Wild birds may be seen in abundance in Virginia. We’ll look at some of the most well-known and well-liked Virginia birds, particularly those that may be seen in your own yard, in this article. Some of these species are migratory and only spend part of the year in Virginia, while others are permanent residents. So, let’s explore 24 Virginia birds in their natural environment and learn a little about them.
After that, I’ll demonstrate how to bring them over to your property, give you a crash course in the ten distinct types of bird feeders that may be utilized for this, and even tell you about a few birdwatching hotspots in Virginia.
How many different species of wild birds are in Virginia?
It’s difficult to say precisely how many bird species there are in North America, the United States, or even in Virginia. However, as of 2020, the official state list included 476 species, according to the Virginia Society of Ornithology.
There are 2,059 species in North America, according to one source, while just 914 species according to another. So, I’m not sure how much faith I put in these data, but they do help us estimate the number of species.
We’re going to explore a few of our favorite Virginia backyard animals for the purposes of this article.
24 BACKYARD BIRDS IN VIRGINIA
We’ll take a closer look at 24 of Virginia’s backyard birds, some of which are year-round residents and others that aren’t. Although they are only a handful of the state’s species, they are some of the most well-known and instantly recognizable Virginia garden birds, many of which may be seen at your feeders. Let’s get started right away!
1. NORTHERN CARDINAL
Scientific name: Cardinalis cardinalis
Length: 8.3-9.1 in
Weight: 1.5-1.7 oz
Wingspan: 9.8-12.2 in
The Northern Cardinals are one of the most well-known and widespread backyard birds in North America. Females have duller hues and are more pale brown with some reddish tint, while males have vivid red feathers and a black mask. The mohawks and reddish orange beaks of both sexes are instantly distinguishable.
Since cardinals do not migrate, Northern Cardinals may be found all year long across Virginia.
Most seed feeders will be visited by the Cardinals, who will offer them a combination of black sunflower seeds and other seeds.
2. TUFTED TITMOUSE
Scientific name: Baeolophus bicolor
Length: 5.5-6.3 in
Weight: 0.6-0.9 oz
Wingspan: 7.9-10.2 in
These little birds are very common at feeders and in backyards within their range. Like Cardinals, they have a small crest (mohawk) that helps you tell them apart from other birds. Titmice are silver-gray on top and lighter on bottom, with a black patch just above their beaks.
Throughout the year, the Tufted Titmouse may be found.
Scientific name: Poecile atricapillus (Black-Capped), Poecile carolinensis (Carolina)
Length: 4.7-5.9 in (Black-Capped), 3.9-4.7 in (Carolina)
Weight: 0.3-0.5 oz (Black-Capped), 0.3-0.4 oz (Carolina)
Wingspan: 6.3-8.3 in (Black-Capped), 5.9-7.9 in (Carolina)
Because of their black hat and black bib, chickadees are small little birds that are extremely easy to identify. Their underbodies are fluffy and light, with solid white cheeks and gray wings and backs.
Black-capped Chickadees and Carolina Chickadees are the two varieties of chickadees that live in the east, and they appear to be identical. They may be able to tell which one they’ve seen by where they are situated. Both chickadees, on the other hand, may be found in Virginia. They’re typically seen darting back and forth from a feeder to cover and uncover for more, which is a frequent sight at bird feeding stations.
Only in the far western part of Virginia do black-capped chickadees exist in abundance. Throughout the year, Carolina chickadees may be seen across the state.
Most seed feeders will be visited by chickadees, who will offer black sunflower seeds and mixed seed blends.
4. BLUE JAY
Scientific name: Cyanocitta 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, another well-known bird species is the mourning dove. The Blue Jay is the species name. They have a blue head crest with blue feathers on their back and wings, which adds to their massive appearance. Their neck is ringed in black, and their breasts and belly are white beneath the black ring. Black stripes and barring cover their wings and tail. The same coloration occurs in both sexes. The Blue Jays are among the first to notify all of the birds in the area of a nearby threat, such as a hawk, and they have various loud metallic-sounding calls.
