Virginia is an incredible state to visit in terms of bird watching because it is home to over 400 avian species. Due to Virginia’s rich diversity of habitats, it is considered a haven for a huge variety of bird species.
From coastal species residing along the Atlantic Ocean to grassland species inhabiting Piedmont to species that live in the forests of the Blue Ridge Mountains, there is an opportunity to see birds anywhere! The relatively humid and subtropical climate of Virginia is also very attractive to avian species alike.
- What Type of Birds Can You Find in Virginia?
- Birds of Virginia Identification List
- Native Birds of Virginia
- Songbirds of Virginia
- Backyard Birds of Virginia
- Blue Birds in Virginia
- Large Birds in Virginia
- Birds in Virginia FAQs
What Type of Birds Can You Find in Virginia?
Being home to hundreds of avian species, it is no surprise the birds of Virginia are incredibly diverse. The state hosts virtually all types of birds one can imagine, from large raptors to colorful songbirds to frequent backyard visitors.
This list covers only a handful of the birds of Virginia, but it highlights their diversity. From behavior to diet to morphology, every bird is unique in one way or another.
Birds of Virginia Identification List
The birds listed in this article are divided into subcategories, emphasizing their diversity. Some of the species on this list are small, backyard birds that may commonly be observed at birdfeeders, such as the common redpoll and house sparrow. These species tend to be easily adaptive and can feast on a variety of food as well as frequent a range of habitats.
On the other hand, some species are much more specialized in their behavior. For example, the chimney swift can never land, and only briefly rests when clinging to the inside of chimneys.
Possibly the most obvious differences the species exhibit is their plumages. Whilst some species, such as the American goldfinch and blue jay boast vibrant feathers, others like the Carolina wren are much more subdued. All being residents of Virginia, these birds tend to occupy the whole of the state, within their habitat ranges.
Native Birds of Virginia
Scientific Name: Spinus tristis
During the breeding season, male American goldfinches boast vibrant yellow plumage, with contrasting black wings and a black forehead. Breeding females are olive-yellow and non-breeding individuals have drab brown feathers.
American goldfinches feed almost exclusively on seeds and favor sunflower seeds. They frequent weedy, overgrown habitats that provide plenty of food sources.
The American goldfinch is abundant throughout much of North America. They migrate South over the winter.
Scientific Name: Poecile carolinensis
The Carolina chickadee has a large, spherical head in comparison to its body. They have slate-gray upper parts and are pale underneath. Their white cheeks are contrasted by a black cap and throat.
Being a social species, these birds gather in flocks to forage for insects, making up about 90% of their diet.
Carolina chickadees frequent dense, deciduous woodlands and forests. They have a fairly small range in Northeast America.
Scientific Name: Thryothorus ludovicianus
Carolina wrens have iconic white eyebrows and red-brown plumage with a pale belly. Faint barring adorns their wings and tail.
Fruit and arthropods make up the majority of their diet, which they forage for among vegetation. Their fairly long bill is perfectly adapted for such a diet.
Carolina wrens occupy vegetated habitats including woodlands, overgrown farmland, and bushy suburban yards. They are distributed across Eastern America.
Scientific Name: Dryobates pubescens
Downy woodpeckers are not too dissimilar from hairy woodpeckers. They have white underparts and black and white checked patterns along their wings and back. Males exhibit a bright red crown.
Downy woodpeckers feast on invertebrates that they excavate from tree bark using their long, pointed bill. They supplement their diet with plant matter, suet, and seeds which they obtain from backyard bird feeders.
Open woodland habitats throughout the United States are where these birds can be found. The downy woodpecker is the smallest woodpecker species in North America, averaging around 6 inches in length.
Scientific Name: Haemorhous mexicanus
The House Finch is a species of passerine bird found throughout North America. It is approximately five to seven inches in length, with a short forked tail, and has a variety of colors ranging from reds, browns, and greys depending on the individual’s sex and geographical range.
The House Finch is an omnivorous species that feeds mainly on seeds from plants such as sunflowers and grasses but also eats insects, fruits, and berries. It is typically found in open wooded areas such as parks and gardens near human habitation.
House Finches form strong pair bonds that last for more than one breeding season. They build their nests out of twigs and other materials they find in the environment – often using man-made objects like clotheslines or window sills – with the male gathering materials while the female builds the nest.
A notable characteristic of House Finches is their adaptability to their environments due to their ability to eat a wide variety of foods making them successful colonizers. This has resulted in them becoming one of the most abundant birds in North America today.
Scientific Name: Cardinalis cardinalis
Male northern cardinals boast bright red plumage and a red bill. They have a mask of black feathers over their face. On the other hand, females have grey-brown feathers but still possess a red bill.
