With 83 state parks and 3 Nature refuges, Ohio is a great place to see some amazing avian species. Throughout the year various birds will be frequenting your feeder if you’ve prepared it right and today we are going to give you some tips on this and more. So, local birdwatchers and potential visitors to the Buckeye state, let’s talk about the popular backyard birds of Ohio!
3 Categories – 433 Birds
Ohio has an impressive number of feathered residents which you can spot or lure with a little bit of planning. While we certainly can’t cover 433 birds in the space that we have today we CAN give you some examples, divided up into 3 seasons and maybe some bonus birds after that to increase your chances of getting an eyeful of Nature at its finest. We’re going to start by dividing the birds up thusly:
- Year-round Resident birds
- Birds of Spring, Summer, and Early Fall
- Fall and Winter Birds
These little characters have some very distinctive features, as you know, and we’ll go over them today and provide you with some dietary info as well. No promises, but if you play your cards right and luck is on your side you might just lure yourself some regular visitors!
Ohio’s Year-Round Resident Birds
Ohio forests are beautiful and irresistible to Nature lovers, Avian and Human alike, and the good news is that many birds have made this state their year-round home. Here are 5 birds that you can spot year-round in the Buckeye state:
- Song Sparrow
- Northern Cardinal
- White-breasted Nuthatch
- House Sparrow
- Blue Jay
Song Sparrow – Melospiza melodia
Coloration and Markings: Song Sparrows are an amazing example of brown streaking patterns on gray (or white) plumage, as exhibited on their breast, underbelly, and wings. Patterns may vary depending a bit depending on the region but once you’ve seen one you’ll be able to recognize them quickly. This bird has a short, plucky tail and facially you will notice gray streaks above and below the eye as well as a short, sharp gray bill.
Size: This bird measures in at 4.7 – 6.7 inches in length with a wingspan of 7.1 – 9.4 inches.
Habitat: At the edge of forests, marshes, or quite often, simply in the backyard, these birds aren’t shy and will definitely visit a stocked feeder. Interestingly enough, they are fond of rosebushes, as these offer protection from predators, so if you have them then this is a mark in your favor with these birds.
Diet: Song Sparrows will eat a number of things. Popular choices are wheat, oats, millet, and one of their favorites is Black Oil sunflower.
Northern Cardinal – Cardinalis cardinalis
Coloration and Markings: Male and female Cardinals will differ in coloration, with the males exhibiting red all over and that red becomes especially rich on the face. They also a black mask that continues from the eye to underneath the orange bill and exhibit a brilliant crest. You will also notice that they have long tails. Female coloration is noticeably different, they will have some tinges of red on their bodies but they are chiefly a soft brown in overall color.
Size: These birds measure 8.3 – 9.1 inches from tip to tail and have a wingspan of 9.8 – 12.2 inches.
Habitat: The forest edge, a nearby woodlot, or your nearest park are all good places to look for these birds. They are also fond of backyards, so they may well find YOU.
Diet: These birds will eat just about anything but Black Oil sunflower seeds are especially appreciated. Add them liberally if you’ve got a Cardinal nearby and if they take notice then you might get a new regular to your backyard feeder.
White-breasted Nuthatch – Sitta carolinensis
Coloration and Markings: The White-breasted Nuthatch has gray and blue wings, with some black highlighting sometimes seen in the wing feathers. The breast and underbelly of this bird are snow white and just under its short tail you can a splotch of orange-brown. The white from the breast goes up to its face, with the exception of a gray or black cap that goes all the way to the beginning of the wing. You can also see a thin black line coming from the back of the eye and its long, sharp beak is black and sometimes has a little gray on the bottom of it.
Size: Though it is the largest of the Nuthatches, it only measures in at a diminutive 5.1 – 5.5 inches, with a wingspan of 7.9 to 10.6.
Habitat: These birds can be found in the woods or at their edge and they have a fondness for trees such as maple and oak.
Diet: Suet, Black Oil Sunflower seeds, and peanuts are a great way to attract these little guys. Go for smaller seeds and crush up the peanuts for easy dining and you might just attract these Nuthatches to your feeder.
House Sparrow – Passer domesticus
Coloration and Markings: The House Sparrow has a buff-brown striping on its wings and back, contrasted with a breast and underbelly that is a mix of white and gray. They have short tails and facially they have a wide gray stripe on top of their head, with a brown mask which goes to the back of the head, down the neck, and curves forward at the cheek. The remaining lower patch of the face is a snowy white that terminate at the bill, where a line goes from bill to breast. They have small black beaks which are slightly curved.