Another year-round resident of Virginia is the Blue Jays. In backyards and feeders, they’re very common.
Platform feeders, peanut feeders, and feeders with large perches are popular among Blue Jays. Black sunflower seeds, mixed seeds, and peanuts are suitable treats for them.
5. EASTERN BLUEBIRD
Scientific name: Sialia sialis
Length: 6.3-8.3 in
Weight: 1.0-1.1 oz
Wingspan: 9.8-12.6 in
Bluebirds have a rusty crimson-orange belly and are blue on top with a blue belly. The colors of females and males are the same, however females’ colors, particularly the blues, seem to be duller and more faded. In the United States, they are among the most desired tenants of birdhouses. Bluebird houses are a thriving business, to say the least. Backyards, especially feeders, are overrun with them. I was able to attract a mating pair with this birdhouse, which I purchased on Amazon.
Bluebirds do migrate to various locations in North America, however not Virginia. Year round, you may see the Eastern Bluebird. To learn more, visit the Virginia Bluebird Society.
Feeding mealworms on a tray feeder or in a dish may draw bluebirds to visit your feeders, although they don’t favor seeds.
6. SONG SPARROW
Scientific name: Melospiza melodia
Length: 4.7-6.7 in
Weight: 0.4-1.9 oz
Wingspan: 7.1-9.4 in
Most of North America’s Song Sparrows have a diverse plumage, which varies depending on the area. These sparrows have a brown belly and chest with deep brown streaks on their back and wings in the east. Their chest stripes often merge in a conspicuous brown patch, which aids in identification. The male of this species sings both to attract lady and to defend his territory.
Song Sparrows are migratory, but they spend the winter in Virginia.
Song Sparrows will eat mixed seeds and sunflower seeds from bird feeders on occasion.
7. AMERICAN ROBIN
Scientific name: Turdus migratorius
Length: 7.9-11.0 in
Weight: 2.7-3.0 oz
Wingspan: 12.2-15.8 in
Robins are virtually regularly seen hopping around the grass, looking for worms and other inanimals to consume. They do not consume seeds, even when they are at bird feeders. They’re easy to spot thanks to their vivid red skin, spherical bellies, and yellow beaks. During the winter, they retreat to the woods in many regions and aren’t seen again until spring. They appear to be leaving the state, but in most situations, they stay through the winter.
Every year, all throughout Virginia, robins may be found.
Attract American Robins to bird feeders with meal worms, native fruit-bearing bushes, or a bird bath; they are not frequent visitors.
8. MOURNING DOVE
Scientific name: Zenaida macroura
Length: 9.1-13.4 in
Weight: 3.0-6.0 oz
Wingspan: 17.7 in
Doves are small enough to sit perched on telephone wires or in groups in trees, and they are very frequent in backyards. They’re occasionally seen on my tray feeder, although they’re more often seen wandering on the ground. Mourning Doves have gray bodies with black markings on top, a light peachy tint below, and pink legs.
Throughout the whole state of Virginia, Mourning Doves may be found all year.
Doves prefer to scour the earth for fallen seeds rather than visit seed feeders. Spread some seeds on the ground or use a ground feeder with a mixed seed blend.
9. EUROPEAN STARLING
Scientific name: Sturnus 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 colonized the whole country. Other birds’ nests are destroyed, their offspring are murdered, and they obstruct feeders so that no more birds can eat what you provide. They have yellow beaks and feet and are mostly dark with white specks on their backs and wings. In the right light, starlings may appear to be quite lovely, with a purple and green iridescent hue.
Unfortunately, this invasive species may be found in every state in the lower 48 at any given time.
Almost anything can be eaten by European Starlings. We recommend against trying to attract them, as they are an invasive species and will show up on their own.
10. AMERICAN GOLDFINCH
Scientific name: Spinus 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 the goldfinches’ bright yellow feathers are in full bloom, they are among my favorite birds to watch at feeders. Females have a black head cap on top of their heads, and males are mostly yellow or “gold” during this time. Their bright yellow color fades to a more dull brownish or olive tone throughout the winter, when they molt. The black on their wings and their finch-like beaks are always visible, no matter when of the year it is.
