10 Red Birds in North Carolina – Picture and ID Guide

There exists a variety of distinct species to acquaint oneself with, namely the Finches and Tanagers, which are frequently observed as the red-hued avian creatures.

In North Carolina, a notable tally of 10 species of red birds has been documented, with 9 of these species commonly appearing on state checklists, while an additional species is deemed rare or fortuitous in occurrence.

To facilitate the identification process, this manual will offer guidance in recognizing the red bird species in North Carolina according to avibase. Among these feathered beings, certain individuals partake in seasonal migrations, while others maintain a year-round presence.

For those eager to identify the diverse array of avian visitors frequenting their own backyards in North Carolina, the provision of a complimentary bird identification worksheet proves invaluable.

The Northern Cardinal reigns as the most prevalent red bird in both the summer and winter seasons throughout North Carolina. Conversely, the Summer Tanager exhibits greater visibility during the summer months, while numerous other species garner increased attention amidst the winter period in this region. Further exploration of these red birds will elucidate their characteristics.

10 Red Birds in North Carolina:

1. Northern Cardinal:

The Northern Cardinal, an ever-present figure in North Carolina, manifests as a striking red creature boasting a crimson head, body, and tail, with areas of black encircling its facial features. A captivating spectacle, particularly when juxtaposed against a wintry white backdrop. Equally captivating are the female counterparts, adorned in a splendid coat of brown, complemented by a distinguished brown crest, red accents, and crimson beaks.

Size: 8.3-9.1 inches (21-23 cm)
Weight: 1.5-1.7 ounces (42-48 g)
Wingspan: 9.8-12.2 inches (25-31 cm)
Northern Cardinals can be found in the eastern and southern states, often engaging in confrontations with their own reflections during the breeding season, demonstrating an obsessive territorial defense.

Allure a greater number of Northern Cardinals to your backyard feeders by providing an assortment of sunflower seeds, peanut hearts, millet, and milo. These birds will readily partake in feeding from large tube feeders, hoppers, platform feeders, or scattered food on the ground.

2. House Finch:

Another familiar red bird species in North Carolina is the House Finch, a year-round resident within the state.

Males of the House Finch sport a red head and breast, while the females exhibit a brown-streaked appearance.

Size: 5.1-5.5 inches (13-14 cm)
Weight: 0.6-0.9 ounces (16-27 g)
Wingspan: 7.9-9.8 inches (20-25 cm)
Initially confined to western states, the House Finch was later introduced to eastern states, subsequently thriving and even outcompeting the Purple Finch.

Parks, farms, forest edges, and backyard feeders serve as common habitats where House Finches congregate, often in raucous groups that are impossible to overlook.

To attract more House Finches to your backyard, employ black oil sunflower seeds or nyjer seeds in tube feeders or platform feeders.

3. Summer Tanager:

The Summer Tanager maintains a year-round presence in North Carolina, with increased visibility between April and October.

Male Summer Tanagers display resplendent scarlet plumage, while the females adopt a yellow hue.

Piranga rubra
Size: 6.7 inches (17 cm)
Weight: 1.1 ounce (30 g)
Breeding primarily in southern and eastern states, these birds subsequently embark on migratory journeys to Central and South America during the winter season.

As forest-dwelling songbirds, Summer Tanagers traverse open woodlands, skillfully capturing and consuming bees and wasps mid-flight. Their unique hunting technique involves striking the captured prey against a branch to eliminate the stinger before consumption.

To attract more Summer Tanagers to your backyard, consider planting berry bushes and fruit trees, which serve as enticing food sources for these vibrant avian creatures.

4. Scarlet Tanager:
Scarlet Tanagers grace the summer landscape of North Carolina, presenting themselves as resplendent red birds.

With their bright scarlet plumage, accented by black wings and tails, male Scarlet Tanagers captivate onlookers. Females, on the other hand, exhibit a yellow coloration with darker wings and tails.

Piranga olivacea
Size: 6.3-6.7 inches (16-17 cm)
Weight: 0.8-1.3 ounces (23-38 g)
Wingspan: 9.8-11.4 inches (25-29 cm)
During the summer months, they breed within the eastern forests before embarking on a migratory journey to South America.

Scarlet Tanagers are often elusive, tending to remain high within the forest canopy. Their presence can be detected by planting an assortment of berry plants such as blackberries, raspberries, huckleberries, juneberries, serviceberries, mulberries, strawberries, and chokeberries.

5. Purple Finch:

Although not as commonly encountered, Purple Finches occasionally make an appearance in North Carolina between October and May.

Purple Finches bear a resemblance to House Finches, boasting reddish-purple heads and breasts, accompanied by a more prominent brown hue on their backs and wings.

Size: 4.7-6.3 inches (12-16 cm)
Weight: 0.6-1.1 ounces (18-32 g)
Wingspan: 8.7-10.2 inches (22-26 cm)
While they breed in Canada, these finches migrate to eastern states for the winter, with a small population remaining year-round in the northeastern and Pacific coastal regions.

