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Medium-sized Birds

Mallards are medium size birds

Very Small | Small | MEDIUM | Biggest

10 to 24 in.

Welcome to the fascinating world of medium-sized birds! These feathered creatures may not be the biggest or the flashiest, but they are still some of the most impressive and fascinating birds around.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the amazing world of medium sized birds.

So, whether you’re a bird enthusiast or just curious about the amazing creatures that share our world, join us on this incredible journey into the skies and beyond, as we explore the fascinating world of medium sized birds. Get ready to be amazed by their incredible beauty, intelligence, and unique characteristics!

This group includes ducks, larger shorebirds, gulls and terns, smaller raptors, doves, jays, grackles.

Ducks, Geese and Swans – Family Anatidae

Ducks, Geese and Swans are waterfowl that have webbed feet, bills adapted to foraging in the water and are found in a variety of habitats around the world.


Wood Duck– 20 in.

Aix sponsa

wood duck

Wood Duck – 18 in.

  • Average size: 18.5-21.3 inches (47-54 cm)
  • Average weight: 16.0-30.4 ounces (454-862 g)

Wood Ducks are medium-sized birds with distinctive crested green heads and multi-colored plumage.

Since they are water birds, Wood Ducks are often seen in swamp-like areas and ponds across North America. You can see them foraging their way through aquatic vegetation or perching on tree branches.


Mallard – 23 in.

Anas platyrhynchos


Mallard – 23 in.

  • Average size: 20-26 inches (50-65 cm)
  • Average weight: 1.5-3.5 pounds (0.7-1.6 kg)

Mallards are medium-sized dabbling ducks common almost all across the world. They are best recognized by the male’s iridescent green head, brown breast, gray body, and black rear. Females are mottled brown.

Look for Mallards in wetland habitats, such as lakes, rivers, marshes, and ponds. They’re likely to move around in small groups and accept food from humans.


Northern Pintail – 25 in.

Anas acuta

northern pintail

Northern Pintail – 20 to 26 in.

  • Average size: 20-30 inches (51-76 cm)
  • Average weight: 0.99-3 pounds (0.45-1.36 kg)

Northern Pintails are elegant medium-sized waterbirds found in aquatic and wetland biomes throughout the world.

Their elegant look can be attributed to their long, pointed tail and long neck. Males are uniformly gray with a white breast and a chestnut head, whereas females are rather mottled brown.

You can see them foraging in groups along shallow edges of ponds, rivers, and lakes, but also in marshes and grain fields.


Northern Shoveler, male – 19 in.

Spatula clypeata

northern shoveler

Northern Shoveler, male – 19 in.

  • Average size: 17.3-20.1 inches (44-51 cm)
  • Average weight: 14.1-28.9 ounces (400-820 g)

Northern Shovelers are common birds easily distinguished by their oversized, shovel-shaped bill. The males have an iridescent dark green head and a white and warm brown body, and the females are mottled brown all over.

They have a wide range all over North America and Eurasia. You can see them in shallow pools and lakes, marshes, and flooded areas, busily filtering food from the water.


Blue-winged Teal – 15 in.

Spatula discors

blue-winged teal

Blue-winged Teal – 15 in.

  • Average size: 14.2-16.1 inches (36-41 cm)
  • Average weight: 8.1-19.2 ounces (230-545 g)

Blue-winged Teal is a smaller dabbling duck widespread in North and Central America. They have a distinct buff body with dark speckling and a slaty-blue head. Females are mottled brown.

These birds forage and dabble in pairs and small groups at the edges of calm bodies of fresh water, such as marshes, lakes, and ponds.


Canvasback – 20.5 in.

Aythya valisineria


Canvasback – 21 in.

  • Average size: 18.9-22.1 inches (48-56 cm)
  • Average weight: 30.4-56.0 ounces (862-1588 g)

Canvasbacks are common across most of North America and can easily be told apart from others by their long neck and wedge-shaped head. Males are a mix of chestnut, black, and light grayish body whereas females are pale brown.

Canvasbacks gather in large groups and float on open water, although they tend to get spooked easily. The best place to look for them are lakes, ponds, deep-water marshes, and bays.


Lesser Scaup, male – 17 in.

Aythya affinis

lesser scaup

Lesser Scaup, male – 16 in.

  • Average size: 15-19 inches (38-48 cm)
  • Average weight: 16-38.4 ounces (454-1089 g)

Common across North and Central America, Lesser Scaups are about crow-sized diving ducks with beautiful black-and-white or black-and-gray plumage.

