25 Fantastic Backyard Birds of Illinois to watch

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Backyard Birds of Illinois

If you’re like most people, you love spending time outdoors in your backyard. There’s nothing quite like enjoying a beautiful spring day or watching the leaves change color in the fall. And if you’re lucky, you may get to see some of Illinois’s beautiful birds up close and personal!

The great news is that Illinois has a diverse bird population, with many different species suitable for the climate.

Illinois has a typical continental climate, which means the weather is hot and humid in the summer, cold in the winter and mild in the spring and fall. This weather is ideal for birdwatchers, as they get to experience a large variety of birds that either live in the state year-round or pass through during their migration. 

Additionally, Illinois has a variety of habitats, from forests and wetlands to prairies and grasslands and urban areas. This diversity helps to support a wide variety of bird species.

In this blog post, we’ll take a look at 25 of the most common backyard birds of Illinois that we found by surveying residents and utilizing data from ebird and other citizen science databases. By reading this article, we hope you will identify some new species and find out which ones live near you!

So get your binoculars ready, and let’s explore the backyard birds of Illinois!

Backyard Birds Of Illinois

According to the latest data from ebird, there are 440 observed species of Birds in Illinois. This data comes from over 1.3 million checklists from just under 29,000 avid birdwatchers. Trying to identify and see all 440 may be quite a daunting challenge, so we have chosen to focus on the birds you are more likely to see in your home, backyard, or bird feeders.

Here are some things to know about Birds of Illinois:

  • 440 observed species
  • The Northern Cardinal is the most common backyard bird in Illinois
  • The Northern Cardinal is the most common feeder bird in Illinois
  • The Red-breasted Nuthatch is the smallest most common feeder bird in Illinois
  • The Cooper’s Hawk is the largest backyard bird on this list
  • The Northern Cardinal is Illinois’s state bird

What Are The Most Common Backyard Birds Of Illinois?

  1. Northern Cardinal
  2. Dark-eyed Junco
  3. House Finch
  4. Black-capped Chickadee
  5. House Sparrow
  6. Downy Woodpecker
  7. Mourning Dove
  8. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  9. American Goldfinch
  10. White-breasted Nuthatch
  11. European Starling
  12. Blue Jay
  13. American Robin
  14. Hairy Woodpecker
  15. Red-breasted Nuthatch
  16. Red-winged Blackbird
  17. Brown-headed Cowbird
  18. Common Grackle
  19. Cooper’s Hawk
  20. Pine Siskin
  21. American Tree Sparrow
  22. Carolina Wren
  23. White-throated Sparrow
  24. American Crow
  25. