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Birds of Arkansas – Most Common Birds of the State

Birds of Arkanas

The birds of Arkansas include 428 species of beautiful and exciting birds! In Arkansas, glowing yellow Prothonotary Warblers sing from cypress swamps, Bald Eagles soar over lakes and rivers, and we can even see Greater Roadrunners!

With thousands of acres of forests, wetlands, and meadows, there’s a lot of birds to watch in Arkansas. How many birds in Arkansas have you seen? We bet you’ve seen a lot but how many could you identify?

This accurate list of the 30 most common backyard and wild birds in Arkansas will help!

 

Most Common Birds of Arkansas

According to eBird data from 2021 to 2023, the following list shows the 30 most common birds of Arkansas.

To help with identification, we also included information about field marks and behavior (remember that the species on the bottom of the list are common birds too!).

 

Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinal

Scientific name: Cardinalis cardinalis

Length: 8.75 inches
Weight: 1.6 ounces
Wingspan: 12 inches
Song:
pichew-pichew-pichew, chew,chew,chew,chew,chew

Northern Cardinals are medium-sized songbirds with a perky crest and big orange-red beak. Males are bright red with a black throat and face, and have dusky red on their back, wings, and tail.

Female Northern Cardinals are grayish-brown and buff with some black on their face and throat. They also have red highlights on their crest, wings, and long, rounded tail.

This species has short, rounded wings and seems to bounce up and down as they move through the air. In flight, Northern Cardinals also make sharp chip notes.

It eats seeds, insects, and some fruit and is a regular visitor to bird feeders. They forage on and near the ground, but males sing from a prominent perch.

This beautiful bird occurs in pairs and nests in bushes and low trees. It is common in the eastern and southwestern USA, making it one of the most common birds of Arkansas. They are also present in southern Ontario, and in Mexico.

Key Identifications:

  • Crested bird with a conical orange-red beak and a black face. Males are red, females are grayish-brown and buff.
  • Forages for seeds and insects on and near the ground.
  • Makes a cup-shaped nest in bushes and low trees.
  • Sings a clear, whistled song of repeated notes. They can sound like “cheer, cheer, chew, chew, chew, chew” or a quick “birdee,birdee,birdee,birdee,birdee“. They also make loud, sharp chip notes.

Northern Cardinals are one of the most beautiful common birds in most states. It’s no wonder seven different states chose it to be their official bird.

 

American Crow

American Crow

Scientific name: Corvus brachyrhynchos

Length: 17.5 inches
Weight: 1 pound
Wingspan: 39 inches
Song:
Caw! Caw!”

The American Crow is a big, all black bird with a strong, stout bill. In certain lighting, it can have metallic purple and blue iridescence.

Both sexes look the same and have some feathering on their beaks, long, broad wings, and a broad tail.

American Crows have a direct flight with strong, steady wing beats. Crows are very social and intelligent birds that are usually seen in flocks. They forage together on the ground or in trees and eat just about anything they can find.

Some of their more regular foods include carrion, fruit, nuts, seeds, insects, and small animals. Like most jays and crow species, they also eat the eggs and nestlings of other bird species.

This species builds bulky stick nests high in trees and lives in most habitats except for high mountains and arid zones.

The American Crow occurs in southern Alaska and much of Canada and the USA.

Key Identifications:

  • Big, all black bird with long, broad wing and a broad tail.
  • Forages for carrion, fruit, seeds, insects, and small animals.
  • Builds a bulky stick nest high in a tree.
  • American Crows are very vocal birds. They can make several calls but their most common one is, “Caw! Caw! Caw!”.

The American Crow is a common, large black bird that frequently calls, “Caw! Caw! Caw!”. It usually occurs in flocks and lives in all sorts of places, even urban zones. These birds are very smart and have funerals or wakes! When a crow dies, other crows mark the occasion by gathering together and loudly calling.

 

Blue Jay

blue jay

Photograph © Alan Wilson.

Scientific name: Cyanocitta cristata

Length: 11 inches
Weight: 3 ounces
Wingspan: 16 inches
Song: 
Nyeah! Nyeah! Nyeah!

The Blue Jay is a fairly large, crested bird with a straight black bill. Both sexes look alike and are blue above and gray and white below. They also have some small black lines on their faces and a narrow black necklace that goes up to the side of their face and crest.

Blue Jays also have some white markings and black barring in their wings and on their tail. Young birds look like adults but are duller blue.

They make messy cup nests at various heights in a variety of trees.

These social and intelligent birds feed on acorns, nuts, insects, and other small creatures. Like other members of the jay and crow family, they eat the eggs and nestlings of other birds.

Blue Jay is a common bird of woodlands, forest, and towns east of the Rocky Mountains in the USA and central and southern Canada. They are one of the most common birds of Arkansas.

Key Identifications:

  • Crested, fairly large bird with bright blue above and gray below.
  • Feeds in trees and at feeders. Eats acorns, nuts, insects and many other food items.
  • Makes a messy cup nest of sticks in a tree.
  • Very vocal. In flight, Blue Jays often call as they swoop through the trees. They make a variety of sounds and mimic some other birds. Common calls include a nasal and complaining “Nyeah! Nyeah! Nyeah!” and various whistled calls.

The Blue Jays  make their presence known with their loud calls and can visit feeders. Ironically, when communicating with each other at close quarters, this species makes much softer and quieter calls. It’s almost as if they are talking with each other!

 

Carolina Chickadee

Carolina Chickadee

Scientific name: Poecile carolinensis

Length: 4.75 inches
Weight: .37 ounces
Wingspan: 7.5 inches
Song: 
see-dee, see-dew

The Carolina Chickadee is a small, cute, grayish and buff bird with a black cap, black throat, and white face. Males and females look the same and have stubby black beaks, strong, blue-gray legs and feet, and some pale edging on the feathers in their wings and tails.

This small bird mostly feeds on insects and seeds. It finds food by foraging with flocks of other small birds and picking small bugs and other items from bark, foliage, and twigs. Carolina Chickadees often hang upside down from twigs while foraging and are regular visitors to bird feeders.

These fun little birds nest in tree cavities and nest boxes, and live in parks, woodlands, and other habitats. As long as enough trees are present, they also commonly live in urban areas.