If you want to see one, you should head to large bodies of water, such as lakes, bays, and rivers, where they form large flock and mix with other diving ducks. They also inhabit marshes, and larger wetlands.

Hawks, Kites, Eagles – Family Accipitridae

Hawks, Kites, and Eagles are birds of prey with sharp talons and hooked beaks, found on every continent except for Antarctica, and they are known for their impressive size, agility and hunting abilities.


Cooper’s Hawk – 17 in.

Accipiter cooperii


Cooper’s Hawk – 14 in. to 20 in.

  • Average size: 14-20 inches (35-50 cm)
  • Average weight: 7.8-24ounces (220-680 g)

Cooper’s Hawk is a skillful aerial predator inhabiting wooded habitats across the United States. While perching, you can recognize them by their upright posture, bluish-gray upperside and white underside with dense pale-rusty barring.

You can often see them flying fast and low near the ground with flap-flap-glide pattern. Keep alert since they are quite stealthy and small for hawks. It’s important to note that females are around 20% larger than males.


Peregrine Falcon – 18 in.

Falco peregrinus


Peregrine Falcon – 20 in.

  • Average size: 13-23 inches (31-58 cm)
  • Average weight: 12-53 ounces (330-1500 g)

Seen across all of North and Central America, these powerful and fast-flying hunters are one of the most widespread species.

Adults have a bluish-gray upperside and white underside. You can see them perching high in open areas and scanning the surroundings for prey. As the fastest birds in the world, you can recognize them by their incredible dives that may reach speeds of up to 200 mph.

Plovers – Family Charadriidae

Plovers are small to medium-sized wading birds with short bills and distinctive plumage, found on every continent except for Antarctica, and they are known for their unique behavior of running quickly along the beach in search of prey.


Killdeer – 10 in.

Charadrius vociferus


Killdeer – 11 in.

  • Average size: 7.9-11 inches (20-28 cm)
  • Average weight: 2.6-4.5 ounces (75-128 g)

Killdeer got their name for the high-pitched call that vaguely sounds like killdeer. It’s a slender shorebird with a brownish-tan upperside, white underside, and tan-white-black head.

Common across all of North America, you can find it on open ground, such as lawns, pastures, sandbars, fields, and mudflats.

Sandpipers – Family Scolopacidae

Sandpipers are small to medium-sized shorebirds with long, thin bills, found on every continent except for Antarctica, and they are known for their ability to probe their bills into the sand to find food.


Whimbrel – 17.5 in.

Numenius hudsonicus


Whimbrel – 18 in.

  • Average size: 16.9-18.1 inches (43-46 cm)
  • Average weight: 10.9-14.3 ounces (310-404 g)

Whimbrels are large shorebirds with long necks and legs, and a vey long and downcurved bill. Its mottled brown plumage is lighter tan below.

You can see it probing mud for small invertebrates on open tundra, beaches, and mudflats along the coast of all North America.


Long-billed Curlew – 23 in.

Numenius americanus

  • Average size: 20-26 inches (50-65 cm)
  • Average weight: 17.3-33.5 ounces (490-950 g)

Long-billed Curlew’s upperside is tan with brown speckles and bars, whereas its underside is plain cinnamon-colored. You can recognize it by its long 4.5-8.5 inches long downcurved bill and long legs.

Look for this bird in the grasslands of west-central North America. It feeds in flocks, probing mud for food.


Willet – 14.5 in.

Tringa semipalmata


Willet – 15 in.

  • Average size: 13-16 inches (33-40 cm)
  • Average weight: 7-11.6 ounces (200-330 g)

Willets have a tan plumage mottled in black, gray, and white. They have long legs and a long bill, although much shorter than that of a Long-billed Curlew’s.

They mostly forage alone in sand and mudflats. You can meet them in coastal saltmarshes in the east, freshwater marshes, and sloughs in the west, and in other wetlands inland.


Pigeons and Doves – Family Columbidae

Pigeons and Doves are small to medium-sized birds found in a variety of habitats around the world, known for their soft cooing calls and unique physical characteristics, such as their plump bodies and small heads.


Rock Pigeon – 13 in.

Columba livia

rock pigeon

Rock Pigeon – 13 in.

  • Average size: 11-15 inches (29-37 cm)
  • Average weight: 8.4-13.4 ounces (238-380 g)

Rock Pigeons are one of the most common pigeons seen in urban environments across North America. You have probably already met one of these bluish gray birds with iridescent throat feathers and dark wing bands.

