woman and child birdwatching

What Are The Most Common Backyard Birds in Illinois

Birdwatching in Illinois is definitely a delightful experience to anyone who lives in the area or happens to be visiting. There are several species of birds that can be found in and around the state of Illinois.

It is a bit tricky to determine which birds you’ll want to watch, but there are some guidelines that can help you out. Whether you decide to go out for a birding trip, or stick to the comforts of your own home, there’s something that you will find interesting.

The best thing about birdwatching in Illinois are the different varieties that can be found here. All you need to do is to set up your very own private viewing area in your backyard or garden, and simply wait for the birds to come out and join you for a lovely time. 

Most Common Backyard Birds in Illinois

Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinal
Image by Jack Bulmer from Pixabay

The Northern Cardinal is a beautiful, yet quite elusive bird among North American songbirds. It is most easily identified, however, by its beautiful red plumage and black face mask. This beautiful bird is regularly found in all three of the following regions of North America: from central Minnesota southward through eastern Colorado, Iowa, and Texas, to central Louisiana.

The average lifespan of this beautiful bird is around nine years. On extremely rare occasions, the bird may be found outside these boundaries, usually in sagebrush thickets or along the edges of large mountains. The typical diet of this bird consists of small seeds and insects, with an emphasis on seeds rather than vegetation. 

  • Frequency: 49.13%
  • Color: Mostly red with a black mask on the face, short pink bill
  • Habitat:  woodlands, gardens, parks, backyards, and wetlands
  • Range: USA, Canada, Mexico
  • Size: 8.2 – 9.3″ inches
  • Weight: 33 – 65 grams
  • Diet: Fruits, berries, and insects (grasshoppers, beetles, snails, cicadas)
  • Family: Cardinalidae
  • Genus: Cardinalis

Related Posts: 

American Robin

American Robin
Image by lorifbutler from Pixabay

The American Robin is a common migratory songbird of the broad thrush family. During the wintertime, the American robins migrate southward to Mexico and the Caribbean, to breed and mate in these warmer climates.

During the summer months they follow the migration paths of migrating birds of prey, taking advantage of large birds of prey in the area. They can also be found at the landfills and abandoned areas around the southern states and on the west coast. Their presence in urbanized areas has increased over the past twenty years or so.

  • Frequency: 48.74%
  • Color: Mostly brown on the back with an orange colored breast
  • Habitat: Wooded areas, backyards, parks, fields
  • Range: USA, Canada, Mexico
  • Size: 12 – 16″ inches
  • Weight: 72 – 95 grams
  • Diet: Fruits, berries and insects (earthworms, beetles, caterpillars)
  • Family: Turdidae
  • Genus: Turdus

Related Post: Interesting American Robin Fun Facts

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch
Image by Miles Moody from Pixabay

The American goldfinch is a beautiful little North American bird from the finch family. It is extremely migratory, generally going between mid-Texas to North Carolina in the fall, and back south of the Canada Border until the spring migration season. During the summer and autumn months it is mostly found in large numbers along the coast. 

These spectacular birds have been a part of American history since the days of early settlement in the south. They are very colorful, happy birds, known for their high-pitched chirps and their unique dancing and song. While the American goldfinches are a popular addition to many bird houses, especially those in urban regions, they prefer a more open habitat.

  • Frequency: 37.33%
  • Color: Face, neck, and underside are yellow, black wings with white bars
  • Habitat: Deciduous forests and thickets, roadside, grasslands, backyards, meadows
  • Range:  Canada, USA and Mexico
  • Size: 4.3 – 5.5″ inches length
  • Weight: 12 -18 grams
  • Diet:  Grass, dandelions, chickweed, sunflowers and ragweed, thistle, red alder, birch, spruce seeds
  • Family: Carduelinae
  • Genus: Spinus

Related Post: American Goldfinch Interesting Facts

Red-winged Blackbird

Red-winged Blackbird
Image by JudaM from Pixabay

The most common areas for the red-winged blackbird to be found in are along the coast from southern Oregon and California all the way to Texas. The bird is a migrator, taking off across the continent in flocks in winter, and returning north each year to nest.