Size: These birds are close in size to Sparrows, measuring in at 5.9 – 6.7 inches and with wingspans of 7.6 to 9.8 inches.
Habitat: House Sparrows have eschewed the woods in preference of the open country, preferring farms and suburban backyards instead. You can also see them in parks, as these little guys know that food is bountiful wherever there are people.
Diet: These birds like cracked corn, millet, and Sunflower seeds, but you can also experiment with oat and wheat with good result. Their lack of shyness around people has expanded their diets quite a bit so if you get one or more visiting your feeder feel free to experiment!
Blue Jay – Cyanocitta cristata
Coloration and Markings: This is one bird that is hard to take your eyes off of. The Blue Jay has a blue upper body, with the wings including lines of white and black highlights that start around the middle of the back and work down to the tail. Said tail exhibits black lines and a slighter blue hue in the center to brilliant effect. The breast and underbelly of this bird is typically a light shade of gray or simply a brilliant white. Facially, the Blue Jay has a white face, encircled by a black line which carries up to a large, blue crest. The eyes have a black mask which connects to that line and terminates just above its long, straight black bill.
Size: These are large birds, measuring in at 9.8 – 11.8 inches and with wingspans of 13.4 to 16.9 inches.
Habitat: These birds are found at forest edges, parks, or just about anywhere in town. They are especially fond of Oak trees so if you have one in your back yard then that will greatly increase your chance of a Jay visitation.
Diet: Suet, Sunflower seeds, and peanuts are the way to go with Blue Jays and once they notice that you’ve got them then you’ll be in for a visual treat!
Ohio’s Birds of Spring, Summer, and Early Fall
Ohio is beautiful year-round but when spring arrives it really starts to shine. There are many beautiful birds to see and we’ve selected 5 of our favorites for you to look for and to lure to your well-stocked feeders. Without further ado, here 5 great birds of spring, summer, and fall:
- Common Yellowthroat
- Pine Warbler
- Chipping Sparrow
- Red-winged Blackbird
Common Yellowthroat – Geothlypis trichas
Coloration and Markings: The Common Yellowthroat is identified by its tan wings, fanned out tail, and breast which is tan on the lower half and turns to yellow on the upper half. The yellow continues up the throat and terminates just under a short, straight black bill. The rest of the bird’s face presents a large, black mask which continues, curving down, stopping at the shoulder portion of the wing. Above this mask is a white band and finally, a small tan cap. The females are similar but are an olive color instead of the tan and they have the yellow throat as well. Yellow is also noticeable on the underside of the tail, though it is sometimes hard to see unless the female is in flight.
Size: These are tiny birds, measuring in at 4.3 – 5.1 inches, with wingspans of 5.9 to 7.5 inches.
Habitat: Most commonly seen in marshy areas or fields, these birds like anywhere with dense shrubs or thickets where they can forage. They don’t mind visiting backyards, however, so stock up those feeders.
Diet: These birds typically like to forage for insects, so mealworms are your best bet. That said, they do eat some seed, so you might try some broken up Black Oil sunflower seeds and add a little millet for good measure.
Pine Warbler – Setophaga pinus
Coloration and Markings: Pine Warblers are handsome little birds and easy to identify. They have olive-gray wings with white wingbars and a bright, yellow breast. They also have a white underbelly and tail and a yellow face with a short, straight black bill. Some lightening around the eyes can also give this bird the appearance of wearing ‘glasses’. Females look the same, only paler, and sometimes can look more brown than olive-gray but still quite recognizable.
Size: These birds measure in at 5.1 – 5.5 inches in length with a typical wingspan between 7.5 to 9.1 inches.
Habitat: Pine Warblers love Pine trees but when they also love a backyard with a well stocked feeder.
Diet: Stock up your feeder with Suet, Black Oil sunflower seed, Nyjer, and millet and these little birds will thank you.
Chipping Sparrow – Spizella passerine
Coloration and Markings: When identifying a Chipping Sparrow, you will notice that the wings and back will typically be a tan color with dark streaks throughout. The tail, however, is long and gray. This bird has a gray underbelly and breast which extends up to the throat. Facially, it has the same gray, although you may notice a pale ‘mustache mark’ curving out from its short black bill. The eyes have a black line extending from the back of the eye to the back of the head and this bird has a rust-red cap. Winter, the cap is still present, but paler, and more brown than tan.