They are common in cities and towns, often seen in flocks, pecking in urban parks and around farms.


Mourning Dove – 12 in.

Zenaida macroura

mourning dove

Mourning Dove – 12 in.

  • Average size: 9.1-13.4 inches (23-34 cm)
  • Average weight: 3.4-6 ounces (96-170 g)

Mourning Doves have long tails and plump brown, buffy, or gray bodies with black spots on wings, capable of blending into their surroundings.

You can meet them nearly everywhere in the United States. Look for them foraging in fields or perching on higher spots like telephone wires. The only place you won’t find them are deep woods.

Crows and Jays – Family Corvidae

Crows and Jays are medium to large-sized birds with dark plumage, found on every continent except for Antarctica, known for their intelligence, adaptability and distinctive vocalizations.

Blue Jay – 11 in.

Cyanocitta cristata

blue jay

Blue Jay – 11 in.

  • Average size: 9.8-11.8 inches (25-30 cm)
  • Average weight: 2.5-3.5 ounces (70-100 g)

Blue Jays are a beautiful long-bodied and crested bird with azure blue upperside and pure white underside with black woven into it.

You can meet Blue Jays foraging at forest edges, in forests, woodlots, and parks in eastern part of the United States. They may also visit backyards to eat from bird feeders.


Steller’s Jay – 12 in.

Cyanocitta stelleri

stellers jay

Steller’s Jay – 12 in.

  • Average size: 11.8-13.4 inches (30-34 cm)
  • Average weight: 3.5-4.9 ounces (100-140 grams)

Steller’s Jay is a stunning charcoal black and dark blue bird with a long black crest. These noisy birds can be found foraging on the ground or flying through the canopies of evergreen forests in western North America, at elevations of 3,000-10,000  feet.

They’re bold birds and also visit campgrounds and picnic areas to beg for food.

Blackbirds, including Meadowlarks, Blackbirds, Grackles, Orioles – Family Icteridae

Blackbirds, including Meadowlarks, Blackbirds, Grackles, Orioles, are medium to large-sized birds with dark plumage, found in a variety of habitats around the world, known for their unique songs and vocalizations and are popular among birdwatchers and nature lovers alike.


Common Grackle – 12 in.

Quiscalus quiscula

common grackle

Common Grackle – 12 in.

  • Average size: 11-13-4 inches (28-34 cm)
  • Average weight: 2.6-5 ounces (74-142 g)

Large and stretched-looking blackbirds, these common birds appear black from a distance but have an colorful iridescent plumage up close and in the sunlight.

Common Grackles can be found in wet woodland, marshes, suburbs, parks, and agricultural fields. To spot them, look for the tallest, longest-tailed blackbirds in large flocks of blackbirds and starlings.


Great-tailed Grackle – 16.5 in.

Quiscalus mexicanus

  • Average size: 15-18.1 inches (38-46 cm)
  • Average weight: 3.7-6.7 ounces (105-190 g)

These birds are very similar to Common Grackles except for their long V-shaped tail. Females are dark brown above and paler below.

You can often meet them in Midwest and West, foraging in rural and developed areas alongside other blackbirds and starlings. They prefer to stay near water and brushy areas for cover.



How to ID medium-sized birds?

Birds can be identified by size, shape, plumage, behavior, and habitat. If you see a bird in the wild, try to remember as many details as possible to later identify it, or if you want to find a specific one in the wild, read about them before you start looking for them.

What is a medium size avian?

Medium-sized birds generally have a body that measures between 10 to 20 inches.

Read Next: Very Small | Small | MEDIUM | Biggest

About the Author

Heleen Roos

Heleen has loved the outdoors and nature since childhood and has always been fascinated with birds, leading her to research more about them. She has accumulated a lot of knowledge about their behaviors and habits through birdwatching tours and her own explorations. Her goal is to share the most interesting and useful facts about them.

Let others know your thoughts or ask an expert


Friday 23rd of June 2023

I saw a 11" bird with a red head and back and the belly was brown with white dots. This is the first time I've seen this birds. What is it?

Patrick O'Donnell

Monday 26th of June 2023

@Pat- That sounds like an interesting bird. Since there's so many different species of birds, often, we need information about the location and habitat where the bird was seen in addition to the description. What state do you live in and where did you see it (a backyard, forest, open area, etc.)?

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