25 Backyard Birds In Iowa (With Pictures)

Wild birds may be found all across Iowa. We’ll explore some of Iowa’s most well-known and well-known birds, particularly those that may be seen in your neighborhood, in this article. Several of the species listed above have year-round residents in Iowa, while others are only partial residents. So, let’s learn a little about each species by looking at 25 backyard birds in Iowa.

I’ll provide you with a crash course in the 10 various types of bird feeders that you may utilize to entice them to your yard, as well as recommend a few nature resources and birdwatching clubs in Iowa after that.

How many different species of wild birds are in Iowa?

It is hard to say precisely how many bird species live in North America, the United States, or even in the state of Iowa. There were 431 species on the official state list as of 2021, according to the Iowa Ornithologists’ Union.

According to one study, North America is home to 2,059 species, while according to another, just 914. So I’m not sure how much confidence I have in these data, but they do provide a ballpark estimate of the number of species. Between a bird that accidentally strays into a place versus one that visits frequently, there may be a huge distinction.

We’re just going to take a look at some of Iowa’s most popular, frequent backyard animals for the sake of this article.


In Iowa, we’ll explore 25 species of birds that live both year-round and seasonally. These are some of the most well-known and recognized Iowa backyard birds, many of which you can see at your bird feeders, but they aren’t all of the species in the state. Let’s get started.


Scientific nameCardinalis cardinalis

Length: 8.3-9.1 in

Weight: 1.5-1.7 oz

Wingspan: 9.8-12.2 in

Among North America’s most well-known and widely seen pet birds are Northern Cardinals. Females have duller colors and are more pale brown with some reddish coloring, while males have bright red feathers and a black mask. The hairstyles and reddish orange beaks of both sexes are instantly recognizable.

Throughout Iowa, the Northern Cardinals may be found all year.

Most seed feeders will be visited by the Cardinals, who will offer them a variety of seed combinations.


Scientific nameSpizella passerina

Length: 4.7-5.9 in

Weight: 0.4-0.6 oz

Wingspan: 8.3 in

With a buffy gray breast, brown and tan streaked wings, rusty red head, and a black stripe across the eye with white above, chipping sparrows have their most crisp feathers in the summer. Their markings will be less defined and their color will be more buffy-brown in the winter. Sparrows that prefer to eat on open ground are very common.

During the spring-summer season, Chipping Sparrows may be found across Iowa.

Backyard feeders are home to Chipping Sparrows, who like to rummage through what’s fallen on the ground. Sunflower and mixed seed, especially scattered on the ground, are ideal attractants.


Scientific namePoecile atricapillus

Length: 4.7-5.9 in

Weight: 0.3-0.5 oz

Wingspan: 6.3-8.3 in

The black-capped chickadee is a tiny bird with a spherical body and a black bib that is difficult to mistake for any other species. Their underbodies are fluffy and light, and their cheeks are solid white. Their wings and backs are blackish gray.

These are frequently seen darting back and forth from a feeder to cover and uncover for more food at bird feeders. Chickadees, for their size, are often the first birds I see visiting a new feeder in my yard. They’re quite bold for their size!

In Iowa, black-capped chickadees may be found all year.

Most seed feeders will be visited by chickadees, who will offer black sunflower seeds and mixed seed blends.


Scientific nameCyanocitta cristata

Length: 9.8-11.8 in

Weight: 2.5-3.5 oz

Wingspan: 13.4-16.9 in

In North America and the United States, there is another very well-known bird species. The Blue Jay is the name of this bird. They have a white breast and belly and a huge blue crest on top of their heads, with mostly blue feathers along their back. Black stripes run down their wings and tail. In addition, they have a black collar that resembles a necklace around their necks. They’re one of the first to alert all the birds in the area of a predator like a hawk, and they make several loud, metallic sounding calls.

The whole state of Iowa is home to the Toronto Blue Jays all year.

Platform feeders, peanut feeders, and feeders with broad perches are popular among Blue Jays. Black sunflower seeds, mixed seeds, and peanuts should be offered to them.


