Did you see a RED bird in the United States?
If so, I’m sure you’re wondering what type of bird it was! Luckily, you can use the guide below to help you figure it out!
There are 24 birds in the United States that are considered “red.”
For the purpose of this article, I included primarily red and partially red birds.
Fortunately, many species of RED birds visit bird feeders, so you have a chance of attracting them to your yard. If you’re incredibly fortunate, you may even see one at my bird feeding station right now!
I have a LIVE high-definition camera watching my bird feeders 24/7. 🙂
#1. Northern Cardinal
- Cardinalis cardinalis
- 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 perfect for cracking seeds.
Without a doubt, the Northern Cardinal is one of the most popular and recognizable RED birds in the United States. They are not only beautifully colored, but they are common to see at bird feeders!
Northern Cardinal Range Map
And with a bit of practice, it’s easy to identify Northern Cardinals by their songs and sounds. Interestingly, unlike most other songbirds in the United States, 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!)
#2. House Finch
- Haemorhous mexicanus
- Males are rosy red around their heads and upper breasts. They have brown streaks on their back, tail, and belly.
- Females are brown with streaks on their back, tail, and belly.
- Both sexes have notched tails and conical beaks designed to eat seeds.
It’s common to see these red birds in the United States near people.
Look for them around buildings, backyards, parks, and other urban and suburban areas. As you can see, only males are red.
House Finch Range Map
House Finches are often the first birds to discover new bird feeders. These birds are intensely curious and rarely travel alone, so their arrival often helps other birds find your feeders too! I see them eating sunflower seed, Nyjer seed, and safflower in my yard.
House Finches have an enjoyable song, which can be heard year-round. Listen below to a series of jumbled, warbled notes.
#3. American Robin
- Turdus migratorius
- 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 red birds in the United States!
Although I think their breast looks orange, many others consider it rusty red.
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
Even though they’re 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!
These red birds also commonly nest near people. Look for an open, cup-shaped nest with 3-5 beautiful, distinctive sky blue eggs.
American Robins sing a string of clear whistles, a familiar sound in spring. Many people describe its song as sounding like the bird is saying, “cheerily, cheer up, cheer up, cheerily, cheer up.” Listen below.
#4. Scarlet Tanager
- Piranga olivacea
- Stocky bird with a yellowish gray and dull tipped bill.
- Males are bright red contrasted against black wings and tails.
- Females and immature males have greenish-yellow bodies and dark wings and tails. Juvenile males have darker wings and tails.
Most people have never seen this red bird before in the United States.
But, if you have, you’re one of the lucky ones! Scarlet Tanagers are hard to see because they live high up in the trees in the forest canopy. But, listening to their distinct song will help guide you to their location.
These red birds prefer deciduous forests, parks, pine-oak woodlands, and suburban areas with large, tall trees.
Scarlet Tanager Range Map
Scarlet Tanagers are strong fliers that can migrate long distances in the fall and spring. To attract these red beauties, you need fruit bushes in your yard. Scarlet Tanagers don’t eat from feeders. Instead, they prefer fruit-bearing plants like blackberries, mulberries, raspberries, juneberries, and strawberries.
Their song is a series of short blended whistling notes that alternates high and low pitches. Both sexes give a call note that sounds like they’re saying “chick-burr,” a dead giveaway you’re hearing a Scarlet Tanager.
#5. Summer Tanager
- Piranga rubra
- Medium-sized bird with a blunt bill.
- Males are brilliant red with a fuller body a larger head, and a shorter bill.
- Females are medium-sized with yellow bodies, greenish on the back and wings, with a longer bill.
Summer Tanager males are one of the few COMPLETELY red birds in the United States.
This species is found high among treetops searching for flying insects. They also move slowly through the tree, and on the branches hunting for insects.
Look for this bird in open oak, hickory, or mixed oak-pine woodlands. You can also find this tanager in orchards, parks, or along roadsides.
Summer Tanager Range Map
Believe it or not, Summer Tanagers eat bees and wasps!
