Last Updated: September 20, 2022
There's the adventure of birding in evergreen forests and walking along the forest edges.
Sneaking up on birds in marshes, and watching birds perched on telephone posts.
There's the relaxing experience of birding in your backyard, a trip to the enchanting avian world without leaving your home.
Are you up to this challenge? Yes?
Good! Let's talk about the backyard birds of Massachusetts, the food they eat, and the type of environment that'll bring them to your backyard feeders.
- Massachusetts Birds: 15 Common Backyard Birds
- How To Attract Backyard Birds
- Endangered & Threatened Birds in Massachusetts
- Frequently Asked Questions About MA Birds
- Final Thoughts
Massachusetts Birds: 15 Common Backyard Birds
Since there are hundreds of backyard birds, we'll only mention a few common species.
1. Mourning Dove
Its mournful call earned it the name mourning dove. It makes an owl-like coo that'll have you thinking you have owls near your backyard feeders.
You're likely to see a mourning dove any time of the year as it goes about its business unalarmed by your presence.
It's one of the larger avians on your property as it's 12 inches long. The feathers are in shades of brown and gray, with a few dark spots on the wings. As a mourning dove flies, you'll see white feathers on its outer tail.
Other ID details are a plump body, a small straight bill, and a pointed tail.
2. Black-Capped Chickadee
It's a little over five inches long. You'll know a black-capped chickadee by its white cheeks contrasted by a black cap and throat, gray upperparts, whitish belly, and grayish wings.
Its song sounds like it's whistling here swee-tie, while its call is a fast-paced chickadee-dee-dee-dee. Have you heard it calling?
It's a curious bird that'll come close to you, even eat from your palm if you let it.
3. House Finch
It's a native of the drier western states, but it also visits MA.
This avian is social; it sticks around human settlements, taking any opportunity to interact with people.
A house finch is small, about six inches long. Males have streaked brown bodies with rosy red on the face and chest, while females have similar streaked brown plumage with paler streaks on the belly. Both sexes have notched tails.
4. Downy Woodpecker
It's about 5.5 to 6.7 inches long, the same size as an eastern phoebe. The underbelly is white, the upper parts are black, while the wings and outer tail have white spots. The head of a downy woodpecker has black and white stripes and red nape.
5. Northern Cardinal
The male flaunts reddish plumage and a red crest, while the female has brownish feathers with a tinge of red.
Its sturdy, thick bill can crack seed shells, so it eats many bird seeds. It'll show up on your property throughout the year.
A northern cardinal has a characteristic hop instead of walking on the ground. You'll also see it hop from one branch to the other.
In North America, you can only see this species in the eastern states of the US.
6. European Starling
This songbird is about 8 inches long, and it's a common bird in North America. Its shiny black plumage has shades of green, purple and blue.
Its bill can't crack hard shells, so foods to please a European starling include suet cakes, cracked corn, and peanuts.
Starlings are aggressive, and they may drive away other birds.
7. Red-Winged Blackbird
It's the most common blackbird in MA, often heard in the marshes and ponds in spring and summer. Though smaller than a robin, it's slightly under 9 inches long, so it's larger than a house sparrow.
The male red winged blackbird is the most colorful of both sexes, flaunting black body plumage and red shoulder patches with an orange border at the bottom. The female looks like a sparrow except that it's larger, has a sharp bill, heavy streaking on the belly, and its face is orangish.
8. Sharp-Shinned Hawk
You may also do the same if Cooper's hawk or a bald eagle comes looking for dinner in your backyard. Like these three predators, the northern goshawk can show up for easy food, to hunt blue jays and woodpeckers.
If you notice a bird that's between 10 and 14 inches long, slim, short wings with rounded wingtips, a blue-gray back, horizontal reddish-orange bars on the belly, it's a sharp shinned hawk.
It may hunt woodpeckers, warblers, sparrows, and thrushes.
9. American Robin
Do you know how to tell it's an American robin? It has brownish-gray upperparts, long wings, and a reddish-orange underbelly. The female has paler plumage. You'll be looking for an avian that's between 7.9 and 11 inches long.
10. Song Sparrow
It's a summer resident, one that fills the air with its cheery song all day long. You'll hear it sing, whether in spring or fall.
This streaked bird has a round head, red-brown stripes running through the eye to the crown, and a rounded tail. Even with the steaks, you can see a white belly and flanks.
This sparrow is between 4.7 and 6.7 inches long. It has the same wing to wing length as a house sparrow. However, its body length can be smaller as a house sparrow ranges from 5.9 to 6.7 inches long.
11. Blue Jay
Having a blue jay around will bring a pop of color. You'll see a vibrant bird with a blue crest, bluish-gray back, and a black necklace. If you first see it flying over your yard, you may not tell it's a blue jay as its underbelly is unmarked and pale.
A blue jay is between 13 and 17 inches long, so it's one of the larger visitors to your property. This crested bird species is common in North America. It bullies other species, sometimes chasing away its own. But, a blue jay may also protect smaller species from hawks.
