What kinds of birds can you find in Tennessee?
The state of Tennessee has over 400 native bird species. There are about 50 different types of woodpeckers alone and more than 300 species of warblers. Many of these are endangered or threatened due to urbanization and climate change, making their survival highly dependent on maintaining natural habitats.
This article presents some of our favorite top 23 stunning birds of Tennessee. Enjoy the photos below and share them around!
Top 23 stunning birds of Tennessee
1. Downy Woodpecker
Scientific name: The bird’s scientific name is Dryobates Pubescens.
Size: It measures approximately 7 14 – 17 cm from beak to tail tip.
Appearance: These woodpeckers have short bills and are relatively small. They have white bellies and a primarily black back that includes streaks and spots of white, making it look like a checkerboard pattern. Downy Woodpeckers are one of the most commonly found birds around us.
Diet: Their diet includes insects, nuts, and berries.
Habitat: The Downy Woodpecker is found primarily in forested areas. They prefer deciduous trees like oaks, maples, hickories, and elms.
2. Hairy Woodpecker
Scientific name: Leuconotopicus villosus
Size: This bird measures approximately 9 inches long with a 15 inches wingspan.
Appearance: Hairy woodpeckers have striped, brownish heads and an erect, upright posture while perched on a tree trunk. Their bodies are black and whitish overall with a long, narrow, chisel-like beak.
Hairy Woodpecker is sometimes called the Red Head Woodpecker due to the reddish head markings. However, there are no red feathers on the head.
These birds are often confused with Downy Woodpecker, smaller and lighter colored.
Their calls include a loud “peek,” a low rattle, and a high-pitched whistle.
Diet: Hairy woodpecker feeds mainly on ants, termites, beetles, and other insects.
Habitat: They live in deciduous forests throughout North America. Hairy Woodpecker prefers mature, tall trees such as oak, hickory, maple, elm, ash, cottonwood, sycamore, poplar, basswood, tuliptree, and hackberry.
Breeding/Nesting: The hairy woodpecker starts to breed from late March to late May every year and lays 3-5 eggs per clutch.
Nests are usually built near the base of a tree trunk. Some nests are placed on branches, but those are very rare. Hairy Woodpeckers rarely use cavities. Instead, they build their nests in holes in dead logs and stumps.
3. American Goldfinch
Scientific name: Spinus tristis
The American Goldfinch is one of the most common finches found throughout North America.
Size: This bird is about 2 1/4 inches long.
Appearance: The males are bright yellow with black caps. Females are less brightly colored and lack black caps, making them easier to identify. Their call sounds like a high-pitched “chirp.”
Diet: They eat seeds, berries, insects, nectar, and sometimes fruit.
Habitat: This bird is very social and likes to live near people where it can feed off scraps left for pets. They feed on lawns, parks, gardens, and even trash cans. They don’t usually nest in trees, but you might see them building nests in large shrubs.
Breeding/Nesting: They start breeding around late February and early March, laying 3–5 eggs per clutch. Both parents incubate the eggs and raise the chicks together. Chicks hatch about 16 days later and fledge at about 35 days old.
4. White-breasted Nuthatch
Scientific name: Sitta carolinensis
Size: This bird has a length of 15 cm and weighs around 20g.
This bird is one of the smallest North American species. And it looks like a miniature version of our beloved robin.
Appearance: It’s mostly grayish-white and has a gray-blue back. It is named for the characteristic white breast patch on both males and females. This is a common feature among many members of the genus Sitta, including the Brown Creeper, Red Crossbill, and Black-capped Chickadee.
Diet: Their diet consists primarily of insects, such as ants, grasshoppers, crickets, beetles, caterpillars, spiders, and moths. They also eat berries, acorns, and seeds.
Nuthatches will visit most seed feeders and offer mixed seed blends, black sunflower seeds, safflower seeds, peanuts, or suet.
Habitat: These birds prefer forests, woodlots, groves, and shade trees, especially mature deciduous forests. They also like mixed forests with some conifers but are rarely found in pure coniferous forests. They spend much time searching for food on the treetops.