How do they not get stung? Once caught, these red birds beat their victim against a branch before eating it, so they’re less likely to suffer an injury.
Summer Tanager males sing a song with variations but typically consists of five or more parts with two to four notes. Listen below.
#6. Common Redpoll
- Acanthis flammea
- Both sexes are small, white, and brown. Look for streaks on their sides and a small red patch on their forehead.
- Males have a pale red vest on the chest and upper flanks.
These red birds visit backyard bird feeders in the United States, especially during the winter. Due to their small bill size, they prefer eating tiny seeds like Nyjer (thistle) and shelled sunflower when visiting.
Common Redpoll Range Map
These red birds travel great distances and can turn up almost anywhere!
For example, one bird banded in Michigan showed up in Siberia. Another one in Belgium was found again in China!
#7. Pine Grosbeak
- Pinicola enucleator
- Large, plump finches. Look for dark gray wings with two white lines across the middle.
- Males are reddish-pink and gray.
- Females and young males are grayish with reddish-orange or yellow tints on the head and rump.
These red birds are one of the largest finches in the United States!
If one lands on your feeder, they’re typically easy to identify since they’re bigger than most other birds.
Pine Grosbeaks frequently visit feeders, especially during the winter. If you want to attract them, try using a hopper or platform feeder because of the bird’s larger size. Fill the feeders with sunflower seeds.
Pine Grossbeak Range Map
Male Pine Grosbeaks sing a high-pitched warble that goes up and down. Listen below! Females don’t sing very often.
#8. Purple Finch
- Haemorhous purpureus
- Small, with a conical seed-eating bill.
- Males have a raspberry red head, breast, and back.
- Females have prominent streaks of white and brown below, with strong facial markings, including a whitish eyebrow and a dark line down the side of the throat.
Males are described as looking like they were dipped in raspberry juice.
Look for these beautiful red birds to visit feeders in the United States, especially during winter. Your best chance to attract them is using black-oil sunflower seeds. Having conifer trees in your yard is also a great way to encourage these finches to visit.
Purple Finch Range Map
Purple Finches can be challenging to identify because they look incredibly similar to the more common House Finch. I’ve made this mistake many times, believing that I saw a Purple Finch when it was, in fact, just another House Finch. To tell them apart, look at their back. The Purple Finch’s back has red coloring, while the back of a House Finch has none.
Males sing a rich, musical warble. Listen below!
#9. Red Crossbill
- Loxia curvirostra
- Sparrow-sized. Look for their distinctive crisscrossed bills (which means the upper and lower tips of their beak don’t align; they cross, like crossing your fingers)
- Males are red overall with darker brownish-red wings and white wing bars.
- Females are full-bodied and yellowish with dark unmarked wings.
As their name suggests, Red Crossbills have crisscrossed bills, similar to if you cross your fingers. They adapted these oddly shaped bills to help them break into tightly closed cones, giving them an advantage over other red bird species in the United States.
They’re found in large coniferous forests during their breeding season, mainly spruce, pine, Douglas-fir, hemlock, or larch with recent cone crops. But in winter, they wander wherever they need to go to find food. While not incredibly common, these red birds will sometimes visit bird feeders in the United States and eat sunflower seeds.
Red Crossbill Range Map
Red Crossbills are highly dependent on conifer seeds. They even feed them to their babies instead of insects like most other songbirds. These finches typically breed in late summer but can breed any time during the year if a large enough cone crop is available.
Males sing a variably sweet warble, which sounds like “chipa-chipa-chipa, chee-chee-chee.”Females rarely sing, but call notes are sharp and metallic.
#10. Red-bellied Woodpecker
- Melanerpes carolinus
This woodpecker’s name can be confusing since their bellies don’t contain much red coloring other than a dark red wash.
Most of the red on the Red-bellied Woodpecker is on their head. In fact, the red coloring is the only way to tell males and females apart! This is because males have a bright red plumage that extends from their beaks to their necks, while females only have red on the back of their necks.