The Carolina Chickadee is a permanent resident of Maryland and Ohio west to Texas and south to northern Florida.

Key Identifications:

  • The Carolina Chickadee is a small gray and buff bird with a smart black cap, black throat, and white face.
  • Feeds on small insects and seeds. A regular visitor to bird feeders.
  • Nests in tree cavities and nest boxes.
  • Carolina Chickadees are vocal birds that make nasal “chick a dee dee dee” calls, and a high-pitched, “see-dee, see-dew”.

The Carolina Chickadee is a small grayish bird with a black cap and throat. They usually occur in small flocks t

 

Tufted Titmouse

Tufted Titmouse

Scientific name: Baeolophus bicolor

Length: 6.5 inches
Weight: .75 ounces
Wingspan: 9.75 inches
Song: 
peter peter peter

The Tufted Titmouse is a small, crested, blue-gray bird with a white face. Males and females look the same and have a small black mark above their stubby black beak. They also have pale underparts with peach-orange flanks.

These cute little birds occur in small groups that forage for insects and seeds in parks and woodlands. They move through the trees and use their bills to pick food from leaves, bark, and branches. Tufted Titmouse are also regular visitors to bird feeders.

These small birds nest in woodpecker holes and other cavities in dead trees, and can also use nest boxes.

We find the Tufted Titmouse in hardwood forests and forested urban areas. They are often heard before they are seen, and flock with other small birds. When they see a predator, they are some of the first birds to harass it.

The Tufted Titmouse occurs in the eastern USA and some parts of southeastern Canada.

Key Identifications:

  • Small, crested blue-gray bird with pale underparts and a white face.
  • Feeds on seeds and insects and visits feeders.
  • Nests in tree cavities and nest boxes.
  • The Tufted Titmouse is a very vocal bird. It gives constant whistled calls over and over, “peter peter peter“.

The Tufted Titmouse is an easily recognized bird that lives in parks, gardens, and woodlands. It occurs in small flocks, often visits feeders, and needs dead trees or nest boxes to breed. This species lines its nest with mammal hair, including fur from Raccoons, Opossums, and other animals.

 

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Scientific name: Melanerpes carolinus

Length: 9.25 inches
Weight: 2.2 ounces
Wingspan: 16 inches
Song: 
Qwerr!

Red-bellied Woodpeckers are medium-sized with black and white barring on their back and wings. They have a long beak and pale gray underparts with a small red patch on the belly.

Males have red on the head from the bill to the back of the neck (the nape). Females have an orange-red spot above their bill and red on the back of their head. Both sexes have a mostly white rump and central tail feathers.

This woodpecker species has long wings and “undulating” flight where it moves up and down as it flies. In flight, Red-bellied Woodpeckers show a small white patch in their wings.

The Red-bellied Woodpecker lives in wooded habitats. It eats nuts, seeds, insects, fruit, and can attack nestlings of other species. It also visits bird feeders.

This striking woodpecker occurs in pairs and nests in tree cavities high above the ground. It is common in the eastern USA and parts of southern Ontario.

Key Identifications:

  • Grayish woodpecker with black and white barring above, and red on the top of the head and back of the neck.
  • Forages for seeds, nuts, insects and other food on trunks and branches.
  • Nests in a tree cavity, high overhead.
  • Makes a loud exclamation, “Qwerr!“. It also makes other, briefer and quieter “chug” calls.

Red-bellied Woodpeckers are common and adaptable birds. As long as big trees are present, we see them in urban areas as well as wilder places. They also visit feeders and have a very long tongue. When extended, it sticks out 2 inches past the tip of its bill!

 

Carolina Wren

Carolina Wren

Scientific name: Thryothorus ludovicianus

Length: 5.5 inches
Weight: .74 ounces
Wingspan: 7.5 inches
Song: 
teakettle, teakettle, teakettle

The Carolina Wren is a small, reddish-brown and buff bird with a long, sharp, slightly decurved beak. It has a long, narrow, white eyebrow, a white throat, and some white mottling on its face. Males and females are similar and have black barring on their short wings, long tail, and under the tail.

Juveniles are similar but have paler underparts. This animated and vocal little bird forages for bugs in vine tangles and other dense vegetation. It usually occurs in pairs that can easily hide in the dense vegetation they prefer.

Carolina Wrens build a domed, cup nest made of sticks and soft vegetation. There is a side entrance, and it can be placed in cavities and crevices of stumps, bushes, trees, potted plants, and other structures.

The Carolina Wren lives in vegetated gardens, second growth, parks, and similar habitats in much of the eastern USA, parts of southern Ontario, and parts of eastern Mexico. They are one of the most common birds of Arkansas.

Key Identifications:

  • Small reddish-brown and buff bird with a long beak and long white eyebrows.
  • Feeds on arthropods in dense, tangled vegetation.
  • Makes a domed cup nest with a side entrance in crevices, tree cavities, and human-made structures.
  • Carolina Wrens fill the garden with loud and melodious songs. One common song sounds like, “teakettle, teakettle, teakettle“. They also make trilled sounds and harsh, nasal calls.

The Carolina Wren is a vocal species of gardens and second growth. Pairs use their long beaks to catch bugs and insects and aren’t shy about nesting near people. Many of these friendly birds have nested in such places as old shoes, potted plants, and abandoned cars.

 

Downy Woodpecker

Female Downy Woodpecker

Scientific name: Dryobates pubescens

Length: 6.75 inches
Weight: .95 ounces
Wingspan: 12 inches
Song:
Pik! Ch,ch,ch,ch,ch,ch,ch!

The Downy Woodpecker is a small black and white woodpecker with a short, black beak. They are patterned black and white above and have white backs and white underparts. Both sexes look alike except that males have a small, bright red patch on the top back part of their head.

Young birds look like adults but have a reddish patch on the top of their heads. Downy Woodpeckers also have a few small black marks in their white outer tail feathers, and a small white tuft at the base of their beak.

This woodpecker eats insects, other small creatures, seeds, and small fruits. It pecks into live and dead wood and often forages on smaller branches and twigs. These friendly little woodpeckers are also common feeder birds.