Scientific nameMelospiza melodia

Length: 4.7-6.7 in

Weight: 0.4-1.9 oz

Wingspan: 7.1-9.4 in

The plumage of song Sparrows varies greatly depending on the location, and they are widely distributed across North America. These sparrows have a dark brown back and wings, with deep brown streaks on the breast and a white belly in the east. The brown patch on their chest often helps with identification, as the streaks on their chest tend to merge. Males of the species use their song to attract females as well as defend their territory.

Song Sparrows may be found in a variety of places, but they always return to Iowa.

Bird feeders are occasionally visited by Song Sparrows, who enjoy mixed seeds and sunflower seeds.


Pictured: Male (left) and Female (right) House Finch

Scientific nameHaemorhous mexicanus

Length: 5.1-5.5 in

Weight: 0.6-0.9 oz

Wingspan: 7.9-9.8 in

In Iowa, the House Finch is yet another common backyard bird. While they are invasive in the eastern United States, they are not always despised or pose a threat to native birds like the house sparrow. They’ll often show up at your feeders in pairs or groups if you attract them, which is very easy to do. Males have a brown coloration with red on the head and chest, while females are completely brown in color.

Throughout Iowa, House Finches may be found all year.

House Finches, like other finches, are fond of thistle seed. They’re more common than Goldfinches at seed feeders, so offer them some black sunflower seeds to entice them.


Scientific nameTurdus migratorius

Length: 7.9-11.0 in

Weight: 2.7-3.0 oz

Wingspan: 12.2-15.8 in

Robins are mostly seen hopping around the grass hunting for worms and other invertebrates. They are extremely prevalent in backyards. They do not eat seeds, and they will occasionally visit bird feeders. They’re easy to spot because of their vivid crimson bellies and yellow beaks.

During the year, Iowans may see robins.

Attract American Robins to bird feeders with meal worms, native fruit-producing plants, or a bird bath. They are not very frequent visitors.


Scientific nameZenaida macroura

Length: 9.1-13.4 in

Weight: 3.0-6.0 oz

Wingspan: 17.7 in

Doves are tiny birds that may be seen in backyards and, perched on power lines or in clusters in trees, are very frequent. They’re often spotted roaming around on the ground, rather than sitting on my tray feeder. Gray with black specks on top and pink legs, mourning doves are mostly gray below.

Throughout the year, mourning doves may be seen in Iowa.

Seed feeders are visited by doves, but they prefer to search the earth for dropped seeds. Spread some seeds on the ground or try a ground feeder with a mixed seed blend.


Scientific nameSturnus vulgaris

Length: 7.9-9.1 in

Weight: 2.1-3.4 oz

Wingspan: 12.2-15.8 in

In the 1890s, 100 starlings were released in New York, and they have since overrun the country. They’ll plunder other birds’ nests, kill their chicks, and even obstruct feeders so that none of the food you provide gets to other birds. They have yellow beaks and feet and are mostly all dark with white specks on their backs and wings. In the right light, starlings may also appear to be quite lovely, with a purple and green iridescent color.

Sadly, this invasive species is present in every state in the union, including Iowa.

Almost anything can be eaten by European Starlings. We recommend that you don’t try to attract them since they are an invasive species.


Scientific nameSpinus tristis

Length: 4.3-5.1 in

Weight: 0.4-0.7 oz

Wingspan: 7.5-8.7 in

In the spring and summer, when their bright yellow feathers are in full bloom, goldfinches are among my favorite birds to watch at feeders. Males have a black cap on top of their heads during this time and are mostly yellow, or “gold,” with black-tipped wings. Their bright yellow turns to a dull brownish or olive color during the winter, and they molt. The black on their wings and beaks, as well as their finch-like beaks, are always visible throughout the year.

Year-round, Iowa is home to goldfinches.

Thistle feeders are the best option to attract goldfinches, although they may devour sunflower chips if you provide them one.


Scientific nameSitta carolinensis

Length: 5.1-5.5 in

Weight: 0.6-1.1 oz

Wingspan: 7.9-10.6 in

In most backyards within their range, White-breasted Nuthatches are a common feeder bird. The names of nuthatches come from the fact that they crack open nuts and seeds beneath tree bark with their sharp beaks, then eat the hatching seed. In addition to many other kinds of birds, these birds have the capacity to climb vertically on trees. A thick black stripe runs across the top of the heads of white-breasted Nuthatches, with white on both sides and on the belly. Gray and black are the most common colors of their wings.