Red-bellied Woodpecker Range Map
These slightly red birds are a common sight at feeders in the United States!
I see Red-bellied Woodpeckers almost daily in my backyard. They love eating peanuts, sunflower seeds, and suet (especially popular during the winter months).
Press PLAY below to hear a Red-bellied Woodpecker! Another great way to find this woodpecker is to learn its calls! It’s quite common to hear them in forests and wooded suburbs and parks. Listen for a rolling “churr-churr-churr.”
#11. Red-headed Woodpecker
- Melanerpes erythrocephalus
Red-headed Woodpeckers are characterized by a large red head and a larger bill than most other species. Their back is entirely black, except for white wing patches, which contrasts against the pure white belly. Because of their bold patterning, these birds are sometimes called the “flying checkerboard.” 🙂
Red-headed Woodpecker Range Map
Unfortunately, populations of Red-headed Woodpeckers have declined in the United States by over 70% in the past 50 years! The main culprit is habitat loss due to the destruction of giant beech forests, which produce beechnuts, one of their favorite foods.
If you happen to find yourself in the correct habitat of these birds, be sure to listen for them! Their most common call is a shrill “tchur,” which sounds similar to a Red-bellied Woodpecker, except it’s a bit more higher-pitched and doesn’t roll as much.
#12. Red-naped Sapsucker
- Sphyrapicus nuchalis
These woodpeckers have black bodies, a white vertical stripe down the wing, and a red crown. Male birds have a red throat and red nape (back of the neck). Females also have a red throat, but there’s also a small white patch just under the bill, and their nape can be white or red.
Red-naped Sapsucker Range Map
Red-naped Sapsuckers are commonly found near aspen, birch, and willow trees. Look for their presence by examining these trees for tiny drilled holes.
To slurp up sap, these migratory woodpeckers have a specialized tongue. Believe it or not, they have stiff hairs on the ends, which helps drink the sap more effectively. The sap wells they create are vital to them, and they spend much of their time defending them from other birds.
The most common sound you’ll hear is a harsh, repeated “waah.” Some people think they sound like a small child crying.
#13. Rose-breasted Grosbeak
- Pheucticus ludovicianus
- Stocky birds with a large, triangular bill. About the size of an American Robin.
- Males have black backs and wings, with a distinctive red mark on their white breast.
- Females are heavily streaked with a white eyebrow and a pale bill.
It’s easy to see how these beautiful finches got their name. One look at the males, and you’ll immediately notice the bright red plumage topping their white breast. On the other hand, females can be hard to identify, as they look similar to many other birds.
Rose-breasted Grosbeak Range Map
Rose-breasted Grosbeaks like to visit bird feeders, where it uses its large triangular bill to crack open seeds. I’ve never seen one of these finches use a tube feeder; I don’t think the perches provide enough space for them. The best way to attract them is to set out sunflower seeds on a platform feeder.
These red birds are known for their beautiful song in the United States. It sounds similar to an American Robin but better! Listen for a long series of notes that rise and fall. If you hear one, make sure to look for the male singing from an elevated perch.
#14. White-winged Crossbill
- Loxia leucoptera
- Crisscrossed bill–is used to separate pine cone scales to access the seeds.
- Males are rose-pink with black wings and tails. Look for two white lines of contrasting color across the middle of the wing.
- Females and young males are yellowish but with the same wing and tail pattern as the adult males.
White-winged Crossbills get their name from the shape of their bill! These finches evolved these unique beaks to open up pine cones so that they could eat the seeds inside.
Individual White-winged Crossbills can eat up to 3,000 conifer seeds each day. Some people can locate crossbills by hearing them crunching while opening cones in the trees.
White-winged Crossbill Range Map
You can sometimes attract these red birds to your backyard feeders in the United States by offering hulled sunflower seeds.
Both sexes sing a mixture of vigorous and scattered chirps, warbles, and rattles. Listen below!
#15. Painted Bunting
- Passerina ciris
- Stocky bird with a short thick bill.