Throughout Virginia, goldfinches may be found all year.
Sunflower chips are a good option for Goldfinches, but a thistle feeder is your best bet to attract them.
11. CAROLINA WREN
Scientific name: Thryothorus ludovicianus
Length: 4.7-5.5 in
Weight: 0.6-0.8 oz
Wingspan: 11.4 in
The top of these little birds is reddish-brown, while the bottom is a lighter orangish color. They have a long, slightly bent beak and a conspicuous white eyebrow that helps them to be recognized. Although they prefer to hide in brush, their loud “teakettle-teakettle” call is likely one that you would recognize.
Every year of the year, Carolina Wrens may be found in Virginia and the surrounding southeastern region.
The Carolina Wrens, as shown in the photograph above, are rather frequent in backyards and frequently visit suet feeders.
12. DARK-EYED JUNCO
Scientific name: Junco hyemalis
Length: 5.5-6.3 in
Weight: 0.6-1.1 oz
Wingspan: 7.1-9.8 in
Since they spend their summers up in Canada, juncos are often referred to as winter birds by people in the United States. Colorations vary across the country in America. They have a black head, chest, back, wings, and tail in the eastern United States. Their entire belly is white, and their tail ends in a white tip. Females can appear buffy brown rather than gray, and may look similar to males. The light pink beak and roundish body form of junco are two excellent characteristics to notice when identifying them. They’re most often spotted hopping around on the ground in wooded and forested environments.
During the autumn and winter months, dark-eyed Juncos may be found throughout Virginia, however they can live year-round along the state’s western border.
Juncos will feed on occasion at feeders, but they prefer to eat seed that other birds drop from the ground beneath your feeders. Mixed seed is their favorite.
13. HOUSE FINCH
Scientific name: Haemorhous mexicanus
Length: 5.1-5.5 in
Weight: 0.6-0.9 oz
Wingspan: 7.9-9.8 in
In Virginia, the House Finch is a frequent backyard bird. While they are invasive in the eastern United States, they aren’t as despised as other invasive birds like House Sparrows or European Starlings. They may arrive in huge flocks and mob your feeders if you attract them, which is rather simple to do. Males are brown in color with a little red on the head and chest, while females are completely brown.
Throughout Virginia, House Finches may be found year-round.
House Finches, like other finches, eat thistle. They’re more frequent than Goldfinches at seed feeders, so try tossing out some black sunflower seeds to entice them.
14. GRAY CATBIRD
Scientific name: Dumetella carolinensis
Length: 8.3-9.4 in
Weight: 0.8-2.0 oz
Wingspan: 8.7-11.8 in
Catbirds are small birds with a black head and a long tail that have dark slate gray coloring all over. A rusty red patch appears briefly beneath their tails, which is often unseen. Catbirds are fruit-loving birds, so provide them with native fruit-bearing trees and shrubs. Their calls, which sound like those of a meowing cat, earned them the moniker catbird.
In the spring and summer, Gray Catbirds can be found in the western and central sections of the state, but they may stay around for much of the year along the eastern shore.
If you provide some fruits, berries, and other sweet items, you may be able to attract catbirds if they prefer to forage on the ground or in bushes for food.
15. CHIPPING SPARROW
Scientific name: Spizella 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, a rusty red cap, and a black line through the eye with white above, chipping sparrows have their most crisp feathers in the summer. Their patterns may look less distinct and their coloration more buffy-brown during the winter. Sparrows that like to feed on open ground are common.
Throughout most of Virginia, Chipmunks Sparrows may be seen at all times of the year, however they are only present during the spring and summer along the western border.
Chipping Sparrows are frequently seen at neighborhood feeders, where they like to collect what has fallen on the ground. Sunflower and mixed seed, especially scattered on the ground, attract them.