Spotting them in evergreen forests is not uncommon, as they primarily feed on seeds but also exhibit a preference for buds, nectar, and berries.

Purple Finches readily visit feeders, particularly when stocked with black oil sunflower seeds.

6. Painted Bunting:

Painted Buntings represent a rarity among the red bird species of North Carolina, yet they can be sighted throughout the year, particularly along the coastal regions during summer.

The male Painted Bunting displays a remarkable patchwork of vibrant colors, predominantly red underneath, with brilliant blue heads, green wings, and backs. Females, on the other hand, exhibit a bright yellow-green plumage.

Passerina ciris
Size: 4.7-5.1 inches (12-13 cm)
Weight: 0.5-0.7 ounces (13-19 g)
Painted Buntings breed within select states in the south-central and coastal regions of the Southeast US before embarking on nocturnal migrations to Central America, southern Florida, and certain Caribbean islands.

These exquisite birds can be found in semi-open habitats, foraging predominantly for seeds and insects during the breeding season.

To entice Painted Buntings to your yard, consider incorporating low, dense vegetation along with feeders filled with white millet or black oil sunflower seeds.

7. Red Crossbill:

Red Crossbills are year-round residents of North Carolina, although they are more commonly observed between June and October in the western part of the state.

Distinguished by their red plumage and darker wings and tails in males, female Red Crossbills display a blend

of yellow and brown hues.

Red Crossbills can be found throughout the year in northern and western states, with their winter presence extending to eastern states. Their feeding habits primarily revolve around conifer seeds, and they often forage in flocks, moving from tree to tree and utilizing their robust beaks to pry open unopened cones. Additionally, they can be spotted along roadsides, where they consume grit in the mornings.

8. Common Redpoll:

The Common Redpoll, although a rarity in North Carolina, has been sighted in specific locations such as the Cherokee National Forest, Pisgah National Forest, and a few others near Winston-Salem.

Distinguished by red foreheads, pinkish breasts, and a combination of brown and white plumage on the rest of their bodies, Common Redpolls are unique additions to the avian diversity.

Acanthis flammea
Size: 4.7-5.5 inches (12-14 cm)
Weight: 0.4-0.7 ounces (11-20 g)
Wingspan: 7.5-8.7 inches (19-22 cm)
They primarily appear during the winter months in northern states, with occasional sightings in central states.

During winter, Common Redpolls exhibit interesting behaviors such as tunneling into snow to find warmth and consuming a substantial amount of seeds daily, sometimes equivalent to 42% of their body mass. They possess a unique ability to store up to 2 grams of seeds in a stretchy part of their esophagus.

These birds can be found in weedy fields or feeding on catkins in trees, and they readily visit feeders when supplied with small seeds like nyjer or thistle.

9. White-winged Crossbill:

Among the rare red birds in North Carolina, the White-winged Crossbill is a noteworthy addition, having been spotted in locations such as Chapel Hill and Stony Hill.

White-winged Crossbills, characterized by their crossed beaks, exhibit red plumage in males with black wings and tails, accompanied by two distinctive white wingbars. Females, on the other hand, display a combination of yellow, brown, and white plumage, also featuring two white wingbars.

Loxia leucoptera
Size: 5.9-6.7 inches (15-17 cm)
Weight: 0.8-0.9 ounces (24-26 g)
Wingspan: 10.2-11.0 inches (26-28 cm)
White-winged Crossbills primarily inhabit forests in Canada and Alaska, venturing into the northern United States when cone crops are scarce. They feed on seeds within spruce forests.

Notably, these birds exhibit unique breeding behavior, as they breed at any time of year as long as food availability is sufficient.

White-winged Crossbills often gather in large flocks, their presence accentuated by distinct vocalizations.

10. Pine Grosbeak:

Pine Grosbeaks represent an exceptionally rare sighting among the red birds of North Carolina, and their occurrence is provisional, according to the North Carolina Bird Records Committee.

These finches display a striking appearance, with males featuring red plumage, gray wings and tail, and two white wingbars. Females, on the other hand, possess gray plumage with dull orange heads and rumps. As large finches, they exhibit relatively slow movement.

Pinicola enucleator
Size: 7.9-9.8 inches (20-25 cm)
Wingspan: 13.0 inches (33 cm)
Pine Grosbeaks predominantly inhabit forests of pine, spruce, and fir. They feed on seeds, fruit, and buds derived from these trees, occasionally incorporating insects

into their diet during the summer season.

While Pine Grosbeaks are predominantly found in Canada, some individuals can be spotted along the United States border, particularly in mountainous regions of the West and the Sierra Nevada in California.

To attract Pine Grosbeaks to your yard, consider providing black oil sunflower seeds or suet feeders, as these offerings are known to pique their interest.

In summary, North Carolina offers a diverse array of red bird species, ranging from the common Northern Cardinal and House Finch to the rarer sightings of Painted Buntings, Red Crossbills, and Pine Grosbeaks. Each species brings its unique beauty and characteristics to the avian tapestry of the state, making birdwatching a captivating endeavor for enthusiasts and nature lovers alike.

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