10 MOST Common Birds Found in New York City, NY (2024)

What kinds of birds can you find in New York City, New York?

common birds in new york city

Despite being a large city, I think you would be surprised at the number of species that you can find in downtown New York City 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 New York City!


#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 New York City!

They inhabit a wide variety of habitats and naturally are found everywhere from forests to the tundra. 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. 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 New York City.

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 New York City.

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.


#3. Rock Pigeon

  • Columba livia

kinds of pigeons in the united states

Identifying Characteristics:

  • A plump bird with a small head, short legs, and a thin bill.
  • The typical pigeon has a gray back, a blue-grey head, and two black wing bars. But their plumage is highly variable, and it’s common to see varieties ranging from all-white to rusty-brown.

Rock Pigeons are extremely common birds in New York City, and they are almost exclusively found in urban areas.

Rock Pigeon Range Map

pigeon range map

These birds are what everyone refers to as a “pigeon.” You have probably seen them gathering in huge flocks in city parks, hoping to get tossed some birdseed or leftover food.
Pigeons are easily attracted to bird feeders, especially if there is leftover food lying on the ground. Unfortunately, these birds can become a bit of a nuisance if they visit your backyard in high numbers. Many people find their presence overwhelming and look for ways to keep them away!

These birds are easy to identify by sound. My guess is that you will already recognize their soft, throaty coos. (Press PLAY below)

Love them or hate them, Rock Pigeons have been associated with humans for a long time! Some Egyptian hieroglyphics suggest that people started domesticating them over 5,000 years ago. And because of these facts, scientists aren’t even sure where their original range was.


#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 birds in New York City!

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. 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 New York City (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.

YouTube video

#6. Red-tailed Hawk

  • Branta canadensis

Common birds of prey in United States

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are 18-26 in (45-65 cm) tall with a wingspan of 43-55 in (110-140 cm).
  • They are dark brown over the back and wings, with white feathers underneath and a reddish tail.
  • Their beaks and legs are yellow.

 Red-tailed Hawks are one of the most common birds of prey in New York City!

These raptors are often seen on long drives in the countryside, soaring in the sky, or perched on a fence post. The color of a Red-tailed Hawk’s plumage can be anything from nearly white to virtually black, so coloration is not a reliable indicator. The best way to identify them is by looking for their characteristic red tail. 🙂 

Red-tailed Hawk Range Map

Red-tailed Hawk Range Map

These hawks are highly adaptable, and there is no real description of their preferred habitats because they seem to be comfortable everywhere. I have seen Red-tailed Hawks in numerous places, from the deep backcountry in Yellowstone National Park to urban cities to my own suburban backyard! Pick a habitat, such as pastures, parks, deserts, roadsides, rainforests, woodlands, fields, or scrublands, and you’ll find them thriving.

Red-tailed Hawks have impressive calls that are easily identified.

YouTube video

In fact, people are so enamored with their screams, it’s common for directors to use the sounds of a Red-tailed Hawk to replace Bald Eagles that appear in movies. In case you have never heard one, Bald Eagles don’t make sounds that live up to their appearance (putting it nicely!)


#7. 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 New York City!

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

YouTube video

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 New York City, 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!)


#8. European Starling

  • Sturnus vulgaris

european starling

Identifying Characteristics:

  • A common bird in New York City, they are about the size of an American Robin. Their plumage is black and appears to be shiny.
  • Short tail with a long slender beak.
  • Breeding adults are darker black and have a green-purple tint. In winter, starlings lose their glossiness, their beaks become darker, and they develop white spots over their bodies.

Did you know these birds are an invasive species and aren’t supposed to be in New York City?

European Starling Range Map

starling range map

Back in 1890, one hundred starlings were brought over from Europe and released in New York City’s Central Park. The rest is history as starlings easily conquered the continent, along the way out-competing many of our beautiful native birds.

Their ability to adapt to human development and eat almost anything is uncanny to almost no other species.

keep starlings away from bird feeders

When starlings visit in small numbers, they are fun to watch and have beautiful plumage. Unfortunately, these aggressive birds can ruin a party quickly when they visit in massive flocks, chasing away all of the other birds while eating your expensive bird food. To keep these blackbirds away from your bird feeders, you will need to take extreme action and implement some proven strategies.

Starlings are impressive vocalists!

Listen for a mix of musical, squeaky, rasping notes. They are also known to imitate other birds.


#9. Mourning Dove

  • Zenaida macroura


Identifying Characteristics:

  • A mostly grayish dove with large black spots on the wings and a long thin tail.
  • Look for pinkish legs, a black bill, and a distinctive blue eye-ring.
  • Males and females look the same.

The Mourning Dove is the most common dove in New York City.

Look for them perched high up in trees or on a telephone wire near your home. They are also commonly seen on the ground, which is where they do most of their feeding.

Mourning Dove Range Map
mourning dove range map

Mourning Doves are common visitors to bird feeding stations!

To attract them, try putting out their favorite foods, which include millet, shelled sunflower seeds, Nyjer seeds, cracked corn, and safflower. Mourning Doves need a flat place to feed, so the best feeders for them are trays or platforms. They are probably most comfortable feeding on the ground, so make sure to throw a bunch of food there too.

It’s common to hear Mourning Doves in New York City. Listen for a low “coo-ah, coo, coo, coo.” In fact, this mournful sound is how the dove got its name! Many people commonly mistake this sound for an owl. (Press PLAY below!)

YouTube video

#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 New York City?

Leave a comment below!


To learn more about other birds you may see in New York City, 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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