In southern California and northern Mexico the birds also take refuge in burrows and cliffs along coastal and inland coasts. Homing within the nesting area, the birds fly southward in early spring, returning again in late summer. There is no evidence that they ever make forays into the western United States.​​​​​​​

  • Frequency: 36.54%
  • Color: All black with red patches on shoulder and a yellow wing bar
  • Habitat: Deciduous forests, conifers, roadside, rivers, backyards, parks
  • Range: North America, Central America
  • Size: 6.7 – 7.1″ inches length
  • Weight: 41.5 – 65 grams
  • Diet:  Seeds and insects (butterflies, dragonflies, moths, frogs, worms, spider, snails, carrion, flies.)
  • Family: Icteridae
  • Genus: Agelaius

Mourning Dove

Mourning Dove
Image by Jack Bulmer from Pixabay

The mournful doves are a beautiful member of the avian family, Columbidae. The bird itself is referred to as the mourning Dove, the American mourning Dove, and more colloquially as just the “dove” and sometimes as the turtle do Dove. It’s one of our nation’s favorite songbirds, and It is also one of our nation’s most prevalent and widespread of all North American birds. 

Like most songbirds, it preys mostly on insects, especially mosquitoes. In this regard, it is considered an “arid” species. Like most songbirds, it is particularly at home around flowers and other greenery in early spring and early summer when these types of pollinators are active. Like most other songbirds, it builds a nest near a flowerbed, on a leaflet tree, or on a fence post.

  • Frequency: 34.46%
  • Color: Light gray-brown and lighter and pinkish below. The wings have black spots.
  • Habitat: Open habitats, urban areas, farms, prairie, grassland, wooded area
  • Range:  USA, Canada, Mexico, Central America, Greater Antilles
  • Size: 12″ inches length
  • Weight: 112 – 170 grams
  • Diet:  Rapeseed, corn, millet, safflower, sunflower seeds, pokeberry, sesame, and wheat.
  • Family: Columbidae
  • Genus: Zenaida

Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker
Image by Naturelady from Pixabay

Downy Woodpeckers is among the most charming and enjoyable bird species to encounter, both as a source of entertainment and as a great study topic for bird watchers. The Downy Woodpecker is among North America’s favorite bird, a favorite of families who have a passion for birds and nature. The Downy Woodpecker often visits bird feeders, including birdhouses, when food is scarce.

It will also hang around in the woods, or in areas near parks where there are large flocks of seed-eating birds. Although the Downy Woodpecker has a social life, it is not particularly socialized with other birds. They prefer to nest in large tree areas where they are exposed to a variety of bird species and get to feed on a regular basis. 

  • Frequency: 33.40%
  • Color: Black with a white throat, belly, and back. White spots on wings
  • Habitat: Deciduous forests and thickets, roadside, grasslands, backyards, parks
  • Range:  Canada, USA, and Mexico
  • Size: 5.5 – 7.1″ inches in length
  • Weight: 20 – 33 grams
  • Diet:  Mostly insects and beetles and ants, also gall wasps, caterpillars
  • Family: Picadae
  • Genus: Dryobates

European Starling

European Starling
Image by Jacques GAIMARD from Pixabay

The common European starling,  common starling in the British Isles is a medium-sized passerine bird. It is around 20 cm long and in some areas of its distribution has silver gray metallic feathers as well as metallic red coloring on its head, neck, and breast. European Starlings have small appetites but are a regular visitor to bird feeders, where they delight in eating seeds, and suet. 

In the wild, the European starlings are somewhat secretive about their colors due to the fact that they prefer to hide in swamps and in tree canopies where they feed on small animals and bugs. Breeding occurs during the winter months from December to March with the number of males generally increasing from January through February. 

