The state of Virginia is home to a diverse array of bird species, with over 300 different types recorded in the state. Some of the most commonly seen birds in Virginia include American robins, cardinals, blue jays, and mourning doves.
In this article, we’ll be discussing the most frequently seen birds in Virginia. Along with pictures of each bird, key data will be provided. For authenticity, only reliable sources were used when collecting this information and it was cross-checked by an Ornithologist.
Most Common Backyard Birds in Virginia
White & Golden Crowned Sparrows
White & Golden Crowned Sparrows are small birds, measuring about 5-6 inches in length. They have a distinctive black and white striped head, with a golden stripe running through the center of their crown.
These sparrows primarily feed on seeds and insects found on the ground.
In Virginia, White & Golden Crowned Sparrows can be found in open fields and woodlands.
These birds are often seen foraging in flocks, and have a habit of bobbing their heads while walking. They also have a distinct, cheerful song that they use to communicate with other sparrows.
During the breeding season, male White & Golden Crowned Sparrows will perform a courtship display by fluffing up their feathers and lifting their crown stripes high above their heads.
These sparrows typically build cup-shaped nests in shrubs or low trees to raise their young.
White & Golden Crowned Sparrows can be year-round residents in Virginia, or migrate to the state during the winter months.
Scrub Jay, also known as Blue Jay, can be identified by its blue and white feathers and black head. They mainly eat nuts and insects but have also been known to eat eggs or young birds from other nests.
Scrub Jays can range in size from 9 to 12 inches in length. They are often found in open woodland areas with scattered trees and shrubs.
Scrub Jays are known for their intelligence and ability to plan for the future, as well as their mimicry of other bird calls and noises. They are also very territorial and will defend their territory from intruders.
Turkey Vulture is a large bird with a wingspan of 5-6 feet and weighs 2-5 pounds. It has dark brown feathers with bare red, long narrow wings, and a short tail.
Their diet consists primarily of carrion or dead animals that they locate using their keen sense of smell.
In Virginia, Turkey Vultures can be found in open woodland areas, fields, and along coastlines.
Behaviorally, Turkey Vultures use thermals to soar with minimal effort and will often be seen chatting with other vultures at a carcass. They have also been known to partake in communal bathing and sunning.
These birds are also known for their aggressive defense of food sources and will use projectile vomiting as a means to ward off competitors.
Turkey Vultures play an important role in keeping ecosystems clean by consuming carrion and helping to prevent the spread of disease.
Swainson’s Thrush is a small-medium sized bird, about the size of an American Robin. Its upperparts are brown with a light buffy breast and white throat. It also has two whitish eye rings, giving it a distinctive facial appearance.
In its natural habitat, Swainson’s Thrush can be found in deciduous or mixed forests. It is commonly seen foraging on the ground for insects, berries, and other small fruits.
In terms of behavior, Swainson’s Thrush tends to be a solitary bird and can often be heard singing its beautiful flute-like songs from high in the treetops.
During migration, they can sometimes be found in large flocks, often mixed with other thrush species.
In Virginia, Swainson’s Thrush can be commonly found during the spring and fall migration periods, but also breeds in more northern parts of the state during the summer months. They typically migrate to Central and South America for the winter.
Dark-eyed Junco is a small bird commonly found in Virginia. It can be identified by its gray body, white belly, and distinctive black hood on its head.
In terms of diet, Dark-eyed Juncos primarily eat black oil sunflower seeds and insects.
On average, they measure around 6 inches in length and have a wingspan of 8-10 inches.
Dark-eyed Juncos can be found in a variety of habitats including forest edges, mountain slopes, and suburban areas.
In terms of behavior, these birds are often seen foraging on the ground and typically flock with other small birds. They also have a characteristic tail bobbing behavior when feeding or perching.
During the breeding season, male Dark-eyed Juncos can often be heard singing their high-pitched songs to attract a mate.
(Haemorhous mexicanus) can be identified by their reddish heads and chests, brown backs, and streaky sides. They primarily eat seeds and grains, but also eat insects and fruits. These birds range in size from 5-6 inches in length with a wingspan of 8-9 inches. They can be found in open woodlands, gardens, and urban areas.
In terms of behavior, House Finches are social birds that often travel in flocks and can be seen at bird feeders. They build cup-shaped nests in trees or shrubs, with the female typically laying 3-5 eggs per clutch. Both parents help to incubate the eggs and care for the young.
