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How to Identify the Birds Outside Your Window

Watching birds in the wild — also known as "birding" — is one of the most popular hobbies in the U.S., and it's finding a lot of new recruits as people stay closer to home. You can take up birding at any age, anywhere, and all you need to begin is curiosity (though binoculars help too). Then grab a field guide, download a bird-identification app like Merlin, and set out some bird feeders with a variety of seeds, nuts, and fruit. Here's what you might see outside your window in different regions of the U.S. while it’s warm.

Birds You May See in the Northeast U.S.

Digital illustration of a bird flying and another on a branch
Credit: Alisyn Schmidt/ Trivia Genius

New England and the Mid-Atlantic states attract colorful and charismatic songbirds, many of which have adapted to urban and suburban habitats. In backyards from Maine to Maryland, birders are almost guaranteed to see insect-eaters like gray catbirds, house wrens, and downy woodpeckers, while chimney swifts fly high overhead gobbling bugs. American robins are ubiquitous on lawns and in wooded areas. At feeders, you may see blue jays, northern cardinals, American goldfinches, and mourning doves. If you offer a few quartered oranges, Baltimore orioles or northern mockingbirds might pay a visit.

Common Backyard Birds of the Southeast U.S.

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Credit: Alisyn Schmidt/ Trivia Genius

With hot, muggy summers and a landscape brimming with lush foliage, the region from Virginia to Louisiana to Florida is home to dynamic species. In addition to familiar birds found in the Northeast, like robins, mockingbirds, and cardinals, southern backyard visitors might include insect-nibbling brown-headed nuthatches, perky Carolina chickadees, and tiny ruby-throated hummingbirds. The trilling song of the Carolina wren and distinctive calls from eastern towhees might greet you in the morning, while the unmistakable hooting of barred owls is a common sound at dusk. Farther south in Florida, windows that open onto wetlands or canals might reveal great egrets, snowy egrets, great blue herons, and anhingas — also called snakebirds for their long, crooked necks.

Familiar Midwest and Great Plains Birds

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Credit: Alisyn Schmidt/ Trivia Genius

Expansive fields and wide-open spaces characterize Midwestern and Great Plains habitats, and in this region, birders may see grassland-loving species in addition to those often seen in the Northeast and Southeast. In suburban areas, dazzling indigo buntings and charming house finches will devour seeds from backyard feeders. You can also set up houses to attract bluebirds to your yard. If your window looks out across a grassy plain, get ready to witness flocks of red-winged blackbirds flying in unison, eastern and western meadowlarks (which look the same but sing different songs) perching on fence posts, or boldly striped killdeers guarding their nests on gravel flats. And don't forget to look up: raptors like red-tailed hawks and American kestrels are often visible overhead.

Backyard Birds of the Southwest U.S.

Digital illustration of a crested phainopepla perched on a cacti
Credit: Alisyn Schmidt/ Trivia Genius

The Southwest is home to some of America's most popular annual birding festivals, like January’s Wings Over Willcox in Willcox, Arizona, thanks to the region's incredible abundance of colorful avians. From western Texas to southern California, the dry, occasionally hilly landscape attracts birds that are perfectly adapted to the arid environment. Birds you are likely to see outside your window in urban and suburban areas in Arizona include Anna's hummingbirds, Gambel's quails, lesser goldfinches, and the striking, crested phainopepla, which looks like a black cardinal with red eyes. Farther west, backyard trees and shrubbery provide cover for diminutive bushtits, California towhees, cheery blue California scrub-jays, and numerous sparrow, wren, and hummingbird species.

Birds to Spot in the Pacific Northwest

Digital illustration of a bird on the side of a tree with mountains in the background
Credit: Alisyn Schmidt/ Trivia Genius

In contrast to the deserts of the Southwest, the climate of the Pacific Northwest is characterized by abundant precipitation, giving rise to extensive forests and wooded river valleys. Looking outside your window in northern California, Oregon, or Washington will likely reveal species that are common across the U.S., such as American robins and American crows, as well as some regional specialties. Woodpecker species like the northern flicker and red-breasted sapsucker might be heard drumming on trees, while spotted towhees and fox sparrows scratch in leaf litter on the ground. Steller's jays, chestnut-backed chickadees, and evening grosbeaks will eagerly search for seeds and nuts at your backyard feeder.

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