  • Frequency: 33.24%
  • Color:  Black with glossy iridescence plumage.
  • Habitat: Forests, woodlands, backyards, edges, yards, and parks.
  • Range: North America, Europe, Africa, India, Middle East, China.
  • Size: 7 – 9″ inches long
  • Weight: 60 – 100 grams
  • Diet:  Insects (ants, beetles, invertebrates), fruits, seeds, berries
  • Family: Sturnidae
  • Genus: Sturnus

House Sparrow

The house sparrow is quite a unique bird-family, a member of which is known as the common house sparrow, a member of which is found in all parts of North America. It’s a tiny, probably not more than a feather weight, small bird with a regular size of just 16 cm long and a weight of only 24 grams. 

House sparrows eat almost everything; nearly all their diet is made up of berries, seeds, and insects. Their beaks are strong and wide, helping them to grasp and lift their food. 

  • Frequency: 32.79%
  • Color:  Gray head marking, a reddish-brown back, and gray underparts
  • Habitat: Urban centers, suburban areas, backyards, edges, yards, and parks
  • Range: North America, Central America, South America, Africa, Australia, New Zealand
  • Size: 5.5 – 7.1″ inches in length
  • Weight: 25 – 39 grams
  • Diet:  Insects, beetles, caterpillars, aphids,, grasshoppers, crustaceans, earthworms, vertebrates
  • Family: Passeridea
  • Genus: Passer

Related Post: How to Attract Sparrows to your Backyard

Blue Jay

Blue Jay
Image by GeorgeB2 from Pixabay

The blue jay is an uncommon passerine bird among the family Corvidae, native to central and eastern North America. It is widespread in all the eastern and western U.S., except for a small area along the south-eastern edge of Minnesota and Iowa and on the west side of the Mississippi River in southern Ohio. It is common in many parts of the eastern states and in the upper Midwest and lower Great Lakes regions.

Rare sightings have been reported in mountainous areas west of the Mississippi River in central and southwestern Ohio, and southern Indiana and Illinois. The blue jay generally nests on dry ground, but some species are usually found in fields or marshes. They build nest sites near trees and other structures such as houses, poles, and tall shrubs. The birds also build secondary nests near roads, railroad tracks, and abandoned mines.

  • Frequency: 32.18%
  • Color: Blue crest on the head, wings, back, and tail, and has a white face and belly
  • Habitat: Deciduous and mixed forests, mixed woodlands, backyards, parks
  • Range: Southern Canada,  Eastern and Central United States, Florida and Texas
  • Size: 8 – 12″ inches
  • Weight: 70 – 100 grams
  • Diet:  Nuts, seeds, caterpillars, grasshoppers, and beetles
  • Family: Corvidae
  • Genus: Cyanocitta

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Black-capped Chickadee

The black-capped chickadee,  is an extremely common, small,  North American songbird that lives primarily in mixed and deciduous woods in states like Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, Ohio, and Massachusetts in the United States. It’s the state bird of Massachusetts, and the national bird of New Brunswick in Canada.

They consume,  berries, blueberries, black currants, wheat, corn, safflower, peanuts, almonds, grapes. Some species even consume flowers, and seeds, as well as other insects, but these birds are omnivores and will eat nearly all types of plant material that is available to them.​​​​​​​

  • Frequency: 31.94%
  • Color: Black-cap, white on face, white/reddish-brown flanks
  • Habitat: Deciduous and mixed forests, backyards, parks
  • Range: USA and Canada
  • Size: 11.5 -16 cm length
  • Weight: 8 – 15 grams
  • Diet:  Insects, seeds, berries
  • Family: Paridae
  • Genus: Poecile

Related Post: How Do I Attract Chickadees To My Yard?

American Crow

The American Crow is a mid-sized passerine birds of the genus Corvus (lining both sides of the Pacific Ocean). It is by far a common, popular bird found across much of North America. They favor shrubs and brushlands over open fields and deciduous forests. This species generally feed on a variety of small young birds, and insects.​​​​​​​

This is a great species for bird watchers. It is very adaptable and able to live in a variety of different areas. The young crows that leave the nest at the beginning of the nesting season can fly south through the fall and northern states to northern Mexico, where they mate and give birth to more crows. 

