With rugged mountains and scenic landscapes, Idaho is a paradise for nature lovers. It is spacious and not densely populated, which also makes it a haven for birds.
You will find 432 species of birds throughout Idaho.
For the uninitiated, identifying the birds of Idaho is confusing.
If you need help, read on! I will share some of the most common birds you will find in the state. From private backyards to national parks, there are plenty of opportunities to spot flying creatures in The Gem State.
- The Most Common Birds In Idaho
- 1. American Robin
- 2. Mountain Bluebird
- 3. Downy Woodpecker
- 4. Hairy Woodpecker
- 5. House Sparrow
- 6. American Goldfinch
- 7. House Finch
- 8. Black-Capped Chickadee
- 9. Mourning Dove
- 10. Song Sparrow
- 11. Dark-eyed Junco
- 12. Red-winged Blackbird
- 13. Scarlet Tanager
- 14. Ruby-throated Hummingbird
- 15. Yellow Warbler
- 16. American Crow
- 17. House Wren
- 18. Red-Breasted Nuthatch
- 19. Lazuli Bunting
- 20. Black-Billed Magpie
- 21. European Starling
- 22. Western Tanager
- 23. Barn Swallow
- 24. Cedar Waxwing
- 25. Yellow-Rumped Warbler
- Watch This!
- Frequently Asked Questions
The Most Common Birds In Idaho
1. American Robin
One of the most common Idaho birds, you will find American robins almost anywhere in the state. From backyards to forests, they have a huge population.
It is most common to see an American robin on lawns where they tug earthworms from the ground.
With an average length of ten inches, it is most recognizable for its reddish breast. To add, it has a black head, dark brown back, and yellow beak. Males are a little bit bigger, but they look almost the same as females.
Aside from earthworms, you will see this common backyard bird eating grasshoppers, caterpillars, sunflower seeds, and berries.
2. Mountain Bluebird
Any Idaho bird list is incomplete without mentioning the mountain bluebird, which is the official state bird.
Males are more striking than females. They have a sky-blue or turquoise back that complements their long blue wings and long tails.
If you want to see mountain bluebirds, look for wide-open spaces in middle or high elevations. You can also see them in ranches and urban parks. They aren’t shy, so it is easy for humans to find these birds.
As for their diet, these birds native to Idaho will eat mostly insects, as well as berries whenever they are in season.
3. Downy Woodpecker
Tiny but active, the downy woodpecker is a familiar sight in Idaho backyards.
This is the smallest woodpecker in North America. On average, its length is only six inches.
An easy way to identify a downy woodpecker is to look at its bill. It is small, often shorter than its head.
To attract these backyard birds in Idaho, install a feeder with peanuts, millet, suet, and black oil sunflower seeds.
When looking for food in the winter, male and female downy woodpeckers go on separate ways. Males are often in small branches while females are in large trunks.
4. Hairy Woodpecker
Often confused with downy woodpeckers, hairy woodpeckers are bigger. You will find them in large trees.
A hairy woodpecker has a square head, a straight and long bill, and stiff and long tail feathers. Its bill is almost the same length as its head.
As for the color pattern, it has black and white contrast. Its black wings have white checkers. On its head, you will find two white stripes.
Most hairy woodpeckers live in mature forests, although you will also find them in cemeteries, parks, and suburbs.
5. House Sparrow
One of the most rampant backyard birds of Idaho, house sparrows thrive in places where there are houses and other buildings. Its nesting sites include man-made structures, such as nest boxes and streetlights.
A lot of people do not like house sparrows in their yard because they are invasive species. Hence, they can be a threat to native birds, especially when they compete for food and habitat.
The house sparrow is known for its habit of taking a dust bath. It throws dust around its body by burrowing on the surface. When you see small depressions on the ground, chances are, they are because of house sparrows.
6. American Goldfinch
With its bright yellow body and black wings, an American goldfinch is a stand-out. Whether in-flight or resting, it is easy to spot and identify.
The vibrant feathers are not just eye-pleasers. They are also used by males to attract females during the mating season. Male American goldfinches also show off an array of flight routines to impress females.
They forage on the ground, eating seeds, berries, and insects. In bird feeders, they prefer thistle and sunflower seeds.
In the wild, these birds live on forest edges and plains. They are also frequent visitors of weedy fields, orchards, farms, and suburb gardens.
7. House Finch
While it is small at only six inches, a house finch is one of the most recognizable Idaho backyard birds.
Male house finches have rosy-red upper breast and face with brown streaks on their tail, belly, and back. Females, on the other hand, are grayish brown with blurry and thick streaks.
The red color in the body of males is from the foods it eats. The redder the bird is, the more red pigments are in its food. Females are attracted to redder males.
In urban settings, house finches reside in lawns and buildings. Meanwhile, their rural habitats include stables, barns, oak savannahs, and coniferous forests.