Size: These birds measure in at 4.7 – 5.9 inches with wingspans averaging approximately 8.3 inches.
Habitat: These birds like treetops at the forest’s edge but are also found in dense vegetations. Shrubberies and thickets are popular for them and it’s not uncommon to see them hopping on the ground in high grass as they forage.
Diet: Good choices to attract these birds to your feeders include millet, milo, and small Black Oil sunflower seeds.
Red-winged Blackbird – Agelaius phoeniceus
Coloration and Markings: This is an easy bird to identify and quite the looker. The male Red-winged Blackbird is black all over except for the wings, which have distinctive red on the shoulder with orange trailing behind. When the bird is at rest, these markings look a bit like an orange shark fin swimming a red sea. The female is not black, but dark brown, with streaking, and often has a white ‘eyebrow’ mark that is absent from the males.
Size: Roughly Robin-sized, this bird measures in at 6.7 – 9.1 inches in length with wingspan 12.2 to 15.8 inches.
Habitat: While it is not uncommon to spot them in dry fields, these birds really love water and more often than not will spend their time in marshy areas or near small ponds such as you might find in parks or golf courses.
Diet: These blackbirds love seeds and grains, so some good choices for them in your feeder would be Black Oil sunflower seeds, millet, wheat, and oats. You might sprinkle a few around the yard or at the base of the feeder as well and a few places around the yard as this bird likes to forage on the ground. This might get you a closer look!
Killdeer – Charadrius vociferus
Coloration and Markings: The Killdeer (named for its call, don’t worry!) is a lovely bird with quite the distinctive look. The wings, back, and short, perky tail are all a soft tan in color, which the breast and underbelly are snow-white. When in flight, however, you can see that the bird has some orange rump that is well-hidden when the bird is at rest. The face is quite distinctive. Starting from the neck, it has a broad, black band, with white on top of this which extends to under the bill. It has a tan cap, with a thin, white band underneath, but most is amusing is around the eye. Round the eye the center of the face is tan but a single black line above this bird’s large eyes give it the look of a feathered pirate with an eyepatch!
Size: This bird measures in at 7.9 – 11 inches in length (roughly robin-sized) and has a wingspan of 18.1 to 18.9 inches.
Habitat: Appropriately enough, these little pirates are shorebirds but they get around. They like watertraps at golf courses and sandbars but they don’t limit themselves to water. You can see them in fields, parking lots, and backyards as well and it’s a real treat when you do! These are good looking birds.
Diet: Sadly, these birds only take about 2% seed in their diet (they are mostly insectivores) and they forage mainly on the ground so they are not likely to visit your feeder. The good news is that they do like a well cultivate lawn, however, so they might just visit to forage for yummy bugs there.
Ohio’s Fall and Winter Birds
Ohio has some winters that can be considered quite robust, hitting 15 degrees Fahrenheit and below at night, so some birds will migrate at this time. Not so for the birds below, who are as beautiful as they are hardy. Here are some birds you can look for or attempt to lure:
- Rufuos Hummingbird
- Brown-headed Nuthatch
- Dark-eyed Junco
- White-winged Crossbill
- White-throated Sparrow
Rufuos Hummingbird – Selasphorus rufus
Coloration and Markings: Male Rufous Hummingbirds are a brilliant orange on their back and part of their breast and belly, with the center portion of breast and belly being white up to the neck. Facially, these birds have a red throat with the red terminating under the bird’s bill and the rest of the face being the same rufous-orange as the majority of the body. Females, however, are mostly green with rufuous orange splotches in the tail, flanks, and the throat.
Size: This bird measures in at 2.8 – 3.5 inches in length with a wingspan of approximately 4.3 inches.
Habitat: These birds like oak and pine trees when it comes to forests but they also like parks and yards. The cold doesn’t bother them.
Diet: While they are attracted to regular feeders (they first show up in Ohio in April but linger on into the early winter) you can also welcome them by planting Snowdrop flowers. These flowers last well into the winter).
Brown-headed Nuthatch – Sitta pusilla
Coloration and Markings: The Brown-headed Nuthatch may be identified by its gray feathers with darker streaks towards the wingtips and a short, gray tail which has a small touch of white on the underside. The belly and breast of this bird are white and the white coloration extends up until just below the bill of the bird. The remaining portion of the head is a rich brown, giving the face a half-brown and half-white look that is quite distinctive. This bird has a long and straight black bill.
Size: This is a small bird, measuring in at 3.9 – 4.3 inches in length with a wingspan of 6.1 to 7.1 inches.
Habitat: These birds love Pine forests and if you spot them on a nature hike it will likely be when you hear them singing as they hop about in the treetops.
Diet: If you happen to live close to a patch of Evergreens then load up your feeder with some Suet. These birds love it and it helps to give them that extra ‘get up and go’ for the rough winter weather.
Dark-eyed Junco – Junco hyemalis
Coloration and Markings: The Dark-eyed Junco will have some color variation depending on the region. In Ohio, you will want to look for a simple yet elegant configuration that includes a completely gray (or brown) upper body with a grayish-white underbelly and breast and a small amount of white visible on the underside of the tail when this bird is in flight. Facially, the bird has a small, stout pink beak that is a good confirmation if you aren’t certain.
Size: These birds measure 5.5 – 6.3 inches from tip to tail and have a wingspan of 7.1 to 9.8 inches.
Habitat: When these gray-ghosts aren’t haunting coniferous forests you can find them in fields, parks, or your own backyard. They are not shy about visiting feeders so be sure to some snacks outside for them. They will be well-received.
Diet: These birds love grains. Good choices for them in your feeder include cracked corn, white proso millet, and hulled Sunflower seeds.
White-winged Crossbill – Loxia leucoptera
Coloration and Markings: Also known as the ‘Two-Barred Crossbill”, this beautiful bird has some very distinctive markings. The males have a rosy-pink upper back with black wings and white wingbars and breast and lower belly that is a brilliant mixture of rosy pink and grays. Their faces are completely rosy-pink with the exception of their short, stout, and curved gray bills. Females and juveniles, by contrast, are yellowish but will display the same markings as the adult males.
Size: These birds measure in at 5.9 – 6.7 inches in length and have wingspans of approximately 10.2 to 11 inches.
Habitat: These birds prefer boreal forests where they are particularly fond of Tamarack and Spruce.
Diet: These birds may be lured to feeders with Sunflower seeds and mealworms may be added as an extra treat if you wish.
White-throated Sparrow – Zonotrichia albicollis
Coloration and Markings: The White-throated Sparrow is easy to identify. Characteristics include a brown upper body, with brown wings and white highlights across the shoulder area of the wing. They have long brown tails and the breast and lower belly are gray and white. Facially, this bird has a gray face with a white chin and a white ‘eyebrow’, which is white with a yellow spot starting atop the right side of the eye to the bill. The top of the head is a ‘skunk cap’… a black stripe with a small amount of white in the center. Some will be less vibrant in color and these exhibit a brown and white cap. These Sparrows are often referred to as ‘Tan striped’.
Size: These birds measure at 6.3 – 7.1 inches and have wingspans of 7.9 to 9.1 inches.
Habitat: These birds like the forest edge as well as thickets and even have a fondness for water, so you’ll sometimes see them near ponds. They are not shy about visiting your backyard, either, so be sure to get your feeder ready.
Diet: Black Oil sunflower seeds and millet are a simple and effective lure for these small beauties. Scatter some around the yard or the base of the feeder for good measure, as they are fond of foraging on the ground.
Supporting Cast (Other Backyard Birds of Ohio That Might Pay You a Visit)
Now that we have listed our primary cast of seasonal celebrities we thought we might give you another 5 birds to look for as their ‘Supporting Cast’. These birds may be spotted year-round so be sure to add them to your checklist and stock up that feeder because you don’t want to miss them. Our supporting cast is as follows:
- Mourning Dove
- American Robin
- Red-bellied Woodpecker
- Tufted Titmouse
- American Goldfinch
Mourning Dove – Zenaida macroura
Coloration and Markings: Mourning Doves can vary a little from region to region but typically they are a light brown or tan all over their body. The breast and lower belly are a lighter in color and they also exhibit black-outlined white tips to their tails and black spots upon their wings. Facially, the body coloration is more pronounced and they have short, straight bills.
Size: Mourning Doves measure in at 9.1 – 1.4 inches and they have wingspans of approximately 17.7 inches.
Habitat: Comfortable with the suburbs, you can see these Doves on telephone poles sometimes. They may also be found at the forest’s edge or even in fields.
Diet: Morning Doves love all kinds of seeds and you can also lure them with peanuts or berries.
American Robin – Turdus migratorius
Coloration and Markings: These beautiful birds are quite distinctive in appearance. Their upper bodies are typically gray and brown while their belly and breast is a brilliant orange. The exception is towards the rump where this bird is white and that white continues to the underside of the Robin’s long and pretty tail. Facially, the same coloration of the wings is present, although it looks a bit richer and more concentrated. There is also sometimes a white outlining around the eye and this bird has a short yellow bill which is slightly curved.