  • Frequency: 29.11%
  • Color: Black
  • Habitat: Open country, farms, parks, woodlands, towns, cities
  • Range: Canada, USA, Mexico
  • Size: 16 – 21″ inches
  • Weight: 315 -620 grams
  • Diet: Invertebrates, carrion, seeds, eggs fish, grains, mice, frogs, and other small animals. 
  • Family: Corvidae
  • Genus: Corvis

Song Sparrow

Song Sparrow
Image by u_z4q28nbq from Pixabay

The song sparrow is an extremely common medium-sized New World sparrow. In fact it forms the greatest part of the population of the greater New York state bird population as well as the Eastern United States. It is by far the most popular among all types of birds. In relation to other songbirds the song sparrow has a rather limited habit of eating both seeds and nectar but will feed almost exclusively on insects. ​​​​​​​

One of the biggest problems with song sparrows is that once they have established themselves as a local bird population they are nearly impossible to completely get rid of because of their persistent calling. These calls are made by either the male song sparrow or the female song sparrow, which both have very distinctive and unique calls. ​​​​​​​

  • Frequency: 27.53%
  • Color: Gray head, white cheek, a black bib, rufous neck
  • Habitat: Urban centers, farms, backyards, edges, yards, and parks
  • Range:  Europe, Mediterranean, Asia, Australasia, Africa, and the Americas
  • Size: 5.5 – 7.0″ inches
  • Weight: 25 – 40 grams
  • Diet:  Grains, seeds, and insects
  • Family: Passeridae
  • Genus: Passer

Related Post: How to Attract Sparrows to your Backyard

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker
Image by Scottslm from Pixabay

The red-bellied woodpecker,  is a common medium-sized woodpecker of the family Picidae, of which it is one of six species in the genus Melanerpes. It breeds mostly in the southern parts of the United States, ranging from central Texas to northern Michigan and as far east as Ontario, Canada. ​​​​​​​

This bird likes to eat a variety of foods and is a lover of insects, especially cockroaches, moths, and beetles. They also are drawn to garbage; they will follow any trail that may lead them there. You can find the red-bellied woodpeckers in all areas of the north and mid-western United States and also in Central America, especially in Mexico.

  • Frequency: 27.53%
  • Color: Gray on body and face and underparts. Black and white pattern on wings, back, and tail.
  • Habitat: Forests, backyards
  • Range: Southern Canada,  Eastern United States, Florida 
  • Size: 9 – 10.6″ inches long
  • Weight: 56 -91 grams
  • Diet:  Insects, tree frogs, eggs of small birds, oozing sap, and small fish.
  • Family: Picidae
  • Genus: Melanerpes

White-breasted Nuthatch

White-breasted Nuthatch
Image by RusticPix .com from Pixabay

The white-breasted nuthatch, a beautiful songbird and is a common visitor to bird feeders throughout much of the United States and Canada. The White-breasted Nuthatch lives throughout much of North America, except for a brief period in March and May when it migrates south through Mexico and Arizona.

This is because this species only return north in summer, traveling up the eastern slope of Mexico and dropping down into the western part of the United States before making a return trip down the east coast again in July.

  • Frequency: 23.09%
  • Color: Has a white face, flanks, and chest. It has a black cap on its head a bluish-gray upper and a brown belly
  • Habitat: Deciduous forests, conifers, roadside, rivers, backyards, parks
  • Range: Southern Canada, USA
  • Size: 5.9″ inches
  • Weight: 20 grams
  • Diet:  Acorn nuts, hickory nuts, ants, caterpillars, scale insects, pine weevils
  • Family: Sittidae
  • Genus: Sitta

Related Post: How to Attract Nuthatches to your Backyard

Common Grackle

Common Grackle
Image by GeorgiaLens from Pixabay

The common grackle is an ancient deciduous tree found throughout much of North America, from the Great Plains to the Pacific Northwest. First identified in 17 1958 by Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus, the common grackle has various subspecies. Grackle are not known to live in the Evergreen forests of the upper Midwest or in the southern parts of the South.