Throughout Iowa, White-breasted Nuthatches may be found all year.

Most seed feeders are visited by nuthatches, who provide them a combination of black sunflower seeds, peanuts, and suet. Grabbing a seed and immediately flying away to eat or store it in a nearby tree is their preferred method of grabbing and running.


Scientific namePasser domesticus

Length: 5.9-6.7 in

Weight: 0.9-1.1 oz

Wingspan: 7.5-9.8 in

Houses Sparrows are the only other wild bird species in the United States, and they are generally considered pests. In addition to legal starlings, you may humanely kill. They were first seen in New York in the 1800s, and since then, they have spread like wildfire across the United States. Their wings and buffy chest are streaked with black and brown, giving them a brown appearance. They’re generally hostile to other birds, especially when they’re around nests and bird cages.

Throughout Iowa, you may find House Sparrows.

House Sparrows, like European Starlings, are invasive and pose a danger to native species. Almost anything will go down for them.


Scientific nameAgelaius phoeniceus

Length: 6.7-9.1 in

Weight: 1.1-2.7 oz

Wingspan: 12.2-15.8 in

Male red-winged blackbirds are among the most numerous birds in North America, with their crimson and yellow shoulder feathers standing out against their black coloration. Females of this species, on the other hand, are mostly brown with light streaks and have a significantly different appearance. Males will have up to 15 different females that they are mating with, making them a polygynous species. Unfortunately, they frequently appear in flocks and consume seed at a rapid pace.

Throughout Iowa, you can find red-winged blackbirds any time of year.

Most types of feeders are visited by red-winged blackbirds, who will consume seed and suet.


Scientific nameMolothrus ater

Length: 7.5 – 8.7 in

Weight: 1.5 – 1.8 oz

Wingspan: 12.6 – 15.0 in

Because of the color of the males, brown-headed cowbirds are often classified as blackbirds, and they may mob your feeders when they fly in big flocks (sometimes combined with actual blackbirds). The body of a male is iridescent and black, while the head is dark brown. Females have a lighter brown coloration throughout.

Cowbirds, on the other hand, are parasitic “nest invaders,” laying their eggs in the nests of other birds. This decreases the species’ numbers. They occasionally sneak one egg among the others and kick other eggs out of the nest to make room for their own. The imposter egg is often rejected by many birds, who treat the egg as their own.

During the spring and summer of Iowa, you’ll find wild turkeys, which may stay throughout the year in the state’s southeastern corner.

Feeders are magnets for brown-headed cowbirds, who may arrive in droves. Mixed seed is almost guaranteed to be devoured.


Scientific nameJunco hyemalis

Length: 5.5-6.3 in

Weight: 0.6-1.1 oz

Wingspan: 7.1-9.8 in

Because they spend their summers up in Canada, juncos are frequently thought of as winter birds in the United States. Throughout the United States, there are various subspecies. Color changes that are minor. The slate-colored strain is the most popular in Iowa. The pale pink beak and roundish body shape of dark-eyed junco’s are two characteristics to keep an eye out for when identifying them on all varieties. The head and back are frequently darker, while the belly is often lighter. They’re most frequently seen hopping around on the ground in woods and wooded areas.

Between October and April, dark-eyed Juncos can be found in Iowa.

Juncos will sometimes settle on feeders, but instead of eating the seed that other birds are dropping, they prefer to eat it from the ground below your feeders. Mixed seeds are a favorite of theirs.


Scientific nameMelanerpes carolinus

Length: 9.4 in

Weight: 2.0-3.2 oz

Wingspan: 13.0-16.5 in

In general, these medium-sized woodpeckers may be seen at feeders and in backyards. You may notice the brilliant red stripe down the back of their heads, despite the fact that they are called “red-bellied.” They have a straight white section with a pinkish red patch towards the bottom of their abdomen, which is usually covered. With the white and black barring on their wings, they’re really easy to identify.

Iowa is home to the red-bellied woodpecker throughout the year.

While they will occasionally eat at seed feeders, especially when peanuts are offered, attract Red-bellied Woodpeckers with a suet feeder.


