15 Pennsylvania Birds You Ought to Know (Popular Species)

Pennsylvania birds

Last Updated: April 30, 2022

Do you know why this state is an excellent birding area?

Well...

You'll see over 400 species, with almost 300 recorded in the last ten years.

That's why we want to highlight some common sightings so that when you go to parks and forests, you'll know how to ID what you see.

We'll not do all 400+ species, but we'll look at:

Birds Of Pennsylvania That Grace The Sky Every So Often

In summer, you're likely to spot robins, mourning doves, song sparrows, and northern cardinals.

On the other hand, in winter, dark-eyed juncos, American crows, and downy woodpeckers may dominate your sightings of Pennsylvania birds.

Let's look at some of these bird species starting with:

1. Blue Jay

Blue Jay perched on a tree

I know you must have seen a blue jay already if you're a seasoned birder. Its vibrant blue, black and white plumage is unmistakable.

Plus, it's noisy as it flies in a flock, so you may hear before you see it.

A blue jay is about the length of an American robin as it can grow between 9.8 and 11.8 inches.

A blue jay may perch on a tree for hours to enjoy acorns. Therefore, note in your birding journal that its favorite tree is oak. You're likely to spot oaks on forest edges.

This songbird's diet isn't limited to acorns as it also eats birdseed. At other times, nestlings taste better than insects. Hence, if you have nest boxes, a blue jay might bother other species. To keep it away, install a tube feeder for titmice and finches.


2. House Finch

Female House Finch in winter

From the blue plumage of blue jays, we move to another colorful species, one with streaked wings and tails. You'll know the male bird by its reddish head and upper belly and a short, thick bill. Females don't have the reddish plumage, but they are also worth a picture or two for their gray and brown plumage.

If you spot a small bird that's between 5.1 and 5.5 inches long, it might be a house finch if it matches the other identification details highlighted above.

The best places to see a finch are forest edges and farms.

This backyard bird knows it's a good day when it finds seed or fruit. Among its favorites are cactus, blackberries, thistle, and figs. Do you have these in your neighborhood?


3. Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinal perched on a tree branch

Every time you go birding, look out for a northern cardinal because it's a native of PA. You'll know it by its red plumage with dark tips on its wings and tails.

The face has a black mask separating its conical bill from its red-crested head. However, a female northern cardinal has different plumage color, displaying some reddish highlights against light brown feathers.

A northern cardinal is larger than a house finch as it measures 8.3 to 9.3 inches long.

4. Red-winged Blackbird

Red-winged Blackbird on a barren twig

It's one of the species you'll see anywhere in North America. The red winged blackbird is a resident of most states, with a nonbreeding population towards the south and a breeding range north.

The best places to see it are farms and grasslands during winter or fall. It breeds north, in fallow and alfalfa fields and marshes.

A male has striking plumage.

Its red shoulder patches have a yellow border that contrasts the black feathers over the rest of its body.

A female has brown feathers with heavy streaks and a yellow patch around the bill.


5. American Robin

American Robin on a branch

The American robin is one of the easiest birds to ID because it has distinct contrasting colors.

Let's use the male's color as the ID details as the female bird has the same colors but paler. So, you'll know it's a robin if underparts have a streaked throat and a rusty belly while its back is gray. This species grows between 7.9 and 11 inches long. Consequently, it's larger than an eastern bluebird, another avian species to see in PA.

Robins are also easy to spot as they move in flocks, sometimes congregating in flocks of over 200,000 birds.

You know birders are into detail because someone saw a robin flock and figured out there were about a quarter of a million birds in it.


6. House Sparrow

House Sparrow on a tree

It's one of the least shy species in PA as it'll frequent buildings and inhabited areas.

Your backyard is favorable to this sparrow as it likes grain, seed, and leftovers in your trash can.

ID details for this common backyard bird include a pale belly and a back with rusty and black stripes. The male bird flaunts a black bib.


