 inches
The Downy Woodpecker is extremely common among the state’s backyards. They are the smallest woodpeckers in North America and are usually the first species at a new feeder.
They often come mixed in with other birds such as chickadees and nuthatches. They can be identified by their black and white coloring and a red patch on the back of their head (females lack this feature).
They look fairly similar to the Hairy Woodpecker though are slightly smaller than this species and if you want to spot one, try suet feeders, black sunflower seeds, peanuts, or millet. They are found all through the year and across the entire state.
6. Yellow-Rumped Warbler
- Scientific Name: Setophaga Coronata
- Length: 5-6 inches
- Weight: 0.46 ounces
- Wingspan: 8.8 inches
These birds are gray with flashes of yellow across their face, sides, and rump as well as having white in their wings.
Females can also be brown and winter species are more of a pale brown with bright yellow rumps and sides turning back to bright yellow and gray in the springtime.
They breed mostly in Canada and migrate in large groups south across southern and central North America, the Pacific Coast, and throughout Central America and Mexico.
Keen to spot one yourself? Lay down sunflower seeds, raisins, suet, and even peanut butter.
7. Song Sparrow
- Scientific Name: Melospiza melodia
- Length: 4.7-6.7 inches
- Weight: 0.4-1.9 ounces
- Wingspan: 7.1-9.4 inches
These sparrow species are brown on the back and the wings and have heavy brown streaks on a whitish breast.
They are common throughout the country and their plumage can vary by region. The male species uses the song to both attract females and defend their territory.
Song sparrows can be found across the whole state but are often permanent residents in western North Carolina. You will find winter residents however in the eastern parts of the state.
Mixed seeds and sunflower seeds are what you will need to stick to in order to attract these sparrows to your backyard.
8. American Robin
- Scientific Name: Turdus migratorius
- Length: 7.9-11 inches
- Weight: 2.7-3 ounces
- Wingspan: 12.2-15.8 inches
One of the most common birds in the state and one of the most well-known species of bird in the country is the American Robin.
Robins are usually spotted on lawns searching and eating earthworms or similar invertebrates. They have a black head and back and their breast is a warm red or orange.
They often roost in the trees during the winter and so keep a lookout for them in your backyard from springtime. They are common all over North America and across the whole of the state.
If you want to attract them to your backyard, attract them with native fruit-bearing plants, sunflower seeds, peanut hearts, or mealworms in your bird feeder and ensure your birdbath is full.
9. American Crow
- Scientific Name: Corvus brachyrhynchos
- Length: 15.8-20.9 inches
- Weight: 11.2-21.9 ounces
- Wingspan: 33.5-39.4 inches
American crows are completely black and are large birds that make a hoarse, cawing sound. They are very common across the state and can be found in treetops, fields, woods, beaches, and towns.
They are mostly found on the ground searching and eating earthworms, seeds, fruit, and other insects and if you scatter peanuts on the ground, they’ll be sure to visit your backyard. They are too large to use bird feeders, however.
They are also highly intelligent like their cousins, the Raven, and roost as high as possible in a large group to get a birds-eye view of what is down below. If an owl or hawk appears, the roost will call out and let everyone know there is danger nearby.
10. Carolina Chickadee
- Scientific Name: Poecile carolinensis
- Length: 3.9-4.7 inches
- Weight: 0.3-0.4 ounces
- Wingspan: 5.9-7.9 inches
Chickadees are tiny birds and are easily identifiable from their black cap and black bib. Their cheeks are a solid white and their wings and back are blackish grays. Their underbodies are generally quite puffy and white.
The Carolina Chickadee shouldn’t be confused with Black-capped Chickadees, which is also found across North Carolina and they often interbreed where their range crosses over.
There like mixed seed blends as well as sunflower seeds, nyjer seeds, and peanuts. They will feed on tube feeders, platform feeders, and suet cages and can be seen in forested areas, parks, and of course, backyards.
11. Blue Jay
- Scientific Name: Cyanocitta cristata
- Length: 9.8-11.8 inches
- Weight: 2.5-3.5 ounces
- Wingspan: 13.4-16.9 inches
This bird is common all over the country. They are songbirds and have a blue upright crest with blue and black backs and white undersides.
They also have a black ring around their neck which can be compared to a necklace. They are relatively noisy birds and travel in groups.
You may also spot them enjoying some acorns but if you want them in your backyard, lay out some peanuts, sunflower seeds, and suet on a tray feeder or hopper feeder or make sure your birdbath is full.
They usually reside in the state but may migrate from the northwest and are very common in backyards and at feeders.
12. Mourning Dove
- Scientific Name: Zenaida macroura
- Length: 9.1-13.4 inches
- Weight: 3.0-6.0 ounces
- Wingspan: 17.7 inches
The mourning dove is a similar size to a robin and is common in backyards across the state. You will often find them perched on a telephone wire or in groups up a tree. Though they do perch on the tray feeder, you will often see them walking on the ground.
Mourning doves are gray with black spots on their top and a pale peach color below them. They are graceful, have plump bodies and long tails. If you want to attract them to your backyard, scatter millet on the ground or your platform feeder.
They also enjoy sunflower seeds, nyjer seeds, peanut hearts, and cracked corn. The birds are found throughout the state as well as the lower states of the country, areas of Central America, and Mexico.
13. American Goldfinch
- Scientific Name: Spinus tristis
- Length: 4.3-5.1 inches
- Weight: 0.4-0.7 ounces
- Wingspan: 7.5-8.7 inches
American Goldfinches have yellow feathers in the Spring and the Summer and are mostly yellow or gold with black-tipped wings and a black cap on the top of their heads. During winter, they will molt and lose their color, leaving them a more brown or olive color.