16. RED-BELLIED WOODPECKER
Scientific name: Melanerpes carolinus
Length: 9.4 in
Weight: 2.0-3.2 oz
Wingspan: 13.0-16.5 in
In the eastern United States, these medium-sized woodpeckers are quite frequent at feeders and backyards. You may notice the vivid red stripe down the back of their heads, despite the fact that they’re characterized as “red-bellied.” They have a simple white break with a pinkish red patch in their belly region that is usually overlooked. With the white and black barring on their wings, they’re really easy to identify.
Throughout the year, red-bellied woodpeckers may be found throughout Virginia.
While they will occasionally eat at seed feeders, especially when peanuts are offered, red-bellied woodpeckers prefer a suet feeder.
17. DOWNY WOODPECKER
Scientific name: Picoides pubescens
Length: 5.5-6.7 in
Weight: 0.7-1.0 oz
Wingspan: 9.8-11.8 in
Birds like to visit birdfeeders, and downy’s are one of the most common backyard birds. These are North America’s smallest woodpeckers, and they’re one of the first birds I spot at a new bird feeder. Their black wings with white dots, black and white striped heads, and the red patch on the back of their skulls (males have no red patch in females) make them immediately recognized. Downy’s are smaller than Hairy Woodpeckers, despite their resemblance.
Throughout Virginia, you may see Downy Woodpeckers all year.
In most types of bird feeders, Downy Woodpeckers are common. Mixed seed, black sunflower seed, and suet should be offered to them.
18. COMMON GRACKLE
Scientific name: Quiscalus quiscula
Length: 11.0-13.4 in
Weight: 2.6-5.0 oz
Wingspan: 14.2-18.1 in
Grackles are very attractive in the right light, despite being classified as a bully bird like the starling. With their iridescent feathers, they are quite handsome. In the right light, you may see hues of blue, green, brown, and purple when they appear black in color. Grackles may roost with other types of blackbirds and form enormous flocks numbering in the millions. Their solid coloring, small body with a long, slender tail, and yellow ringed eye make them easy to spot.
During the year, grackles may be found all across Virginia.
Grackles are often considered pests because they forage and eat practically anything.
19. WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCH
Scientific name: Sitta 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 very common feeder birds. Nuthatches are known for hiding nuts and seeds in the bark of trees and then cracking the seed from the shell with their sharp beaks. In addition to many other kinds of birds, these birds can walk vertically on trees better. White-breasted Nuthatches have a thick black stripe on their heads, with white on either side and on their bellies. Gray and black are the most common colors of their wings.
Nuthatches of all types can be found throughout Virginia year-round.
Most seed feeders will be visited by nuthatches, who will give them black sunflower seeds, peanuts, or suet. They like to grasp a seed and swiftly flee, carrying it off to devour or store in a nearby tree.
20. NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD
Scientific name: Mimus polyglottos
Length: 8.3-10.2 in
Weight: 1.6-2.0 oz
Wingspan: 12.2-13.8 in
The ability to imitate the songs of other bird species is what gives mockingbirds their name. A male mockingbird may learn up to 200 songs over its lifetime, according to estimates. The rather long tail feathers distinguish these medium-sized yard birds, who are mostly gray and white in hue. They may be quite aggressive of approaching birds and are frequently seen dwelling in tall bushes.
Year-round, Northern Mockingbirds may be found in Virginia.
Backyards are home to a large number of Northern Mockingbirds, although they don’t feed birds. With other strategies outlined below, such as fruit-bearing bushes or a bird bath, you may entice them to your yard.
21. WHITE-THROATED SPARROW
Scientific name: Zonotrichia albicollis
Length: 6.3-7.1 in
Weight: 0.8-1.1 oz
Wingspan: 7.9-9.1 in
The white-throated sparrow is a ubiquitous species in the United States. Males migrate to Canada in the summer to breed after spending the winter in Florida. Their bold facial pattern of black and white stripe with yellow spots between the eyes, as well as their white throat patch, makes them easier to identify among sparrows. Females prefer to nest in secret parts of dense brush and vegetation, where they may be found on or just above the ground.
White-throated sparrows are found throughout Virginia, but only in the winter.