Size: These birds measure in at 7.9 – 11 inches from head to tail and have wingspans of 12.2 to 15.8 inches.
Habitat: While you can find them in deciduous forests these birds get around. You can spot them at golf courses, parks, gardens, and backyards as well.
Diet: A quick and easy ‘feeder bait’ for the American Robin consists of berries, mealworms, and chopped apples. It’s a tried and true combination that these birds love.
Red-bellied Woodpecker – Melanerpes carolinus
Coloration and Markings: The Red-bellied Woodpecker is instantly recognizable. It has a black and white striped back and wings wildly contrasted by a snowy breast and belly which both have delicate red splotches throughout. Facially, this bird has a pretty red cap which extends down to shoulder level. The rest of the face is white and typically has some red mixed in like on the breast. If you see one in flight, check out the wingtips and you’ll see some white patches as well.
Size: These are good-sized birds, averaging around 9.4 inches in length and having wingspans of 13 to 16.5 inches
Habitat: When they aren’t spending time at backyard feeders everywhere (they are NOT shy about this) you’ll find them in the woods. They are fond of hardwoods such as Hickory and Oak.
Diet: Woodpeckers mostly eat insects, so mealworms can go a long way. That said, you can also lure these birds sometimes with Peanuts and chopped fruits as a treat.
Tufted Titmouse – Baeolophus bicolor
Coloration and Markings: The Tufted Titmouse is another simple, yet elegantly colored bird. The top have of its body is a soft blue-gray while it’s breast and belly are white and you’ll notice a lovely wash of peach. Facially, this bird has a white chin and white outline around the eye, while the upper portion of the head is blue and has a brilliant crest to show it off. Finally, a black square above a tiny, curved black beak complete the vision that is the Tufted Titmouse.
Size: These birds are 5.5 – 6.3 inches in length and have wingspans of 7.9 to 10.2 inches.
Habitat: These birds may be found in the forest, especially near evergreens, but they also like parks, gardens, and backyards as well.
Diet: Peanuts, Sunflower seeds, and Suet are a simple triple-threat which you may employ to get an keep this bird’s attention.
American Goldfinch – Spinus tristis
Coloration and Markings: When it’s warm, the male American Goldfinch is quite striking. The back, breast, and lower belly are bright yellow while the wings are dark black. White lines and patches accentuate the wings and are also found on the underside of the tail. Facially, this bird is the same bright yellow with one exception. It has a black cap that is visible on its forehead that terminates at its small, conical orange bill.
Size: These small birds measure in at 4.3 – 5.1 inches in length with wingspans of 7.5 to 8.7 inches.
Habitat: These birds love thickets and thistles but they are also attracted to backyards and overgrown fields.
Diet: Sunflower seeds and Nyjer are simple, but effective, in keeping these little lovelies happy. Load up your feeder and watch them go wild!
Ohio Bird Buffet
When it comes to stocking up your feeder there are some definite items that will give you an advantage in luring the local wildlife. The Ohio Wildlife center and other sources would recommend that you stock up on the following if you want to lure some ‘Buckeye birds’:
- Black Oil Sunflower
- Cracked corn
Ohio Birding Hot Spots
When hunting for our favorite flying celebrities the Chirparazzi know some of the best spots to cast clandestine glimpses and photos. Here are some locations that are recommended which are close to all of the compass points and central Ohio so that visitors to the state and locals who want to get out of the house for some birdwatching can find a handy close location. Try one of these spots on for size:
- Northern hotspot – Edison Woods Preserve
- Eastern hotspot – Harrison StateForest
- Southern hotspot – Crown City Wildlife Area
- Western hotspot – Germantown Metropark
- Central hotspot – Dawes Arboretum
Detailed descriptions of each location as well as information regarding visiting and what birds you can see at these locations may be found at http://ohiobirds.org/resources/birding-sites-in-ohio/state-birding-map/
We hope that you’ve enjoyed today’s article on the backyard birds of Ohio. If you’ve found some new birds to add to your checklist, just be sure to load up your feeder appropriately and you might just be pleasantly surprised. Don’t forget, you can also hit one of those hotspots. Birdwatching outside of the house is a great way to treat yourself. Just pack yourself something to yummy to eat, get in your car, and be sure not to forget your binoculars and your patience. Good luck!