Grey birds may not be as stunning or eye-catching as most brightly colored ones, but they are unique in their own way. Depending on the lighting, most gray birds can seem very beautiful and with black plumage.
Identifying a gray bird can be quite challenging, especially since most bird families have a few grey birds. Some of the families with grey birds include nuthatches, chickadees, thrushes, owls, and hawks.
- 15 Stunning Grey Birds Inhabiting North America
- 1. Gray Catbird
- 2. Black-Capped Chickadees
- 3. Dark Eyed Junco
- 4. The Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher
- 5. Eastern Kingbird
- 6. Northern Mockingbird
- 7. Northern Parulas
- 8. Bushtits
- 9. Loggerhead Shrike
- 10. Bridled Titmouse
- 11. Eurasian Collared Dove
- 12. Warbling Vireo
- 13. Black Phoebe
- 14. White-Breasted Nuthatches
- 15. White-Winged Dove
- Frequently Asked Questions
15 Stunning Grey Birds Inhabiting North America
Have you seen some grey birds flying around your backyard, feeding from the feeders, but you're not sure what they are? Then you have come to the right place! Here are some of the 15 most common gray bird species that may visit your bird feeder for sunflower seeds:
1. Gray Catbird
The Gray Catbird is an exceptional creature that's loved by birdwatchers for its charming vocalizations and engaging behavior. So if you encounter this gray bird, listen carefully to its captivating songs and observe its fascinating behaviors.
As the name suggests, the Gray Catbird is predominantly gray in color. The Gray Catbird has a dark gray body, a black cap on its head, and a long black tail. The underparts are lighter gray, and there is a small patch of chestnut-colored feathers under the tail.
Gray Catbirds are known for their diverse and melodious songs.
These grey birds have a wide repertoire of sounds, often imitating the calls of other birds and even mechanical noises. Their vocal abilities are quite impressive, and they are known for their expressive and complex songs.
Gray Catbirds are active and agile birds. These gray birds may also visit backyard bird feeders for food. During the breeding season, these gray birds build cup-shaped nests made of twigs, grass, and leaves.
2. Black-Capped Chickadees
Like most songbirds, the Black-Capped Chickadee brings joy to people who enjoy observing its white cheeks and interacting with these charismatic little birds. This small, non-migratory songbird belongs to the Paridae family. These gray birds are native to North America and are widely distributed across Canada and the United States.
As their name suggests, these gray birds come with white cheeks, black caps and bibs on their heads, and white edges on their wings. The rest of their body is mostly grayish, with a light tan or buff-colored underbelly.
Other than their unique color combination, the Chickadees are known for their distinctive call, which sounds like "chick-a-dee-dee-dee."
In fact, the Black Capped Chickadees get their name Chickadee from their unique call.
Their calls can vary depending on the situation, and experienced birdwatchers can recognize different calls indicating various types of threats or other communication.
These tiny gray birds with black caps are highly active and acrobatic. They can be seen hopping between branches and hanging upside down while foraging for insects, seeds, and berries.
3. Dark Eyed Junco
Like the songbirds, these gray birds are charming and easily recognizable creatures that add diversity and delight to birdwatching experiences. Their presence is especially noticeable in the winter, as they descend to lower elevations, making them a common sight in many areas.
These small migratory gray birds belong to the sparrow family, Passerellidae. Dark-Eyed Juncos have a relatively small, plump body with a short, conical bill. The plumage of juncos varies depending on the region and subspecies.
Generally, these bird species have a dark-gray or slate-colored head, neck, and upperparts. Unlike the Oregon Junco, which has a dark brown underside, this species has a lighter gray or white belly and breast. Some subspecies have reddish-brown or chestnut flanks. The outer white tail feathers are mostly visible during flight, showing a "flash" of white.
Dark-eyed juncos are migratory birds, and their range extends across most of North America. Dark-eyed junco prefers a variety of habitats, depending on the season. In the winter, they can be found in open woodlands, suburban areas, and even backyards, where they readily visit bird feeders for sunflower seeds.
4. The Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher
Generally, the Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher is a lovely and fascinating bird to observe in its natural habitat. Its acrobatic foraging behavior and melodious song make it a favorite among birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts across its range.
As its name suggests, the Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher has a distinct bluish-gray plumage, which is complemented by prominent white eyerings and a long, thin black tail with white edges.
The Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher is a tiny bird, measuring about 4.5 inches in length. This grey bird has a slim build with a long, thin beak that aids in capturing small insects. Its upperparts and head are predominantly bluish-gray, while the underparts are lighter grayish-white.
Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers have a soft, high-pitched song that consists of a series of musical notes. Their calls are distinct and include a nasal "spee" sound, often repeated several times.
5. Eastern Kingbird
The Eastern Kingbird is a fascinating and charismatic bird, admired for its striking appearance and remarkable hunting skills. Observing these agile birds in action as they soar and dive to catch insects is a treat for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts alike.