Feeders are visited by white-throated sparrows, who like to collect fallen seed below feeders. Sunflower, millet, and mixed seed blends are available.
22. AMERICAN CROW
Scientific name: Corvus brachyrhynchos
Length: 15.8-20.9 in
Weight: 11.2-21.9 oz
Wingspan: 33.5-39.4 in
Crows in America are black, and they are quite big. Like their cousin the raven, they are also well-known for their problem-solving abilities. Crows will gather in large numbers higher up in the tree tops, where they can see everything below from a birds eye perspective. The roost will shout out and notify everyone that there is danger nearby if an owl or hawk occurs.
Every year throughout the year, crows may be found across Virginia.
Crows are too big to visit bird feeders and are thus omnivorous.
23. EASTERN TOWHEE
Scientific name: Pipilo erythrophthalmus
Length: 6.8-8.2 in
Weight: 1.1-1.8 oz
Wingspan: 7.9-11.0 in
The Eastern Towhee is a delightful little backyard bird that is always a delight to observe. With white wing patches, orange sides, and a white belly, both sexes have a black head and back. Males, on the other hand, have a dark color, whereas females have a brown color. During the spring and summer, they have a lovely song that has a familiar sound in the woods. Towhees search for insects, seeds, and berries among the leaf litter and vegetation of master foragers.
While most of Virginia is home to eastern Towhees throughout the year, they are only found in the state’s far northern reaches during the spring and summer.
In my experience, eastern Towhees seldom eat from bird feeders, but I frequently observe them hopping across the ground beneath my feeders. In this sense, bird feeders may draw towhees.
24. INDIGO BUNTING
Scientific name: Passerina cyanea
Length: 4.7-5.1 in
Weight: 0.4-0.6 oz
Wingspan: 7.5-8.7 in
In the evening, these gorgeous buntings fly from their wintering grounds in Mexico and southern Florida to their breeding areas. Males are bright blue all over with some black on their wings, while females are mostly brown with just hints of blue. Their feathers reflect light rather than blue pigment, which gives them this coloring. Summer is the best time to hear them singing in the fields and woods.
Throughout the spring and summer, Indigo Buntings may be found across Virginia.
They will sometimes visit, especially if you offer mixed seed and nyjer, but are not as common at feeders.
HOW TO ATTRACT BIRDS TO YOUR YARD
Want to bring some of these birds into your garden? Take a look at the five basic concepts, starting with the most basic.
1. PUT OUT BIRD FEEDERS
A bird feeder or two is the finest and simplest way to attract birds to your yard. A basic tube feeder, hopper feeder, platform feeder, or window feeder are all good beginners’ options. For more, see the sections below.
2. ADD A WATER SOURCE
This Amazon item is amazing, but you may also utilize a terra cotta flower pot saucer, such as this one. Birds need water to drink and bathe in, and adding a water feature to your yard will only increase your chances of attracting birds. Also, since moving water attracts more birds to the water, consider installing a solar fountain.
3. OFFER BIRDHOUSES
If placed in the proper location at the appropriate time of year, several types of birds 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 pair of bluebirds were inspecting it in my back yard.
4. PROVIDE SHELTER
When the birds sense danger, make sure your yard has trees, shrubs, and bushes that they may dart back and forth to. Predators are kept at bay with this as their primary defense. Do your best to add landscaping elements that will allow birds to see your yard as safe if your yard is maybe in a new development with no mature trees.
5. ADD NATIVE PLANTS
Having native plants that produce nuts, berries, and seeds will only help your efforts to attract more birds for several 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. Invasive and non-native plants may crowd out native vegetation, which may affect the ecosystem’s health. Try to keep them at bay.
10 DIFFERENT TYPES OF BIRD FEEDERS
These are the most popular bird feeders that people put up in their yards.
- The term “hopper feeder” refers to a bin in the middle of the device, called a hopper, that holds bird seed. Perches on the sides provide landing sites for birds and food. To keep the seed dry, many hopper feeders are shaped like a house and have a roof. For this kind of feeder, use black sunflower seeds or a combination of birdseed. This is one of my favorite hopper feeders, and it’s squirrel-proof as well.
