12 SMALL Birds that live in North Dakota (2024)

Do you want to learn about the SMALLEST birds found in North Dakota?

Well, you have come to the right place. 🙂

Below, you are going to learn about the tiniest birds around. Incredibly, most of these birds weigh less than an ounce (28 grams)! To put that into perspective, a pencil weighs roughly an ounce.


#1. Downy Woodpecker

  • Dryobates pubescens
small birds
  • Length: 5.5 to 7.1 in / 14 to 18 cm
  • Weight: 0.71 to 1.16 oz / 20 to 33 g

Downy Woodpeckers are the smallest woodpecker found in North Dakota!

You probably recognize them, as they are seen in many yards visiting bird feeders.

Downy Woodpecker Range Map

This woodpecker species is easy to attract. 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.

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.

And if you’re really good, you can try to identify this species by how they drum on trees, which they do when looking for a mate or establishing a territory. The drumming is so fast it almost sounds like one uninterrupted sound!

YouTube video

Press PLAY above to hear a Downy Woodpecker!

#2. American Goldfinch

  • Spinus tristis

american goldfinch

  • Length: 4.3–5.5 in / 11–14 cm
  • Weight: 0.39–0.71 oz / 11–20 g

These colorful and small birds are common in North Dakota.

And the best news is they are relatively easy to attract to your backyard. American Goldfinches love feeding on sunflower seeds and Nyjer seeds.

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!

American Goldfinch Range Map

american goldfinch range map

American Goldfinches are strict vegetarians. Their diet is exclusively made of seeds with no insects, which is rare in the bird world.

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.

#3. House Sparrow

  • Passer domesticus

house sparrow

  • Length: 6.3 in / 16 cm
  • Weight: 0.85 to 1.39 oz / 24 to 39.5 g

House Sparrows are an invasive species that originated from the Middle East. But now they are one of the most widespread small birds in North Dakota (and the world)!

Range Map – House Sparrow

house sparrow range map

House Sparrows owe their success to their ability to adapt and live near humans. Because of this, they are almost always found in urban and suburban areas.

House Sparrows can be heard across the entire planet. 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

#4. Song Sparrow

  • Melospiza melodia

song sparrow

  • Length: 4.3 to 7.1 in / 11 to 18 cm
  • Weight: ~ 1.1 oz / 32 g

These small birds are common in North Dakota, especially in wet & shrubby open areas.

But sparrows, in general, are difficult to identify due to their abundance and how similar they all tend to look. Until you take a closer look, they all appear “small and brown.”

Song Sparrow Range Map

song sparrow range map

The easiest way to confirm you have seen a Song Sparrow is to listen for their beautiful songs. The most common one they sing, which you can listen to below, consists of three short notes followed by a pretty trill. The song varies depending on location and the individual bird.

YouTube video

#5. House Wren

  • Troglodytes aedon

  • Length: 4.3 to 5.1 in / 11 to 13 cm
  • Weight: 0.35 to 0.42 oz / 10 to 12 g

The House Wren is a common small bird found in North Dakota.

Even though they rarely visit bird feeders, they are often seen zipping through backyards while hunting insects. A great way to draw these wrens to your yard is to create brush piles, which offer cover and places for insects to gather.

House Wren Range Map

House Wrens are commonly encountered by people when their nests are found in odd places.

For example, as a kid, we found a nest in a clothespin bag hanging outside. Before my mom could access her clothespins, she had to wait until the wrens had raised their young and abandoned the twig nest! Other weird spots for nests include boots, cans, or boxes.

One of the best ways to locate a House Wren is to listen for their distinctive song. The best way to describe it is a beautiful, energetic, flutelike melody consisting of rapid squeaky chatters and rattles.

YouTube video

#6. White-breasted Nuthatch

  • Sitta carolinensis


  • Length: 6.1 in / 15.5 cm
  • Weight: 0.63–1.06 oz / 18–30 g

White-breasted Nuthatches are compact birds with no neck, a short tail, and a long pointy bill. Color-wise, they have distinctive white cheeks, chest, and a blue-gray back.

White-breasted Nuthatch Range Map

Look for these small birds in North Dakota in deciduous forests. But they adapt well to the presence of humans and are often seen at parks, cemeteries, and wooded yards visiting bird feeders.

To attract nuthatches, use sunflower seeds, peanuts, suet, safflower seeds, and mealworms. Choose high-quality food and avoid mixes containing milo or other grains, which most songbirds won’t eat.

These birds are incredibly vocal AND make distinctive noises that are relatively easy to identify! You are most likely to hear a “yank” call, which is given at any time of year. This loud and distinctive noise is often repeated several times in a row. (Press PLAY to listen below)

#7. Black-capped Chickadee

  • Poecile atricapillus

black capped chickadee

  • Length: 4.7–5.9 in / 12–15 cm
  • Weight: 0.32–0.49 oz / 9–14 g

Black-capped Chickadees are one of the most beloved small birds in North Dakota, and it’s easy to see why!

These birds are often described as “cute,” as they are tiny, with an oversized head with a black cap and bib. Look for them in open deciduous forests, thickets, and cottonwood groves. They also adapt easily to the presence of people and are common to see in backyards and parks.

