Virginia is home to more than 450 bird species. From the lush forests that cover 62 percent of the state to the grasslands, prairies, and wetlands in the low-lying regions, Virginia has a wide range of habitats for birds to thrive.
You can hear the whistling and chirping sounds of birds in all seasons of Virginia. We’ve put together a list of some of the most common birds you may see in the state, along with the rarest, cutest, and most unique. Get ready to take flight and learn about the beautiful birds of Virginia!
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1. Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)
Of course we must start the list with the state bird of Virginia, the Northern Cardinal. These birds are a very common sight throughout the state. Male cardinals are known for their vibrant red color with a distinct black patch covering their face and throat.
Females are similar in shape and size, but their color pattern is much different, consisting of gray, cream, and tan colored feathers. This is pretty common with many bird species, as males are more vibrant to attract females.
Cardinals in Virginia do not migrate and they can be spotted hopping on top of snowy grounds in the winter looking for food. Their habitat range consists of woodland edges, brushy areas, towns, and suburban gardens.
Their diet consists mainly of insects, berries, and seeds. Cardinals often eat more insects in the summer while they forage for seeds and berries than in winter months. If you ever encounter a bird nest with pale blue or green eggs with brown speckles, you may have stumbled upon a Cardinal bird nest.
2. Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata)
Blue jays live in woodlands and suburban gardens throughout Virginia. Unlike many bird species, female blue jays are equally as colorful as males. They have bright blue backs, heads, wings, and feathers with a white to cream color chest and underbelly. They have a black marking on the back of their neck and face that leads down to the front of the chest.
Blue jays favor habitats that have an abundance of oak or beech trees, but can also be found in wooded backyards and parks. These birds are omnivorous and will feed on a wide variety of insects, small rodents, or frogs as well as various seeds, nuts, and grains.
Many blue jays will remain in their range year-round, but some populations migrate south once fall approaches. These beautiful blue birds are found all across the eastern half of the United States.
3. American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)
The male American Goldfinch is easily recognizable for its vibrant yellow body with a black head cap, wings, and tailfeathers. Females are more dull in color with a yellowish tan body and grayish-brown wings with white markings. The only semi-vibrant yellow they possess is on their throat.
These birds like weedy grasslands, woods, and can be found in suburban areas that offer shrub and tree coverage. They feed by foraging for seeds in shrubs, weeds, and trees. Although they do snack on insects from time to time, most of their diet consists of seeds from various trees and occasionally maple sap.
American goldfinches do not have a regular migration pattern. Some finches may stay in their area if food supply is abundant, while others migrate in the fall and early spring. In Virginia, American goldfinches tend to stay in the area year-round.
4. Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis)
The Eastern Bluebird is an easy bird to spot in Virginia. They have a light bright blue head, back, and wings that pop with their reddish-brown chest. Their underbellies and rump are white.
The range of these plump-bodied birds are more widespread than other bluebird species. Their habitat is mainly in the open country, such as farmlands and forest clearings, but can also be found hanging around wooded suburban areas.
Eastern bluebirds will remain in Virginia year-round. Some populations that live in northern regions may migrate south for the winter.
5. Golden-winged Warbler (Vermivora chrysoptera)
The male Golden-winged Warbler has a striking appearance with yellow, white, and black markings that pop on their gray bodies. They have a black facial patch surrounding the underside of their eyes and black throat. The upper half of their wings and top of their heads is bright yellow.
Females have less striking colors with much of their body being gray and white, but they still have a bright yellow cap on top of their head.
Golden-winged warblers can be spotted in high elevations of western and southwestern Virginia in pastoral environments and shrublands with forests nearby. Most of their diet consists of insects such as moths and caterpillars. They migrate long distances in the fall to spend their winters in Central America and northern South America.
6. American Robins (Turdus migratorius)
Residents of Virginia commonly see American Robins hopping and flying around their backyards. These birds can live in a variety of habitats. They are often seen in fields and woodlands and also live in cities and towns. Robins are typically one of the first birds that can be heard chirping in early spring.
They are easily identifiable by their reddish-brown chest and white rump. The rest of their body is black, except for white coloration surrounding the eyes and on the throat.
American robins forage for food on the ground and eat various fruits, berries, grubs, and worms. Robins that live in northern regions will migrate south in flocks, but they tend to stay in Virginia year-round as long as food is abundant.
7. Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus)
Red-bellied woodpeckers are commonly mistaken for red-headed woodpeckers because they both have bright red coloration on their heads. However, red-bellied woodpeckers only have a vibrant red head cap that extends to the back of their neck while the entire head of a red-headed woodpecker is red.
