14 Birds That Are GREEN in Iowa! (2023)

Did you see a GREEN bird in Iowa?

Types of green birds in Iowa

I’m guessing you need help figuring out which species you saw with green feathers. Well, you’ve come to the right place! To help you make an identification, I have included several photographs of each species and detailed range maps.

In addition to birds that are green, I have also included olive-colored birds.

14 GREEN BIRDS IN Iowa:


#1. Mallard

  • Anas platyrhynchos

Common Iowa green birds

How to identify:

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

My guess is that almost everyone is familiar with the Mallard. These ducks are definitely the most common green birds in Iowa! But as you can see, only males are green.

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, regardless of location. 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! 🙂

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.


#2. Rock Pigeon

  • Columba livia

Common green birds found in Iowa

Rock Pigeons are extremely common in Iowa but are almost exclusively found in urban areas. These birds are what everyone refers to as “pigeons.” You have probably seen them gathering in huge flocks in city parks, hoping to get tossed some birdseed or leftover food.

The typical pigeon has a gray back, a blue-grey head, and two black wing bars. In addition, look for a GREEN and purple iridescence around their necks!

Rock Pigeon Range Map

pigeon range map

Pigeons are easily attracted to bird feeders, especially if leftover food is on the ground. Unfortunately, these greenish birds can become a nuisance if they visit your backyard in high numbers. Many people find their presence overwhelming and look for ways to keep them away!

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. But, interestingly, scientists aren’t even sure where their original range occurs!


#3. American Wigeon

  • Mareca americana

Green birds of Iowa

How to identify:

  • Compact ducks with round heads. Blue-gray bills that are tipped in black.
  • Males are mostly brown but have a distinctive green band behind their eyes and a white crown.
  • Females have brown bodies overall, with a grayer-colored head.

American Wigeons are numerous, but they prefer quiet lakes and marshes away from people.

Their diet consists of a higher proportion of plant matter than other ducks. They will even go to farm fields to feed, similar to geese. Their short bill provides a lot of power to help pluck vegetation easily!

American Wigeon Range Map

american wigeon range map

Since they can scare easily when approached, one of the best ways to see these green-headed birds in Iowa is to listen for them!

Males give a 3-part nasal whistle (whew-whew-whew) any time of the year, which sounds like a kazoo (heard below)! Females don’t whistle, but they do produce a harsh grunt quack.


#4. Northern Shoveler

  • Spatula clypeata

Green birds of Iowa

How to identify:

  • Males have reddish-brown flanks, green heads, a white chest, black backs, and yellow eyes.
  • Females are brown, and sometimes you can see a bluish shoulder patch.
  • Both sexes have distinctive bills, which are large and wide!

If you only glance at the male’s green head, casual observers in Iowa might accidentally think these birds are Mallards. But if you look closer, you should notice their ENORMOUS spoon-shaped bill, which is what Northern Shovelers are known for.

Northern Shoveler Range Map

northern shoveler range map

Northern Shovelers use their large bill to shovel and sift through mud and sand to find tasty tidbits like crustaceans, mollusks, and aquatic insects that are buried. Interestingly, their bill has over 100 tiny projections on the edges called lamellae that help filter out the food they want to eat.

Males make a guttural “took-took” sound during courtship, when alarmed, and in flight. Females make a nasally-sounding quack.


#5. Green-winged Teal

  • Anas carolinensis

green birds

How to identify:

  • Males have chestnut-brown heads and a green ear patch.
  • Females have a dark eye-line and are mottled brown throughout.
  • Both sexes have a green patch on their wing, visible in flight and most of the time when resting.

Green-winged Teals are the smallest dabbling ducks in Iowa. They are only 12-15 inches (31-39 cm) in length and weigh between 5 and 18 ounces (140-500 g).

Green-winged Teal Range Map

green winged teal range map

These birds often travel and hang out with other species. Look closely for the smallest duck in a mixed flock, and there is a good chance it’s a Green-winged Teal. Even females, which look similar to female Mallards, should stand out because they are noticeably smaller!

Males give a short, clear, repeated whistle, a unique sound for a duck if you ask me! Females often give a series of quacks at any time of the year.