They nest in tree cavities and live in gardens and a wide variety of woodlands. We see Downy Woodpeckers in much of Canada and the USA, but not in arid habitats.

Key Identifications:

  • Smallest woodpecker in North America. Mostly black and white with a short, black beak.
  • Forages on trees, in bushes, and at feeders for insects, seeds, and suet.
  • Nests in tree cavities.
  • The Downy Woodpecker makes sharp “pik!” calls and also has a trilled call, “Ch,ch,ch,ch,ch,ch,ch!“.

Downy Woodpeckers are the smallest woodpecker species in North America and usually occur in pairs. They can also forage with other small birds and often visit feeders. This species takes advantage of its size to peck into the stems of weeds and other plants too small for larger woodpeckers to perch on.

 

 

Mourning Dove

Mourning Dove

Photograph © Greg Lavaty.

Scientific name: Zenaida macroura

Length: 12 inches
Weight: 4.2 ounces
Wingspan: 18 inches
Song: 
hooOOA, hoo, hoo, hoo”

Mourning Doves are medium-sized, grayish-brown doves with long tails. They have small black spots on their wings and a small head with a slender, dark beak.

Males and females also have narrow gray eyerings, a black mark on the face, and pale iridescent gold on the sides of their necks. They look alike except for males having more gray on the head and neck, and more iridescence.

This dove has fairly long wings and swift, direct flight. When flying, it shows black and white in its tail.

The Mourning Dove occurs in woodlands, gardens, on farms, and in urban areas. This common feeder visitor eats seeds and grains. It also forages in open situations, picking food from the ground.

This pleasant dove species can visit a feeder on its own or forage in small flocks. It builds an unkempt stick nest in bushes and trees and is very common throughout the USA, southern Canada, and Mexico.

Key Identifications:

  • Plain brown and gray dove with a long, pointed tail.
  • Feeds on seeds at feeders and on the ground in open areas.
  • Makes a small, messy nest of sticks in trees.
  • Sings a sad and owl-like “hooOOA, hoo, hoo, hoo”.

Mourning Doves are often mistaken for owls, thanks to their cooing song. This species has a short lifespan, with many adults only living for a couple of years or less.

 

American Robin

Female American Robin

Scientific name: Turdus migratorius

Length: 10 inches
Weight: 2.7 ounces
Wingspan: 17 inches
Song: 
“cheery, cheery, cheery, cheery, cheer, cheer

The American Robin is a familiar and common thrush that is dark gray above and brick red below. It also has an orange-yellow bill, a blackish head with white markings around the eyes and on the throat, and a white belly.

Both sexes of this thrush species are similar but males are darker above and more reddish on the underparts. Young American Robins have more white marks on their faces and spotting on orange underparts.

In flight, this common thrush in Arkansas also shows white corners in its outer tail feathers.

American Robins forage on the ground for worms, insects, snails, and other small creatures. In winter, these common birds flock together and perch in trees and bushes to eat berries and fruit.

The American Robin makes a cup nest in trees and lives in parks, woodlands, towns, and many other habitats. They reside in Alaska, most of Canada, the USA and in Mexico.

Key Identifications:

  • Fair-sized songbird that is dark gray above, and brick red and white below.
  • Forages for worms and bugs on lawns and other open grassy areas, also flocks together to feed on fruiting trees in the winter.
  • Makes a cup nest in trees.
  • The American Robin is quite vocal and makes a loud, sharp, “yenk!” call and quieter “check,check,check” calls. It also has a lovely cheerful song of caroled phrases, “cheery, cheery, cheery, cheery, cheer, cheer”.

With an estimated population of 370 million, the American Robin is considered to be the most numerous landbird in North America.

 

Turkey Vulture

turkey vulture

Scientific name: Cathartes aura

Length: 26 inches
Weight: 4 pounds
Wingspan: 67 inches
Song: 
hisss

The Turkey Vulture is a big, dark brownish-black raptor with a small red head and long, broad wings. Males and females look alike and also have a longish tail.

In flight, the way Turkey Vultures soar is one of the best ways to recognize them. They fly with their wings held in a “V” shape and, when gliding, often rock back and forth.

Their flight feathers are also paler than the rest of their wings, but they lack the Black Vulture’s white wing patch.

Turkey Vultures are scavengers and most of their diet is carrion. They eat road kill and a wide variety of dead animals. This species forages over every type of habitat and can also fly over urban areas.

It lays two eggs on the ground in caves and hollow logs.

The Turkey Vulture lives in southern Canada and in most of the USA south to southern Argentina.

Key Identifications:

  • Big, dark raptor with a small red head that soars with long wings held in a “V”.
  • Feeds on dead animals.
  • Nests on the ground in caves and hollow logs in secluded areas.
  • Turkey Vultures rarely call and mostly make hissing sounds at their nest.

The Turkey Vulture is commonly seen flying over every type of habitat. They are often seen on their own but can occur in flocks, especially during migration. Unlike most other birds, this species uses its amazing sense of smell to find dead animals.

 

White-throated Sparrow

White-throated Sparrow

Scientific name: Zonotrichia albicollis

Length: 6.75 inches
Weight: .91 ounces
Wingspan: 9 inches
Song: 
Ohhh Canada Canada Canada”

The White-throated Sparrow is a chunky, gray and brown sparrow with a white throat, and black and white stripes on its head. It has dark streaks on its back, a gray rump, and a bit of yellow in front of its eyes.

Males and females look the same and have reddish-brown wings with two white wing bars. Young White-throated Sparrows and some adults are duller brown with tan stripes on their heads and a dingy white throat.

White-throated Sparrows forage for seeds and insects on the ground and also eat fruits in short trees and bushes. They reveal hidden food items by using their feet to scratch and kick away leaves.

This sparrow breeds in northern forests and builds a cup nest with grass and twigs. They construct the nest at the edge of the forest, on or close to the ground, in dense vegetation.

These sparrows usually occur in flocks and winter in the eastern and southwestern USA and parts of California.

