The Most Common Backyard Birds in Illinois: Pictures and Tips

Discover the fascinating world of Illinois’s backyard birds with “The Most Common Backyard Birds in Illinois: Pictures and Tips.” Using data from the citizen science program eBird, this article provides valuable information on the various bird species that frequent the state. From the beloved American Robin to the striking Northern Cardinal, these birds will captivate your attention and fill your backyard with beauty. With stunning pictures and useful tips on attracting these birds, you’ll find yourself immersed in the wonders of birdwatching. Whether you’re a seasoned bird enthusiast or just starting out, this article offers everything you need, from information on local bird watching clubs to advice on choosing the perfect pair of binoculars. Get ready to embark on an exciting journey through Illinois’s bird-filled landscapes as you explore their habitats, behaviors, ranges, and food preferences.

The Most Common Backyard Birds in Illinois: Pictures and Tips

The Most Common Backyard Birds in Illinois

Illinois is home to a diverse range of bird species, with over 440 types of birds listed in the citizen science program eBird. While there are many beautiful and unique species to be found, some birds are more commonly spotted in Illinois backyards than others. This article will provide information on the most common backyard birds in Illinois, including their habitats, behaviors, and food preferences.

American Robin

The American Robin (Turdus migratorius) is one of the most easily recognizable birds in Illinois. With its vibrant orange breast and melodic song, it is a frequent visitor to many backyards across the state. Robins can be seen hopping along lawns, foraging for earthworms and insects. They are versatile birds, adapting to a wide range of habitats, including forests, suburbs, and open fields.

Northern Cardinal

Another popular visitor to Illinois backyards is the Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis). These striking birds are known for their bright red plumage and distinctive crest. Cardinals can be found in a variety of habitats, including woodlands, gardens, and urban areas. Their diet consists mainly of seeds and fruits, making them frequent visitors to bird feeders.

House Sparrow

The House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) is a small bird that has adapted well to human presence. Originally native to Europe, this species has successfully established itself in Illinois and can be found in both urban and rural areas. House Sparrows are often seen in flocks, feeding on seeds and grains. They are known for their chirping calls and can be quite vocal, especially during the breeding season.


The bright yellow plumage of the American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis) makes it a popular sight in Illinois backyards. These small birds are often seen perched on thistle seed feeders, as they have a preference for seeds, especially those from sunflowers and dandelions. Goldfinches are known for their acrobatic flight and can be found in a variety of habitats, including open fields, gardens, and woodlands.

Blue Jay

The Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata) is a striking bird with its vibrant blue feathers and distinctive crest. Although they can be found throughout the year in Illinois, they are more commonly seen during the winter months, as they migrate from their breeding grounds further north. These intelligent birds have a varied diet, which includes nuts, seeds, insects, and even small vertebrates. Blue Jays are known for their loud and noisy calls, which can be heard from a distance.

Red-winged Blackbird

The Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) is a common sight in marshes, wetlands, and grasslands across Illinois. The males of this species are known for their black feathers with red and yellow shoulder patches, which they display during courtship and territorial disputes. Red-winged Blackbirds have a varied diet, including seeds, insects, and small aquatic animals. Their distinctive song, a high-pitched “conk-la-ree,” is often heard in their breeding territories.

Mourning Dove

The soft cooing of the Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura) is a familiar sound in Illinois backyards. These slender birds are gray-brown in color and have long tails. They are often seen perched on telephone wires or feeding on the ground. Mourning Doves primarily feed on seeds, including those from grasses, weeds, and cultivated crops. They are adaptable birds, found in a variety of habitats, including woodlands, farms, and suburban areas.

House Finch

The House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus) is a small bird with a vibrant red coloration on its head and chest. Originally native to the western United States, House Finches have successfully expanded their range to include Illinois. They can be found in a variety of habitats, including backyards, parks, and urban areas. House Finches primarily feed on seeds, including those from fruits, flowers, and bird feeders. They have a melodious song, which can be heard throughout their territories.

Downy Woodpecker

The Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens) is the smallest and most common woodpecker species in Illinois. With its black and white plumage and small size, it is easily distinguishable from other woodpeckers. Downy Woodpeckers have a preference for woodlands, but can also be found in parks, gardens, and even urban areas. They primarily feed on insects, including beetles, ants, and caterpillars. Their drumming and pecking sounds can often be heard as they search for food.

