10 MOST Common Birds Found in Indianapolis, IN (2024)

What kinds of birds can you find in Indianapolis, Indiana?

common birds in indianapolis

Despite being a large city, I think you would be surprised at the number of species that you can find in downtown Indianapolis and the surrounding areas. Many types of birds can adapt to the presence of humans, even building nests and raising their babies in close proximity.

In addition, there are other parks and other green spaces that offer hiding spaces for shyer birds.

Below, you will learn the TEN most common birds that are found around Indianapolis!


#1. American Robin

  • Turdus migratorius

american robin - types of birds in the united states

Identifying Characteristics:

  • A beautiful thrush that features a rusty red breast and a dark head and back.
  • Look for a white throat and white splotches around the eyes.
  • Both sexes are similar, except that females appear paler.

American Robins are one of the most familiar birds in Indianapolis!

They inhabit a wide variety of habitats and are naturally found everywhere, from forests to grasslands. But these thrushes are comfortable around people and are common to see in backyards.

American Robin Range Map

american robin range map

Even though they are abundant, American Robins rarely visit bird feeders because they don’t eat seeds. Instead, their diet consists of invertebrates (worms, insects, snails) and fruit. For example, I see robins frequently in my backyard, pulling up earthworms in the grass!

american robin eggs and nest

These birds also commonly nest near people. Look for an open cup-shaped nest that has 3-5 beautiful, distinctive sky blue color eggs.

American Robins sing a string of clear whistles, which is a familiar sound in spring. (Listen below)

Many people describe the sound as sounding like the bird is saying “cheerily, cheer up, cheer up, cheerily, cheer up.”


#2. Northern Cardinal

  • Cardinalis cardinalis

northern cardinal

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Males are a stunning red with a black mask and throat.
  • Females are pale orangish-brown with red on their crest, wings, and tail.
  • Both sexes have a crest on their head and a short, thick bill that is perfect for cracking seeds.

Northern Cardinal Range Map

northern cardinal range map

Without a doubt, the Northern Cardinal is one of the most popular birds at backyard feeding stations. They are not only beautifully colored, but they are incredibly common in IndianapolisIndianapolis!

In this video, you can see both male and female cardinals. If you look closely you can even see a juvenile!

Here are my three favorite ways to attract cardinals to my backyard:

  • Supply their favorite foods, which include sunflower seeds, safflower seeds, corn, and peanuts.
  • Use bird feeders that are easy for them to use, such as trays and hoppers.
  • Keep a fresh supply of water available in a birdbath.

And with a little practice, it’s easy to identify Northern Cardinals by their songs and sounds. Interestingly, unlike most other songbirds in Indianapolis, even females sing.

  • The most common song you will probably hear is a series of clear whistled melodies that sound like the bird is saying “birdie-birdie-birdie” or “cheer-cheer-cheer.” (Listen below!)


#3. Canada Goose

  • Branta canadensis

Common Geese and Swans in United States

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Large goose with a long black neck and a distinctive white cheek patch.
  • Brown body with a pale white chest and underparts.
  • Black feet and legs.

Canada Geese are extremely common birds in Indianapolis.

I’m sure you probably recognize these birds, as they are very comfortable living around people and development. Look for them wherever there are grasses or grains to eat, such as lawns, parks, farm fields, and golf courses. I know I have been guilty of stepping in their “droppings” at least a few times in my own backyard as they come to eat corn from my feeding station. 🙂

Canada Goose Range Map

canada goose range map

In fact, these geese are now so abundant, many people consider them pests for the amount of waste they produce! If you have a manicured lawn that is maintained all the way to the water’s edge, you have an open invitation for these birds to visit.

The Canada Goose is also easy to identify while flying overhead. If you see a flock of large birds in a V-formation, then it’s most likely them. Flying this way helps conserve energy, and different birds take turns leading the way.

Canada Geese are often heard in Indianapolis.

Listen for a wide variety of loud honks and cackles. Listen above! I have even been hissed at by them for accidentally approaching a nest too closely.

Interestingly, these geese can live a long time! Their lifespan ranges from 10 to 24 years, but one individual banded in 1969 was found again in 2001, 32 years later!