Key Identifications:

  • Large sparrow with a white throat and bold black and white or tan stripes on its head.
  • Scratches leaves on the ground to find seeds and insects. They also eat berries.
  • Makes a cup nest of grass, bark, and twigs, on the ground, under dense vegetation.
  • Flocks of White-throated Sparrows often make sharp “tink” calls. They also sing a clear, whistled song, “Ohhh Canada Canada Canada” or, “Ohhh, Cana, Cana, Cana”.

White-throated Sparrows breed in northern forests and flock together during the winter in various woodland habitats. The yellow pigment in the patches in front of their eyes comes from eating colorful berries during fall and winter.

 

House Finch

House Finch

Photograph © John Hansen

Scientific name: Haemorhous mexicanus

Length: 6 inches
Weight: .88 ounces
Wingspan: 10 inches
Song: 
chip,chip,chiprididip,ZREEYachip”

House Finches are sparrow-sized birds with dark, rounded beaks and fairly long wings. Males are orange-red or rose-red on their head, throat and breast, and have some red on their rump. They also have brownish streaks on their back, flanks, and white belly.

Like the male, female House Finches have two white wing bars on long, gray-brown wings. However, they lack red and are mostly streaked dull brown-gray birds.

House Finches feed on seeds, buds, fruit, and flowers. They often visit feeders in Arkansas but also forage on the ground, and in bushes and trees.

We see these pretty birds in deserts and arid zones, and in parks, farmland, urban areas, and other semi-open habitats.

The House Finch makes a soft cup nest built on a tree, building ledge or other spot with some overhanging cover. They often occur in small groups and live in southern Canada, most of the USA, Mexico, and Hawaii.

Key Identifications:

  • Reddish or plain gray-brown, streaked, sparrow-like bird.
  • Eats seeds, flowers, buds, and fruit. Can visit feeders but also forages on the ground and in bushes and trees.
  • Makes a soft cup nest in trees, on building ledges, and in other places.
  • The House Finch often makes a soft, “fidip” call. Males also sing a warbling song from prominent, high perches. It sounds like “chip,chip,chiprididip,ZREEYachip”.

They live in arid zones as well as in parks and urban areas. All of the millions of House Finches that live east of the Rocky Mountains are descendants of birds released on Long Island in 1939.

 

Northern Mockingbird

Mockingbirds are known to replicate the songs of other birds

Scientific name: Mimus polyglottos

Length: 10 inches
Weight: 1.7 ounces
Wingspan: 14 inches
Song: 
kerdee, kerdee, kerdee…jirdle,jirdle,jidrle…

The Northern Mockingbird is a pale gray and white bird with a long tail. Around the same size as an American Robin, it has a dark line through a pale eye, a short, slender beak, and two white wing bars.

Both sexes look alike, are gray above, and white and buff below. In flight, this bird shows a blackish tail with white outer feathers and a big white wing patch.

Northern Mockingbirds feed on insects and berries. They forage in open grassy spots, on the ground. These animated birds run and pick bugs from the ground and fly up to catch insects in flight. In winter, they also perch in bushes to feast on berries.

The Northern Mockingbird lives in towns, parks, and other semi-open habitats, and builds cup nests in bushes and low trees. Northern Mockingbirds are common garden birds in much of the eastern and southern USA, southern Ontario, and Mexico.

Key Identifications:

  • Vocal, gray and white bird with a small bill, white wing patches, and a long, black and white tail.
  • Feeds on the ground in open areas and in bushes. Mostly eats insects and berries.
  • Makes a cup nest in a bush or low tree.
  • Very vocal. Sings many phrases and mimics many other birds. Some of the more regular phrases sound like, “kerdee, kerdee, kerdee…jirdle,jirdle,jidrle…. These are interspered with the calls of Blue Jays, woodpeckers, Tufted Titmouse, and various other bird species.

Northern Mockingbirds can mimic the calls of 35 bird species as well as mechanical sounds. More than a century ago, these avian virtuosos were highly prized as a cagebird and were traded for large sums of money.

 

White-breasted Nuthatch

White-breasted Nuthatch

Scientific name: Sitta carolinensis

Length: 5.75 inches
Weight: .74 ounces
Wingspan: 11 inches
Song: 
wehn wehn wehn wehn wehn wehn wehn wehn

The White-breasted Nuthatch is a sparrow-sized bird with a longish, sharp, slightly upturned beak and a short black and white tail. It also has long wings, is mostly blue-gray above, and white and gray below, with some chestnut on its belly and undertail.

Both sexes look similar and have a white face, but males have a black cap and nape. Females have gray on their head and nape.

This small bird forages for insects, nuts, and seeds by creeping along branches and going down trunks, head-first. It uses its beak to pick food items from bark and also visits feeders.

The White-breasted Nuthatch makes a cup nest out of grass and soft bark inside a tree cavity or nest box.

White-breasted Nuthatches live in various wooded habitats in parts of southern Canada, most of the USA, and mountains in Mexico. They are frequent visitors to gardens near woodlands.

Key Identifications:

  • Sparrow-sized, short-tailed songbird that is blue-gray above, mostly white below, and has a longish, slightly upturned beak.
  • Creeps on branches and down tree trunks for insects, nuts, and seeds. Also visits feeders.
  • Uses grass and soft bark to make a cup nest in a tree cavity or nest box.
  • Quite vocal and makes nasal calls “yank yank, and sings a nasal, laughter-like song, “wehn wehn wehn wehn wehn wehn wehn wehn”.

They creep down trees in many wooded areas and are regular visitors to feeders. This species prefers to forage in flocks with chickadees and titmouse species because they are good at finding food and quick to make alarm calls when they see a predator.

 

Red-winged Blackbird

Red-winged Blackbird

Scientific name: Agelaius phoeniceus

Length: 8.75 inches
Weight: 1.8 ounces
Wingspan: 13 inches
Song:
kan-keree!”

The Red-winged Blackbird is a medium-sized blackbird species with a sharp, all-black bill. Males also have a scarlet patch with a pale yellow border on the shoulder of each wing.

Female Red-winged Blackbirds are dark, heavily streaked, brownish-gray birds with an orange-buff eyebrow and throat. She can also have a little bit of dingy red on her shoulder.

Red-winged Blackbirds often flock together and can form very large groups in the winter. They feed on seeds, grain, and insects found on lawns, in marshes, farm fields, and other open habitats.