Ruby-Crowned Kinglet is a small bird with olive-green upperparts and pale gray underparts. It has a bright red patch on its crown, which is only visible when the bird is excited or displaying aggression. Its diet consists of insects and spiders, which it forages for in dense foliage and tree branches.
In Virginia, Ruby-Crowned Kinglets can be found in coniferous forests and woodlands during the breeding season. They also migrate to deciduous and mixed forests during winter.
In terms of behavior, these birds are very active and constantly foraging for food. They also have a distinctive whistling call that is often heard in their habitats. Additionally, they will sometimes join mixed-species flocks with other small insect-eating birds.
Eastern Screech Owl
Eastern Screech Owl is a small owl with distinct ear tufts and a blocky, round head. They can be found in various habitats, including forests, city parks, orchards, and suburban areas.
Their diet consists mainly of small mammals such as mice and voles, but they also eat insects, amphibians, and other birds.
These owls range in size from 6-9 inches in length, with a wingspan of 18-24 inches.
Eastern Screech Owls are mostly active at night and spend their days roosting in cavities or dense foliage. They have a distinct call that sounds like a horse’s whinny. Mating pairs will also perform a duet, with the male and female calling back and forth to each other.
During the breeding season, they may defend their territory aggressively by diving at intruders or giving loud calls. They nest in tree cavities, where the female will lay 3-6 white eggs. Both parents take part in incubating the eggs and raising the young.
Eastern Screech Owls are common throughout Virginia, with a stable population. They are not currently considered threatened or endangered.
Red-Shouldered Hawk is a medium sized bird of prey with brown and white upperparts, red shoulders, and barred underparts. Its diet consists mainly of small rodents, amphibians, reptiles, and insects. This hawk can be found in forested wetlands or along the edges of woodlands in Virginia.
It builds large stick nests high up in trees and hunts by diving or gliding through the air. This bird is also known for its vocalizations, which include a loud, high-pitched scream often heard during the breeding season.
Northern mockingbirds are small songbirds with gray-brown feathers and white patches on their wings. They have long tails and black markings on their heads and backs.
Their diet consists primarily of insects, fruits, and berries. They will also eat small vertebrates such as frogs and lizards.
Northern mockingbirds can range in size from 9 to 11 inches in length with a wingspan of 12 to 13 inches.
In Virginia, these birds can be found in various habitats such as forests, grasslands, and urban areas.
Northern mockingbirds are known for their mimicking abilities, imitating the songs of other birds as well as noises from their environment. They are also aggressive defenders of their territory and will attack larger birds or animals that come too close to their nests.
They are active during the day and can often be seen foraging for food on the ground or perching on branches to sing.
Song Sparrows can be identified by their brown streaked upperparts, pale underparts with dark central breast spots, and long prominent central tail feathers. They mainly eat insects and seeds. These birds range in size from 5 to 6 inches in length.
In Virginia, Song Sparrows can be found in a variety of habitats such as wetlands, fields, and suburban areas. They are often seen foraging on the ground or perching on low vegetation.
During breeding season, they may become territorial and aggressive towards other birds. Their song is a varied mix of trills, chirps, and buzzes.
Northern Cardinals, also known as “redbirds,” can easily be identified by their bright red feathers and distinctive crest on top of their head.
In Virginia, these birds primarily feed on seeds and insects found on or near the ground.
Northern Cardinals typically grow to be around 9 inches in length and can be found in thick shrublands or forest edges.
During mating season, male cardinals can often be seen displaying their feathers and singing to attract a mate. They are also known for their territorial behavior, aggressively defending their territory from other birds.
(Poecile carolinensis) is a small bird with a black cap and bib, white cheeks, gray back and wings, and a rusty-brown underside. They can often be found in wooded areas such as forests or backyard trees.
In terms of diet, Carolina Chickadees primarily eat insects and seeds. They have been known to store food for later consumption, hiding it in tree crevices or other hidden areas.
On average, Carolina Chickadees measure 4-5 inches in length and have a wingspan of 7-9 inches.
In terms of behavior, these birds are very social and often seen in small flocks. They have a distinct “chick-a-dee” call and will also make a variety of other vocalizations. They are also known for their acrobatic flying abilities and quick movements in trees.