These woodpeckers have distinct color markings on their backs and wings that alternate between black and white, creating a zebra stripe-like appearance. The rest of their body is white, with a dull shade of red-orange on their chest.
They are found all across the eastern U.S. in deciduous and mixed forests of deciduous and conifer trees. They forage for food by peeling bark off of trees in search of insects. They also eat various nuts, seeds, and fruits and occasionally small lizards and minnows.
Red-bellied woodpeckers may migrate north, but typically stay in their breeding range as long as there is ample food supply.
8. Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula)
The Common Grackle can be found in farmlands, marshes, suburbs, and the open country of Virginia. They have a very distinct look with metallic olive colored bodies and a blue, teal, green sheen color on their head. Their wings also have a sheen to them that are purple to bluish-brown in color.
These birds can be spotted snacking on bird feeders or foraging for food on the ground or in shallow waters. They feed on a variety of insects and small frogs and lizards. During the winter, they will forage for berries, seeds, nuts, and grains.
Common grackles may migrate south in the fall and spring, but they are permanent residents in Virginia as long as there is ample food.
9. Eastern Screech Owl (Megascops asio)
Eastern screech owls are medium-sized birds native to Virginia. They do not migrate and can be seen nestled in trees in wooded areas and suburbs. They live in a variety of habitats, but do not reside in high elevation areas above 5,000 ft (1,524 m).
Their wingspan is twice their size, reaching lengths of 19-24 inches (48-61 cm). Their feathers are reddish-brown to gray and are patterned to help them blend in with tree bark.
Many eastern screech owls like to seek shelter in artificial bird boxes to nest or find cavities in trees. Females will return to the same nesting site each year if it is successful. They have a fairly short lifespan of 2-5 years in the wild. Owls kept in captivity can live up to 15 years longer.
10. Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos)
The Northern Mockingbird is a medium-sized bird that is very popular for its ability to mimic songs and other sounds. They are able to learn as many as 200 songs during their lifetime.
These songbirds can be found in most of North America in open fields, suburbs, and forest edges. Most populations are permanent residents to their range, but some migrate south to Mexico or the northwestern West Indies.
Northern mockingbirds are mostly gray in color. The head and back are light gray and wings tend to be darker. Their chest and belly is white.
11. Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus)
Often spotted perched on top of tall cliffs, the Peregrine Falcon is an extremely fast predatory raptor that can reach speeds up to 200 mph (321.9 kph) when diving.
These fast flying birds are fairly large. Males can reach lengths up to 23.2 inches (59 cm) while females are slightly smaller. They have a white to cream colored chest and belly with black coloration on the tips of the feathers creating a speckled pattern. Their head, wings, and back are dark gray with yellow surrounding the eyes. Their beak and feet are also yellow.
Peregrine falcons are most common in Coastal Virginia where they hunt for shorebirds and other bird species. They hunt for food by perching on high cliffs and tall buildings before diving at high speeds and capturing their prey.
12. American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)
American crows are a common bird in Virginia and most of North America. They are bluish-black in color and can often be mistaken for ravens. They are smaller than ravens, but still reach lengths of 15-20 inches (38.1 to 50.8 cm).
Crows are very intelligent birds. Studies suggest that they can actually remember human faces. Crows will often make calls to other crows if they recognize a face that has done them harm. This is a very intriguing characteristic that crows have, as they have the ability to form opinions about other beings.
You can see crows just about anywhere you go in Virginia. They can feed on pretty much anything, including garbage. Their habitat range is mainly cities, towns, woodlands, and fields and they tend to stick close to where they were born.
Another unique behavior these birds have is that they are cooperative breeders. Adult crows called “helpers” will assist in raising other crow offspring.
Crows in Virginia do not migrate, but northern populations may move further south in the fall.
13. Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)
The Great Blue Heron is one of the biggest birds in Virginia and the largest of the heron species in North America. They can stand as tall as 4.5 ft (1.4 m) and their wingspan can be as wide as 6.6 ft (2 m). They are most commonly seen perched alongside river or stream banks, lakeshores, and coastlines.
These big birds are highly adaptable creatures and can thrive in any environment that has permanent waters. Their diet consists mostly of creatures living in and around marshes, swamps, and shores such as frogs, salamanders, turtles, snakes, and other birds.
Great blue herons have long, skinny legs with light gray coloring on their back and upper half of their wings. The bottom half of their wings is dark gray. They have long orange beaks and a white head with a black stripe on the side.
These herons live all across the U.S. and will migrate to Central and South America. Great blue herons that live along the Pacific coast often stay in their range year-round.
14. Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)
Weighing in at only 17-20 grams, the Barn Swallow is a small bird native to Virginia. They can live in a variety of habitats as long as there is an abundance of food and water. As their name suggests, they can be found hiding out in barns or fluttering around farmlands.
Barn swallows are very widespread and live in every continent except Antarctica. They are migratory birds and travel south in the fall.
They are pretty plump birds with a sheen blue color covering the top of their head and back. Their face and throat is reddish-brown and their wings are bluish-black. Their breast and underbelly is white with a slight reddish-brown coloration.
15. Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris)
The Ruby-throated Hummingbird is a fast fluttering small bird native to Virginia. These tiny birds can flap their wings over 50 times within just one second! They weigh only 7 grams and are 3.5 inches (9 cm) tall.
Males and females look pretty similar, but are distinguishable by the color of their throats. Males have a ruby red throat, while female throats are white. The majority of the body is covered in metallic green feathers with the exception of their chest and belly being white.
You won’t see these critters during the winter as they migrate to the southern part of Florida and Central America. They begin to pop up during the summer in areas with an abundance of flowers to feed on nectar. They favor flowers such as the salvia, trumpet creeper, and jewelweed and frequent hummingbird feeders. They also feed on small insects.
Did you know that hummingbird feeders are usually red to mimic the color of flowers they like to drink nectar from? They favor nectar from red and orange flowers, so if you’re trying to attract hummingbirds, planting flowers of these colors may do the trick.
16. Red-cockaded Woodpecker (Dryobates borealis)
Once abundant in the southern states of the U.S., the Red-cockaded Woodpecker is now on the state and federal endangered species list. There is a very low population of these woodpeckers in the southeastern region of Virginia, making them one of the rarest birds in the state.
Red-cockaded woodpeckers can only thrive in mature pine forests consisting of trees older than 80 years old. They favor longleaf and loblolly pines.
These woodpeckers are predominantly black and white. Their chest and cheeks are white with black to brown striations on their chest and underbelly. Their back and wings are black with white spots that create a line pattern. Males have a tiny tuft of red feathers on the both sides of the head.
Much of their habitat has been destroyed by forest harvesting which contributes to their decreasing population.
17. European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)
The European Starling is an invasive bird species of North America. They are European natives that were purposefully introduced to North America in the 19th century.
They are very sheen in color with shades of green, blue, teal, and purple on their head, belly, and back. Their wings are black with a light brown to tan color outlining their feathers.
European starlings live in a variety of disturbed habitats. They can carry transmittable diseases such as salmonellas, encephalitis, and histoplasmosis. Livestock, pets, and humans are at risk of contracting these diseases through their droppings, which contain fungi and airborne spores.
18. Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis)
The Cattle Egret is a native bird of Africa. They somehow found their way to South America in the 19th century and traveled up to the U.S. in the 20th century.
They are fairly large birds that can be as long as 21 inches (53.3 cm) with a wingspan reaching 3 ft (0.9 m) in length. Cattle egrets are all white with yellow-orange beaks and cream colored feathers on the chest and top of the head.
These birds are very social and can be seen gathered together on farmlands and wetlands. They like to hang around livestock to find food as they wait for livestock to kick up insects such as grasshoppers, flies, and crickets.
Many birds in Virginia have adapted to human activity and are able to live within towns and cities. However, some species like the Red-cockaded Woodpecker need specific habitats to survive. Urbanization and deforestation can disrupt the fragile ecosystems of some species and leave them without a home.
Sea levels in Coastal Virginia are rising due to climate change. Rising sea levels can impact marine life and ecosystems along the coastline. Birds that live along the shores of Virginia will have a difficult time finding food from the waters as sea-level rise continues.
Low-lying drylands submerged in water due to rising sea levels negatively impact bird habitats and food sources. The Great Blue Heron is one bird species that is heavily affected by the loss of tidal marshes in the Chesapeake Bay area.
Another threat caused by climate change is warming temperatures. Heat waves are becoming more common and can negatively impact offspring during the summer. Eggs begin hatching in the early spring and if Virginia experiences heat waves during this time, it could cause the baby birds to die as they cannot withstand high temperatures.
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Do Hummingbirds help with pollination?
Yes! Hummingbirds love to drink nectar from flowers and they carry pollen from one flower to another in the process.
How many times can a woodpecker peck per second?
Woodpeckers can peck up to 20 times per seconds and peck on trees 12,000 times within a day!
How can I attract birds to my yard?
Some birds only live in forests or wooded areas and will not adventure into your backyard if there isn’t ample tree coverage. However, many birds in Virginia love finding food from bird feeders and in gardens. Putting bird feeders out and planting flowers around your yard can help attract more birds.