Last Updated: June 13, 2022
The famous blood-red plumaged Northern Cardinal is the state bird of Kentucky. What other beautiful birds of Kentucky are there?
You're in luck because that's exactly what we'll be going over today! In this article, we'll talk about 28 majestic species and everything you need to know about them.
Shall we get started?
- Kentucky Bird Species Count
- 1. American Robin (Turdus migratorius)
- 2. Dark-Eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis)
- 3. American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)
- 4. Eastern Towhee (Pipilo erythrophthalmus)
- 5. American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)
- 6. European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)
- 7. Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata)
- 8. Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus)
- 9. Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)
- 10. Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)
- 11. Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)
- 12. Carolina Chickadee (Poecile carolinensis)
- 13. Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula)
- 14. Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens)
- 15. Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)
- 16. Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor)
- 17. Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos)
- 18. Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus)
- 19. House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus)
- 20. Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)
- 21. Indigo Bunting (Passerina cyanea)
- 22. White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis)
- 23. Ruby-Throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris)
- 24. Brown Thrasher (Toxostoma rufum)
- 25. Brown-Headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater)
- 26. Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)
- 27. Chipping Sparrow (Spizella passerina)
- 28. White-Throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis)
- Identifying Birds In Kentucky
- Watch This!
- Frequently Asked Questions
Kentucky Bird Species Count
Let's start off with what the state of Kentucky has in store for us birders.
There are about 350 common backyard birds reported in the state, which only means you'll barely run out of new birds to see!
However, there are only around 150 species that breed in Kentucky. The remaining 200 species are only seasonal residents and migratory birds, but that doesn't mean you won't spot them considering how populated the state is.
28 Species Out Of The Many Beautiful Backyard Birds Of Kentucky
1. American Robin (Turdus migratorius)
The first of the many birds in Kentucky that we'll be looking into is the American Robin. They have a dark head and back and are commonly distinguished through their red-orange breasts.
You can usually spot an American Robin perching and nesting on trees once the spring and summer season comes and temperatures begin to rise. They have adapted to numerous environments from forests to fields, parks, or lowlands.
You may also spot them in grassy areas and backyards feeding on earthworms (their favorite!)
To attract Robins, you can prepare a mixture of worms, insects, and tiny snails for them. They also eat fruits, sunflower seeds, suet, and peanuts.
Fun Fact: American Robins are astonishing passerine birds, they are the last ones you'll hear singing when the sun sets!
2. Dark-Eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis)
Dark-Eyed Juncos can easily be identified through the dark gray plumage on their heads that fade down to their bottoms. They have a light pink beak and a grayish-white belly.
These birds are very common in forests and wooded areas, it is their favorite place to stay, breed, and forage for food. They are backyard birds and can easily be attracted to a common bird feeder. But don't be surprised when you see them eating the fallen seeds on the ground instead, that seems to be what they like most!
One of the cutest moments of spotting a Junco is watching them hopping on the ground for long periods of time.
(Not so) Fun Fact: The Dark-Eyed Junco species can only be spotted in Kentucky during the late fall and winter seasons.
3. American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)
The American Goldfinch species are very important to the environment as they consume a large number of weed seeds. These birds whose males are color yellow or black during spring and females are of a darker brown are found in the state throughout the year.
Some breeders that reside in North America migrate to southern US countries during winter.
They're commonly found in grassy areas and overgrown areas where they look for sunflowers, thistles, or asters bushes. Often they are located within suburban areas, parks, and backyards.
Fun Fact: American Goldfinches are the easiest to attract with the use of black oil sunflower seeds!
4. Eastern Towhee (Pipilo erythrophthalmus)
The Eastern Towhee species is a year-round resident of the state. Both sexes of this species share the same pattern of plumage, a dark gray head and back whose wings have white spots and sides are painted orange right next to their white bellies.
They favor insects, seeds, and berries, and often spend their time foraging for them through leaf litter, vegetation, and forests.
They don't really eat on bird feeders, but they sure do love to hop and play around them! So it isn't really such a bad idea to put one up.