Scientific namePicoides pubescens

Length: 5.5-6.7 in

Weight: 0.7-1.0 oz

Wingspan: 9.8-11.8 in

Backyard birds like to visit bird feeders, and Downy’s are one of the most common. They’re one of the first species I notice on a new bird feeder, and they’re the tiniest woodpeckers in North America. Their pure white underbodies, black wings with white specks, black and white striped heads, and crimson spot on the back of their skulls (in males, females have no crimson) make them immediately recognizable. Downy’s are smaller than the Hairy Woodpecker, who is also mentioned here, despite their similar appearance.

All year around, you can find Downy Woodpeckers in Iowa.

Most types of bird feeders attract downy woodpeckers. Mixed seed, black sunflower seed, and suet should be offered.


Scientific nameQuiscalus quiscula

Length: 11.0-13.4 in

Weight: 2.6-5.0 oz

Wingspan: 14.2-18.1 in

Grackles are also quite attractive in the right light with their iridescent feathers, even if they are classified as a bully bird like the starling. They’re generally dark in hue, although blue, green, brown, and purple hues may be seen in bright light. Grackles will roost in large numbers with other species of blackbirds and may be seen in huge flocks. Their solid color, lengthy narrow body, and yellow ringed eye are all easy to notice.

Throughout the year, Grackles may be found in Iowa.

Grackles are considered pests because they are foragers and will eat practically anything.


Scientific nameHirundo rustica

Length: 5.9-7.5 in

Weight: 0.6-0.7 oz

Wingspan: 11.4-12.6 in

Birds that live in open fields, such as barn swallows. The back of these richly hued birds is dark blue, with orange around the eyes and neck. They can range in color from a light tawny to a vivid orange on their breast and belly. The long, deeply forked tail is one of their distinguishing features. They are light, nimble fliers that zip over water, fields, farms, and meadows catching insects in the air. Cup-shaped nests, which are typically found in the eaves of barns, gazebos, covered pavilions, and beneath bridges, are made out of a combination of mud and grass.

The barn swallows head for the United States. During the spring and summer, you may see them breeding throughout Iowa.

Barn Swallows don’t visit a bird feeder because they eat flying insects. If you have a barn, outbuilding, or gazebo, you might try to attract them by setting up a nestbox.


Scientific nameTroglodytes aeon

Length: 4.3-5.1 in

Weight: 0.3-0.4 oz

Wingspan: 5.9 in

A tiny brown bird with a loud voice, the House Wren is a common sight. They’re well-known for nesting in practically any tiny space they choose, even shoes or discarded cans, and may be found all across the United States. Birds will probably investigate your birdhouses at least briefly if you put them up, and maybe adopt them. These are the birds that have nests in my bird houses on a regular basis. House wrens have a drab appearance and are rather tiny, so it’s easy to overlook them as they zip around through the bushes in your yard catching insects. Their wings and tail are black with white barring, and they have a dark upper body and a light lower body.

Throughout the spring and summer, house wrens may be seen across Iowa.

The House Wrens won’t be attending a bird feeding because they mainly eat insects and spiders. However, insects are likely to be drawn to your yard if there are supporting plants or a bird house.


Scientific nameColaptes auratus

Length: 11.0-12.2 in

Weight: 3.9-5.6 oz

Wingspan: 16.5-20.1 in

While not as prevalent at feeders, these medium to huge sized woodpeckers may be found in abundance around the United States. I think they’re some of the nicest birds in North America, in addition to being among the most colorful. Unlike other woodpeckers, flickers prefer to eat insects on the ground rather than in the trees, and they are known for doing so. The black spots on their bellies, solid black bib, red patch on the back of their necks, and barred black and gray wings will help you identify them. A black mustached male is seen. They have bright yellow feathers on the underside of their wings and tail, and they get the variety known as the “yellow-shafted” in Iowa.

The year-round presence of Northern Flickers in Iowa is evident.

A suet feeder is visited by Northern Flickers on occasion, but they usually find their own food. If you have a bird bath, they’ll stop by for a visit.


Scientific nameIcterus galbula

Length: 6.7-7.5 in

Weight: 1.1-1.4 oz

Wingspan: 9.1-11.8 in

Orioles prefer dark berries and fruits, and are fruit-eating birds. Baltimore orioles are likely to visit your property if you have native fruit-producing trees and plants. Males have bright orange on their breasts and underbodies, as well as a black hood over their entire head. Their wings are black with white stripes. An orange rump and tail feathers complement their appearance. Females come in a wide range of hues. With gray wings, they appear duller in color, while with a brown head and wings, they appear lighter in color. Males have a bright orange and a black glossy finish, whereas females lack it.