Males raise a red crest when they are agitated. These birds live in open woodland habitats and feast mainly on seeds, grains, and fruits. They forage on the ground using their cone-shaped beak.
Northern cardinals are distributed in the Eastern parts of North America. They are also the state bird of Virginia.
Scientific Name: Mimus polyglottos
Northern mockingbirds are grey-brown overall with white patches on their wings. Their belly is pale white.
Being omnivores, these birds feast on insects, plant matter, and even lizards. Mockingbirds are so-called due to their range of vocalizations. They can imitate birds, animals, and even man-made objects.
Northern mockingbirds can be found in suburban habitats across the United States, Canada, and Mexico.
Red Winged Blackbird
Scientific Name: Agelaius phoeniceus
Red-winged blackbirds have black feathers with bright red and yellow patches on their wings. Larger, brighter wing spots are correlated with higher mating success.
Being omnivores, they forage for arthropods and seeds among the shrubbery.
Red-winged blackbirds are ubiquitous across North America and inhabit wetlands, living in both freshwater and saltwater marshes.
Songbirds of Virginia
Scientific Name: Corvus brachyrhynchos
The American crow has black plumage that is slightly iridescent. They also have a black bill and feet.
Crows are a very intelligent species and are able to mimic the alarm calls of a number of other animals and even replicate mechanical sounds, such as car alarms.
They can be found in both rural and urban environments. Crowns feed on almost anything ranging from berries to insects to carrion.
The American crow is distributed throughout Canada and the United States.
Scientific Name: Turdus migratorius
The American robin is so-called due to their distinctive red breast, present in both males and females. The rest of their feathers are a brown-grey color, except the detail which is white.
Fruit and berries make up the bulk of their diet, alongside small invertebrates, for which they forage on the ground.
Various habitats including woodland, farmland, and urban areas are where they reside. They are distributed throughout North and Central America, from Canada to Northern Mexico.
White Breasted Nuthatch
White-breasted nuthatches are grey overall with a white chest and head that is outlined with black feathers.
Nuts make up the bulk of their diet, which they wedge into the tree bark and break open with their sharp bill to “hatch” the seeds out.
White-breasted nuthatches occupy the warmer, mature forests that are scattered across North America.
White Throated Sparrow
Scientific Name: Zonotrichia albicollis
As their name suggests, they have a prominent white patch on their throat which stands out from their gray underside. Their back and wings are brown and adorned with black streaks. They also have black stripes along their head and bright yellow lores.
White-throated sparrows forage in flocks, consuming seeds they find on the ground.
White-throated sparrows frequent densely vegetated forests across Canada and Northeast America.
Backyard Birds of Virginia
Scientific Name: Chaetura pelagica
Chimney swifts plumage is soot-gray in color. They spend most of their life in flight as they are unable to perch and can only cling to vertical walls, like those inside chimneys.
Being arial forages, catch and consume airborne insects. They are common in urban habitats that have an abundance of chimneys.
Chimney swifts migrate from Northeast America to Northern South America for the winter.
Scientific Name: Acanthis flammea
The Common Redpoll is a species of passerine bird found throughout North America. It is approximately four to five inches in length, with a short forked tail, and has a distinct red cap, streaked back and sides, and a white face.
Common Redpolls are insectivorous birds that feed mainly on seeds including birch, dandelion, thistle, and other weeds. They are typically found in open wooded areas such as parks and gardens near human habitation.
Common Redpolls form strong pair bonds that last for more than one breeding season. Their nests are usually built low to the ground in dense shrubs or trees using twigs, grasses, mosses, and fur collected by the male while the female builds the nest structure.
A notable characteristic of Common Redpolls is their adaptability to cold climates due to their thick coats of feathers which enable them to survive even during extreme winter weather conditions. This makes them well-suited for life in North America where they inhabit many regions across the continent.
Males boast eye-catching plumage which is predominantly bright yellow. They have gray heads with yellow eyebrows and bold black and white wings. Females also have black and white wings but are mostly gray in color.
A combination of seeds and invertebrates constitute this bird’s diet. They are mainly ground foragers but can also be observed feeding among shrubs and trees.
Evening grosbeaks favor mature, coniferous forests to breed in, but will also occupy more urban habitats. They are distributed around North America but will venture as far as southern Mexico to breed.
Scientific Name: Passer domesticus
Both sexes are brown and grey, but males are more vibrant and have additional white markings. These monogamous pairs raise their chicks in nests built in cavities. Their eggs are white-green and coated in grey speckles.
House sparrows are a social and gregarious species that feed opportunistically on insects and seeds.
House sparrows are strongly associated with human urbanization and activity, inhabiting many man-made structures. Originating from the Middle East but are now abundant in every continent except Antarctica.
Blue Birds in Virginia
Scientific Name: Cyanocitta cristata
Blue jays have a light purple-blue plumage with a white face and belly. Black stripes adorn the wings and tail.