Fun Fact: The Eastern Towhee's beautiful song is very familiar and common to the residents of Kentucky during spring and summer.
5. American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)
The American Crow is the largest of all blackbirds and is commonly known for its hysterical shrieking sound. They reside in most areas of the lower 48 and the Pacific Coast in the Canadian and Alaskan regions. Breeders from Northwestern Canada migrate south during the winter season. These birds live in almost any habitat including forests, trees, pastures, beaches, and towns.
They consume almost everything, and often eat food from the ground, eating a wide variety of foods including insects, seeds, and fruits. They eat sand & water fish, juvenile turtles, and mollusks and will even eat a number of species of hen and nestlings.
Fun Fact: During winter, Crows gather in large groups to sleep together in quiet areas, how cute!
6. European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)
The European starling species were never formerly native to Kentucky, however, they are now a surprisingly widespread songbird that can be found almost everywhere in the state.
These blackbirds have iridescent purple green or blue streaks over their black plumage. They look just like the night sky when it is full of stars.
European Starlings are found in the United States except in Canada and Alaska.
Several people regard them as pests and an invasive species because they are impulsive. They are known to fly in large flocks polluting areas with noise. They can be commonly seen perched on either huge tree barks or many branches with their group of species or flying over cultivated grounds. There are ways to get rid of starlings, though, but we'll discuss this in another article.
European Starlings mostly eat insects like such as spiders, flies, and larvae. They also eat fruits like cherries, holly berries, and mulberries.
Fun Fact: During fall, a European Starling will grow new white outer tail feathers.
7. Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata)
A common songbird, the Blue Jays have an upright blue head and back, blue-gray shoulders, and a blue and black wing underside. Blue Jays are confined to the eastern US and southern Canada during the summer months. Occasionally, these birds migrate west to winter, but not rarely.
They are known to be noisy birds that love to eat acorn seeds whenever they get the chance. Blue Jays eat both insects, seeds, and grains.
They prefer flying into the air, picking up peanut seeds, and taking the seeds into hidden areas for storage. These species can be found on the trees, mostly around oaks. They may also reside outside houses with feeders and birdbaths that are nearby.
(Scary) Fun Fact: A female Blue Jay may occasionally eat the eggs that they have laid on their nests.
8. Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus)
The Red-bellied woodpecker species surprisingly have a white or yellowish belly instead of red as their name suggests. They have a red cap and a black and white patterned pair of wings.
These birds are often confused with red-headed woodpeckers. Their differences are that a red-bellied woodpecker would be smaller and they don't have a black cap.
These birds are common in Kentucky, but unlike other birds, they do not migrate to other states. Red-bellied woodpeckers love insects, anthropods, grass, fruits, nuts, and of course, they eat seeds most of the time.
Fun Fact: Birds of these species often nest on fallen trees and would occasionally EAT their nests.
9. Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)
Song sparrows are common birds that may not be as striking as others, but they do have a very famous and constant song that attracts their mate at the end of summer and spring. Their plumage consists of a sprinkle of light grey, chocolate brown, and black.
These birds live all year around North America; during breeding season Song sparrows in Canada move North during winter. They often live in open shrubbery, and wet places and are commonly found sitting on the bottom of the bushes singing.
The diet of Song Sparrows mainly consists of arthropods and insects.
Fun Fact: The song sparrow species go crazy over millet seeds so make sure to fill your bird feeders!
10. Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)
Let's not forget about the beautiful state bird of Kentucky! The Northern Cardinal species are famous for their striking red plumage and black mask, not to mention their large red beaks. Both males and females have these attributes, but females tend to have a lighter fading plumage.
Northern Cardinals are found in dense vegetation grazing for seeds, fruits, and live insects.
Fun Fact: Northern Cardinals may often attack their reflection during breeding seasons while they are constantly fighting for territory. You can also find this bird in Nebraska where they flock in numbers.
11. Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)
The very populous Mourning dove is an elegant small bird with a round body and extremely long tail. Their wings are covered in soft brown plumage with dark brown spots.