Black-capped Chickadee Range Map

black capped chickadee range map

Black-capped Chickadees are easy to attract to bird feeders! In fact, once you set up a new bird feeder, they will likely be one of the first birds to visit, as they are curious about anything new in their territory. The best foods to use include sunflower, peanuts, and suet. Their small size and athletic ability mean these birds can use just about any feeder!

These birds are extremely vocal, and you should have no problem hearing one. And luckily, their vocalizations are unique and relatively easy to identify. Listen below to a song with a simple 2 or 3-note whistle, which sounds like it’s saying “fee-bee” or “hey sweetie.”

Black-capped Chickadees also make a distinctive “chickadee-dee-dee” call. And yes, it sounds like they are saying their name! Interestingly, when alarmed, they add more “dee” notes at the end of the call.

#8. Dark-eyed Junco

  • Junco hyemalis

  • Length: 5.1 to 6.9 in / 13 to 17.5 cm
  • Weight: 0.63 to 1.06 oz / 18 to 30 g

Dark-eyed Juncos are one of the most common small birds in North Dakota. You can easily identify them by how smooth their feathers look. Or look for a white flash from their tail feathers as they fly away.

Dark-eyed Junco Range Map

dark eyed junco range map

This species is found in pine and mixed-coniferous forests when they breed, but in winter, they are seen in fields, parks, woodlands, and backyards. Dark-eyed Juncos have earned the nickname “Snowbirds” or “Winter birds” because they only appear in winter in many parts of their range.

Dark-eyed Juncos like to visit bird feeders, but ONLY ON THE GROUND, where they consume fallen seeds.

Males sing a two-second loud, trilling song that can carry hundreds of feet away. In addition, both sexes also sing softer songs that are a mixture of warbles, trills, and whistles.

#9. Pine Siskin

  • Spinus pinus

Common small birds

  • Length: 4.3–5.5 in / 11–14 cm
  • Weight: 0.42–0.63 oz / 12–18 g

Pine Siskins are typically found in North Dakota in mixed evergreen or deciduous forests, but they will move to a new place in search of food, like weedy fields, backyards, or gardens.

These energetic birds can be seen visiting bird feeders during the winter. They prefer to eat smaller seeds without tough shells, such as sunflower or Nyjer seeds.

Pine Siskin Range Map

pine siskin range key

These small birds are very social and search for food in flocks while chirping nonstop to each other. They don’t even stop chattering when flying!

#10. White-crowned Sparrow

  • Zonotrichia leucophrys

White-crowned Sparrow pic

  • Length: 5.9-6.3 in (15-16 cm)
  • Weight: 0.9-1.0 oz (25-28 g)

During the breeding season, White-crowned Sparrows are found in shrubbery habitats with open grassy areas. In winter, they prefer weedy fields, thickets, and backyards.

White-crowned Sparrow Range Map

white crowned sparrow range map

If you want to attract these small birds to your feeding station, use sunflower seeds. Just make sure the food is placed on the ground, as they won’t fly up to feeders. And having a brush pile will entice them to stay by giving them places to hide and feel safe.

White-crowned Sparrows are known for their long migration journeys. This sparrow has been known to travel over 300 miles (483 km) in one night!

Males primarily sing, but on occasion, so will females. Their song lasts only a few seconds. Listen below:

#11. White-throated Sparrow

  • Zonotrichia albicollis

white throated sparrow pic

  • Length: 5.9 to 7.5 in / 15 to 19 cm
  • Weight: 0.78 to 1.13 oz / 22 to 32 g

Look for these small birds in North Dakota along the edge of forests. They enjoy scratching at the ground under leaves or picking leaves up and moving them out of the way with their bill.

White-throated Sparrow Range Map

white throated sparrow range map

White-throated Sparrows readily visit bird feeders. You can attract them by offering sunflower seeds or millet and making sure some of the food ends up on the ground, as they won’t fly up to feeders. And having a place for them to hide and find shelter will entice them to stay.

White-throated Sparrows sing a high-pitched whistle that is easy to learn. Just listen for “Oh-sweet-Canada-Canada.

#12. Red-breasted Nuthatch

  • Sitta canadensis

species of small birds

  • Length: 4.5 in (11 cm)
  • Weight: 0.35 oz (9.9 g)

Red-breasted Nuthatches are active little songbirds in North Dakota that have beautiful coloring. Look for compact birds with almost no neck and a short tail.

These small birds breed in northern North America, the western mountains, and the upper northeast. But during winter, they can truly show up almost anywhere.

These birds travel where needed to make sure they have enough food. In some years, they have been seen as far south as the Gulf of Mexico and Northern Mexico!

Red-breasted Nuthatch Range Map

Red-breasted Nuthatches are mostly found in North Dakota in coniferous forests. Their preferred habitat contrasts sharply with White-breasted Nuthatches, who prefer living in deciduous forests.

These small birds make a fast series of nasally “yank-yank-yank” sounds, which have been compared to the sound that a toy tin horn makes. These calls are typically made by males who are looking for a mate.

Learn more about other birds in North Dakota!

Which of these small birds have you seen in North Dakota?

Let us know in the comments!

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