Other than its unique dark gray underpart, this medium-sized passerine bird is known for its unique aerial hunting skills.
Eastern Kingbirds have a distinctive black and white plumage. This grey bird has a black crown, a white throat, and a black band across their breast and extending down their sides. The rest of their body, including the back, wings, and tail, is also black. They have a relatively large head and a sturdy, hooked bill.
6. Northern Mockingbird
The Northern Mockingbird's extraordinary vocal talent and lively behavior make it a favorite among birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts. If you come across this grey bird, listen closely to enjoy the impressive range of songs it can produce to know why birdwatchers love it.
Northern Mockingbirds have a grayish-brown plumage with a whitish underside, complemented by white wing patches that become prominent during flight. Their long tails have white edges, and they have bold white markings on their wings, which are visible in flight and when perched.
As aforementioned, Mockingbirds are renowned for their remarkable vocal abilities.
They have one of the most extensive song repertoires among North American birds, consisting of hundreds of different sounds.
Their songs often incorporate imitations of other birds, as well as various noises like car alarms, sirens, and even human-made sounds.
7. Northern Parulas
Like most songbirds, the Northern Parulas are known for their charming appearance and cheerful songs. It is one of the many beautiful warbler species found in North America.
The song of the Northern Parula is a series of high-pitched musical notes that resemble the sound "zee-zee-zoo-zoo-zip-zip."
Other than its distinct song, this bird has striking colors. They come with a combination of blue, yellow, and green plumage. They have a bluish-gray back, a bright yellow throat and breast, and a distinctive greenish-yellow patch on their back. These birds also have a white eye ring and a partial white crescent above the eye.
Northern Parulas prefer to inhabit moist, deciduous, or mixed forests, especially those with plenty of moss and lichens. They are often found in areas near swamps, streams, or lakes, as they like to nest in hanging moss or ferns.
Northern Parulas are primarily insectivorous birds, feeding on a variety of insects and spiders. They actively forage among leaves and branches, picking insects from the foliage or catching them in mid-air.
Bushtits are endearing and charming birds, and observing a large flock of them moving through the trees in synchronized fashion is a delightful sight. They're tiny, highly social songbirds belonging to the family Aegithalidae.
Bushtits are very small birds, measuring around 4 inches in length. They have a plump, round body with a long tail that comprises almost half of their total length. Their plumage is generally plain and unassuming, with grayish-brown upperparts and a lighter gray or white underside.
They have a stubby, black bill and pale eye rings. The Bushtit is known for its distinctive appearance, behavior, and its preference for living in large, cohesive flocks. They can be found in large flocks, ranging from a few individuals to sometimes over 40 birds.
Despite their social nature, Bushtits are relatively quiet birds. They have soft, high-pitched calls and chirps that are often used to communicate within the flock.
9. Loggerhead Shrike
The Loggerhead Shrike is a unique and fascinating bird with its predatory nature and unusual prey-storing behavior. Spotting one in the wild can be an exciting experience, and observing its hunting tactics is simply breathtaking.
The Loggerhead Shrike has a striking appearance with a black bandit-like mask that runs across its eyes and a white throat and underparts. Its upper parts are mostly gray with a slightly darker cap on its head, hence the name "loggerhead." The wings have black and white markings, and the tail is black with white edges.
Unlike most songbirds, shrikes are carnivorous and have a hooked bill that they use to catch and consume insects, small birds, rodents, and even reptiles.
The Loggerhead Shrike is an aggressive and skilled hunter. It often perches on exposed branches or utility wires, scanning its surroundings for potential prey. Once it spots a target, such as insects, small birds, or rodents, it swoops down to catch it with its sharp, hooked bill.
One of the most fascinating behaviors of the Loggerhead Shrike is its habit of impaling its prey on thorns, barbed wire, or other sharp objects.
This behavior, known as "lardering," is believed to serve as a food storage mechanism.
While Loggerhead Shrikes are not known for their melodious songs, they do produce a variety of harsh, jumbled sounds and calls that they use for communication and territorial defense.
10. Bridled Titmouse
This Titmouse species is a less well-known titmouse species but is a fascinating and charming bird to observe. The Bridled Titmouse has a relatively small and compact body with a round head.
It has a distinctive black-and-white facial pattern that resembles a mask, which is how it got its name "Bridled." The upperparts are generally grayish-brown, and the underparts are paler and may have a slight buffy or rufous tinge.
Bridled Titmice are active and agile birds, often seen hopping among branches and foliage in search of insects, seeds, and berries. They are social birds and may forage in small groups. To communicate with each other, birds produce musical and high-pitched sounds with a mix of chattering notes and whistles.
11. Eurasian Collared Dove
The Eurasian Collared Dove is an adaptable and successful species that has managed to thrive in a variety of environments around the world. Its presence is especially noticeable in urban settings, where its cooing call is quite familiar.