The mourning dove species is widespread all through the lower 48 and migrates during the breeding season from the northwest of North America and south of Canada. They are one of the most common birds in the U.S.A.
Mourning Doves love grazing on telephone wires and searching for seeds in grassy fields. These birds may also appear in open spaces of woodlands.
Fun Fact: Mourning Doves aren't big fans of hanging feeders. They love millet seeds more when they are scattered or are on ground feeders.
12. Carolina Chickadee (Poecile carolinensis)
The Carolina Chickadee is a small bird characterized by its black wings and cap, grayish-brown belly, and very visible white line over its face. They are visually similar to Chickadee Blackcaps and are interbred (they overlap with one another).
Chickadees live in forests in Eastern and Southeast U.S. states every winter.
You can bring Carolina Chickadees to your backyard feeders by offering sunflower, nyjer, suet, and peanuts.
Fun Fact: The oldest Carolina Chickadee died at an age of 10 years and 11 months.
13. Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula)
The Common Grackle species are the tallest among blackbirds. They are found throughout the year on southeastern state farms. Breeders from Canada and the Midwest then move south during winter.
They are commonly fed various crops and mostly corn, but are most of the time not welcomed by residents as they tend to be nuisances. Common Grackles gather in noise groups and stay on treetops. They are also found eating rubbish and spreading garbage around streets and backyards.
It has varied habitat which consists of open forests, marshlands, parkland, and fields.
Fun Fact: They may gather in thousands during winter to roost together with other blackbird varieties.
14. Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens)
Downy Woodpeckers are small winter birds commonly found in backyard feeders. They are frequently grouped together with birds of other species like the chickadee or nuthatches.
They have a white belly, black wings, and white spots. Their face consists of a black patch and a red cap. They're the same size as hairy woodpeckers, but smaller. Unlike other birds in this article, Downy woodpeckers are nocturnal in nature and mainly eat insects and larvae beetles.
To attract birds like the Downy woodpecker to your backyard, you would need to reside near rivers, lakes, or urban parks.
Fun Fact: Downy woodpeckers are birds that symbolize bravery and hard work.
15. Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)
Red-winged blackbirds are common and easily identified through their black color and red-orange patched wings. The females seem duller compared to the males.
The Red-winged Blackbirds are seen year-round in the lower 48 and on British Columbia's Pacific Coast. Some breeders of cattle from Canada or the northern USA move north for winter.
They are usually found on telephone cables and males will fiercely guard their nests during the breeding season, attacking people near their nesting sites.
Fun Fact: Attracting birds such as the red-winged blackbird is very easy! They feed on almost all types of seeds and even Milo!
16. Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor)
The Tufted Titmouse species have a gray back and white belly with a very contoured gray and black face. These birds can be seen flocking together with chickadees, nuthatches, and woodpiles.
Tufted titmice in both eastern and southeastern United States throughout the year. They are common in forests and backyards. These birds are very territorial and assertive against smaller birds. Sometimes they push themselves into the nests of other species.
Their diet consists of insects during the summer including beetles and insects, spiders, and snails. A lot of them consume seeds, nuts, and fruits and hoard shelled seeds, too.
Fun Fact: Compared to other backyard birds, these birds are very small in size, they commonly measure below 4 inches.
17. Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos)
Northern mockingbirds are large and round songbirds with long tails. They are gray-brown in color and are slightly darker on the sides compared to their upper parts.
The mockingbirds are non-migratory and may be seen throughout the lower 48 and south of the United States. They are usually found alone or in pairs, they are not a fan of flocks and are aggressive in defending their territories.
Male Northern mockingbirds learned over 200 songs during their existence and copy other bird songs during the day.
Fun Fact: These birds have two white wing bars that are only visible during flight.
18. Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus)
Carolina Wrens are extremely shy birds, they hide in trees and are easily startled. Their plumage consists of a dark brown tail, beak, wings, and a light brown belly. Their eyebrows are a white stripe that travels down to their nape.