#6. Wood Duck

  • Aix sponsa

green birds

How to identify:

  • Males have very intricate plumage. Look for the green crested head, red eyes, and chestnut breast with white dots.
  • Females have brown bodies with grayish heads, which are also slightly crested.

Walt Disney used to say that “the world is a carousel of color,” and few waterfowl have taken this more to heart than the male Wood Duck. It looks like an artist used every color to paint a duck with green, red, orange, lime, yellow, buff, rose, brown, tan, black, white, gray, purple, and blue.

Wood Duck Range Map

wood duck range map

This is one of the few duck species you may see in a tree! Wood Ducks use abandoned tree cavities for nesting but also readily take to elevated nesting boxes.

When hatchlings leave the nest for the first time, they often have to make a giant leap of faith (up to 50 feet) to the ground below! You have to watch the video below to believe it. 🙂

Interestingly, Wood Ducks are perfectly evolved for their life spent in trees. Their claws are powerful, which allows them to perch and grasp onto branches!


#7. Red-breasted Merganser

  • Mergus serrator

How to identify:

  • Slim ducks with long bodies and necks and a long, thin bill.
  • Breeding males have a dark green head with a spiky-looking crest. Cinnamon-colored chest and red eyes.
  • Females and non-breeding males are greyish-brown overall.

Red-breasted Mergansers breed in boreal forests across much of North America, where they can be found on many inland lakes. During winter, these sea ducks migrate south and spend most of their time just off the coast, although it’s possible to find them in just about any large, unfrozen body of water.

Red-breasted Merganser Range Map

red breasted merganser range map

Fish are their primary food source, and they must eat roughly 15-20 per day to supply their energy demands. It’s estimated they need to make about 250 dives per day to catch this amount of fish!

Sometimes they will help each other out, and individuals will work together to herd minnows to shallower water, which makes the fish easier to catch.

Did you know that birds that primarily eat fish typically taste horrible? Because of this, Red-breasted Mergansers, and the other merganser species found in Iowa, are not usually hunted. It’s also why you don’t see anyone trying to eat a penguin!


#8. Common Merganser

  • Mergus merganser

common mergansers

How to identify:

  • A large duck with a long, slender orange bill with a black tip and dark eyes.
  • Breeding males have a largely white body, a black back, and a mallard-like green head.
  • Females and non-breeding males sport a cinnamon-colored head and a grayish-white body.

Due to their thin bill, these green-headed birds stand out in Iowa. A Common Merganser’s favorite food is fish, which they catch with the help of their serrated bill. But they also indulge in aquatic invertebrates such as crustaceans, mollusks, insects, and worms.

Common Merganser Range Map

common merganser range map

Common Mergansers are so good at fishing that many other ducks try to steal from them when they surface. In fact, it’s common to see flocks of seagulls following them, hoping to snatch an easy meal. Even Bald Eagles have been known to rob them of their hard-earned fish!

Naturally, these ducks nest in tree cavities that woodpeckers have carved out. Interestingly, newborn ducklings are only about a day old when they leap from the entrance to the ground, at which point the mother will lead them to water, and they catch all their own food immediately.


#9. Ruby-throated Hummingbird

  • Archilochus colubris

ruby throated hummingbird How To Identify:

  • Males: Medium-sized hummingbird with a bright red throat, black chin, and mask extending behind the eyes. The top of their head and back are iridescent green. Underparts are pale grey with a green wash on the sides of their belly.
  • Females: Duller than males. The chin and throat are white with pale green streaks. Their face lacks the black chin and red throat of the male. Their belly is mostly white with buffy flanks, and the back is green.

These small green birds are common in Iowa during warm summer months.

Once cooler temperatures start to arrive, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds birds migrate to Mexico. Amazingly, most individuals travel ACROSS the Gulf of Mexico to reach their wintering grounds. Remember, they must make this incredibly long journey in a single flight, as there is nowhere to stop and rest. 🙂

Ruby-throated Hummingbird Range Map

ruby throated hummingbird range map

Believe it or not, these hummingbirds make distinctive noises. The sounds I hear most often are a series of calls that seem to be given as individuals chase each other around. It resembles a chattering “chee-dit.” Press PLAY below to hear what they sound like!