- Males have a bright red back, tail, belly, a blue head, with green, and yellow on their sides, and some on their back.
- Females are bright yellowish-green with a cream-white eyering.
The male Painted Bunting is primarily bright red, but its other vibrant colors make it look like it just flew out of a painting!
These bright birds migrate to the southern United States for breeding. Look for them in open areas with low vegetation and scattered trees and shrubs. Occasionally, they visit bird feeders.
Painted Bunting Range Map
Males are one of the most colorful red birds in the United States!
Unfortunately, the Painted Bunting is often caught and sold as caged birds illegally in Mexico because of their beauty.
Painted Bunting males sing a loud and clear song full of high-pitched musical notes. Listen below.
#16. Vermilion Flycatcher
- Pyrocephalus rubinus
- Small bird with a flat head and short, thin bill.
- Males are a fiery red with a brownish-black streak color through the eye, also on the back and wings.
- Females are brownish with a reddish belly.
Their scientific name (Pyrcephalus) means “fire-headed,” which describes these red birds well and helps identify them!
Vermilion Flycatchers are found in open shrubbery country areas like farmlands, shrublands, deserts, and canyon mouths in all seasons.
Vermillion Flycatcher Range Map
These red birds spend most of their time in the United States sitting on exposed perches, waiting to catch flying insect prey (hence the name). They fly out in a quick swoop, grab their game, and quickly get back to their same perch to consume. If they catch a grasshopper or a butterfly, they typically smash it against a tree to overpower and soften it before eating.
Males sing a straightforward chirpy song that is repeated. Listen below to the “pit-pit-pitasee.”
#17. Roseate Spoonbill
- Platalea ajaja
- Large and pink with bright pink on their shoulders and tail and a yellowish-green head
- Eyes are red, and their bill is long and wide spoonlike shape.
You’ll find this species in shallow freshwater marshes, bays, wetlands, and forested swamps. The Roseate Spoonbill wades in shallow water, swinging their bills back and forth, searching for food.
Roseate Spoonbill Range Map
These pinkish-red birds primarily eat shrimp, aquatic insects, prawns, and fish. They sway their bill in the water to find their prey and then clamp their bill shut to swallow it whole.
An interesting fact about the Roseate Spoonbill is as it gets older, they lose the feathers on the top of their head.
Surprisingly, the Roseate Spoonbill is a silent bird. Occasionally, they’ll make grunting noises when startled or greeting a mate.
#18. Hepatic Tanager
- Piranga flava
- Males are medium-size, red overall with gray-streaked on their back and wings. Their bill is long and silver.
- Females are a greenish tint of yellow with gray cheeks. They have dark gray bills and legs.
Typically, you’ll find these red birds in the United States in pinewood or mixed forests. A forest canopy thick with vegetation is a perfect place for nesting.
Hepatic Tanager Range Map
Hepatic Tanagers enjoy hopping through trees and shrubs, searching for food such as insects. They’ll usually feed in pairs or groups.
This bird’s songs are a series of rich, slurred, whistled notes with short pauses. Listen below.
#19. Painted Redstart
- Myioborus pictus
- Both sexes have a bright red breast and belly with black on the head, back, and sides.
- The wings and the outer part of the tail feature white patches.
One of the most beautiful looking red birds in the United States!
You’ll typically see Painted Redstarts in forests by rivers or streams, arid woodlands, and mountains where they forage for prey in branches and leaves.
Painted Redstart Range Map
Though this species is a warbler, it eats more like a woodpecker and a hummingbird! They prefer to forage for insects, but they also like tree sap and sugar water. In the winter, they’re often seen at feeders offering peanut butter or suet.
Painted Redstarts have a beautiful song. Listen for a rich phrase of “cheery cheery cheery chew.”
- Myioborus pictus
- Medium-sized bird with a yellow short parrotlike bill.
- Males are mostly gray but have red on the face, crown, throat, breast, wings, and tail.
- Females are gray with only red on the crown, wings, and tail.
Look for this unique-looking reddish bird in the southwestern United States!