If you’re interested, you may be able to see a Canada Goose at my bird feeding station right now! I have a LIVE high-definition camera watching my feeders 24/7. 🙂 Look for them on the ground eating corn.


#4. Mallard

  • Anas platyrhynchos

Common United States ducks

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Males have a bright green head, thin white collar, dark reddish-brown chest, yellow bill, and a black butt with a white-tipped tail.
  • Females are mottled brown with orange and brown bills.
  • Both sexes have purple-blue secondary feathers on their wing, which is most visible when they are standing or flying.

My guess is that almost everyone is familiar with the Mallard. These ducks are definitely one of the most recognizable animals in Indianapolis!

Mallard Range Map

mallard duck range map

Mallards are extremely comfortable around people, which is why these adaptable ducks are so widespread. They are found in virtually any wetland habitat, no matter where it’s located. We even find Mallards in our swimming pool every summer and have to chase them away, so they don’t make a mess on our deck! 🙂

Mallards readily accept artificial structures built for them by humans. If you have a nice pond or a marsh, feel free to put up a homemade nesting area to enjoy some adorable ducklings walking around your property!  Just make sure you put up predator guards so predators can’t get to the eggs.

When you think of a duck quacking, it is almost inevitably a female Mallard. If there is a better duck sound, we haven’t heard it! Interestingly, males do not quack like females but instead make a raspy call.


#5. Downy Woodpecker

  • Dryobates pubescens

Identifying Characteristics:

  • These woodpeckers have a short bill and are relatively small.
  • Color-wise, they have white bellies, with a mostly black back that features streaks and spots of white.
  • Male birds have a distinctive red spot on the back of their head, which females lack.

Downy Woodpeckers are one of the most common birds in Indianapolis! You probably recognize them, as they are seen in most backyards.

Downy Woodpecker Range Map

Luckily, this woodpecker species is easy to attract to your backyard. The best foods to use are suet, sunflower seeds, and peanuts (including peanut butter). You may even spot them drinking sugar water from your hummingbird feeders! If you use suet products, make sure to use a specialized suet bird feeder.

What sounds do Downy Woodpeckers make? Press PLAY above to hear a Downy Woodpecker!

Once you know what to listen for, my guess is that you will start hearing Downy Woodpeckers everywhere you go. Their calls resemble a high-pitched whinnying sound that descends in pitch towards the end.


#6. Great Blue Heron

  • Ardea herodias

great blue heron

Identifying Characteristics:

  • A very tall and large bird, with a long neck and a wide black stripe over their eye.
  • As the name suggests, they are a grayish-blue color.
  • Long feather plumes on their head, neck, and back.

Great Blue Heron Range Map

great blue heron range map

Great Blue Herons are typically seen in Indianapolis along the edges of rivers, lakes, and wetlands.

Most of the time, they will either be motionless or moving very slowly through the water, looking for their prey. But watch them closely because when an opportunity presents itself, these herons will strike quickly and ferociously to grab something to eat. Common foods include fish, frogs, reptiles, small mammals, and even other birds.

Check out the Bird Watching HQ YouTube Channel HERE!

Great Blue Herons appear majestic in flight, and once you know what to look for, it’s pretty easy to spot them. Watch the skies for a LARGE bird that folds its neck into an “S” shape and has its legs trailing straight behind.

Believe it or not, Great Blue Herons mostly build their nests, which are made out of sticks, very high up in trees. In addition, they almost always nest in large colonies that can include up to 500 different breeding pairs. And unbelievably, almost all of the breeding pairs nest in the same few trees!

When disturbed, these large birds make a loud “kraak” or “fraunk” sound, which can also be heard when in flight. Listen below!


#7. Eastern Bluebird

  • Sialia sialis

eastern bluebird

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Males are vibrant blue with a rusty chest and throat and fairly easy to identify.
  • Females look similar, but the colors are much more subdued.

Few birds are as pretty in Indianapolis as an Eastern Bluebird.  Thanks to their cheerful disposition and amazing beauty, these birds are always a pleasure to see, both for birders and non-birders alike!

Eastern Bluebird Range Map

eastern bluebird range map

Look for them in meadows, fields, cemeteries, golf courses, parks, backyards, and even Christmas tree farms!

Can you attract Eastern Bluebirds to bird feeders?