This species builds a cup nest of leaves and dead stems in a bush or other low vegetation in a marsh, park, or brushy field.

Red-winged Blackbirds are very common birds that live in all sorts of open habitats. We see them in parks, farming areas, and marshes in much of Canada, the USA, Mexico, and parts of the Central America.

Key Identifications:

  • Males are medium-sized blackbirds with a bright red patch on their wings. Females are heavily streaked, have a sharp black beak, and buff on the head.
  • Feeds on seeds, grain, and insects on the ground in many open habitats.
  • Builds a cup nest in a bush or other low vegetation.
  • Red-winged Blackbirds often call. Males sing a loud, “kan-keree!” and both sexes also make “check!” calls and a high-pitched whistle-like sound.

The Red-winged Blackbird is a common, social species easily seen in marshes and open habitats. In the winter, it can form huge flocks that feed in farm fields. This species can make a daily commute of 50 miles to and from roosting and feeding sites.

 

European Starling

European Starling

Photograph © Greg Lavaty.

Scientific name: Sturnus vulgaris

Length: 8.5 inches
Weight: 2.9 ounces
Wingspan: 16 inches
Song: 
tiktiktitZHREEree..tiktiktik..ZHREE”

European Starlings are plump, short-tailed birds with long sharp beaks and longish, pointed wings. In summer, they have yellow beaks, glossy black plumage with purple and green highlights, and some small white spots.

Males and females are similar, but males have less spotting and glossier plumage. In winter, they have black beaks, white spots, and more reddish colors in their wings.

Young starlings are shaped like adults but are grayish birds with a dark beak and a pale throat.

This species feeds on a variety of insects, fruit, and seeds. They can dominate bird feeders and are common species in urban areas, parks, farmlands, and other open habitats.

This European Starling builds a soft cup nest in a tree cavity, nest box, or suitable cavity in other structures.

European Starlings flock with each other and blackbird species, especially during the winter. They live across a large part of Canada and the USA.

Key Identifications:

  • Rotund, short-tailed bird with a long, sharp beak, and pointed wings. Glossy black with some spotting in the summer and blackish with heavy white spotting and streaking in the winter.
  • Feeds on seeds, fruit, and insects. Visits feeders and forages on the ground in flocks.
  • Builds a soft cup nest in nest boxes and other cavities.
  • The European Starling makes a wide variety of mechanical and whistling sounds. They also mimic other birds and sounds in their environment. They sing long, jumbled mechanical-sounding songs, “tiktiktitZHREEree..tiktiktik..ZHREE”.

European Starlings are rounded, blackish birds with long, sharp beaks and short tails. They live in towns, cities, parks, on farms, and in other open habitats. This species forms large flocks called murmurations, that move in coordinated patterns.

 

Eastern Bluebird

Eastern Bluebird

Scientific name: Sialia sialis

Length: 7 inches
Weight: 1.1 ounces
Wingspan: 13 inches
Song: 
fer fer chidip fer

The Eastern Bluebird is a rather small, blue and white bird with orange on the side of its neck, throat, breast, and flanks. The male has beautiful pastel blue upperparts, and a white belly and undertail.

Females have blue-gray upperparts, a broken white eyering, and some white on the throat.

Juveniles are gray-brown with some blue and pale spotting.

The Eastern Bluebird feeds on insects, fruit, and occasional seeds. It snatches insects in flight, picks them from leaves while hovering, and flies down to meadows and grassy areas to catch them on the ground.

Flocks of Eastern Bluebirds feed on small fruits by perching in fruiting trees and picking them from vegetation.

Eastern Bluebirds make a shallow cup nest out of grass inside a tree cavity or nest box. They are common birds of Arkansas.

This beautiful bird lives in open and semi-open habitats in southern Canada and the USA east of the Rocky Mountains. They also live in the mountains in Mexico and northern Central America (including Arkansas).

Key Identifications:

  • Smallish blue and white bird with orange on their throat, breast, and flanks.
  • Forages for insects and small fruit.
  • Makes a shallow cup nest out of grass in a nest box or tree cavity.
  • Has short melodious calls, “jeer” and a song of similar melodious notes, “cheweer chewit cherwit”.

They live in open and semi-open areas, and, in winter, form flocks that feed at fruiting trees. Eastern Bluebird populations have been boosted in many areas by “Bluebird Trails”; areas with nest boxes designed for this species.

 

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch

Scientific name: Carduelis tristis

Length: 5 inches
Weight: .46 ounces
Wingspan: 9 inches
Song: 
swit sweet, sipsipsipchichisweetsweet

The American Goldfinch is a small, sparrow-sized finch with a black and white, slightly forked tail, pale rump, and white undertail. In summer, males are bright lemon yellow with a small black cap, pale beak, and have some white markings on long black wings.

Females and wintering birds have two pale wings bars and have plain gray, buff, and yellowish plumage. This species often occurs in small flocks and has bounding flight.

American Goldfinches feed on seeds. They forage by picking them from grass, thistle, other low plants, Alders, and other trees. Goldfinches are also frequent visitors to bird feeders.

The American Goldfinch uses plant matter and other soft materials to build a small, tightly woven cup nest high in a shrub or a low tree.

American Goldfinches are summer residents in southern Canada, California, and the northern half of the USA, and winter in most of the USA and parts of Mexico.

Key Identifications:

  • Small, bright yellow finch with a black cap, wings and tail (summer male), female and winter males are plain brown, buff, and yellowish birds with two pale wing bars.
  • Feeds on seeds in low plants, trees, and at feeders.
  • Makes a tightly woven cup nest high in a shrub or low tree.
  • Often gives a “per chickory” call in flight and sings a short, trilled song, “swit sweet, sipsipsipchichisweetsweet”.

American Goldfinches are small, common finches that frequent weedy and brushy fields, second growth, parks, and backyards. Outside of the breeding season, they occur in small flocks and often visit feeders. Brown-headed Cowbirds that hatch in American Goldfinch nests die after a few days because they can’t survive on a diet of seeds.

 

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Scientific name: Ardea herodias 

Length: 46 inches
Weight:
 5.3 pounds
Wingspan:
72 inches
Song: 
Grunk! Grunk!”