Nuts comprise a huge part of their diet, which they crack open using their strong, conical beak. They also glean insects and consume fruits, seeds, and eggs.
The blue jay favors woodland edge habitats and is distributed from Southern Canada to Northern America.
Scientific Name: Sialia sialis
Females have a subdued orange breast with a gray-blue head, back, wings and tail. Males are much more vibrant, boasting vibrant blue plumage with rusty-orange breasts.
Eastern bluebirds consume mainly insects but also berries that they forage for on the ground.
They live in open habitats, nesting in boxes or tree holes excavated by previous birds. They are distributed across North and South America.
Scientific Name: Passerina cyanea
Exhibiting sexual dimorphism, males boast bright blue plumage with dark brown wings and tail tips. Females on the other hand are brown with a paler chest and belly.
Indigo buntings are foliage gleaners, foraging for seeds and insects to consume in low vegetation.
Brushy and weedy areas constitute this bird’s habitat and they are distributed across Eastern North America.
Females have dull gray-blue feathers. Their belly is pale and dabbled with dark streaks. Males on the other hand have a dark, iridescent purple-blue plumage.
Being insectivores, these birds feast on arthropods that they catch whilst in the air. They inhabit open areas such as parks and fields, that are located near streams, lakes, or ponds.
Purple martins breed across Eastern North America and migrate further south over the winter months.
Males are blue-green on their head and back and they have black flight feathers. Their neck and belly is white. Females on the other hand have a duller brown plumage.
Insects and arthropods make up the majority of their diet, which they catch from the air. Such insects include bees, dragonflies, moths, and spiders.
Tree swallows reside in open habitats situated near bodies of water, including marshes and swamps. Wetlands provide a plethora of flying insects for them to consume.
Tree swallows are distributed throughout North America and migrate further South to winter.
Scientific Name: Hirundo rustica
Barn swallows have a cobalt blue back, wings, and tail, which contrast with their rusty orange face, chest, and belly. These colors are more vibrant in males than in females.
They are aerial foragers, catching insects from the ground or the surface of the water as they hover above them.
Barn swallows are highly adaptable and can thrive in both rural meadows and urban barns. They migrate long distances from North America to the South.
Large Birds in Virginia
Scientific Name: Pandion haliaetus
The Osprey is a fish-eating bird found throughout North America. It is approximately 20 to 25 inches in length, with a long wingspan and a distinctive white head, and a dark brown back.
Ospreys are carnivorous birds that feed mainly on live fish which they catch by diving into the water feet first. They prefer shallow lakes, rivers, estuaries, and marine coasts for their habitat and can be spotted perched atop tall trees or stones near these bodies of water.
Ospreys form strong pair bonds that last for more than one breeding season. They build their nests out of sticks, typically high up in dead trees or on man-made structures like power poles or towers. The male gathers material from the immediate area while the female builds the nest structure.
A notable characteristic of Ospreys is their adaptability to different habitats due to their ability to migrate up to several thousand miles when needed. This makes them well-suited for life in North America where they inhabit many regions across the continent including coastal regions, waterways, and even cities.
Great Horned Owl
Scientific Name: Bubo virginianus
The great horned owl gets its name from the long horn-like ear tufts it possesses. These large birds have mottled brown plumage though their face can range from gray to brown in color. Their large, yellow eyes are framed by their bushy V-shaped eyebrows.
As a bird of prey species, the great horned owl has a diverse, carnivorous diet. Their prey ranges from small rodents to other birds, some of which may be larger than themselves.
Great horned owls favor large forests, though also frequent suburban areas, wetlands, and open habitats. They are distributed across North, South, and Central America.
Sandhill crane’s bulky body is brown, and its neck is slate gray. Their forehead is a distinct bright red, and their legs and bill are long and dark gray. During the flight, they keep their long necks extended.
These birds follow a mainly herbivorous diet, feasting on berries, seeds, and other plant matter in vegetated wetlands. Occasionally, they will consume insects, mollusks, and amphibians.
Sandhill cranes use their long necks to forage in the ground of shallow waters. These birds are distributed throughout America.
American White Pelican
Scientific Name: Pelecanus erythrorhynchos
The American white pelican has almost completely white plumage, aside from the tips of its wings which are black. Their legs, webbed feet, and large bill are yellow-orange in color.
When the breeding season hits, a bulbous projection will form at the top of the upper mandible. The pelican is an aquatic species and spends the majority of its time swimming in the water, hunting for small fish to feast on.
American white pelicans forage in groups. Using their skin pouch, they are able to take large gulps of water which is then screened out, leaving the fish in their bill ready to be swallowed. They can be found across North, Central, and South America.
Birds in Virginia FAQs
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