Carolina Wrens reside throughout the entire year in eastern and southern U.S. They can be seen in the woods and thickly vegetated areas but it also comes to backyards in search of feeders.
Fun Fact: Carolina Wrens use skins of snakes, fibers, feathers, hair, and many other materials to build their dome-shaped nests.
19. House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus)
The House Finch species have red head caps mixed with a few black lines and light and dark brown streaked breasts. Basically, they are mostly brown in color, especially the females.
When spotted, house finches would often be confused with house sparrows. To avoid confusion, remember that, unlike house sparrows, house finches have larger and thicker grayish beaks.
The House Finch species can be spotted in parks, farms, forests, and yard feeding sites. In fact, they are so common that they have successfully overcome purple finch in number.
Fun Fact: Just like other birds, a house finch takes interest in black oil sunflower seeds but only in tube and platform feeders.
20. Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)
Barn Swallows are small birds that possess a beautiful deep blue plumage. They have a dark yellow mask and a reddish-orange splash on their white belly. Their long tails are of the same color as their flat beaks, grayish black.
Barn Swallows breed in Canada and the USA before traveling through Central and South America. They fly over a meadow, farms, and fields searching for insects and sometimes create mud nests on buildings or in barns.
Fun Fact: Compared to other birds, Barn Swallows aren't attracted by a feeder or a selection of food, but by a bird box instead.
21. Indigo Bunting (Passerina cyanea)
Indigo Buntings are tiny birds that have a bright blue plumage that fades down to their tails. The tips of their wing and tails have streaks of black. Indigo buntings migrate across the Atlantic Ocean in winter in search of habitats in Florida, Central and South America, and the Caribbean.
They can be found in weedy and shrubby areas looking for seeds and insects. You can easily attract Indigo Buntings into your backyard by filling your bird feeders with nyjer, thistle, and sunflower seeds.
Fun Fact: Indigo Buntings migrate during the nighttime with the use of the Northern Star as their guide.
22. White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis)
White-breasted Nuthatches are known to be small birds, they are about the same size as an Eastern bluebird. However, they are North America's largest nuthatch bird. They are residents of Kentucky all year round.
These birds are large-headed, neckless, and short-tailed. Thir plumage consists of a black cap and necklace, white face and belly, and a patterned blue-gray and black pair of wings. They are common in woodland edges, especially those filled with oak and birch.
(No-no) Fun Fact: Most predators prefer to feed on White-breasted nuthatches because they are flightless, making them easy prey.
23. Ruby-Throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris)
Ruby-throated hummingbirds aren't a resident of Kentucky, but they are a very common visitor and are also the most abundant type of hummingbird in the state.
Aside from those, they are the only hummingbird species that breed in the Eastern U.S.
Their names come from the bright ruby-red throats of the males, while the females have an emerald green patch on their backs, wings, and heads. With the use of hummingbird feeders, you can easily invite them over to your backyards. Fields of flowers and plants are their favorite places to perch and nest.
Fun Fact: Ruby-throated hummingbirds are known to flap their wings more than 50 times per second!
24. Brown Thrasher (Toxostoma rufum)
The Brown Thrasher species have a warm brown overall plumage mixed with heavy black belly streaks and a long bill and tail. They can be found in Kentucky almost all year round, except for the northeast where they are only around during summertime. Just like most sparrows, these birds pick up fallen seeds from bird feeders, although, they are not common visitors.
These birds are known as songbirds, they are believed to sing more than a thousand different songs throughout their lifespan.
Fun Fact: These birds are called "thrashers" because they love to thrash their way through fallen leaves when they forage for food.
25. Brown-Headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater)
With their unique plumage brown and black color blends and patterns, the Brown-headed cowbirds are surely a delight to spot during bird watching. Most bird watchers categorize them into the "blackbirds" family due to their dark plumage and habit of traveling in large flocks.
A bird feeder will surely attract them, but watch out since they might arrive in large groups and would most likely end up mobbing your feeders. They eat almost any type of seed, but they seem to favor black oil sunflower seeds the most.