12. Brown-Headed Cowbird
As its name suggests, it has a chocolate brown head. The male has shiny black plumage, while the female's body has grayish-brown feathers. Sometimes, a female has faint streaking.
13. Dark-Eyed Junco
You're likely to see it in Massachusett from October to April. It's so easy to ID a dark-eyed junco as its plumage has two colors. The male's head, back, and wings are slate gray, while the belly is white. The female has brownish plumage instead of slate-colored feathers.
14. Common Grackle
Look out for a species with shiny black plumage and iridescent patches. It has pale eyes and a long, dark bill with a slight downward curve.
A common grackle spends summer perched on fences or foraging on the lawns of suburban areas. It joins a flock of close to a million grackles as they migrate south in the fall.
15. American Goldfinch
This five-inch bird has stunning yellow plumage that fades to gray and brown in winter.
Therefore, if you see a male goldfinch in summer or spring, it'll awe you with its yellow plumage, black wings, and black cap. The female doesn't have a black crown, and its feathers are more butter than canary yellow.
When winter comes, both sexes acquire a grayish-brown shade though the male has some yellow plumage here and there.
How To Attract Backyard Birds
Give Them A Home
Here's when you put all your construction skills to good use and build a birdhouse for your avian friends. You can also buy a ready home designed with a particular bird in mind.
Sometimes, the most appropriate home is a dense shrub or a dead tree trunk.
Bring Water To Your Backyard
They need a birdbath and drinking water. However, the birdbaths shouldn't be too deep as the small birds can drown.
Know What Birds Eat
Earlier, we mentioned the favorite foods for each species. It's easy to get most of them, but for fruits and berries, you may have to plant some in your backyard.
Clean The Feeder & Bath Regularly
Be the host who remembers to spring clean your bird feeders often and prevent avian diseases and food contamination.
Plant Trees They Love
Before you do so, know the trees to plant for specific species and the growing environment. For example, white dogwood, scrub oak, and winged sumac grows in dry, acidic soils. But, the common elderberry grows in wet, acidic soils.
Keep Predators Away
As soon as squirrels and other predators realize there's a bird feeder nearby, they camp there to analyze it and see how fast they can raid it. Even worse, predators eat birds. So, before preparing your feeder for its visitors, consider the predators attracted to the bird species you're hosting.
Leave Foliage And Snags
Yeah, a neat lawn boosts curb appeal. But, if possible, when you're hosting avians, it's okay to have the backyard strewn with leaves to attract invertebrates that make up the diet of some birds. Some species, such as the Carolina wren, use leaf piles as shelter.
Prevent Window Collisions
You may want to check the reflection on the windows if there are several injured or dead birds in your backyard. More so, if you find such birds under the same window. The window might be in the way of their flight as they leave the feeder.
If that's the case, move it away, more than three feet from the window, so birds can pick up speed as they fly.
Another solution is installing a window screen to break up the reflection and cushion birds in case of a window strike.
Since you're passionate about birds, would you mind if we share with you a list of some endangered species in MA?
Endangered & Threatened Birds in Massachusetts
The population of some species, such as grassland birds, is declining due to habitat loss, predation, and lack of prey.
By 2020, MA had nine endangered birds and seven threatened species. Of these, one was federally endangered and two federally threatened.
Let's look at a few of them.
There's a breeding range in the eastern section of the state. You're likely to see this shorebird on lakeshores and sandy beaches.
It’s listed as threatened in MA and federally because such habitats are decreasing daily. Such reports are disheartening because this state has the largest population of breeding piping plovers.
Watch this conservation effort to protect Piping Plovers in Massachusetts:
You'll enjoy watching northern harriers sky dancing, a courtship ritual where males dive, tumble, call, and somersault. This ritual marks the breeding season from March to August.
It's on the endangered list due to population decrease. Interbreeding with blue-winged warblers might be contributing to this decline, albeit minimally.
Have you seen any of these endangered birds of Massachusetts?
Before we let you go work on your backyard feeder, here are:
Frequently Asked Questions About MA Birds
What birds are in Massachusetts in spring?
These two seasons are excellent times to go birding as the species will be returning to the state after wintering elsewhere. Look out for the American robins, the colorful red-winged blackbirds, mourning doves, American goldfinches, and northern mockingbirds, among many other species. You may need Stan Tekiela's Field Guide to know over 100 species and their ID details.
What is the MA state bird?
It's the black-capped chickadee, declared in 1941.
What is the largest bird in Massachusetts?
The bald eagle is the largest as it measures 27.9 to 37.8 inches long with a wingspan of 80.3 inches. Common loons are also large, measuring 26 to 35.8 inches long, but their wing-to-wing length is 40.9 to 51.6 inches.
Bird sightings on your property bring the excitement of feeding birds and watching them from dawn to dusk. It'll turn your property into an avian paradise with songs and calls.
But, your backyard may have all the good things an avian wants, such as food, a bath, and trees, but still, be unfriendly due to window collisions. As you prepare your yard, do everything you can to keep off predators and make avian friends feel at home.