Chipping Sparrow

The Chipping Sparrow (Spizella passerina) is a small bird found in open woodlands, gardens, and parks across Illinois. It is named for its distinctive song, which sounds like a series of fast, high-pitched chips. Chipping Sparrows have a varied diet, feeding on seeds, berries, and insects. They are often seen hopping on the ground, searching for food, or perched in trees, singing their melodious song.

Pictures of Common Backyard Birds in Illinois

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Tips to Attract Birds to Your Backyard

If you want to attract birds to your backyard in Illinois, there are several steps you can take. First and foremost, providing a reliable food source is crucial. This can be achieved through the use of bird feeders, which can be stocked with seeds, suet, and nectar. Different species have different food preferences, so offering a variety of feeders and food types can attract a wider range of birds.

In addition to bird feeders, creating a bird-friendly habitat is important. This can include planting native trees, shrubs, and flowers that provide food and shelter for birds. Offering fresh water, through a birdbath or shallow pool, can also attract birds, as they require water for drinking and bathing. Providing nesting boxes or structures can encourage birds to stay and raise their young in your backyard.

Lastly, minimizing the use of pesticides and creating a safe environment for birds is essential. Birds are sensitive to toxic chemicals, so using organic or natural pest control methods is recommended. Keeping cats indoors and placing decals on windows to prevent bird collisions can also help create a safer environment for birds.

Illinois as a Birding Hotspot

Birding enthusiasts will find plenty of opportunities to explore and observe birds in Illinois. The state’s diverse habitat types, including forests, wetlands, prairies, and lakes, attract a wide variety of bird species. Furthermore, Illinois is located on the Central Flyway, a major migration route for birds traveling between their breeding and wintering grounds.

eBird Citizen Science Program

One of the best resources for birders in Illinois is the citizen science program eBird. Managed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, eBird allows birders to record and share their observations, contributing to a valuable database of bird sightings. The program provides birders with tools to keep track of their sightings, explore hotspot maps, and contribute to scientific research on bird populations and distribution.

Central Flyway for Migration

Illinois’ location on the Central Flyway makes it a prime destination for birdwatchers during migration seasons. In the spring, millions of birds travel north from their wintering grounds to their breeding grounds, passing through Illinois. In the fall, these birds make the return journey, heading south to their wintering grounds. This presents birdwatchers with the opportunity to spot a wide variety of species during peak migration periods.

The Most Common Backyard Birds in Illinois: Pictures and Tips

Bird Watching Clubs in Illinois

For birders looking to connect with fellow enthusiasts and expand their knowledge, joining a bird watching club in Illinois can be a great option. These clubs often organize field trips, bird walks, and educational events, providing opportunities to learn from experienced birders and explore new birding locations. Some popular bird watching clubs in Illinois include the Illinois Ornithological Society, the Chicago Audubon Society, and the Illinois Young Birders.

Choosing the Right Binoculars for Bird Watching

Binoculars are an essential tool for bird watching, allowing birders to observe birds up close and in detail. When choosing binoculars for bird watching, there are several factors to consider. The first is the magnification power, which determines how close the birds will appear. A magnification of 7x to 10x is generally recommended for bird watching.

Another important consideration is the size and weight of the binoculars. Birders often spend long periods of time outdoors, so lightweight and compact binoculars are preferred for comfort and portability. Additionally, the quality of the optics, such as the lenses and prism coatings, can greatly affect the clarity and brightness of the bird image.

It is also worth considering the field of view, which determines the width of the area that can be seen through the binoculars. A wider field of view makes it easier to locate and follow birds in flight. Finally, the price range is an important factor to consider, as binoculars can vary greatly in cost. It is recommended to try out different models and brands before making a final decision.

The Most Common Backyard Birds in Illinois: Pictures and Tips

Species Accounts with Photographs and Descriptions

For bird enthusiasts in Illinois, having access to species accounts with photographs and descriptions can be invaluable for bird identification. These accounts provide detailed information about each species, including physical characteristics, habitat preferences, behavior, and vocalizations. They often include photographs or illustrations to aid in identification.

With this comprehensive article, bird enthusiasts in Illinois will have all the information they need to identify and appreciate the most common backyard birds in the state. By attracting birds to their backyards, participating in citizen science programs, and connecting with local bird watching clubs, birders can deepen their understanding and enjoyment of the diverse avian life in Illinois.

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