However, whatever time of year it is, the black on their wings and their finch-like beaks allow you to spot them easily.
They are found across the whole state but breed in Canada and the northern two-thirds of the US. They are resident throughout the year in central states and migrate south for the winter.
If you want to see one in your backyard, try planting some thistles and some milkweed. They enjoy bird feeders but prefer sunflowers seeds and nyjer seeds.
14. White-Throated Sparrow
- Scientific Name: Albicollis
- Length: 5.9-7.5 inches
- Weight: 0.78-1.13 ounces
- Wingspan: 9 inches
The white-throated sparrow has a unique black and white striped head with a bright white throat and yellow between the eye and beak. They often breed in Canada before migrating south in the winter towards the eastern and southern states, as well as California.
You will often find them on the ground in the woods and along the edges of these woods. They often reside in large flocks. To attract them to your backyard, use feeders with millet and black sunflower seeds on your platform feeder.
15. Northern Cardinal
- Scientific Name: Cardinalis cardinalis
- Length: 8.3-9.1 inches
- Weight: 1.5-1.7 ounces
- Wingspan: 9.8-12.2 inches
The Northern Cardinal is probably the most recognized bird in the state and the most common backyard bird in the whole country.
The males have bright red feathers and a black mask whereas females have duller colors and are pale brown with red coloring. Males and females however both have a ‘mohawk’ and reddish-orange beaks.
They will sometimes attack their own reflection during breeding and obsessively defend their territories.
Northern Cardinals are found throughout the state all year round but if you’re super keen to spot one in your backyard, they like seed feeders filled with mixed seeds and black sunflower seeds. They also enjoy peanut hearts and food scattered on the ground.
16. Red-Winged Blackbird
- Scientific Name: Agelaius phoeniceus
- Length: 6.7-9.1 inches
- Weight: 1.1-2.7 ounces
- Wingspan: 12.2-15.8 inches
The red-winged blackbird is among the most abundant birds in the US. The males have bright red on their wings yet the females are mostly brown with some yellow highlights, this makes them quite different from each other.
They are known as polygynous species, which means males will have up to 15 different females to mate with. They can be found in North Carolina throughout the year and will visit most types of feeders. They enjoy seed and suet.
17. Tufted Titmouse
- Scientific Name: Baeolophus bicolor
- Length: 5.5-6.3 inches
- Weight: 0.6-0.9 ounces
- Wingspan: 7.9-10.2 inches
These birds are very small and are common at feeders in most backyards across the state. They have their own mohawk which helps you pick them out from other small birds. They are gray on their backs and white underneath.
They also have a gray crest, large eyes and you will often see them flocking with chickadees, nuthatches, or woodpeckers. They are found throughout the state all year round and are more assertive than other smaller birds.
When they’re not in your backyard, they can also be found in woodlands or at the park. You can attract them to your backyard with sunflower seeds, peanuts, and suet on tube feeders or in suet cages. They also use platform feeders.
18. Northern Mockingbird
- Scientific Name: Mimus polyglottos
- Length: 10.5 inches
- Weight: 1.4-2 ounces
- Wingspan: 12-15 inches
Northern Mockingbirds are medium-sized songbirds and have very small heads with long tails. They are a gray-brown color and paler on the underside compared to their back.
They also have two white wing bars which are visible when they are flying. They can be spotted on their own or with a partner and will fight to defend themselves and their territory.
A male will often learn around 200 songs in his lifetime, copying songs from other birds and singing all day and all night long.
Northern Mockingbirds reside in southern and eastern states but they migrate north. They don’t tend to visit feeders but you might spot them on an open lawn in your backyard.
If you want to attract them, try to plant a fruit tree or fruit bush, including a hawthorn, mulberry, or blackberry bramble.
19. Dark-Eyed Junco
- Scientific Name: Junco hyemalis
- Length: 5.5-6.3 inches
- Weight: 0.6-1.1 ounces
- Wingspan: 7.1-9.8 inches
The dark-eyed junco is a type of sparrow that is usually a range of different colors spending on which state they are found in. They are slate-colored in the east and black, white, and brown in the west.
They are often found in the open as well as partially wooded areas and on the ground.
They are common across North America after breeding in Canada and migrating south to every state, residing mostly in the west and far northwest.
If you want to attract a dark-eyed junco to your backyard, use a range of seeds from black sunflower seeds to nyjer seeds, millet, cracked corn, and peanuts. They use platform feeders but also eat food scattered on the ground.
20. Eastern Bluebird
- Scientific Name: Sialia sialis
- Length: 6.3-8.3 inches
- Weight: 1.0-1.1 ounces
- Wingspan: 9.8-12.6 inches
The bluebird, as the name suggests, is blue on top and has a rusty reddish-orange color belly. Females are grayer above than males but still have some blue in their wings and tails and an orange-brown breast.
They are small thrushes and have big, rounded heads, large eyes, and large bellies. They are common in backyards but don’t tend to use feeders.
If you put a birdhouse in your backyard, however, you might even attract a mating pair. They are found across the state all through the year but might migrate south for winter from the north.
Despite them not usually eating up seeds, they can be encouraged to visit feeders with mealworms on a tray feeder or in a dish. They are often found in the meadow and can be seen on wires or posts looking for insects when they are not in your backyard.
We hope by reading this article you are all up to date on the most common backyard birds you might find in your backyard whilst living in North Carolina.
To identify a bird, it comes down to size, shape, color, behavior, and habitat, all of which we have considered throughout the article.
If you’re eager to attract more birds into your backyard, make sure you do your research on what birds like what feeders, don’t use pesticides or herbicides, grow some native plants and ensure your birdbath is always full. They should be flocking onto your lawn in no time.