In the late spring and early summer the common grackle sings for the winter birds. They return to their nests again in late fall and early winter to nest until the next spring. 

  • Frequency: 22.55%
  • Color: Black overall with a blue,  and purple iridescence. Its body plumage is a shimmering copper color.
  • Habitat: Woodlands, marshes, meadows, parks, backyards, and fields
  • Range: East of the Canadian Rockies, Canada and the United States
  • Size: 11 – 13″ inches length
  • Weight: 75 – 143 grams
  • Diet: minnows, eggs, berries, seeds, grain, insects, frogs, mice
  • Family:  Icteridae
  • Genus:  Quiscalus

House Finch

House Finch
Image by GeorgiaLens from Pixabay

The House Finch is a beautiful and interesting bird, which is both an attractant and predator of small insects. It has a highly diverse diet that includes various types of grains, berries, seeds and insects, along with the smaller birds it feeds on. House Finch nests are generally located in trees high up in the branches of large trees or out in open areas where the ground is warm and dry.

They nest near food and water and during nesting period, and are adept at building elaborate nests, often using fine twigs and leaves to construct their nests. These nests can be quite elaborate and consist of several floors, numerous platforms, hanging vines, grass blades and even tree stumps. 

  • Frequency: 20.50%
  • Color:  Reddish face and upper breast, brown streaks on back, belly, and tail.
  • Habitat: Urban and suburban areas, backyards, edges, yards, and parks
  • Range: Canada, USA, Mexico
  • Size: 5 – 6″ inches
  • Weight: 16 – 27 grams
  • Diet:  Aphids, grains, seeds, berries, nettle, dandelion, sunflower
  • Family: Fringillidae
  • Genus: Haemorhous

Related Post: How to Attract House Finch to Your Yard?

Dark-eyed Junco

Dark-eyed Junco
Image by Daniel Roberts from Pixabay

The dark-eyed junco is an uncommon species of junco, a group of very small, grayish New World sparrows. This bird is extremely common throughout much of northern temperate North America and even into the arctic. During the breeding seasons for these birds, which occur from March through November, they are especially prolific. 

In order to spot this bird nest, you need to be on the lookout for nuthatches, woodpeckers, robins, woodworms, and starlings. This is because the Dark-eyed juncos are generally quite aggressive and will frequently attempt to take over a nearby bird nest if there is one available. They also have a penchant for eating large amounts of insects, especially mosquitoes larva.

  • Frequency: 20.50%
  • Color:  Gray head, neck, breast, gray/brown backs and wings, white underside
  • Habitat: Wooded areas, forest edges, roadsides, gardens, parks.
  • Range: USA and Canada
  • Size: 5.1 – 6.9″ inches
  • Weight: 18 – 30 grams
  • Diet:  Seeds, insects, and arthropods
  • Family: Passeriformes
  • Genus: Junco

Northern Flicker

Northern Flicker
Image by radesigns from Pixabay

The Northern Flicker or rather common flickers is a medium-sized wild bird of the woodpecker family. It’s originally from all parts of North America, as well as Central America, Cuba, the Cayman Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. These birds are very social birds that spend a lot of time together, roosting in large flocks.

They also travel long distances in search of food and nesting sites. Flickers prefer open areas with low branches and bush cover where they can forage. Other types of woodpeckers are known to avoid open spaces and tend to forage in dense forests where they can find many insect species.