Breeding/Nesting: These birds usually nest in dead branches or stumps in cavities. They build nests composed of twigs, grasses, moss, hair, feathers, and mud. Their eggs are typically 4–6 cm long and 2.5–4 cm wide.
5. Red-winged Blackbird
Scientific name: Agelaius phoeniceus
Size: It’s about 6.7-9.1 (17-23 cm) long and weighs about 33-77 grams.
Appearance: The red-winged blackbird is one of the most common birds found throughout North America. It is mainly identified with its black plumage color and red wings.
Its name refers to the red wing patches it displays during the breeding season. Males are all black, except for a bright red and yellow patch on their shoulders. Females are brown and heavily streaked. There is a bit of yellow around their bill.
Habitat: This species lives primarily along lakeshores, rivers, streams, ponds, marshes, and wetlands.
Diet: Red-winged Blackbirds feed primarily on insects, including grasshoppers, crickets, beetles, ants, and caterpillars. They also eat small amounts of fruit, grains, nuts, and seeds.
Breeding/Nesting: The red-winged blackbirds migrate south in winter. They nest in colonies consisting of up to several hundred individuals. Their nests are twigs and grasses lined with moss, hair, feathers, and mud.
The female lays 2-3 eggs per clutch. Eggs hatch within 24 hours, and young fledge from the nest about three weeks later. Young birds remain dependent upon adults for several months.
6. European Starling
Scientific name: Sturnus vulgaris
The European starling is one of the most common North American birds. These noisy, aggressive birds are often seen around people’s homes and yards during the summer.
Size: It’s approximately 20-22cm tall and weighs between 55-100g.
Appearance: They have a purplish-green plumage with a blond edge in every feather. They are very popular among nature lovers because of their beauty and graceful movements. Their appearance is quite different from others. Their legs are orange-red.
Diet: They enjoy eating insects when available, especially beetles, grasshoppers, flies, caterpillars, also spiders, snails, earthworms, and other invertebrates. In fall and winter, they eat a wide variety of berries, fruits, and seeds.
Habitat: Their habitat includes urban, suburban, and rural areas close to human settlements. They feed from the grassy areas on the streets, parks, and yards. They perch and rest on wires, trees, and roofs.
Breeding/Nesting: Starlings breed in late spring and early summer. They lay 3-8 eggs in a nest made.
7. Brown-headed Cowbird
Scientific name: Molothrus ater
Brown-headed cowbirds are among the most common species of birds found in North America.
Size: It’s about 7.2-8.0 (19-20 cm) long and weighs between 30-50 grams.
Appearance: Males have shiny black plumages and dark brown heads that usually look black when they’re not in the light or at a distance.
Females are plain brownish, the lightest below their heads and under their wings, with fine streaks on their bellies and dark eyes.
Diet: They nest in open fields and feed primarily on insects such as grasshoppers, crickets, beetles, caterpillars, and butterflies. If you see one, look closely at its face; it seems like a big, fat crow.
Habitat: They live in woodlands, prairies, and savannas. They build their nests in bushes or low tree branches.
Breeding/Nesting: This bird has been known to cause problems in agriculture because it lays its eggs inside the cowpats, where they hatch out and feed on the manure. This makes the eggshell porous and weak, causing it to break easily. The female lays 1-4 eggs per clutch. Eggs incubate for 14 days before hatching.
8. Mourning Dove
Scientific name: Zenaida macroura
Size/Appearance: The mourning dove is a small bird about 12 inches tall with a brown head, white neck, chestnut back, and olive green belly. Its eyes are dark orange, and it has a short, stubby tail.
Females and young birds are similar in appearance to males, although the female’s breast feathers are duller than the male’s. Young birds lack the adult’s characteristic black markings on the crown and nape of the neck.
Diet: Mourning doves eat seeds, fruits, berries, insects, worms, snails, frogs, lizards, snakes, mice, crickets, earthworms, slugs, and spiders.
Habitat: These birds prefer dry habitats, including deserts, plains, meadows, forest clearings, and pastures. They often roost in large groups during cold weather.
Breeding/nesting: Mourning doves mate for life. Females lay 2-3 eggs in a nest built by both parents.