(Poecile rufescens) can be identified by its black cap, white cheeks, and chestnut-colored back. These small birds mainly eat insects and seeds. They are about 4-5 inches in length and can be found in coniferous or mixed forests in the eastern United States, including in Virginia.
These active foragers typically gather in flocks and are known for their loud, repeated “chick-a-dee-dee-dee” calls. They will also sometimes cache food for later consumption. These chickadees are year-round residents in Virginia and do not migrate.
In winter, they may join mixed species flocks with other small birds to forage and roost together for safety. They often nest in cavities or nest boxes and will fiercely defend their territory from intruders.
European Starlings, native to Europe, have been introduced to various parts of the world including Virginia. These birds can be identified by their glossy black feathers with speckles of green and purple.
Their pointed beaks allow them to forage for a variety of food including insects, fruits, and grains. European Starlings typically measure approximately 8 inches in length and have a wingspan of 12-14 inches.
In Virginia, European Starlings can be found inhabiting open fields, forests, and urban areas. They are highly social birds and often gather in large flocks. Their vocalizations include various chirps, whistles, and mimicry of other bird species.
These birds build cup-shaped nests in tree cavities, buildings, and man-made structures. In the winter, European Starlings may form huge roosting flocks with other blackbird species.
Common Grackle, a member of the blackbird family, can be easily identified by its iridescent purple-blue body and long, pointed tail. They are medium sized birds, measuring 11 to 13 inches in length.
In Virginia, Common Grackles can be found in a variety of habitats including open fields, forests, parks, and wetlands. They primarily feed on insects and seeds but also have been known to eat small fruits and grains.
Common Grackles can often be seen in large flocks, foraging for food on the ground, or in shrubs.
They are also known for their loud, metallic calls and displays of aerial acrobatics during mating season. Some consider them to be pests due to their habit of raiding and eating crops. However, they also serve a valuable role in controlling insect populations.
White-throated Sparrows are easily identified by their white throat and yellow patch above their eyes. They mainly eat seeds and insects, but will also eat berries and fruit.
These sparrows typically measure around six inches in length and can be found in wooded areas, especially near the edges of forests or thick brush. Their behavior includes scratching at the ground to find food and singing a distinctive, clear whistled song.
In Virginia, White-throated Sparrows can be seen during the spring and fall migration seasons, as well as during the winter months when they reside in the state. During the breeding season, they typically travel north to Canada to nest.
Tufted Titmouse, a small gray and white bird with a distinctive black tuft on its head, can often be found in wooded areas and gardens throughout Virginia. Their diet consists mainly of seeds, nuts, and insects.
They are known for their vocal nature and have been known to mimic the sounds of other birds. They typically form flocks during the non-breeding season and can sometimes be seen visiting bird feeders.
At about 5-6 inches in length, they are on the smaller side for songbirds. They are fairly common throughout Virginia and can also be found in other parts of the eastern United States.
Mourning Doves are easily identified by their slender bodies, long pointed tails, and soft gray-brown feathers. They primarily eat seeds and grains, but will also consume insects and fruit.
These birds typically range in size from 12 to 14 inches in length with a wingspan of 18 to 24 inches. They can be found in open fields or near human habitation, including backyard bird feeders.
Mourning doves are known for their distinctive cooing calls and swift flight, often flying in a zigzag pattern. They most commonly nest on the ground, building their nests out of twigs and sticks. These birds typically mate for life and can have multiple broods per year.
(Carduelis tristis) can be identified by its bright yellow feathers and black wings with white markings. Its diet consists mainly of seeds, but it will also eat insects and nectar. The bird measures about 4-6 inches in length and has a wingspan of 7-9 inches.
It can be found in open woodlands, meadows, and backyard bird feeders. During breeding season, the male goldfinch will perform acrobatic flight displays to attract a mate. It also engages in social behaviors such as flock feeding and preening.
In Virginia, the American Goldfinch can be seen year-round but is most common during the spring and fall migration periods. It is a common backyard bird and a favorite among birdwatchers.
(Turdus migratorius) is a common sight in Virginia. It has a round body and reddish-orange breast, with gray upperparts and white underparts. Its diet consists primarily of insects, fruits, and worms. The average size ranges from 9-11 inches in length and weighing 1.6-3.5 ounces.