8. Black-Capped Chickadee
With their tiny body and oversized round head, black-capped chickadees are known for being cute. It has a black cap, which is where it got its name.
These backyard birds in Idaho are easy to attract. Whether it is in a window or hanging feeders, they will easily come when there is food, including suet, peanuts, and sunflower seeds.
The black capped chickadee is known for its habit of hoarding food. They hide them in different places for later consumption. They can remember thousands of spots where they hid their food.
In the autumn, their brain neurons with old information die. It is replaced with new neurons, which is also what allows them to adapt to the changes in their environment.
9. Mourning Dove
Mourning doves are known for being graceful. They have a small head, long tail, and plump body.
The mourning dove got its name from the sad and haunting cooing sound that it makes. It is also their way of attracting a mate.
Most times, they are perching on telephone wires. On the ground, they can also be seen foraging for seeds. They swallow these seeds and store them in their crop, which is an enlargement in their esophagus.
It is easy to recognize mourning doves in flight. They are bullet straight and fast. During their breeding season, they fly in tight formations with three in each group.
10. Song Sparrow
A medium-sized bird, a song sparrow has a stout and rounded head and a short bill. The tail is round and long while the wings are broad.
For easy identification of birds of Idaho, look at its body. It has a white breast with brown streaks. The head is a mixture of gray and red-brown.
Song sparrows are partially migratory. In the summer, they thrive in abandoned pastures, woodland edges, and stream borders. Meanwhile, in the winter, you will find them in moist ravines, brush piles, and marshes.
11. Dark-eyed Junco
Neat but flashy, dark-eyed juncos have a dark gray or brown plumage that complements its white outer tail and pink bill.
You will most commonly see these birds on the ground where they hop around the base of shrubs and trees looking for seeds to eat.
Another easy way to recognize these juncos is through their sound. They make high chip notes, especially when they are foraging. It intensifies when they are flying low looking for cover.
In the summer, they eat mostly insects, including grasshoppers, caterpillars, bugs, and beetles. Meanwhile, come winter, they will feed on grasses and weeds.
12. Red-winged Blackbird
Males have black wings with a red shoulder patch. The feather edges are rusty, especially in the winter. On the other hand, females are streaked brown, which can be easily confused with sparrows. The stocky and broad-shouldered bird is also known for its conical and slender bill.
These birds of North Idaho are aggressive. They can attack even larger birds, including crows and hawks.
The most common places where you will find these red winged blackbirds are saltwater and fresh marshes. They are also regulars in old fields, wet roadsides, and golf courses.
13. Scarlet Tanager
The scarlet tanager is a songbird with a stocky body. It has a large head while the tail is round and short.
One of the most notable characteristics of this bird is its thick and rounded bill. This allows the bird to eat even hard fruits.
Males are unmistakable in the spring and summer. They have a bright red body that complements their black tails and wings. On the other hand, females are olive-yellow.
Their habitats include deciduous and evergreen forests. These medium sized birds can also occasionally visit bird feeders, especially in the spring.
14. Ruby-throated Hummingbird
The striking red throat is one of the most recognizable characteristics of this bird, but you will only find such in males.
Its crown and back are golden-green or bright emerald while its underparts are white.
Aside from their appearance, another way to detect the presence of these small birds is to listen to their vocalizations. They will make rapid and squeaky chips.
Their primary food sources are small insects and floral nectar. They are specifically attracted to red flowers. They will use their long beak to suck nectar. If nectar is unavailable, they will come looking for tree sap.
15. Yellow Warbler
A small songbird with an even proportion, a yellow warbler has a bright yellow body. It has an unmarked face, which makes the black eyes stand out.
Spotting these birds is easy. You will find them on the top of small trees and tall shrubs. They are most common in wetlands and watercourses.
When foraging, they are restless, hopping from one branch to another to catch insects. Up to 2/3 of its diet is caterpillars. It also eats mosquitoes, spiders, beetles, moths, and mayflies.
16. American Crow
The all-black color of this Idaho bird makes it easy to identify. It has long legs and a thick neck. Meanwhile, the bill is straight and heavy.
During flights, it creates a noticeable rowing motion. At times, it will also glide.
Like many of the backyard birds of Idaho, the American crow often feeds on the ground, eating earthworms, insects, and seeds.
American crows are known for being opportunistic feeders. They will quickly take advantage of any food they see. During flight, they can carry hard-shell mollusks and drop them so that the shells will break.
17. House Wren
The house wren was named as such because of its tendency to nest around houses.
Its upper body is brown while the breast and tail are gray. If you look closer, you will find black and white spots around its plumage.
These common backyard birds are fiercely territorial. They will destroy the eggs of other birds that they will find in their nests. Males will defend their territory by singing.
To attract house wrens to your house, fill your bird feeders with crickets, moths, grasshoppers, spiders, and snails.