9. Rock Dove
Scientific name: Columba livia
Size: They measure 30-36 cm and weigh 265-380 g.
Appearance: A plump bird with a short neck, small head, and a thin bill, the typical pigeon has a grey back, a blue-grey head, and two white wing bars. But their plumage is very variable, and it’s common to see pigeons ranging from all-white down to rusty brown.
Females can be distinguished from males by their smaller size and lighter coloration.
They have a very distinctive call, which sounds like “coo-oo-ooo”.
Diet: pigeons are omnivorous, eating seeds, insects, worms, berries, fruit, bread, and popcorn given by humans. In winter, they eat nuts, acorns, chestnuts, and beechnuts.
Habitat: Rock pigeons are one of the most common birds in Tennessee and are almost exclusively found around cities. However, they are also common in rural areas as well.
Breeding/nesting: They breed throughout the year and usually lay four eggs per clutch. The young fledge about three weeks later.
10. Tufted Titmouse
Scientific name: Baeolophus bicolor
Size: Females and males are alike, except for size differences. Adult tufted titmice average about 15 – 17 cm long. Juvenile birds are duller in appearance than adults.
Appearance: The tufted titmouse is similar to the Carolina chickadee but has a crest on its head. Its upper parts are dark brownish grey, with a peach-colored wash on the sides; the underparts are whitish. A black spot just above the beak gives the bird a snub-nose appearance.
Diet: These birds feed mainly on insects in summer, especially caterpillars, beetles, grasshoppers, moths, and spiders.
Habitat: The tufted titmouse is found throughout much of North America. They are typically seen in dense forest habitats, such as deciduous woodlands, nesting in tree cavities.
Breeding/nesting: Tufted titmice migrate south during the winter months. During spring migration, many individuals fly over water. This behavior is called rafting. As you might imagine, rafting makes finding food more accessible.
Tufted tits make nests out of twigs and grasses and lay four to six eggs per clutch.
11. Red-bellied Woodpecker
Scientific name: Melanerpes carolinus
Size: This species measures about 23 – 27 cm and weigh about 72g.
Appearance: This bird is called “Red-Bellied” because it has a distinctive color pattern. It has a black and white striped coloration on its body that resembles a zebra pattern. Its head, legs, and tail are white, and its belly is white with a reddish tint.
Diet: These woodpeckers eat insects, seeds, nuts, berries, fruits, and sometimes they eat small fish, tree frogs, and eggs of small birds.
Habitat: They live in deciduous forests near water sources. They can also be found in agricultural land, plantations, grove, and cities.
Breeding/nesting: They nest in cavities such as tree holes, hollow logs, stumps, and buildings. Their loud call sounds similar to tapping on a piece of metal. You can hear this bird calling during daylight throughout most of North America.
Attract Red-bellied Woodpeckers with a suet feeder, though they will also sometimes eat at seed feeders if you offer sunflowers and peanuts.
12. Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Scientific name: Archilochus colubris
Size: It measures about 7,5 – 9 cm and weighs about 3g.
Appearance: The Ruby-throated Hummingbird is a tiny hummingbird with a slender, slightly downcurved bill and fairly short wings that don’t reach the tail when the bird is sitting. They are also common in Tennessee during warm summer months.
They are bright emerald or golden-green on the back and crown, with gray-white underparts. Males have a brilliant iridescent red throat that looks dark when it’s not in good light.
Diet: They love nectar and insects. They take nectar from flowers, and their favorite is the trumpet vine.
Habitat: Ruby-throated Hummingbird lives in open woodlands, forest edges, meadows, grasslands, parks, gardens, and backyards.
Breeding/nesting: They build a cup nest in a bush or tree, usually close to water. They use mud, moss, lichens, and spider webs for the lining. They lay two to five eggs.
13. Baltimore Oriole
Scientific name: Icterus galbula
Size: They are 15 to 20 cm in length with a wingspan of 23 to 30 cm.
Appearance: The Baltimore oriole is one of the most common birds in Tennessee. The male whistles loudly, like the whistling song usually given during display flights over the nest site. This is followed by a soft churring call. The female produces a softer, less melodious, low note. Both sexes sing throughout the day.
The adult male is orange on the underparts, shoulder patch, and rump, with some birds appearing an intense flaming orange and others appearing yellowish-orange. Its wings are black with a white stripe running across. All of the rest of the male’s plumage is black.
The adult female is yellow-brown on the upper parts with darker wings and a dull orange-yellow on the breast and belly. The juvenile oriole is similar-looking to the female, with males taking until the fall of their second year to reach adult plumage.
Diet: Like many other members of the family Paridae, the Baltimore oriole is insectivorous and feeds mainly on ripe fruit, berries, seeds, and spiders. It sometimes eats large amounts of caterpillars.
Habitat: Even though they enjoy trees, they usually aren’t seen in deep, dark forests.
Breeding/nesting: It builds a cup nest out of twigs, grasses, leaves, bark strips, hair, moss, and rootlets. The nest is high up in a tree, well hidden within the foliage. In some areas, the nest is built under eaves. There are four to six eggs per clutch. Incubation lasts 14–16 days. Young fledge 21–27 days later.
14. The Goldfinch
Scientific name: Carduelis carduelis
Size: They are among the smallest passerines in North America, measuring about 5 inches long with a wingspan of 8 inches.
Appearance: Goldfinches are small seed-eating songbirds native to North America. Their name originates from the gold dusting on their plumage.
This species is one of three members of the genus Carduelis, along with the European Greenfinch and the Bicknell’s Thrush.
The male Goldfinch has a bright yellow plumage with a black crown, black and white wings, while the female is brownish gray.
Diet: Because they eat seeds, many people call them “seed finches.” They also feed on insects, buds, bark of young twigs, and maple sap.
Habitat: Goldfinches live in deciduous woods, thickets, hedgerows, and shrubby fields. They prefer sunny habitats with plenty of food sources, such as birdfeeders.
Breeding/nesting: Goldfinches are highly social like other finches, living in flocks outside the breeding season. During courtship, males perform elaborate dances, often accompanied by soft songs. Females lay 2–4 eggs per clutch. Incubation lasts 12–14 days, and young fledge at around 15 weeks old.
15. The Rose-Breasted Grosbeak
Scientific name: Pheucticus ludovicianus
Size: Adults are about 18 – 22 cm and weigh 39 – 49g.
Appearance: The male rose-breasted grosbeaks have a bright red breast patch, but the female lacks this feature. Their upperpart is black while the underpart is white ,and they also have black and white wings.
Diet: These birds feed mainly on insects, berries, seeds, nectar, and sometimes fruit.
Habitat: The Rose-breasted Grosbeak is a small songbird found throughout North America. This species is often seen in wooded habitats near water, such as rivers, ponds, lakes, swamps, and bogs.
Breeding/nesting: This species is known for being very faithful to one partner throughout life. During courtship, both partners sing together and often fly around together. After mating, the female usually lays three white eggs in her nest.
She stays close to the nest during incubation. When she leaves the nest, she carries food for the young. Both parents feed the young until they fledge. Then they continue feeding the young for several weeks. Once the chicks grow large enough to fly, they leave the nest and join a flock.
16. The Pine Warbler
Scientific name: Setophaga pinus
Size: It measures about 14 cm and weighs about 12g.
Appearance: The Pine Warbler is a small songbird found throughout North America. This bird has a distinctive call and is often mistaken for the Common Yellowthroat. However, while the Common Yellowthroat is most commonly seen in deciduous trees, the Pine Warbler prefers pines.
This tiny bird is about the size of a robin but looks like a bluebird. It’s a small bird with a yellowish body, a whitish underbundle, and two prominent white stripes on its gray wings.
Males tend to be brighter than females, and juveniles can sometimes appear greyish brown. While singing, it raises and lowers its wings rapidly.
Diet: These birds feed mostly on seeds, especially sunflower seeds. They also eat cracked corn and fruits.
Habitat: Pine warblers are found in tropical, temperate, and subtropical forests, especially pine or spruce groves. They are common in the eastern United States and Canada.
Breeding/nesting: They breed in Canada and migrate south to Mexico and Central America. During migration season, the flock sizes can reach up to 100 birds. In winter, they return north to spend the rest of the year in Canada.
They nest in tree cavities, usually under loose bark. A single pair builds one nest every year. The female lays 4–5 eggs. Both parents incubate the eggs and feed the young.
17. The American Redstart
Scientific name: Setophaga ruticilla
Size: This species is about 11 – 14 cm long and weighs between 6 – 9 g.
The Redstarts are one of the most common songbirds in North America. This tiny bird breeds across Canada and the United States. Its name derives from the Latin word “reddus,” meaning “red.”
Appearance: It has a wide, flat bill with a long tail. Males are black with orange patches on their wings and tail. Females have white underpart, gray upperpart with yellow patches on their chest, and an olive back.
Habitat: They nest in open deciduous woods, second growth, and woodland edges. They winter in a range of lowlands forests and edge habitats.
Diet: Their diet consists mainly of grasshoppers, crickets, flies, beetles, moths, ants, and spiders.
Breeding/nesting: Pairs of American Redstarts are usually monogamous during their nesting period, but extra-pair copulations frequently occur among both sexes, resulting in offspring with mixed paternity. Sometimes a male redstart copulates with another female after his partner has laid her eggs.
18. The Northern Parula
Scientific name: Setophaga americana
Size: It measures about 11cm and weighs about 7,9g.
Appearance: The northern parula is a small, medium-sized, short-necked bird with a blue-gray body, two bold white wing stripes, a bright yellow throat, a white belly, a white eye stripe, and a black eye line.
Diet: Their diet consists mainly of insects, berries, seeds, and sometimes spiders.
Habitat: The Northern Parulas are one of the most common birds along the Appalachian Trail. These tiny birds live in mature forested areas along streams, swamps, and other lowland areas and migrate south yearly.
Breeding/nesting: You might hear the Northern Parula singing during migration season. They nest in tree cavities, usually near water sources.
19. The Purple Finch
Scientific name: Haemorhous purpureus
Size: It measures around 15cm and weighs about 25g with a 25cm wingspan.
Appearance: The purple finch is one of several species in the East Tennessee mountains. While they are often mistaken for mockingbirds, they are members of the tanager family. This particular member of the tanager family is known as the purple finch because of the coloration of its head and neck feathers.
Males are pale pink-red on their heads and breasts, blending into brown on their backs and clouded white on their bellies. Females lack any red. They are coarse-streaked below, with strong face marks, including a whitish eye stripe and a dark streak down the sides of their throats.
Their song is similar to the Carolina chickadee’s, but there are subtle differences in how the notes sound.
Diet: Their diet consists mainly of seeds, berries, and insects.
Habitat: Purple finches live mainly in coniferous forests or mixed deciduous and coniferous woodlands.
Breeding/nesting: Purple finches usually nest in cavities in trees or shrubs, although they sometimes build nests on the ground.
They are generally shy and retiring, preferring to remain hidden during the day. However, they become very active at dusk and dawn.
20. The Blue Jay
Scientific name: Cyanocitta cristata
Size: It’s about 22 – 30 cm in length and weighs around 65 – 110 g.
Appearance: The Blue Jay is a common bird found throughout North America. Its name derives from the Latin word “blau,” meaning “blue.” This bird is quite large and has a distinctive blue body. Its back is covered in beautiful blue feathers with black bars throughout and a long light blue tail with black stripes.
Habitat/diet: Blue Jays are often seen flying over fields and forests, where they feed on insects, seeds, berries, nuts, and fruit. They build nests out of sticks and twigs lined with grasses, moss, lichens, feathers, hair, and even pieces of bark.
Breeding/nesting: They mate for life, and pairs usually raise four young each summer. Blue Jays are primarily monogamous, but some birds form pair bonds with other species members.
21. Northern cardinal
Scientific name: Cardinalis cardinalis
Size: They measure between 21 – 24 cm and weigh about 43g.
Appearance: The Northern cardinal is the most popular bird in Tennessee. This species is known for its beautiful plumage, especially its bright red coloration.
Males are a stunning red with a black mask and throat. Females are pale orangish-brown with red on their crest, wings, and tail. Both sexes have a crest on their head and a short, thick bill that is perfect for cracking seeds.
Habitat/diet: These birds prefer open areas such as parks and gardens, where they feed on insects, fruit, berries, seeds, nuts, and grains.
You can find Northern Cardinals in dense vegetation foraging for seeds, fruit, and insects.
Breeding/nesting: They nest in trees and shrubs, laying 2–5 eggs each season. The male and female both sing during courtship displays. Their song consists of 3–6 notes, repeated every 5 seconds.
22. Carolina Chickadee
Scientific name: Poecile carolinensis
Size: They’re small birds. Adults are about 12 cm long and weigh about 10g.
Appearance: The Carolina Chickadee is one of the most familiar members of the tit family. Its body is long and slender, with short rounded wings and a long tail. Its head is large and round, with a black cap, white cheek patches, and a grayish bill. Its legs and feet are grayish.
Diet: This species feeds mainly on insects, seeds, and berries, although it occasionally eats small amounts of fruit and some vegetable matter.
Habitat: They prefer deciduous forests, but they will also like pine woodlands with a good mix of oaks or other leafy trees. They will also nest in suburban neighborhoods with lots of trees.
Breeding/nesting: Like many songbirds, it nests in trees. However, unlike most other tits, it builds a nest on the ground rather than in a tree cavity.
Carolina Chickadee populations have been declining since the late 19th century due to habitat loss and predation by introduced mammals such as cats, raccoons, and opossums.
23. Eastern Towhee
Scientific name: The Eastern Towhee bird, also known as the Pipilo Erythrophtalmus.
Size: Its total length ranges from 17.3 to 23 cm and the wingspan is 20–30 cm. It weighs about 32-53g
It is a small-sized new world sparrow bird belonging to the Passerellidae Family of Passerine Birds.
Appearance: This bird is also known as the Rufus-sided towhee because it combines black, white, grey, and reddish coloration. Its plumage varies according to season. In summer, it has dark feathers, while in winter, it becomes lighter.
Diet: It feeds on fruits, seeds, nectar, and invertebrates.
Habitat: This bird is found throughout North America, Central America, South America, and Mexico. It likes forest edges, overgrown fields, woods, and scrub backyards or thickets.
Breeding/Nesting: It breeds between April and June. It lays 1–4 eggs per clutch.
These birds are migratory, and they move to different places during migration. The male birds fly southward during spring migration from Canada to central Mexico. While female birds go northward from southern Texas to New York state.
In summer, they travel westward from Florida to California. In the fall, they head eastward from Texas to Canada.
List of 33 common backyard birds in Tennessee
The list of bird species that live in Tennessee is long and varied. Many different types of birds call Tennessee home. This list also provides information about Tennessee’s most common backyard birds, including those beautiful ones above.
1. Northern Cardinal
2. Mourning Dove
3. Carolina Wren
4. American Robin
5. American Crow
6. Blue Jay
7. Carolina Chickadee
8. Tufted Titmouse
9. Red-bellied Woodpecker
10. Northern Mockingbird
11. Eastern Towhee
12. Indigo Bunting
13. American Goldfinch
14. Eastern Bluebird
15. House Finch
16. Barn Swallow
17. Downy Woodpecker
18. European Starling
19. White-throated Sparrow
20. Song Sparrow
21. Ruby-throated Hummingbird
22. Brown-headed Cowbird
23. Eastern Kingbird
24. White-breasted Nuthatch
25. Yellow-rumped Warbler
26. Eastern Phoebe
27. Northern Flicker
28. Common Grackle
29. Red-winged Blackbird
30. Pileated Woodpecker
31. Chipping Sparrow
32. Dark-eyed Junco
33. Eastern Meadowlark
Birds seem like an easy way to connect with nature. However, despite their beauty and charm, we seldom get any closer to them than a quick peek through our windows or the occasional glimpse of one out in a field. They are much more complex creatures than most people think. And while it can be fun learning more about them, you should never underestimate the importance of these fantastic animals.