During the breeding season, most of the country, including Iowa, has a population of migratory birds known as Baltimore orioles. In the spring and summer, keep an eye out for them.

When the Orioles are in town, bring out an oriole feeder and give them jelly and orange halves to entice them.


Scientific nameDumetella carolinensis

Length: 8.3-9.4 in

Weight: 0.8-2.0 oz

Wingspan: 8.7-11.8 in

Catbirds are robin-sized birds with a black head and a lengthy tail. They have dark slate gray coloring all over their body. They have a rusted crimson patch on their tails that is frequently unseen. Native fruit-bearing trees and bushes will entice catbirds to eat fruit. Their cries sound like a meowing cat, hence the name catbird.

In the spring and summer, Gray Catbirds may be seen throughout Iowa and the United States.

If you provide some fruits, berries, and other sweet items, you may be able to attract catbirds if they prefer to eat on the ground or in bushes.


Scientific nameGeothlypis trichas

Length: 4.3-5.1 in

Weight: 0.3 oz

Wingspan: 5.9-7.5 in

One of the most abundant warblers in the United States is a common yellowthroat. They spend the breeding season here before heading south to winter for the rest of the country. The back and tail of males are light brown, with a black face mask and a bright yellow throat. Females are similarly dark, but they lack the black mask. Brushy fields and wetlands and marshes are popular places for them to play. While walking through a wooded area near a huge pond or marsh, I often run into these guys.

In the spring and summer, Iowa’s yellowthroat is common.

While they predominantly eat insects, they may come to your yard if you have plenty of low-grasses and thick vegetation. They will not visit bird feeders since they don’t eat birds.


Scientific nameLeuconotopicus villosus

Length: 7.1-10.2 in

Weight: 1.4-3.4 oz

Wingspan: 13.0-16.1 in

Hairy woodpeckers and downy woodpeckers are difficult to tell apart. Some minor distinctions differentiate hairy from other birds. They are bigger, have a longer beak compared to their head, and so on. Both have similar patterns and are typically found in the same localities as each other. The hairy woodpecker, on the other hand, does not visit bird feeders as often as the Downy’s do.

Throughout the year, Iowa’s hairy woodpeckers may be found.

Hairy Woodpeckers will eat suet and seed feeders, but they are not as plentiful as Downy Woodpeckers.


Would you like some of these birds to visit your property? Starting with the most obvious, take a look at these five simple tips.


A bird feeder or two is the greatest and simplest technique to entice birds to your yard. I recommend a tube feeder, hopper feeder, platform feeder, or window feeder as the first step. See the following pages for ideas.


You can use a simple terra cotta flower pot saucer, such as this one, or something similar like a pedestal birdbath. Birds need water to drink and bathe in, so adding a water feature to your property will simply raise your likelihood of attracting them. Because moving water will draw in the birds even more, consider adding a solar fountain.


If placed in the proper location and at the proper time of year, several bird species will readily take up residence in birdhouses. Among the most popular kinds of birds sought after for birdhouses are Eastern Bluebirds. On the same day I put up this birdhouse, a mating pair of bluebirds came to visit it in my back yard.


Make sure there are trees, shrubs, and bushes in your yard that the birds can use to retreat and attack when they sense danger. Predators are a big threat to them, so this is their primary defense. Try to include some landscaping elements that will allow birds to see your yard as safe if your yard is in a new subdivision with no mature trees.


Having native plants that produce nuts, berries, and seeds will only help your efforts to attract more birds for many birds that eat them. Moreover, since most songbirds feed insects to their hatchlings, native plants help caterpillars and other insects that feed many birds and support nesting birds. Native plants that support a healthy ecosystem should be avoided, as should invasive and non-native plants.


In the yards of 10 people, here are the most popular bird feeders.

