Northern Cardinal

5 Common Backyard Birds You WANT at Your Bird Feeder

Bird feeding is a gigantic industry in the United States with billions of dollars going toward making sure backyard birds are happy and fed each year. In North America there are tons of different species that visit bird feeders, but there are some that are especially nice to have around. Whether it’s due to their coloration or personality, here are five birds that you absolutely want to come visit your bird feeders.

Please note that these birds are specific to North America and some have a limited range. Even so, most of them have similar counterparts in other parts of the continent. Also note that this is a subjective list and some people may have totally different thoughts on the birds they love to see most at their feeders. Put your favorites in the comments below and be respectul of others opinions. Without further ado, here is the list.

5. Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinal – Photo by Bill Grossmeyer

Kicking off the list at number 5 is the Northern Cardinal. The Northern Cardinal is one of the most recognizable and beloved bird species in North America. Males have a red body and crest, black by their bright orange bill, and slightly darker colorations on their wings and tail. Females are grayish brown with the same bright orange bill and a duller black mask. They have hints of red on their crest, wings, and tail. 

Northern cardinals are native to the Eastern United States as well as some of the southwestern states and Mexico, so to all of you in the northwestern US watching…sorry about this one, but you have plenty of other cool species that the Eastern half of the country doesn’t get. 

Cardinals are adored for a variety of reasons including the long-held belief by many that they bring good luck. At bird feeders, cardinals are fairly skittish and like to stay hidden in tangled branches. They will however come out in the open to feed adding a nice splash of color. Another interesting thing about Northern Cardinals is that they are extremely late feeders, often being some of the last birds to be eating, and even staying out in the twilight hours. The reason they aren’t higher up is due to the fact that their limited range prevents feeder watchers in the northwestern states from being able to see this bird regularly. Even so, these relatively peaceful birds can be an uplifting sight to see at a bird feeder and for that reason, the Northern Cardinal has earned a spot on the list.

4. Tufted Titmouse

Tufted Titmouse – Photo by Mark Goad

At number four is another bird with a crest, the Tufted Titmouse. The Tufted Titmouse is a cute and charismatic species of the Eastern United States. Not to fear if you live in the Western United States however, as many other similar looking and similar acting titmouse species live there including the black-crested, the juniper, and the oak. The Tufted Titmouse gets the spot on the list because it has a larger range than the other titmouse species in the Untied States. The Tufted Titmouse is in the same family as chickadees, and observing one for even just a short amount of time will make the similarities easy to see as both species are incredibly acrobatic and personable. 

This species can be identified by its gray back, wings and crest, white underside, black marking near the bill, and peach sides. They are quite fun to watch at bird feeders as they are quick moving and rarely sit still. Tufted Titmice often frequent bird feeders when food is less plentiful such as in the winter months, and have been known to actually store food during the fall. During these months they will visit more often and can even be seen stashing seeds away for later consumption.

Even though Tufted Titmice are only found in the Eastern United States, the fact that they have comparable western counter parts elevates them on this list, and their fun personalities make them far too entertaining to leave off.

3. American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch

At number three is a species that plays nice with other birds, the Americn Goldfinch. During the breeding months, these birds are extremely colorful, with males having bright yellow covering most of their bodies, a black cap on their head, and black wings, as well as a black partially forked tail. In non breeding plumage, American Goldfinches are more dull with brownish bodies, a yellowish head, and black wings with white wing bars. Females in breeding plumage are still bright yellow but not to the same degree as the males,  they also have less black on the top of their head. 

American Goldfinshes can be found throughout most of the United States with the species following a typical migratior path of traveling south in winter and north into Canada to breed in summer. They are also found year round in many of the Midwestern, Northeastern, and Northwestern states. American Goldfinches typically feed in flocks (with some flocks becoming quite large) and will also feed alongside other finch species such as Common Redpolls, and Pine Siskins. These flocks of mixed finches can be quite fun to watch and it can be entertaining to try and pick out the different species in the groups.

For people in the Southwestern United states, another species, the Lesser Goldfinch plays a similar role to that of the American Goldfinch in the North. Male Lesser Goldfinches have a yellow underside and darker colored backs ranging from greenish to black depending on the region. They also have a white marking on their wings as opposed to the white wingbars of the American Goldfinch. Females are more dull overall. Both the Lesser Goldfinch and the American Goldfinch bring a lot of energy to a bird feeder but the American Goldfinch is more widespread giving them the nod over the lesser goldfinch and the less common Lawrence’s Goldfinch which also inhabits some parts of the Western United States.

The fact that American Goldfinches are so colorful and energetic, mixed with the fact that they are a great species for a community of birds in a yard, land them a spot in the top three. 

2. White-breasted Nuthatch

White-breasted Nuthatch

Out of all of the birds that visit bird feeders, some of the goofiest are nuthatches. Out of the four nuthatch species that are typically found in the United States, the White-breasted Nuthatch is the most widespread with most of the lower 48 states having them year round. These hilarious birds can be identified by their blue-gray back and wings, white face and underside, and black stripe on the top of their head from their back to their bill. White-breasted Nuthatches are entertaining acrobats that cling to trees, hopping up and down, often scouring branches for insects. They come and go from bird feeders quite quickly, usually taking a seed and either eating it away from the feeder or hammering it into a tree crevice to save for later.

Another nuthatch species fairly common at bird feeders in the United States is the Red-breasted Nuthatch. These birds, described by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s all about birds site as “an internse bundle of energy at your feeder” reside in the northern and western United States year round, and many of the more southern states in winter. They have white and black striped heads, blueish gray backs and wings, and a namesake reddish orange chest and underside. Like the Whte-breasted Nuthatch, Red-Breasted Nuthatches are very fun to watch, they are always moving and even when not in sight can be identified by their distinctive laughing call.

Nuthatch species in general are quite entertaining, and in addition to the White-breasted and the Red breasted, there are two other species in the U.S. that sometimes come to feeders, the Brown-headed Nuthatch and the Pygmy Nuthatch. Bown-headed Nuthatches live in the southeastern part of the United States while the Pygmy Nuthatch lives in parts of the western U.S. (typically areas with long needled pine trees). Both of these species are less frequent in backyards and at bird feeders but can be lured in with suet.

The entertainment value associated with having White-breasted Nuthatches visiting your bird feeder combined with the fact that they live throughout the United States put them at number two on the list.

1. Black-capped Chickadee

Black-capped Chickadee

Taking the top spot on the list is the fan favorite, Black-capped Chickadee. Black-capped chickadees are extremely recognizable with a very small stature, back head and throat, gray wings, and light tan wash on their sides. Black cappd chickadees inhabit north america year round and are one of the most common birds to find in forests and at bird feeders in the winter time. While Black-capped Chickadees aren’t typically found in many of the southern states in the U.S. Other Chickadee species are, including the Mountain Chickadee, the Mexican Chickadee, and the very similar looking Carolina chickadee. In the northern parts of the U.S. and Canada there is also another chickadee species, the Boreal Chickadee which is a bit more shy than the black-capped but also comes to bird feeders. 

Black-capped Chickadees are great to have around for a variety of reasons. First, they aren’t normally aggressive toward other birds and can happily get along with most species. They don’t stick around at the feeders very long, preferring to come in to grab a seed and then crack it open on a neary perch. Black-capped Chickadees certainly bring a lot of energy with their constant moving around, and they can also be comfortable enough around humans to be fed by hand. Overall, they are a great species to have around in addition to other chickadee species across North America, and find themselves as the top bird species you absolutely want at your bird feeder.


Check out the video version of this post on the Badgerland Birding YouTube Channel

With so many different bird species in the world, everyone has a different opinion on which they prefer to see at their feeders. That being said, there is something fun and special about these five. Whether due to their color, energy, or personality, these are five birds you absolutely want at your feeders. Do you agree with our list? Let us know in the comments below. And as always, thanks for watching, we’ll see you next time, on Badgerland Birding

One thought on “5 Common Backyard Birds You WANT at Your Bird Feeder”

  1. I like your choices. Close to #5 at #6 and #7 I would add hummingbirds and woodpeckers on suet. They’re always a treat to see when they visit the backyard.

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