American Robins can be found in a variety of habitats, including residential yards, forests, and open fields. They are also known for their earthworm-eating behavior, where they will vigorously dig and flip over chunks of grass to search for their prey. Additionally, they often form flocks during the winter months.
Carolina Wrens are small songbirds with long tails, brown feathers, and white stripes on their wings and tails. They primarily eat insects, but also consume berries and seeds.
In Virginia, these birds can be found in a variety of habitats such as forests, wetlands, suburban areas, and even city parks.
These birds are known for their loud and complex songs, and they often build their nests in sheltered areas such as tree cavities or hanging planters.
Carolina Wrens are also known for their boldness and will aggressively defend their territory against intruders. They often form long-lasting pair bonds and may even mate for life.
Great Horned Owl
Great Horned Owl is a large bird of prey with prominent ear tufts, yellow eyes, and dark markings on the face. Its diet consists mainly of small mammals such as rats and rabbits, but it also preys on birds, reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates.
In Virginia, Great Horned Owls can be found in a variety of habitats including forests, grasslands, and even urban areas.
These owls are mostly active at night and use their sharp eyesight and hearing to hunt for prey. They also have the ability to fly silently, making them efficient hunters. Great Horned Owls establish territory through vocalizations and perform dramatic courtship displays involving soaring, diving, and talon-grappling.
The female owl builds a nest in a tree or on a cliff, where she lays and incubates her eggs. The male helps to provide food for the female and young owls during this time. After hatching, the young owls will stay with their parents for several months before dispersing to establish their own territories.
Great Horned Owls have a lifespan of about 10 to 15 years in the wild. However, they face threats from habitat loss and human disturbance, as well as competition with other predator species such as coyotes. The conservation status of Great Horned Owls is currently stable.
Blue Jays, a member of the Corvidae family, are easily recognizable by their bright blue feathers and distinctive crest on their heads. They have a primarily carnivorous diet, consisting of insects, small vertebrates, nuts, and seeds.
On average, they measure around 10-12 inches in length and have a wingspan of 13-17 inches.
In Virginia, Blue Jays can be found in a variety of habitats including deciduous and coniferous forests as well as suburban areas. They are known for their intelligence and problem-solving abilities and often use tools to obtain food.
Blue Jays also have complex social behaviors, including cooperative breeding and mobbing predators with other jays and other bird species.
Downy Woodpecker, a small black and white member of the woodpecker family, can be found in Virginia year-round. Its most identifiable features include its size (about 6 inches long), black and white barred back, white belly, and red patch on the back of its head.
Downy Woodpeckers mainly feed on insects and their larvae, as well as nuts and berries. They can often be seen clinging to tree trunks, searching for food with their sharp beaks.
These birds make their homes in forests, parks, and residential areas with large trees. In the winter months, they may form small flocks and forage together.
Downy Woodpeckers are also known for their drumming behavior, using their beaks to create a rhythmic tapping on trees or other surfaces. This serves as a form of communication and territory marking.
(Corvus brachyrhynchos) can be identified by their all black feathers, sleek bodies, and distinct cawing call. They have a varied diet consisting of insects, seeds, fruits, eggs, and small animals.
On average, they measure 17-21 inches in length with a wingspan of 33-39 inches.
In Virginia, they can be found in a variety of habitats including forests, fields, and even urban areas.
American Crows are highly social birds and are commonly seen in large flocks. They have also been known to display problem-solving abilities and use tools to obtain food.
Red-bellied Woodpeckers can be identified by its reddish-brown head and neck, white belly, black back, and barred wings. Its diet consists mainly of insects, nuts, and fruits. It typically measures 9-10 inches in length and can be found in wooded areas with tall trees.
In terms of behavior, this bird is known for its drumming on trees, which it uses for communication and establishing territory. It also nests in cavities of dead trees or sometimes even nest boxes provided by humans.
In Virginia, the Red-bellied Woodpecker can be found year-round, but may migrate farther south in some areas during the winter.
Indigo Bunting males have bright blue plumage, while females have brownish-gray feathers with streaks. Their diet consists of insects and seeds. They are small birds, typically measuring about 5 inches in length.
In Virginia, Indigo Buntings can be found in open woodlands and fields during the breeding season. They are often seen perching on shrubs or low tree branches. During the winter, they can be found in more tropical climates.