18. Red-Breasted Nuthatch
The red-breasted nuthatch has a compact body, long-tapered bill, and a short neck and tail.
One of its most notable physical characteristics is the black stripe through its eyes with a white stripe above.
It has robust claws and toes, which it uses for climbing trees or moving along branches. This will allow them to climb with their head first.
The breeding season starts in the winter or spring. These monogamous birds will stay together for at least a year. The pair will work together in defending their territory.
19. Lazuli Bunting
While it is not as common as the other birds in this list, you can see lazuli bunting in Idaho, specifically in wooded valleys and brushy hillsides.
Males are colorful birds, so they are almost impossible to miss. The upper part is brilliant blue while the breast is pumpkin, and the belly is white.
On the other hand, females have grayish-brown upper with a blue tinge on their tails and wings.
The diet is mostly seeds and insects. It will feed on wild bees, ants, caterpillars, beetles, and bugs. Meanwhile, in backyard feeders, they love black oil sunflower seeds, especially in the winter.
20. Black-Billed Magpie
These winter birds have a black and white body with striking blue-green iridescent flashes in their tail and wings.
Aside from its striking appearance, a black-billed magpie is also known for its social and inquisitive behavior. It moves in groups, which makes their whistle more audible.
It walks on the ground as it forages. Some may use their bill when flipping over items that are covering their food. They have a varied and omnivorous diet, which includes caterpillars, beetles, flies, grasshoppers, small snakes, berries, nuts, and seeds.
21. European Starling
The European starling was brought to North America in 1980. Since then, the population has grown significantly, and it is now one of the most rampant songbirds in the country.
Looking at its appearance, it has a short and stocky tail. The color changes depending on the season. In the spring and summer, they have a black body, yellow bill, and iridescent green-purple sheen. Meanwhile, in the winter, they have white and gold speckles, and their bill becomes darker.
It has a bad reputation because many people consider this bird a pest. They gather in flocks and make loud noises.
If they are being a nuisance and a disturbance to other backyard birds, consider professional pest control.
22. Western Tanager
One of the most common bird species in Idaho, the western tanager is beautiful!
Males are showy with a yellow and black body and red head. Females, on the other hand, are olive green on the upper with a grayish back and yellowish rump.
If you want them to come to your backyard, fill your bird feeder with dried and fresh fruits. Unlike most of the birds on this list, they are not fans of seeds.
Their most common habitat is in open conifer forests. Nonetheless, despite their bright body, they can stay hidden under canopies.
23. Barn Swallow
With its bluish wings, tail, and back, the barn swallow is amongst the most beautiful bird species on this list. It has a blue crown and face, which creates a striking contrast to its red throat and forehead.
These small birds use their mighty wings to catch food. It snags insects from the water or the ground and flies up to 100 feet.
Up in the air, it has fluid wing beats and creates a straight flight. They can make quick and tight turns and they are rarely seen gliding.
You can attract these birds in backyard feeders with ground-up eggshells and a variety of insects, including wild bees, wasps, and beetles.
24. Cedar Waxwing
Seeing this bird on your next bird watching outing is sure to be a treat! It is beautiful and colorful, making it a visual feast.
The name originates from the waxy red tips that you will find on their secondary feathers. Nonetheless, the purpose of these waxy secretions remains unknown.
It has a pale brown chest, crest, and head. Most of the belly is pale yellow that gets brighter as it reaches the top. Meanwhile, it also has a narrow black mask and bright red wingtips.
While you can use bird feeders with fruits to lure these species into your backyard, the best thing to do is to plant native trees and plants with small fruits, such as winterberry, juniper, and hawthorn.
25. Yellow-Rumped Warbler
Wrapping up our list of the birds of Idaho is the yellow-rumped warbler. It has a large head, long and narrow tail, and a sturdy bill.
The color changes depending on the season. In the summer, it has a gray body with white flashes in its wings and hints of yellow on the rump, side, and face. Come winter, the color becomes a bit duller.
You can see them foraging at medium height outside the canopies of trees. They eat insects most of the time, although, during winter, they will feast on berries straight from shrubs.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the state bird of Idaho?
The state bird of Idaho is the mountain bluebird. It was adopted through legislation on February 28, 1931. More than its striking appearance, this small thrush songbird is also known as a symbol of hope, happiness, and love.
Where can I find Idaho birds?
With seven national parks and seven wildlife refuges, you will have plenty of opportunities for birding in Idaho. Some of the best places to check out include Bear Lake National Wildlife Refuge, Curlew National Grassland, Harriman State Park, Massacre Rocks State Park, Snake River Plain, and Lake Lowell.
Bird identification in Idaho can be confusing. From their size to color, you must be aware of their physical characteristics, so you will know which one you are spotting. Most of these birds are roaming freely in the forests and national parks, although, with the right approach, you can also attract them to your backyard.
Are there other birds that I missed? Feel free to leave a comment below.