Pyrrhuloxias (pronounced pir-uh-lok-see-uh) often visit backyard bird feeders. They prefer sunflower seeds from ground feeders or seeds that have fallen on the ground.
Pyrrhuloxia Range Map
This species has an undulating (rollercoaster-like) flying pattern. Males court females by giving a distinct call, fluttering their wings, bowing their heads, and giving her a gift.
This birds song contains rich, loud whistles “chewee chewee chewee wheet wheet wheet.” Listen below.
#21. Red-breasted Sapsucker
- Sphyrapicus ruber
Red-breasted Sapsuckers are found in the western United States in coniferous forests, typically at lower elevations. Look for a medium-sized bird with a red head and breast and a white spot in front of the eye.
Red-breasted Sapsucker Range Map
As the name suggests, sapsuckers drill wells into trees to eat the sugary liquid that leaks out. Their favorite trees are willows and birches. In addition to sap, these woodpeckers also eat insects and some fruits.
Interestingly, Rufous Hummingbirds tend to follow Red-breasted Sapsuckers around. These tiny birds enjoy feeding on the flowing sap that the sapsuckers create and are even known to nest near the sap wells.
Their call is a harsh, slurred “whee-ur” or “mew.”
#22. Red-faced Warbler
- Cardellina rubrifrons
Photographer: © R.& N. Bowers/VIREO
- Slim and more petite with short wings and a long tail.
- Both sexes are similar with gray above and white below, with red above the bill and a red throat.
You’ll find Red-faced Warblers in canyons and by streams. These red birds like to breed in very high elevations in the United States.
Red-faced Warbler Range Map
This warbler prefers coniferous trees but will sometimes stay in deciduous trees. They spend most of their time foraging for insects on the branches of trees and pursue prey in flight.
Males put on a mating display showing their red faces and the white mark on their rump. They’ll continue to do this until they find a mate. What’s unusual is the female responds to the chosen male with a similar display.
These red birds sing a wonderfully sweet song – “sweet-sweet-sweet-weeta-see-see-see.” Listen below.
#23. Elegant Trogon
- Trogon elegans
- Medium-sized hunchback bird with long wings and tail.
- Males have a bright red belly with a white band on the breast, metallic green on the head, back, and chest, with a black face and throat. The wings and tail are black and white, and the tail has a squared end.
- Females are grayer on the head and chest, with red on the belly and a white mark under the eyes.
In the southwestern United States, you’ll find these red birds in sagamore canyons, oak trees along riversides, edges of vegetation, or pine-oak woodlands.
From their perch, Elegant Trogons sit and wait for their prey. Once spotted, they fly out to catch the insect mid-air!
Elegant Trogon Range Map
The exciting thing about these red birds is they use old woodpecker holes for nesting. But, unfortunately, they cannot make the hole themselves, so they have been heavily dependent on woodpeckers to reproduce successfully.
The Elegant Trogon has a unique song that is frog-like and is repeated several times. Listen below.
#24. Cassia Crossbill
- Loxia sinesciuris
- Small but stocky with a notched tail. Its crisscrossed bill is thicker than other crossbills.
- Males have grayish-brown bodies that are dashed with fiery reds and orangish hues.
- Females are grayish-green overall with a tad of yellow on the belly.
Cassia Crossbills are unique as they are ONLY found in a small part of Idaho.
Unlike other crossbill species, they don’t migrate, choosing to stay in the same spot year-round. However, their geographic isolation and small population make them vulnerable to extinction.
Cassia Range Map
Cassia Crossbills are closely related to the much more widespread Red Crossbill. In fact, these birds were considered the same species until it was realized the Cassia’s don’t interbreed, have thicker bills, and don’t leave Cassia County, Idaho.
Cassia Crossbills sing like other crossbills, but their songs are longer and have lower-pitched notes.
Do you need additional help identifying a red bird you have seen?
If so, this field guide should be able to help you.
Which of these red birds have you seen before in the United States?
Leave a comment below!
The range maps below 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!