The Great Blue Heron is a large, gray and pale brown heron with a long neck and legs. It has a strong, yellowish beak, black and white head with a wispy black crest, and rufous thighs.

Both sexes are alike and have pale bellies and black flanks. Juveniles have streaked underparts.

In flight, they make slow, deep flaps with long, broad gray and black wings. In Southern Florida and the Caribbean, Great Blue Herons are all white and sometimes considered a separate species, the Great White Heron.

These powerful herons feed on fish and small animals such as rats, snakes, and birds.

Great Blue Herons build messy, stick nests and breed in colonies, often in swamps.

We find these impressive birds in and near a wide variety of wetlands in large parts of Canada, the USA, and the Caribbean.

Key Identifications:

  • Huge gray and pale brown wading bird with a thick, yellowish beak and a wispy crest. In southern Florida, it is all white but still has a crest and a strong yellowish beak.
  • Stalks and preys on fish and small animals.
  • Builds messy stick nests and breeds in colonies.
  • Great Blue Herons aren’t all that vocal. When taking flight, they make a croaking sound, “Grunk! Grunk!“.

The Great Blue Heron occurs on rivers, lakes, and many other wetlands. It stands still for long periods of time while waiting for prey to come within range of its sharp beak but is also, often seen in flight. In some parts of Florida, Great Blue Herons have a gray and brown body and white neck and head. These birds are known as Wurdemann’s Herons.

 

Canada Goose

Canada Goose

Scientific name: Branta canadensis

Length: 35 – 45.2 inches
Weight: 5.29 – 19.8 pounds
Wingspan: 50 – 67 inches
Song: 
uurrRUNK! uurrRUNK!

The Canada Goose is a large, grayish-brown bird with a long black neck, and black head with a white throat and cheeks. Males and females look alike and have pale barring, a white belly and undertail, and a short black and white tail.

They have strong, direct flight and make deep flaps with long, broad wings.

Canada Geese feed on grass, sedges, and other vegetation, grain, and berries. They forage by walking along and grazing, or picking food from the ground and bushes. This species also feeds by dipping its head below the surface of shallow water.

This large goose uses grass and other plants to make a large, shallow cup nest on a small mound or other elevated spot next to water.

The Canada Goose prefers open grassy areas and farm fields near water to feed and see predators before they get too close. They live in Alaska, most of Canada, and most of the USA, being one of the most common birds of Arkansas.

Key Identifications:

  • Big, gray-brown goose with a long black neck, and black and white head.
  • Grazes vegetation and forages for berries in wide open, grassy habitats near water like golf courses, parks, and airports.
  • Makes a shallow, open cup nest on an elevated spot next to water.
  • Vocal and often makes honking calls, “uurrRUNK! uurrRUNK!”.

Canada Geese are a large, common goose species with long black necks, and a black and white head. These big birds are a common sight on golf courses and other places that combine open lawns and water. When the Canada Goose and other birds migrate in “V” formation, they expend less energy than flying on their own.

 

Dark-eyed Junco

dark eyed junco

Scientific name: Junco hyemalis

Length: 6.25 inches
Weight: .67 ounces
Wingspan: 9.25 inches
Song: 
sipsipsipsipsipsipsip

Dark-eyed Juncos are sparrow-like birds with pale conical bills and dark eyes. This small bird has variable plumage, with most being slate gray or gray and brown with white on their bellies, and white under their tails.

Other plumages include birds with dark masks and faint white wing bars, juncos with pale gray hoods and pinkish sides, and birds with blackish hoods and chestnut sides.

In flight, all Dark-eyed Juncos show extensive white in their longish tails.

This species feeds on seeds, insects, and some fruit and grain. Juncos forage on the ground in wooded areas, parks, and other habitats. They also feed on fallen seeds beneath feeders.

They build cup nests on the ground under fallen logs, in roots, and other hidden spots. After breeding, juncos form flocks that forage together in similar wooded and semi-open habitats.

Dark-eyed Juncos are common birds in Canada, the USA, and parts of Mexico.

Key Identifications:

  • Sparrow-like gray and brown bird with dark eyes, a pale beak, and white in the tail.
  • Forages for seeds and insects on the ground, can feed on seeds at and beneath feeders.
  • Builds a cup-shaped nest on the ground in tree roots, under logs, and other hidden places.
  • This species often makes a sharp, high-pitched chip note, “pik!”. On breeding grounds, males sing a short, plain trill, “sipsipsipsipsipsipsip”.

Dark-eyed Juncos are sparrow-like, gray and brown birds with much white in the tail. Common wintering birds in many areas, they forage for seeds on the ground in wooded and park-like habitats.  In many places, this common species is also known as the Snowbird on account of only occurring in the winter months and having white on the belly and tail.

 

Northern Flicker

Northern Flicker is Alabama state bird

Scientific name: Colaptes auratus

Length: 12.5 inches
Weight: 4.6 ounces
Wingspan: 20 inches
Song: 
kick,kick,kik,kik,kik.kik.kik.kik.kik.kik.kik.kik!

Northern Flickers are fairly large, tan and gray woodpeckers with barring on their backs. They have a black mark on their breast, black spotting below, and a dark, stout beak.

Males in the east have a tawny throat and face with a black mustache and small red spot on the back of their heads. Males in the west have mostly gray heads with a red mustache.

Female Northern Flickers look like males but lack the mustache mark.

In bounding flight, they have white rumps and flash color on their underwings. This is bright yellow in eastern birds and reddish in flickers west of the Rocky Mountains.

This woodpecker eats many ants and other insects that it catches on the ground. It forages by flying to the ground, locating anthills, and lapping them up with its long tongue.

Northern Flickers nest in tree cavities and live in wooded and open habitats in Canada, the USA, and Mexico.

Key Identifications:

  • Tan and gray woodpecker with black barring above, black marks below, and a bright, white rump.
  • Forages for ants and other insects on the ground.
  • Nests in tree cavities.
  • A vocal woodpecker, the Northern Flicker often gives loud, “flicka,flicka,flicka” calls, and another loud, single note that sounds like, “Keer!” They also have a long, laughing vocalization of repeated notes, “kick,kick,kik,kik,kik.kik.kik.kik.kik.kik.kik.kik!”.

Northern Flickers are fairly big, tan woodpeckers with gray highlights, a white rump, and black markings. They mostly forage for ants on the ground in open and wooded areas. The red-shafted Northern Flickers in the west used to be considered a separate species from the yellow-shafted flickers of the east. At present, they are considered to be one species because they frequently hybridize with each other.

 

Indigo Bunting

Indigo Bunting

Scientific name: Passerina cyanea

Length: 5.5 inches
Weight: .51 ounces
Wingspan: 8 inches
Song: 
seet seet, sweet sweet, chip chup, swee sweet

The Indigo Bunting is a small, finch-like bird with a grayish finch-like beak. Around the same size as a sparrow, males are deep, dark blue birds with some black on their face, wings, and tail.

Females are pale-brown birds with some white on their throat and belly, a hint of a buffy eyering, and two buff wing bars. They also have some faint streaks on their underparts and bits of blue on their rump, wings, and tail.

Indigo Buntings feed on insects, seeds, and some berries. They find food on the ground and also take seeds and berries while perched.

The Indigo Bunting uses grass and other bits of plant matter to make an open cup nest. They build their nests in shrubs and other low, dense vegetation.

This beautiful Arkansas bird is a summer resident in forest edge and brushy habitats in southeastern Canada, the eastern and central USA, and in parts of the American Southwest.

Key Identifications:

  • Sparrow-sized bird with a finch-like beak. Males are deep, dark blue. Females are mostly pale brown with faint streaks below and some buff highlights.
  • Feeds on insects, seeds, and berries in brushy habitats.
  • Makes an open cup nest with soft bark and other soft plant matter.
  • Often makes a sharp call, “Pik!”. It also sings a halting song, “seet seet, sweet sweet, chip chup, swee sweet”.

The Indigo Bunting is a sparrow-sized, dark blue and black, or pale brown and buff bird of brushy habitats.  Male Indigo Buntings appear blue because of the way microscopic structures in their blackish plumage refract and reflect blue light waves.

 

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Scientific name: Archilochus colubris

Length: 3.75 inches
Weight: .11 ounces
Wingspan: 4.5 inches
Song: 
tik,chickechikchicktiktik”

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are tiny birds with long, sharp, needle-like beaks. Males are green above and grayish-green below with a broad white semi-collar on their breast and neck. They also have a dark, forked tail, and a glittering orange-red throat.

Females have a pale throat, a small white spot behind each eye, and black and white on the tip of their tail.

This hummingbird species feeds on nectar and tiny insects. It takes nectar from a variety of small flowers and visits hummingbird feeders. They also catch small insects in flight.

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds make small cup nests from lichen, spider webs, and plant matter. The female constructs the nest on a branch of a tree, often high up.

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds breed in woodland habitats in central and southeastern Canada, and the eastern USA. We often see them in gardens and at hummingbird feeders, especially during migration.

They migrate to Mexico and Central America for the winter.

Key Identifications:

  • Tiny greenish bird with a long, straight beak. Males have glittering red throats, and females have pale throats and a small white spot behind the eye.
  • Takes nectar from flowers, visits hummingbird feeders, and eats tiny insects.
  • Makes a small cup nest of lichen, spider webs, and plant matter in a tree.
  • The Ruby-throated Hummingbird makes lots of chipping and sputtering calls. They often sound like, “tik,chickechikchicktiktik”.

The Ruby-throated Hummingbird is a tiny bird and the only hummingbird species that breeds east of the Rocky Mountains. They live in wooded habitats and often visit gardens.

 

Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker

Scientific name: Dryocopus pileatus

Length: 16.5 inches
Weight: 10 ounces
Wingspan: 29 inches
Song: 
kek,kek,kek,kek,kek,kek!

The Pileated Woodpecker is a big, crow-sized black woodpecker with a pointed, red crest, and a black and white face. Males have red extending from the bill to the back of the crest and a red mustache mark on their face. Females only have red on the top of the crest.

Both sexes have white on each side of their necks, and a white patch on the front part of each wing. They also have a longish, pointed black tail, and, in flight, show a lot of white on their underwings.

Pileated Woodpeckers are often seen in undulating and direct flight between forest patches. In their search for carpenter ants and insects, they use their strong beaks to make rectangular holes in trees and stumps.

This species nests in tree cavities, usually high above the ground. It lives in mature woodlands in Canada, much of the eastern USA, and parts of the Pacific Northwest.

Key Identifications:

  • Big, black, crested woodpecker with some red on its head, and black and white on its face, neck, and underwings.
  • Pecks into wood to feed on ants and other insects.
  • Nests in tree cavities in mature forests.
  • The Pileated Woodpecker makes a loud, repetitive laughing sound, “kek,kek,kek,kek,kek,kek!”.

They peck into wood to forage for ants and other insects and occur in mature forests. This species makes distinctive, large rectangular holes.

 

Common Grackle

Common grackle

© Shawn McCready

Scientific name: Quiscalus quiscula

Length: 12.5 inches
Weight: 4 ounces
Wingspan: 17 inches
Song:
Sherink!”

The Common Grackle is a jay-sized, glossy black bird with pale eyes and a long, wedge-shaped tail. Depending on lighting, this bird shows metallic purple, blue, green, and bronze highlights.

Males and females look very similar, but females have shorter tails and less iridescence. Both sexes also have stout, black beaks, and strong, black legs and feet.

In flight, Common Grackles move up and down as they move through the air. They usually flock together and often forage in farm fields, on lawns, and in other open habitats. These omnivores feed on a variety of items, including insects, seeds, grain, small animals, garbage, and the eggs and nestlings of other birds.

Common Grackles build bulky stick nests, usually in conifers in woodlands, parks, near water, and urban areas.

This species can form big flocks in the winter and lives in a variety of semi-open and open habitats in eastern Canada and the eastern USA.

Key Identifications:

  • Fairly large, black bird with glossy purple, greenish, bronze, or dark blue highlights. It also has pale eyes and a long, wedge-shaped tail.
  • Forages for insects, seeds, and other food on the ground in a variety of open habitats.
  • Constructs a bulky cup nest in a conifer.
  • Common Grackles are vocal birds. They frequently give raspy, metallic calls, “Sherink!”, and “kek” calls.