The short answer is YES. You can attract these bluebirds to your backyard feeding station, as long as you make special provisions for them.   Specifically, make sure to use foods, like mealworms and berries, that they will actually eat!

You can also listen for Eastern Bluebirds!

Press PLAY above to hear an Eastern Bluebird!

These birds have a beautiful call. Listen for a liquid sounding warbling song that consists of 1—3 notes, which is typically given several times in a row.


#8. House Sparrow

  • Passer domesticus

house sparrow

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Males have gray crowns, black bib, white cheeks, and chestnut on the sides of their face and neck. Their backs are predominantly brown with black streaks.
  • Females are a dull brown color with streaks of black on their backs. Their underparts are light brown. They can be distinguished by the tan line that extends behind their eye.

House Sparrows are an invasive species (originally from the Middle East) and now one of the most abundant and widespread birds in Indianapolis (and the world)!

Range Map – House Sparrow

house sparrow range map

House Sparrows compete with many native birds, such as bluebirds and Purple Martins, for nest cavities. Unfortunately, these invasives species tend to win more times than not.

In most urban and suburban areas it’s INCREDIBLY COMMON to see House Sparrows. They owe their success to their ability to adapt and live near humans. Unlike most other birds, they love grains and are commonly seen eating bread and popcorn at amusement parks, sporting events, etc. At your bird feeders, they especially love eating cracked corn, millet, and milo.

House Sparrows can be heard across the entire planet. In fact, pay attention the next time you’re watching the news in another country. Listen for a simple song that includes lots of “cheep” notes.


#9. American Goldfinch

  • Spinus tristis

american goldfinch

Identifying Characteristics:

  • In summer, males are a vivid yellow with a black cap and black wings. Females are a duller yellow and lack the black cap.
  • In winter, both sexes look the same and turn a pale brown/olive color. They are identified by their black wings and white wing bar.

These small and colorful birds are common in Indianapolis, and they should be relatively easy to attract to your backyard.

American Goldfinch Range Map

american goldfinch range map

American Goldfinches love feeding on Nyjer seed, which not many other birds eat, along with sunflower kernels. 

It’s helpful to include bird feeders specially designed for goldfinches. These small birds are easily scared off by larger “bullies.” They will appreciate having places that only they can use! I like the fact they can feed in any position, even upside down.

American Goldfinches are strict vegetarians. Their diet is exclusively made of seeds with no insects, which is rare in the bird world. Naturally, they feast on seeds from asters, thistles, sunflowers, grasses, and many types of trees.

Because of their diet, American Goldfinches breed later than other birds. They wait until June or July, when most plants are in full seed production, ensuring there is enough food for them to feed their babies.

To identify them by sound, listen for a pretty series of musical trills and warbles.


#10. Red-winged Blackbird

  • Agelaius phoeniceus

red winged blackbird

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Males are all black, except for a bright red and yellow patch on their shoulders.
  • Females are brown and heavily streaked. There is a bit of yellow around their bill.
  • Both sexes have a conical bill and are commonly seen sitting on cattails or perched high in a tree overlooking their territory.

Red-winged Blackbird Range Map

red winged blackbird range map

During the breeding season, these birds are almost exclusively found in marshes and other wet areas. Females build nests in between dense grass-like vegetation, such as cattails, sedges, and bulrushes. Males aggressively defend the nest against intruders, and I have even been attacked by Red-winged Blackbirds while walking near the swamp in my backyard!

When it’s the nonbreeding season, Red-winged Blackbirds spend much of their time in grasslands, farm fields, and pastures looking for weedy seeds to eat. It’s common for them to be found in large flocks that feature various other blackbird species, such as grackles, cowbirds, and starlings.  

Red-winged Blackbirds are easy to identify by their sounds! (Press PLAY below)

If you visit a wetland or marsh in spring, you are almost guaranteed to hear males singing and displaying, trying to attract a mate. Listen for a rich, musical song that lasts about one second and sounds like “conk-la-ree!


Which of these birds have you seen before in Indianapolis?

Leave a comment below!


To learn more about other birds you may see in Indianapolis, check out my other guides!

 

The range maps above were generously shared with permission from The Birds of The World, published by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. I use their site OFTEN to learn new information about birds!

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