Their behavior includes singing loudly during mating season and performing acrobatic flights while displaying to potential mates. They can also be territorial and will defend their nesting territory against intruders.
They typically build their nests in shrubs or low tree branches. Overall, Indigo Buntings are a common and widespread bird species in Virginia.
White-breasted Nuthatch is a small, stocky bird with a white face and chest, gray back, and black crown. It has a long, pointed bill that it uses to extract food from tree bark or hanging feeders.
In Virginia, this bird can be found in deciduous or mixed forests where it feeds on insects, nuts, and seeds.
White-breasted Nuthatches spend much of their time climbing up and down tree trunks searching for food. They have even been known to use their feet to hold onto a branch while they hammer nuts with their bill.
These birds often form small flocks with other species during the winter, but during breeding season they establish and defend territories. They have a variety of loud calls and will also drum on hollow branches to communicate with others.
Nuthatches nest in tree cavities, often using old woodpecker holes, and both parents help raise the young. Some pairs will even use several nesting sites throughout the season, raising multiple broods.
Gray Catbird, a member of the mimic thrush family, can be identified by its gray body, black cap, and reddish undertail. These birds primarily feed on insects and berries. They can reach lengths of 9-11 inches and are commonly found in dense shrubbery or low trees near wetlands and forests.
During the breeding season, male catbirds may engage in territorial behavior, such as dive-bombing intruders and singing loudly to mark their territory. They may also build nests for mating and raising young.
Chipping Sparrows can be identified by their small size, brown stripes on the head, and white eyebrow line. These birds primarily eat seeds and insects.
In Virginia, Chipping Sparrows can be found in open woodlands and scrubby areas. They build cup-shaped nests on tree branches or shrubs. These birds are often seen in small flocks and can be heard singing their repetitive, trilling song.
During the breeding season, male Chipping Sparrows will perform a flight display to attract mates. They are also known for making short flights to grab insects mid-air.
What birds are in Virginia?
Some of the common bird species in Virginia include American robins, northern cardinals, bald eagles, red-tailed hawks, and mourning doves.
There are also many migratory birds that can be found in Virginia during certain times of the year, such as Canada geese, ruby-throated hummingbirds, and various types of warblers. Virginia also has a large population of waterfowl, including snow geese, tundra swans, and various species of ducks.
Additionally, Virginia is home to several rare or endangered bird species, such as the red-cockaded woodpecker and least tern. Bird watching enthusiasts can visit Virginia’s many parks and nature preserves to spot these and other bird species.
How do I identify a bird in my backyard?
First, observe the bird’s physical characteristics such as size, color, shape, and markings. Then try to match these characteristics with a field guide or online resources.
You can also attempt to record the bird’s song or call and match it with audio resources. Finally, consider the habitat and location in which you spotted the bird as certain species prefer specific environments. With all of these clues, you should be able to identify the bird in your backyard.
What sparrows are in Virginia?
The Virginia Ornithological Society has recorded sightings of several different species, including the chipping sparrow, song sparrow, house sparrow, white-throated sparrow, and fox sparrow. These smaller birds can often be found flitting among trees and shrubs or hopping on the ground in search of food.
Where are the birds in Northern Virginia?
The answer depends on the season. In the spring and summer, you can find many migratory bird species in wetlands and wooded areas, as well as a backyard bird feeder.
In the winter, some birds migrate south while others may stay in Northern Virginia and can be found in areas with available food and shelter. Birdwatching hotspots in the region include Mason Neck State Park, Huntley Meadows Park, and Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.
As always, it’s important to follow proper birdwatching etiquette and not disturb the birds’ natural behaviors. Additionally, participating in citizen science projects such as eBird can help track and protect local bird populations.
What are summer birds in Virginia?
Some common summer birds in Virginia include American Goldfinches, Northern Cardinals, Red-winged Blackbirds, Eastern Bluebirds, and Chimney Swifts. Other species that may be seen during the summer months are Baltimore Orioles, Cedar Waxwings, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, Barn Swallows, and Common Grackles.
Tell me the largest bird found in Virginia?
The largest bird found in Virginia is the bald eagle, with a wingspan ranging from 72 to 90 inches. Other large birds in Virginia include the wild turkey, great blue heron, and American crow. These birds can typically be found near lakes, rivers, and coastal areas.