  • Frequency: 18.36%
  • Color: Light brown with black bars across back, chest, wings, belly
  • Habitat: Forests, woodlands, backyards, edges, yards, and parks
  • Range: North America, Central America, Cuba, Cayman Islands
  • Size: 10 – 14″ inches
  • Weight: 85 – 165 grams
  • Diet:  Insects (ants, beetles, invertebrates), fruits, seeds, berries
  • Family: Picadae
  • Genus: Colaptes

Brown-headed Cowbird

The Brown-headed Cowbird, is a small obligate brood parasite indigenous to cold and sub-tropical North America. They are very common winter visitors to the wilds, nesting on trees in late winter before taking their flight south for the winter. They return north again in the spring to northern areas, where they overwinter and mate for the following year.

They have strong, semi-blind, and semi-dormant flight systems, making them very elusive. They are only found in the southwestern part of the States in southern Canada and the northern half of Mexico. They may be found in various North American habitats including roadways, trails, parks, forests, and gardens.

  • Frequency: 16.90%
  • Color: Iridescent black plumage and has a brown head
  • Habitat: Forest edges, backyards, parks, suburban bird feeders
  • Size: 6.3 – 8.7″ inches in length
  • Weight: 30 – 60 grams
  • Diet:  Seeds and insects (grasshoppers, beetles, spiders)
  • Family:  Icteridae
  • Genus: Mater

Gray Catbird

Gray Catbird
Image by Deb Nyman from Pixabay

The Gray Catbird,  is a medium-sized perching bird seen in North America and Central America. During the winter they migrate up to Canada and the northern United States to mate. In spring they return to their native areas and in the summer they follow a migration path that is largely dependent on the weather. Gray Catbirds is solitary birds that don’t usually make any territorial behavior patterns known.

They do, however, spend some time together during their annual migration. Home range expansion was observed by most birders but these secluded little birds seem to get along with each other quite well and have even been known to share houses and nesting areas with other small birds of the same species.

  • Frequency: 14.86%
  • Color: Mainly Gray with black on tail and head, white accents on the body
  • Habitat: Woodlands, marshes, meadows
  • Range: East of the Canadian Rockies, Canada, USA,  Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean
  • Size: 8 – 9.5″ inches
  • Weight: 23 – 57 grams
  • Diet: Fruits, berries, earthworms, beetles, bugs, ants caterpillars, grasshoppers, moths.
  • Family:  Mimidae
  • Genus:  Dumatella

The backyard birds listed below are all under 15% Frequency

  • Barn Swallow – 14.82% Frequency
  • Tree Swallow 13.35%
  • Common Yellowthroat 13.12%
  • House Wren 12.69%
  • White-throated Sparrow 12.63%
  • Indigo Bunting 11.68%
  • Chimney Swift 11.66%
  • Rock Pigeon 11.38%
  • Cedar Waxwing 10.76%
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler 10.62%
  • Chipping Sparrow 10.09%
  • Hairy Woodpecker 9.86%
  • Eastern Bluebird 9.86%
  • Eastern Phoebe 9.69%
  • Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 9.58%
  • Tufted Titmouse 9.53%
  • Baltimore Oriole 9.17%
  • Field Sparrow 9.04%
  • Eastern Wood-Pewee 9.00%
  • Carolina Wren 8.68%
  • Eastern Towhee 8.13%
  • American Tree Sparrow 7.85%
  • Eastern Meadowlark 7.75%
  • Eastern Kingbird 7.38%
  • Warbling Vireo 7.35%
  • Yellow Warbler 7.29%
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet 7.09%
  • American Coot 6.91%
  • Red-eyed Vireo 6.77%
  • Swamp Sparrow 6.55%
  • Ruby-throated Hummingbird 6.52%
  • Northern Rough-winged Swallow 6.40%
  • Palm Warbler 6.26%
  • White-crowned Sparrow 6.19%
  • Brown Thrasher 6.12%
  • Belted Kingfisher 6.12%
  • Rose-breasted Grosbeak 6.07%
  • American Redstart 5.95%
  • Great Crested Flycatcher 5.60%
  • Red-headed Woodpecker 5.19%