- Platform feeders are open on top and may be hung from a tree or hook, or pole-mounted. They are often referred to as tray feeders. They’re super easy to set up and are ideal for feeding most types of birds. Every animal in your yard that can reach them will devour them, despite the fact that they are entirely open. For this kind of feeder, use black sunflower seeds or a combination of birdseed. In the meanwhile, I’m using an outdoor platform feeder.
- Tube feeders are simply transparent plastic tube-shaped bird feeders that you put out for birds. They may hold from a few cups of seed to 5 pounds or more, and they come in a variety of sizes. They’re great because they allow you to easily seed when it needs to be refilled, while also keeping your seed fresh and dry. Tube feeders are used by many types of birds. In tube feeders, you can mix black sunflower seeds with other seeds. This is a great squirrel proof tube feeder from Squirrel Buster, one of the best on the market.
- Suet feeders, also known as suet cake feeders, are used by one kind of bird. They are a rather basic design, generally consisting of a metal wire cage with a tail-prop for bigger birds. Suet feeders are common during the winter, when woodpeckers come to visit and birds are seeking high-fat foods. I suggest getting a suet feeder with a long tail prop to attract larger woodpeckers, such as the Pileated and Northern Flicker.
- Window feeders are small bird feeders that use suction cups to mount onto a glass window. Tray feeders are open on top and you simply pour seed into the tray to refill them, so they’re comparable. These feeders are preferred by a wide range of species, are simple to set up, and ideal for anyone with small gardens. For this sort of feeder, use black sunflower seeds or a combination of birdseed. This is, by far, the most popular bird feeder on Amazon, as well as the most popular window feeder.
- Thistle feeders, sometimes known as Nyjer feeders, are specialized bird feeders designed for thistle seed. Birds belonging to the finch family, which includes the American Goldfinch and House Finch, are among the most common types of birds attracted to thistle feeders. Thistle feeders are usually tube-shaped and include tiny holes along the tube’s circumference that allow birds to eat the thistle. Droll Yankees has a great thistle feeder.
- Tray feeders that sit on the ground level are known as ground feeders. Birds like Mourning Doves and Juncos, as well as squirrels, raccoons, and other ground animals will love them. For this type of feeder, use black sunflower seeds or a combination of birdseed. This ground feeder made of recycled plastic is a great choice.
- Another kind of specialized feeder for just one species of bird, orioles, is the oriole feeder. Little plastic or glass dishes designed for holding jelly, which orioles adore, are frequently used as feeders. Another food that orioles enjoy is orange halves, which they can stick onto the feeder. With four jelly trays, this simple oriole feeder can hold orange halves.
- Hummingbird feeders are sugar water extractors that are specifically designed for hummingbirds. I frequently see Downy Woodpeckers at mine, even though they are meant for hummingbirds, and they love that sweet nectar as much as I do. Learn how to make hummingbird nectar without boiling the water by reading this article. There is no need to pay a lot of money for a hummingbird feeder since they are so simple and cheap. Here’s one I’ve personally used and liked.
- Peanut feeders are tube-shaped and usually made of metal wire mesh material, similar to thistle feeders. To allow for either whole unshelled or shelled peanuts to pass through the holes, the holes in the wire mesh are spaced much farther apart. These feeders should be filled with peanuts and attract birds such as Blue Jays. Squirrel Buster’s peanut feeder is the best way to keep squirrels out if you want to do so. This basic one will suffice.
BIRD WATCHING IN VIRGINIA
If you want to go birding outside of your own backyard, Virginia is a wonderful state to visit. If you want to get a bit more involved, the Virginia Society of Ornithology hosts meetups, workshops, field trips, and birding tours.
Take a look at this list I’ve put together of some popular birding sites in Virginia if you’re a Virginia resident (or just visiting) and would like to add some new species to your life list.
VIRGINIA BIRDING LOCATIONS
- Henricus Historical Park
- Belle Isle State Park
- Huntley Meadows Park
- Eastern Shore National Wildlife Refuge
- Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge