In the article titled “24 Backyard Birds to Know | Utah,” readers will discover a comprehensive list of the most common birds found in Utah’s backyards. Drawing on data from the citizen science program eBird, the article not only identifies each species but also provides vivid pictures for easy recognition. Additionally, readers will learn valuable tips on how to attract these beautiful birds to their own backyards. From the American Robin, Utah’s most common bird, to the European Starling, an invasive species, and the flashy Black-billed Magpie, this article offers a fascinating glimpse into the diverse birdlife that graces Utah’s neighborhoods. Keep an eye out for the Dark-eyed Junco, affectionately known as “snowbirds,” as they often visit in the winter. However, be mindful of the House Sparrow, an introduced species that is considered a pest in many areas. Whether you’re a bird enthusiast or simply curious about the avian inhabitants of Utah, this article will surely captivate your interest.
Common Backyard Birds of Utah
Utah is home to a diverse array of bird species, with over 465 types of birds being recorded in the state, according to Utah Birds and Birding in Utah State eBird. While there are numerous species to discover, this article will focus on the most common birds that can be found in Utah backyards. These feathered friends bring beauty and joy to our outdoor spaces, and with a little knowledge and effort, they can be encouraged to visit our homes on a regular basis.
The American Robin (Turdus migratorius) is perhaps the most well-known and easily recognizable bird in Utah. With its vibrant orange breast, gray back, and black head, this medium-sized bird is a familiar sight in neighborhoods across the state. The American Robin is known for its melodic song, which can often be heard at dawn and dusk.
In addition to its distinctive coloring, the American Robin has a white eye ring and a stout, yellow bill. Adult robins measure about 10 inches in length, making them larger than most backyard birds. Juvenile robins have a speckled breast and lack the vibrant orange hue of adults.
American Robins can be found in a wide range of habitats, including woodlands, grasslands, and suburban areas. They are especially drawn to areas with open spaces and ample food sources.
Robins are known for their hopping gait and their habit of cocking their heads to the side while searching for food. They are primarily ground foragers, using their keen eyesight to spot insects, worms, and berries. During the breeding season, male robins defend their territories vigorously, often engaging in aerial disputes with neighboring males.
American Robins have a varied diet, feeding on both invertebrates and fruits. They are skilled at finding earthworms, which make up a significant portion of their diet. In the summer months, they can also be seen plucking berries from shrubs and trees.
Attracting American Robins to Your Backyard
To attract American Robins to your backyard, try incorporating plants that produce berries, such as holly, serviceberry, or viburnum. Allowing your lawn to have patches of open soil will make it easier for robins to find worms. Offering a shallow birdbath or a water feature will also be attractive to these birds.
The European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) is a striking bird characterized by its iridescent plumage and yellow bill. While it may be aesthetically pleasing, this species is actually an invasive bird that was introduced to North America in the 19th century.
European Starlings are medium-sized birds with glossy black feathers that shimmer with hints of green and purple. During the breeding season, their plumage is adorned with white speckles, giving them a mottled appearance. They have a short tail and long, slender wings.
European Starlings are highly adaptable birds and can be found in a variety of habitats, including urban areas, farmland, and open woodlands. They are not particularly picky when it comes to nesting locations and will utilize tree cavities, as well as human-made structures like buildings and birdhouses.
Starlings are known for their raucous, melodic songs, which they often sing in large flocks. These flocks can number in the thousands and create an impressive spectacle as they perform intricate aerial displays known as murmurations.
European Starlings have an omnivorous diet, feeding on a wide variety of foods. They are opportunistic feeders and will consume insects, seeds, berries, and even garbage. However, their preference for foraging in large groups can lead to competition with native birds for limited food resources.
Despite their beauty, European Starlings are considered an invasive species in North America. Their aggressive behavior and tendency to outcompete native bird species for resources have had negative impacts on local ecosystems. Bird enthusiasts should be aware of the potential harm these birds can cause and take steps to mitigate their presence in their backyard.
The Black-billed Magpie (Pica hudsonia) is a large, flashy bird that can be found throughout the western United States, including Utah. With its black and white plumage, long tail, and striking yellow eye, this bird is sure to catch your attention.
Black-billed Magpies are easily recognizable with their black feathers, which have a green-tinged iridescent sheen, and their white bellies. They have a long, wedge-shaped tail and their wings display a distinct pattern of black and white. One of their most striking features is their large beak, which is black and slightly curved.
These birds can be found in a variety of habitats, ranging from open fields and grasslands to mountain forests. They often choose to nest in trees or shrubs near water sources.
Magpies are highly intelligent birds and are known for their crafty and curious nature. They have been observed using tools, such as sticks or rocks, to extract food from crevices. Black-billed Magpies are also famous for their tendency to steal shiny objects and incorporate them into their nests, giving rise to the popular belief that magpies are attracted to shiny things.
Black-billed Magpies have an omnivorous diet, consuming a wide variety of insects, small mammals, amphibians, berries, and seeds. They are opportunistic scavengers and will even eat carrion.
An interesting fact about Black-billed Magpies is that they have been observed engaging in cooperative breeding. This means that young magpies from previous broods will sometimes stay with their parents to help raise the next generation of chicks. This behavior is relatively rare in the bird world and adds to the intrigue of these fascinating birds.
The Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis) is a small, unassuming bird that often visits Utah backyards during the winter months. These birds are commonly referred to as “snowbirds” due to their habit of arriving in northern areas just as the first snowfall occurs.
Dark-eyed Juncos have a plump body and a short, stout beak. They have a gray head and neck, a white belly, and darker gray or brown feathers on their back. Their outer tail feathers are white, and they often flash this white tail as they fly away.
During the breeding season, Dark-eyed Juncos can be found in coniferous forests. However, during the winter, they migrate to lower elevations and can be seen in a variety of habitats, including residential areas and gardens.
Juncos are primarily ground feeders and can often be seen hopping around on lawns or pecking at the ground in search of seeds and insects. They prefer to feed in small groups, and their flocking behavior provides them with added protection against predators.
Dark-eyed Juncos have a primarily seed-based diet, which includes a variety of grass seeds, weed seeds, and grains. During the winter months, they may also supplement their diet with berries or insects.
Dark-eyed Juncos are known for their migratory behavior and are considered winter visitors in Utah. They make their appearance just as the snow begins to fall and can bring a touch of cheer to a snowy landscape with their subtle beauty.
The House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) is a small but adaptable bird that is often found in close proximity to humans. This species was introduced to North America from Europe in the mid-19th century and has since become widely established across the continent.
Male House Sparrows have a gray crown, a black patch on their throat, and a brown back with black streaks. Females are duller in coloration, with a pale stripe behind their eye. Both sexes have a short, conical bill.
House Sparrows thrive in a variety of habitats, including urban and suburban areas, as well as farmland. They often nest near buildings and are commonly seen around parks, gardens, and bird feeders.
House Sparrows are social birds that forage in flocks. They are highly adaptable and have learned to exploit food sources associated with human activity, such as discarded food and spills from outdoor eating areas. They are also known to engage in aggressive territorial behavior, often competing with native birds for nesting sites.
House Sparrows have an omnivorous diet, feeding on a wide variety of foods. They consume seeds, grains, insects, and even scraps of human food. Their ability to adapt to different food sources is one of the reasons for their success in urban areas.
Considered a Pest
While their resilience and adaptability are impressive, House Sparrows have become a concern in some areas due to their competitive nature and potential negative impacts on native bird species. They can outcompete native birds for nesting sites and food resources, which has led to their classification as a pest in some regions.
The Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura) is a common and well-loved bird that can be found throughout Utah. With its soft cooing and gentle demeanor, the Mourning Dove brings a sense of tranquility to any backyard.
Mourning Doves are medium-sized birds with slender bodies and long, pointed tails. They have a light gray to buff-colored plumage, with dark spots on their wings. The sides of their necks display a delicate, iridescent patch that shines in the sunlight.
These doves can be found in a variety of habitats, including woodlands, grasslands, and urban areas. They prefer open areas with scattered trees or shrubs where they can forage for food and find appropriate perches.
Mourning Doves are known for their gentle and graceful flight. They often perch on wires or tree branches and can be observed preening their feathers or sunning themselves. Their soft, mournful cooing is a familiar sound in many neighborhoods.
Mourning Doves primarily feed on seeds, such as those from grasses, grains, and weeds. They are ground foragers and will readily visit bird feeders that offer a variety of seeds. Providing a platform feeder or a ground area for these doves can help attract them to your backyard.
Attracting Mourning Doves to Your Backyard
To attract Mourning Doves to your backyard, provide a clean and spacious feeding area with a variety of seed types. Sunflower seeds, cracked corn, and millet are all popular choices. Offering a shallow water source, such as a birdbath, will also be appealing to these birds.
The Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus) is a small, lively bird that can be seen flitting through trees and bushes in Utah backyards. Its cheerful song and playful antics make it a favorite among bird enthusiasts.
Black-capped Chickadees have a distinctive black cap and bib, which contrasts with their white cheeks and a gray back. They have a small, pointed bill and a short tail. These birds are known for their acrobatic abilities, often hanging upside down to feed.
Black-capped Chickadees can be found in a variety of habitats, including forests, woodlands, and suburban areas. They are particularly drawn to areas with ample trees and shrubs where they can find both food and suitable nest sites.
Chickadees are highly active birds, constantly on the move as they search for food. They are fearless and will readily approach humans, sometimes taking food from an outstretched hand. They are also known for their distinctive call, which sounds like “chick-a-dee-dee-dee.”
These birds have a diverse diet, feeding on a variety of insects, seeds, and berries. They are adept at extracting seeds from cones and can often be seen hanging from a branch as they manipulate a seed to extract its tasty interior.
Black-capped Chickadees are known for their wide repertoire of vocalizations. In addition to the “chick-a-dee-dee” call, they produce various songs and calls that convey different meanings. They even have specific vocalizations to communicate the presence of predators, such as hawks or owls.
The American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis) is a small and vibrant bird that can add a splash of color to any backyard. With their bright yellow plumage, these birds are a joy to behold.
The American Goldfinch is easily recognized by its bright yellow breeding plumage. The males display more intense yellow coloring during the summer months, while the females have a more muted yellow with a greenish tint. Both sexes have a black cap and black wings with white markings.
Goldfinches can be found in a variety of habitats, including meadows, grasslands, and residential areas. They are particularly drawn to areas with thistle plants, as the seeds of these plants comprise a significant portion of their diet.
American Goldfinches are skilled acrobats and can often be seen hanging upside down from plants and trees as they search for food. They are social birds and will feed in flocks during the non-breeding season.
These birds primarily feed on the seeds of plants, especially those of thistles and sunflowers. They have a specialized bill that allows them to extract seeds from the seed heads, and they can often be seen dangling from a plant as they pluck seeds.
Bright Breeding Plumage
One of the most remarkable features of the American Goldfinch is its ability to change plumage throughout the year. While many birds achieve vibrant colors during the breeding season, goldfinches are unique in that their intense yellow plumage is displayed during the summer months, making them a truly dazzling sight.
Utah’s backyard birds are a delightful part of the state’s natural heritage, providing a connection to the beauty of the natural world right outside our doors. By understanding the characteristics, habits, and preferences of these common backyard birds, we can take steps to attract them to our own outdoor spaces. From the enchanting melodies of the American Robin and the European Starling to the playful antics of the Black-capped Chickadee and the American Goldfinch’s vibrant plumage, each of these birds brings a unique charm and beauty to Utah’s backyard landscapes. Whether you’re a seasoned birdwatcher or simply enjoy observing these feathered friends, take some time to appreciate the colorful and diverse avian residents that grace our homes with their presence.