Press PLAY above to hear the sound these birds make!


#10. Green Heron

  • Butorides virescens

green heron

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Small heron with a long, dagger-like bill.
  • Their back is gray-green. The head and neck are chestnut-brown, except for the green-black cap on the head.
  • The neck is commonly drawn into their body.

This green bird is found in Iowa in any wet habitat that includes lots of vegetation, which provides places for them to stay hidden. You will often see them foraging at dawn or dusk, as they prefer to keep out of sight most of the day.

Green Heron Range Map

green heron range map

Green Herons are ambush predators and mainly eat fish, waiting patiently for a small one to swim by so they can snap it up with their long bill. Watch them hunt in the video below:

Interestingly, these birds use tools to help them hunt! They will drop insects, feathers, or other items into the water, which entice small fish to come closer to investigate.


#11. Pine Warbler

  • Setophaga pinus

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Their coloring is olive-gray, yellow, white, and black. Males are usually brighter than females.
  • Both sexes have two white wing bars on a dark background.

These olive-gray birds are unique among warblers in Iowa.

Unlike their relatives, Pine Warblers will eat seeds and have been known to visit feeders during migration and in winter. Offer cracked corn, millet, peanuts, and suet to attract these bright songbirds. Their summer diet is made up mostly of pine seeds, which they pick from pinecones with their long, pointed beaks.

Pine Warblers migrate, but their range is much more restricted than most warblers. They spend the entire year in the continental U.S., flying to southern states for winter and breeding in northern states during the summer.

Their song is a fast, trilling series of 10 to 30 notes.


#12. Ovenbird

  • Seiurus aurocapilla

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Their coloring is olive-brown with a white belly. The chest is streaked with black. The head has an orange streak in between two black streaks.
  • They are plump at the start of migration but thin-bodied when they return from winter.

Ovenbirds are often mistaken for thrushes because they’re larger than most warblers. Look for this olive-green bird in Iowa in deciduous forests with closed canopies, its preferred breeding habitat.

This species gets its name from its unique nest design. They place their nests, called “ovens” because of their domed shape, on the ground!

Ovenbirds migrate south for the winter and occasionally cross the Atlantic Ocean! They have been found in Ireland, Great Britain, and Norway. That’s a long way from home for such a tiny bird!

Male and female Ovenbirds look and sound similar. Their main song is a repeated “chur-TEE, chur-TEE, chur-TEE” without long pauses.


#13. Mourning Warbler

  • Geothlypis philadelphia

Identifying Characteristics:

  • They are yellow underneath and olive-green above, with a gray hood in females and near-black in males.

The easiest way to identify these olive-green birds in Iowa is to look at their eyes.

The black eyes of the Mourning Warbler blend into the dark hood on their head. The best place to find them is in dense second-growth forests.

Mourning Warblers might be considered a bit of a picky eater! They have the unusual habit of removing the legs and wings of insects before they eat them.

Mourning Warblers have a more musical, pleasant voice than some of their closest relatives. Listen for a bright song: “chirry, chirry, chirry, chorry, chorry.


#14. Kentucky Warbler

  • Geothlypis formosa

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Their coloring is yellow and olive green with some black on the head.
  • Yellow bands run from the beak, across the brow, and around the eyes, giving this species a spectacled appearance.

Kentucky Warblers live in moist deciduous forests. Unfortunately, these yellowish-green birds are scarce and tough to see in Iowa, so finding one may be challenging.

Their olive-green back and wings help them blend in with vegetation on the forest floor, where they spend most of their time foraging for insects. If you spot one, try to catch a glimpse of its eye markings, which wrap around the eyes in yellow and look like a pair of glasses!

Male Kentucky Warblers sing one song all their lives and don’t have multiple songs for different purposes, unlike most other warblers. The song is a rolling “churree” repeated five to eight times.


Learn more about other birds in Iowa!


What green birds in Iowa have you seen?

Let us know in the comments!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *