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Bird Friends at NIEHS!

Cover page showing bird friends of NIEHS

Learn more about each of these feathered friends below!
And then play our bird matching game, or visit our bird song links!

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White-Breasted Nuthatch Sitta Carolinensis

Identification Tips:

  • Length: 5 inches
  • Straight gray bill
  • Black crown and nape
  • White face and under parts
  • Blue-gray upperparts
  • Rusty under tail coverts
  • Short tail
  • Sexes similar but female duller
  • Feeds by hopping along tree trunks and branches often hanging upside down
  • Eats insects and sunflower seeds
Canada Goose

Canada Goose Branta Canadensis

Identification Tips:

  • Length: 16-25 inches Wingspan: 50-68 inches
  • Sexes similar
  • Large long-necked goose
  • Black bill
  • Black head and neck
  • White throat patch extends up to cheek
  • Brown back, upper wing and flanks
  • Brownish-white breast and belly
  • White upper tail coverts contrast with black tail
  • White undertail coverts
  • Great size variation, with some northern subspecies duck-sized
  • Immature similar to adult
  • Eats water plants and grass seeds

Red-bellied Woodpecker Melanerpes Carolinus

Identification Tips:

  • Length: 8.5 inches
  • Medium-sized woodpecker
  • Pale gray face, throat, breast, and belly
  • Back strongly barred with black and white
  • Black wings barred and spotted with white
  • White bases to the primaries appear as white crescent in the hand in flight
  • White rump and upper tail coverts with sparse dark markings
  • Dark tail with black and white barring on the central retricies Adult male:
  • Red cap extending from bill to nape Adult female:
  • Red nape patch, gray crown, and red spot above bill
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker Picoides Pubescens

Identification Tips:

  • Length: 5.75 inches
  • Very small black and white woodpecker
  • Very short bill
  • Mostly black head set off by broad white supercilium and lower border to auriculars
  • Black nape
  • White back
  • Black wings with white spotting on coverts and flight feathers
  • White under parts and black rump
  • Black tail with white outer tail feathers barred with black Adult male:
  • Red spot at rear of head

Northern Mockingbird Mimus Polyglottos

Identification Tips:

  • Length: 9 inches
  • Slender bill
  • Gray head and upperparts
  • Yellow eye
  • White under parts
  • Long black tail with white outer tail feathers
  • White wing bars
  • White patch in wing, especially visible in flight
  • Black legs
  • Sexes similar
  • Juvenile has spotted breast
  • Most often found in scrubby habitats and in urban areas
  • Eats worms and berries
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling

European Starling Sturnus Vulgaris

Identification Tips:

  • Length: 6 inches
  • Pointed bill-yellow for most of year, dark in fall
  • Black plumage with green and purple iridescence
  • White spots scattered about head and body-largest in fall
  • Dark wings and tail
  • Pointed wings
  • Short tail
  • Juvenile gray-brown with faint streaking below
  • Very common-frequently seen in large flocks

American Robin Turdus migratorius

Identification Tips:

  • Length: 8.5 inches
  • Black to dark gray head
  • Broken eye ring
  • Dull red breast and belly
  • White under tail coverts
  • Gray upperparts
  • Streaked throat
  • Thin yellow bill
  • Sexes similar-female somewhat paler
  • Winter plumage is somewhat paler than Summer plumage
  • Juveniles have spotted, whiter breasts
  • Common in residential areas where it often forages on lawns
  • Often sings very early in morning
  • Often found in large flocks outside of breeding season
  • Eats worms and insects
American Robin
Carolina Wren

Carolina Wren Thryothorus Ludovicianus

Identification Tips:

  • Length: 4.75 inches
  • Long, thin, slightly decurved bill
  • Bold white supercilium
  • Rusty upperparts
  • White throat and buffy under parts
  • Wings and tail barred with black
  • Thin white wing bars
  • Long tail frequently held upright
  • Pink legs
  • Sexes similar
  • Usually very vocal and loud

Northern Cardinal Cardinalis

Identification Tips:

  • Length: 7.75 inches
  • Large, conical bill
  • Crest
  • Long tail Adult male:
  • Bright red plumage, dullest on back and wings
  • Black around base of bill
  • Red bill Adult female:
  • Reddish crest, wings and tail
  • Brownish-gray upperparts
  • Buffy underparts
  • Red bill
  • Juvenile like adult female but has dark bill and crest
  • Eats berries and sunflower seeds
Northern Cardinal
tufted titmouse

Tufted Titmouse Baeolophus Bicolor

Identification Tips:

  • Length: 4.5-5.5 inches
  • Short bill
  • Gray crest
  • Dark forehead
  • Pale gray upperparts
  • White under parts
  • Rusty flanks
  • Birds from central and southern Texas (formerly a separate species, Black-crested Titmouse) have black crests and pale foreheads
  • Sexes similar
  • Often found in small flocks

Blue Jay Cyanocitta Cristata

Identification Tips:

  • Length: 10 inches
  • Black sturdy bill
  • Blue crest and upperparts
  • Black eye line and breast band
  • Grayish-white throat and under parts
  • Bright blue wings with black bars and white patches
  • Long blue tail with black bars and white corners
  • Dark legs
  • Migrates during the day in small flocks
  • Eats insects, nuts, and sunflower seeds
blue jay
eastern bluebird

Eastern Bluebird Sialia Sialis

Identification Tips:

  • Length: 5.5 inches
  • Thin bill
  • Most often seen in open habitats: agricultural areas, wood edges, et al
  • Southwestern United States birds are paler Adult male:
  • Bright blue upperparts
  • Orange-red throat, breast and sides
  • White belly and under tail coverts Female:
  • Blue wings and tail-duller than male
  • Gray crown and back
  • White eye ring
  • Brownish throat, breast and sides
  • White belly and under tail coverts
  • Eats insects and berries

Mourning Dove Zenaida Macroura

Identification Tips:

  • Length: 10.5 inches
  • Sexes similar
  • Medium-sized, somewhat slender dove with very thin neck
  • Black bill Adult:
  • Pale buff-brown head, neck, breast, and belly
  • Purple and green iridescence on neck
  • Small black mark on lower neck
  • Medium brown back and upper wings, with large black spots on coverts and long tail pointed at tip
  • Dark brown tail with white tips to outer four tail feathers Juvenile:
  • Dark brown mottled head neck and breast
  • Scaly neck and upper wings with numerous black spots on coverts and scapulars
  • Pale belly
  • Medium length tail is pointed at tip
  • Eats corn and millet seeds
mourning dove
red tailed hawk

Red-Tailed Hawk Buteo Jamaicensis

Identification Tips:

  • Length: 18 inches Wingspan: 48 inches
  • Sexes similar - Short, dark, hooked beak
  • Large, broad-winged, broad-tailed hawk
  • Dark patagial mark on under wing, present on all ages and races, is unique
  • Blocky translucent area in outer primaries
  • Flies with a dihedral Adult:
  • Brown head, nape, back, and upper wings
  • White chin, throat, breast, and belly
  • Dark belly band formed by vertical streaks in band across belly
  • White under wings have dark carpal bar on leading edge, dark outer primary tips and a dark trailing edge and are otherwise pale with dark bars on the flight feathers on all but the outermost primaries
  • Tail appears brick red above and pink below
  • Breast and back pattern vary with geography, with some birds being intermediate between light and dark morphs

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird Archilochus Colubris

Identification Tips:

  • Length: 3 inches
  • Long, straight, thin bill
  • Small hummingbird
  • Bright green back and crown
  • White under parts with greenish flanks Adult male:
  • Iridescent scarlet gorget
  • Black face and chin
  • Entirely dark forked tail Female/Immature:
  • White chin and throat with variable amounts of thin dark streaking
  • Dark, shallowly-forked tail with white tips on outer tail feathers
ruby throated hummingbird
house finch

House Finch Carpodacus Mexicanus

Identification Tips:

  • Length: 5.25 inches
  • Conical bill
  • Long tail
  • Distinctive call note often given in flight Male:
  • Red forehead, supercilium, breast and rump
  • Streaked belly and under tail coverts
  • Brown wings and tail
  • Immature male resembles female Female:
  • Plainer face than Purple and Cassin's Finch
  • Heavily streaked under parts
  • Brown upperparts

American Goldfinch Carduelis Tristis

Identification Tips:

  • Length: 4.25 inches
  • Small, seed-eating bird
  • Short, conical bill
  • Short, forked tail Male alternate:
  • Plumage held in Spring and Summer
  • Black forehead
  • Yellow head, back, breast and belly
  • Black wings and tail
  • White wing bars and tertial edges
  • White rump and under tail coverts
  • Pale bill and legs Female alternate:
  • Greenish upperparts
  • Yellow under parts
  • Pale bill and legs
great blue heron

Great Blue Heron Ardea Herodias

Identification Tips:

  • Length: 38 inches Wingspan: 70 inches
  • Sexes similar
  • Huge long-legged long-necked wader
  • Usually holds neck in an "S" curve at rest and in flight
  • Long, thick, yellow bill Adult:
  • White crown and face
  • Black plume extending from above and behind eye to beyond back of head
  • Brownish-buff neck with black-bordered white stripe down center of foreneck
  • Blue-gray back, wings and belly
  • Black shoulder
  • Shaggy neck and back plumes in alternate plumage

Carolina Chickadee Poecile Carolinensis

Identification Tips:

  • Length: 4.25 inches
  • Short bill
  • Black crown and throat
  • White face
  • Pale gray upperparts
  • Gray edges to wing coverts
  • Grayish-white under parts
  • Rusty flanks
  • Sexes similar
  • Often found in small flocks
  • Eats insects and sunflower seeds

Mallard Anas platyrhynchos

Identification Tips:
  • Length: 15-16 inches Wingspan: 36 inches
  • Large dabbling duck
  • Most males have blue speculum with white bar
  • Silvery-white wing linings
  • Juvenile similar to adult female
  • Alternate plumage worn from fall through early summer
  • Gray back
  • Yellow bill
  • Green head
  • White ring around neck
  • Chestnut breast
  • Gray flanks and upper wing coverts
  • Black under tail coverts contrast with white tail
  • Female have orange bill with black central patch, and
  • Mottled brown and tan plumage
  • Eats water plants and grass seeds.
Note: The bird descriptions and pictures were extracted from the
US Geological Survey websiteLink to a Non-NIEHS Site.

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