The Common Grackle is a common, glossy black bird with pale eyes. It usually occurs in flocks in open and park-like habitats. This species occasionally nests in odd places, including occupied nests of Great Blue Herons and Ospreys!

 

House Sparrow

House Sparrow Passer domesticus)

Scientific name: Passer domesticus

Length: 6.25 inches
Weight: .98 ounces
Wingspan: 9.5 inches
Song: 
see,chirrup,see,chirrup,see,chirrup”

House Sparrows are small, plump gray and brown birds with conical, finch-like beaks. Males have a gray and rufous head with pale cheeks, and black near their eyes and on their throat.

The rest of their underparts are gray and they have brown, streaked backs with rufous highlights. They also have a white mark on the shoulder of each wing and a grayish rump and tail.

Females are plainer brown and buff, have paler beaks, and buff eyebrows.

House Sparrows feed on seeds, grain, and insects. They are regular visitors to bird feeders and often dominate other smaller species. They also forage on the ground in farmlands, parks, urban areas, and other open situations.

The House Sparrow nests in cavities. When searching for suitable nesting sites, they can kill and remove the eggs and young of smaller species like Eastern Bluebirds.

House Sparrows usually live near people and occur in most of North America, making them one of the most common birds of Arkansas.

Key Identifications:

  • Brown and gray sparrow with a bold pattern on its head.
  • Feeds on seeds, grain, and insects at feeders and on the ground in urban areas and farmlands.
  • Nests in tree cavities, including nest boxes.
  • This species is vocal and often makes short chirping calls. Its song is a friendly series of chirping sounds, “see,chirrup,see,chirrup,see,chirrup”.

In many places, the House Sparrow is the common urban sparrow. It occurs in pairs and small groups that forage on sidewalks, in parking lots, farm fields, and other familiar places. This species is one of the very few birds that has evolved to live with people and digest the same grains that we eat.

 

Brown-headed Cowbird

Brown-headed Cowbird

Scientific name: Momothrus ater

Length: 7.5 inches
Weight: 1.5 ounces
Wingspan: 12 inches
Song: 
qwuipuh see!

The Brown-headed Cowbird is a smallish blackbird with a short beak and fairly long wings. Males are glossy black with a dark brown head. Female Brown-headed Cowbirds are dark grayish birds with a dark beak, black eyes, and a white throat.

These small blackbirds forage for seeds and insects on the ground. They usually occur in flocks that forage on pastures and around farms. Cowbirds do most of their foraging with cows, horses, or other large animals to catch insects that the big mammals scare out of hiding.

Brown-headed Cowbirds do not build a nest. Instead, females lay eggs in nests of other birds. Host species include Northern Cardinals, various warblers, vireos, and many other small birds.

The Brown-headed Cowbird is dependent on cattle, horses, and other large grazing mammals but occurs in a variety of habitats. It prefers fields, pasture and other open areas, and lives in southern and western Canada, the USA, and much of Mexico.

Key Identifications:

  • Smallish blackbird with a brown head and rather short beak. Females are dark gray with a white throat.
  • Flocks forage for seeds and insects on the ground.
  • Lays eggs in nests of other birds.
  • This species is fairly vocal and often makes a rattling call. Males sing a brief song with bubbly and high-pitched notes, “qwuipuh see!”.

This species flocks together and is very common in pastures and farming areas. Brown-headed Cowbirds have laid their eggs in nests of more than 220 species.

 

Fish Crow

fish crow

Scientific name: Corvus ossifragus

Length: 15 inches
Weight: 10 ounces
Wingspan: 36 inches
Song:
cuh

The Fish Crow is a large, all black bird with a stout, black beak. Both males and females look the same and have some feathers on top of their bill, long wings, and a broad tail. In certain lighting, they also show some dark blue and purple highlights.

This species feeds on small creatures and a wide variety of food items found in coastal habitats and in other wetlands. It also scavenges for carrion and preys on eggs and nestlings of other bird species.

In particular, Fish Crows are important predators at nesting colonies of waterbirds.

After breeding, Fish Crows form large flocks and, in many places, they have become adapted to living in urban areas. These birds have become used to people but don’t usually visit feeders.

They build large, messy stick nests high in trees, and only live in coastal areas and wetlands in the eastern USA.

Key Identifications:

  • Large black bird with long wings and a broad tail.
  • Feeds on carrion, small animals, and many other food items.
  • Makes messy stick nests in trees.
  • Fish Crows are vocal, social birds. Their nasal call is the best way to separate them from the American Crow. It sounds like, “cuh, cuh“.

The Fish Crow feeds on a variety of items and can form large flocks in fall and winter. Although Fish Crows were historically restricted to shorelines and coastal marshes, they have become adapted to living with people and are expanding their range.

 

Birds of Arkansas – Frequently Asked Questions

How many bird species are native to Arkansas?

In total, 428 bird species are native to Arkansas. The official bird list for Arkansas has 428 bird species that have been found in the state.

What is the most common bird in Arkansas?

The most common bird in Arkansas is the Northern Cardinal.

What is the largest bird in Arkansas?

The largest bird in Arkansas is the American White Pelican. This massive bird is 62 inches long, has a wingspan of 9 feet, and weighs 16.4 pounds. Another very large bird in Arkansas is the Trumpeter Swan. Although slightly smaller than the pelican, it’s a heavier bird that weighs 23 pounds.

What is the smallest bird in Arkansas?

The Calliope Hummingbird is the smallest bird in Arkansas. This tiny bird is 3.25 inches long, weighs only .1 ounces, and is the smallest bird in the USA.

What is the fastest bird in Arkansas?

The fastest bird in Arkansas is the Peregrine Falcon. This raptor is also the fastest bird in the world; it can reach speeds of 200 miles per hour!

About the Author

Patrick O'Donnell

Patrick O'Donnell has been focused on all things avian since the age of 7. Since then, he has helped with ornithological field work in the USA and Peru, and has guided many birding tours, especially in Costa Rica. He develops birding apps for BirdingFieldGuides and loves to write about birds, especially in his adopted country of Costa Rica.

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