To find out the gender of a cowbird, all you have to do is look at their brown feathers, females tend to have them in a lighter shade.
Fun Fact: Brown-headed cowbirds are known as invasive species because they lay their eggs on any nest that they find!
26. Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)
The Northern Flickers are one of the most common backyard birds in Kentucky.
They aren't your normal small birds that are commonly attracted to bird feeders. These are medium to large-sized woodpeckers that can be spotted on tree branches.
Northern flickers belong to the most colorful birds in America. They have a red patch on their napes, a black bib, black and gray wings, spots on their bellies, and some of them even have yellow feathers underneath.
They are present all year in Kentucky but aren't that easy to attract. Bird feeders sometimes work, but these birds prefer to forage for their food on their own. Placing a birdbath would be more effective in my opinion.
Fun Fact: Northern Flickers are one of the rarest woodpeckers that eat insects.
27. Chipping Sparrow (Spizella passerina)
Chipping sparrows are known best for their crisp feathers that stand out during the summertime. They may also be distinguished through their rusty red cap, grayish-white chest, gray outer feathers, and brown, black, and tan streaking wing plumages.
They are only spotted in Kentucky during the spring and summer, so make sure to take your chance by having ground bird feeders ready for them. Their favorites are sunflower seeds!
Fun Fact: The white and black lines near their eyes don't appear as very solid colors during winter.
28. White-Throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis)
Among all the many sparrows, the White-throated Sparrow is the easiest to identify due to its white throat patch.
They also have the common bold facial pattern that most sparrows have, it is the pattern mixture of black, white, and yellow stripes.
You can only spot these birds during winter, when summertime comes, they often migrate to Canada since it is breeding season.
These sparrows will save you the time of cleaning up fallen seeds from your bird feeders, they love to pick up seeds from the ground, especially if they're sunflower and millet.
Fun Fact: Female White-Throated Sparrows don't nest on high elevations like most birds, they choose low areas such as bushes and vegetation due to climate change.
Identifying Birds In Kentucky
There are five ways to identify a bird that you have spotted:
The first way is to observe their size since it is the easiest to notice on a bird. Most birds are measured in inches and centimeters, so it is a good idea to familiarize those two measuring units.
A small bird would be about the size of a house sparrow, a medium bird is about the size of an Eastern Bluebird, and a large bird would be similar to the size of a goose.
To new bird watchers, all birds may be shaped the same, but that's really not the case. Some birds are round, some are long, some are neckless, some have large heads, and their tails often vary in length.
A bird's plumage maybe what would stick to your memory the most.
Once you spot a bird, shift your focus to the most prominent colors they have, especially the ones on their head and back. Spots, streaks, and masks are important too
Of course, you wouldn't know how a bird behaves within a few seconds of seeing it, but you can always note down small details like where they prefer to eat, how high they fly if they're with flocks or alone, and where they are at the moment.
Not all birds reside in trees or forests. Some of them prefer woodlands, parks, shrubs, grasslands or meadows, shores, or marshes.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I identify a bird in my backyard?
As we tackled earlier, birds can be identified in five ways: their size, shape, color pattern, behavior, and habitat. If you ever find yourself in a situation where you've spotted a bird and you're not sure what it is, it is always best to snap a photo so you can take your time identifying it later on.
What is the most common bird in Kentucky?
Aside from being the state bird, the Northern Cardinal is also one of the most common backyard birds in Kentucky.
What is the rarest bird in Kentucky?
Even though this bird species is called the common raven, they aren't so common in the state of Kentucky. As populations rise, ravens tend to migrate to remote areas such as mountains which make them hard to spot.
Now that you have learned about Kentucky's majestic and common backyard birds, your next step is to book a vacation to the state and see them in person. Which bird became your favorite? Let us know! Ours is the Eastern Bluebird, but it's honestly hard to choose considering all of them are beautiful.
We're looking forward to your next birding adventure!