7. Downy Woodpecker

A Downy Woodpecker holds onto a shrub

It's another species that won't give you a hard time as you identify it since a downy woodpecker has three colors only. But, you may confuse it with a hairy woodpecker until you look at its bill. The best spot to compare them is at your bird feeder, where you can see which bird is larger.

A downy is between 5.5 and 6.7 inches long, and a hairy woodpecker is larger by up to 4 inches.

Further, a downy woodpecker has a short bill and mingles with flocks of chickadees.


8. Mourning Dove

Mourning Dove on a feeder

Even though the mourning dove comes to backyards, you can spot it in farms, perched on telephone lines and woodlands. In your backyard, you may spot a bird that loves picking seeds under your backyard feeder.

It's a mid-sized bird since its body length ranges between 9.1 and 13.4 inches.

If you're unable to tell it by its size, look for a long tail, a small round head, and short legs.

Further, a mourning dove has gray upperparts, a peach underbelly, and spotted wings.


9. American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch on a fence

It's about half the size of a mourning dove as it grows between 4.3 and 5.1 inches long. You'll know a breeding male American goldfinch by its colorful white, black, and yellow feathers.

The female bird has such colors. However, its underparts are dull yellow, and its back is olive. In contrast, a nonbreeding male has brown plumage with pale bars on its wings.

Look for it in overgrowth, open floodplains, or fields with weeds where it has a good supply of birch, grass, and elm seeds.

But you may also see goldfinches in your backyard when you serve nyjer and black oil sunflower seeds. This wild bird is also easy to attract with thistle and milkweed.

Its breeding grounds are higher north. However, it's a native of most states.


10. Song Sparrow

Song Sparrow on a grass

It's not as large or heavy as an eastern towhee. Its average body length is 4.7 to 6.7 inches, about an inch smaller than a chipping sparrow. Fortunately, both sparrows are in PA; thus, you can compare them.

On top of that, its streaked body is unmistakable, makes rapid wing beats as it flies, and sings throughout summer and winter.

You're likely to see a song sparrow in rain forests, forest edges, grasslands, and agricultural fields. That's where it gets insects and berries.


11. American Crow

American Crow beside a lake

You can never mistake an American crow.

Its black plumage, a short rounded tail, and a thick bill ID it from other birds.

Sometimes, it molts into brownish plumage.

It's also large, ranging between 15.8 and 20.9 inches long. Its wingspan is between 33.5 and 39.4 inches.

An American crow can chase away even a full-grown Pennsylvania owl or hawk that's double its size.

Unlike the species we've talked about so far, this one eats seeds, berries, mice, insects, even garbage. The carrion of a dead bird isn't a bad idea either. Plus, it raids nests for eggs and nestlings. Among its victims are jays and robins.


12. Common Grackle

Common Grackle on a tree

This blackbird has a resident population in the eastern states.

It's almost as large as a mourning dove as its body length is 11 to 13.4 inches.

The male bird has a bronze body, bluish head, long tail, and legs. The female looks lanky, and its plumage isn't glossy.

You may spot a common grackle in forest edges, marshes, lawns, parks, and farms.


13. Black-capped Chickadee

Black-capped Chickadee perches on a tree branch

It'll come to your bird feeder for suet when it's not exploring forests and open woodlands.

The black capped chickadee has a stunning black bib and cap, white cheeks, pale underbelly, and a gray back. Its bill is not as thick as that of a house finch.

You might confuse it with a Carolina chickadee because they have similar plumage. But, the black-capped one is between 4.7 to 5.9 inches long, and a Carolina chickadee averages 3.9 to 4.7 inches long.


14. Tufted Titmouse

Tufted Titmouse sitting on a limb

Before you take in the beauty of this bird's peachy flanks that contrast its white underparts, you'll see a gray crest, gray upperparts, and a short, black bill.

Titmice don't grow large as they range between 5.5 and 6.3 inches long, and even their wing to wing size averages 7.9 to 10.2 inches.