  1. Hopper feeders are so named because they contain a hopper in the center, which keeps the bird seed. Birds may land on the perches and eat from them on the sides. Many hopper feeders are covered on top to keep the seed dry, and they resemble a house. For this kind of feeder, use black sunflower seeds or a combination of birdseed. This is a squirrel-proof hopper feeder, which I like.
  2. Platform feeders are open on top and may be pole-mounted or hung from a limb or hook. They are also known as tray feeders. They’re simple to set up and ideal for feeding a wide range of birds. Every creature in your yard that can reach them will devour them since they are totally exposed. For this kind of feeder, use black sunflower seeds or a combination of birdseed. Right now, I’m putting up a platform feeder in my yard.
  3. Tube feeders are simple clear plastic tube-shaped bird feeders that you can buy. From holding a few cups of seed to 5 pounds or more, they may vary in size. They’re great because they allow you to refill your seed with ease while keeping it fresh and dry. A tube feeder will be utilized by a variety of birds. In tube feeders, you may use black sunflower seeds and mixed seeds. This squirrel proof tube feeder is a favorite of Squirrel Buster’s, and it’s one of the best on the market.
  4. Suet feeders are used to feed suet cakes, which are only suitable for one kind of bird. They’re a very basic idea, often constructed of little more than a metal wire cage with a tail-prop for bigger birds. Suet feeders, which are often visited by woodpeckers in the winter when birds are seeking high-fat foods, are very popular. I recommend the use of a suet feeder with a long tail prop to attract large woodpeckers, such as the Pileated and Northern Flicker.
  5. Window feeders are tiny bird feeders that attach to a glass window using suction cups. Tray feeders are open on top and you merely pour seed into the tray region to replenish them, which is similar to how they work. These feeders are ideal for anyone with small gardens since they’re so versatile and simple to set up. They’re also popular among numerous distinct species of birds. For this kind of feeder, use black sunflower seeds or a mixture of birdseed. This is, without a doubt, the most well-liked window feeder on Amazon, and maybe the entire internet.
  6. Thistle feeders, sometimes known as Nyjer feeders, are specialized bird feeders designed especially for thistle seed. Birds in the finch family, which include both the American Goldfinch and House Finch, are among the main kinds of birds that thistle feeders attract. Little openings along the tube walls of thistle feeders enable birds to remove the thistle by picking it out with tiny beaks. This is a nice thistle feeder from Droll Yankees.
  7. Tray feeders that sit on the ground are known as ground feeders. Birds like Mourning Doves and Juncos, as well as squirrels, raccoons, and other kinds of ground creature, will love them. For this kind of feeder, use black sunflower seeds or a combination of birdseed. This recycled plastic ground feeder is something you may like.
  8. Another kind of specialized feeder for a single species of birds, orioles, is the Oriole feeder. Little plastic or glass dishes designed for holding jelly, which orioles adore, are commonly used as feeders. They are generally orange in color. Another treat that orioles like is allowing you to adhesive orange pieces to the feeder. Here’s an oriole feeder with four jelly trays that can hold orange halves.
  9. Hummingbird feeders are designed to extract sugar water from hummingbirds and are also known as nectar feeders. I often see Downy Woodpeckers at my property, despite the fact that they are meant for hummingbirds. Learn how to make hummingbird nectar without boiling the water in this article. There’s no need to spend a lot of money on a hummingbird feeder since they’re so simple and cost-effective.
  10. Peanut feeders are tube-shaped devices that are generally made of metal wire mesh material and designed to hold peanuts. To allow for whole unshelled or shelled peanuts to pass through the holes, the openings in the wire mesh are spaced much farther apart. These should be filled with peanuts and attract birds like Blue Jays. This one from Squirrel Buster is your best option for keeping squirrels out of your peanut feeder. This basic one will suffice for the time being.


If you want to expand your hobby outside of your own neighborhood, Iowa has plenty of options. If you want to get a little more involved, the Iowa Audubon Society has several local chapters with meetups, workshops, field excursions, and birding trips. Birders of all skill levels are welcome to join the Iowa Ornithologists’ Union.

Then have a look at this list I’ve put together of some of the best birding sites in Iowa if you’re an Iowa resident and want to add some new species to your life list.


  • Saylorville Reservoir
  • Otter Creek Marsh Wildlife Area
  • Lacey-Keosauqua State Park
  • Effigy Mounds National Monument
  • Union Slough National Wildlife Refuge

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