This medium-sized dove species is native to parts of Europe and Asia. However, due to human introduction and accidental releases, it rapidly expanded its range and is now found in many parts of the world, including North America.
The Eurasian Collared Dove has a plump and streamlined body with a long, squared-off tail. Its plumage is mostly pale gray or buff, with a distinctive dark "collar" of black feathers on the back of its neck. The wings have a characteristic black-and-white pattern, visible during flight.
Eurasian Collared Doves are highly adaptable and can be found in a wide range of habitats, including urban parks, gardens feeding on sunflower seeds in our bird feeders, and discarded human food.
But generally, they're calm and approachable birds, often seen foraging on the ground or perched on rooftops and utility wires.
They have a gentle cooing call, which is a common sound heard in many urban areas where they are prevalent.
12. Warbling Vireo
The Warbling Vireo is a delightful songbird with a cheerful warbling song and an unassuming appearance. In fact, you can hear its melodious songs in the woodlands and riparian regions, especially during the mating season.
It has a pale grayish-green back, wings, and head, with a whitish underbelly. The face has a distinct white eyering and faint pale "spectacles" around the eyes. It has a sturdy, slightly hooked bill, which it uses to catch insects.
As the name suggests, the Warbling Vireo has a beautiful and complex warbling song. Its song consists of a series of high-pitched musical notes delivered in a continuous, flowing manner. The song is often described as cheerful and vibrant.
13. Black Phoebe
The Black Phoebe's striking appearance and engaging flycatching behavior make it a favorite among birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts. This minute, sleek passerine bird is known for its striking black and white plumage, as well as its distinctive flycatching behavior.
The Black Phoebe has a predominantly black plumage with a white belly and undertail cover. It has a straight, medium-length black bill, black wings, and dark legs. The black wings have white patches, which are visible during flight. The black and white coloration makes it easy to distinguish from other similar flycatcher species.
As flycatchers, Black Phoebes feed primarily on insects, including flies, mosquitoes, and other small flying insects. They sit on a perch, often near water, and dart out to catch insects in mid-air with quick, agile flights.
While Black Phoebes are not known for complex songs, they have a simple, clear call that sounds like a sharp "pseet" or "pseep." They also make a variety of soft vocalizations.
Black Phoebes are generally calm and adaptable birds. They are often seen perched on rocks or other structures near water, where they can easily spot insects to catch.
14. White-Breasted Nuthatches
White-breasted nuthatches are charming and captivating birds to observe, with their distinct appearance and unique foraging behavior. This small-sized songbird is known for its distinctive appearance, foraging behavior, and unique way of moving on tree trunks and branches.
The White-Breasted Nuthatch has a compact, stocky body with a short tail and a large, rounded head. It has a striking black cap on its head, and the rest of its plumage is mostly bluish-gray on the back and wings, with a white face, breast, and belly. Its underparts are distinctly white, which gives it its name.
Unlike most songbirds, these birds are resident birds, meaning they do not migrate. Therefore, you must have seen them in your backyard.
The White-breasted Nuthatch has a distinctive call, described as a nasal "yank-yank" or "yank-yank-yank."
They are vocal birds and can be heard frequently while foraging or defending their territory. These birds are agile and acrobatic climbers, often seen spiraling around tree trunks and branches as they search for food. They are social birds and may forage in small groups.
15. White-Winged Dove
Our list would be incomplete without mentioning this beautiful dove. The White-Winged Dove is a medium-sized dove native to parts of North America, Mexico, and Central America. It is known for its striking appearance, including distinctive white wing patches that are visible in flight.
The White-winged Dove has a light grayish-brown body with a pale gray head and neck. It has a long, slender tail with white edges, which is a prominent feature in flight. The most distinctive aspect of its plumage is the large white wing patches, which are easily visible when the bird is perched or in flight.
Like most birds, the White-Winged Doves have a soft and mournful cooing call that can be heard throughout the day, particularly during the breeding season. Their call is often described as "who-cooks-for-you" or "who-cooks-for-you-all."
The White-Winged Dove is a beautiful and charismatic bird with its distinctive appearance and vocalizations.
As aforementioned, there are hundreds of thousands of grey birds on the planet. These birds have a unique color pattern, with the dominant color being grey. Therefore, if you see a greyish songbird in your backyard, don't assume that it's not a songbird. After all, there are various grey songbirds, with the most popular being the Dark-eyed Junco.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the smallest grey birds in North America?
The most common small-sized options are Gray Catbird and the Dark-Eyed Juncos.
What is the largest gray bird?
The world's biggest gray bird is the Grey heron. This bird has a wingspan of over 77 inches and a height of approximately 40 inches.
Is there a grey nocturnal bird?
Yes, the Great Grey Owl is a greyish nocturnal creature; in fact, it's the world's largest owl by length.