It's one of the popular backyard birds in Pennsylvania, one that knows a bird feeder always has suet, peanuts, and black oil sunflower seeds. Which species would hate such treats?

In the wild, it thrives in deciduous forests when it's not perched on trees in parks. A tufted titmouse calls home forests with insects like spiders, caterpillars, and snails.


15. Eastern Towhee

Eastern Towhee landing on a small branch

You'll only see it in the eastern states, including PA.

So how can you tell it's an eastern towhee?

Look for a male bird with a black throat, head, and back. Also, it has rufous sides, a white belly, and a long tail. The female has a similar combination of colors, but brown instead of black feathers. It's between 6.8 and 8.2 inches long.

You can also listen for chewink calls when exploring forest edges or thickets.

This towhee is a solitary species that uses various threats to turn away other birds. For example, the male may spread or droop its wings.

However, some birds overpower it. The brown-headed cowbird takes over a towhee's nests, throws out the eggs, lays eggs its own, and abandons them. The towhee goes on incubating the parasite's eggs without noting the difference.


Birds are so interesting, don't you agree?

If you want to enjoy bird watching on your property, here's:

How To Attract Backyard Birds In PA

To see most species in this state faster and more often, bring them to your backyard.

First...

Get A Bird Feeder

Know the birds that frequent your neighborhood, and find a feeder design that's appropriate for them.

For example, chickadees and woodpeckers prefer a tube feeder. A Carolina wren will be looking for suet, while a towhee or European starling will expect a platform feeder.

You're also to worry about hygiene and safety. For instance, tube feeders may transmit mycoplasmal conjunctivitis, a disease that affects house finches.

According to the Wildlife Futures Program, mycoplasmal conjunctivitis affects finches in all eastern states. The program recommends spacing feeders and birdbaths and discontinuing use when there's a disease breakout.

Install a Bird Bath

Do more than install a traditional bath by adding a fountain or other fascinating features.

Learn the basics of bird bath and how to do a simple one in this video:

Plant Native Trees

Wild birds love wild grass, milkweed, dogwood, and elderberry. Do you think you can plant these on your property?

Install a Nest Box

It should suit the avian visitors you're targeting and protect them from predators. Some birds, such as the pileated woodpecker, use tree cavities more.

If attracting them to your backyard is too much work, consider birding away from home.

Where To See Birds Of Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania Game Commission lists 100 top locations for birders, such as the John Heinz Wildlife Refuge in Tinicum and Presque Isle State Park.

You can also explore Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area, close to Lake Ontelaunee and Blue Marsh Lake.

In Western Pennsylvania, your options include Moraine State Park, Shenango Reservoir, and Oil Creek State Park.

FAQs About Pennsylvania Birds

1. What is the most common bird in Pennsylvania?

You're likely to see the northern cardinal more often because it also loves backyard feeders.

The tufted titmouse, the American robin, and the mourning dove are other common birds in Pennsylvania, and the ruffed grouse is the state bird.

Oh! Downy woodpeckers also show up in backyards because they don't have to work for black oil sunflower seeds or suet, unlike in the forest, where life is about gathering acorns and berries.

2. How do I identify a bird in my backyard?

Pictures, nests, food choices, and habitats help you ID a bird fast. 

The eBird, powered by The Cornell Lab, gives you access to pictures from other birders, backyard watch counts, and videos.

Below the species you're looking at, you may find a related post section telling you when's the next count, the news from a recent count.

3. Are wrens in PA?

Yes, you'll spot about six wrens in PA, including house and Carolina wrens.

Final Thoughts

Pennsylvania will bless your birding experience with sightings of numerous songbirds, sparrows, chickadees, wrens, and woodpeckers throughout PA.

So, armed with your list of ID details, explore the woodlands, marshes, grasslands, and forest edges of the birding locations highlighted. Don't forget to schedule a backyard watch. We wish you unforgettable sightings every day.

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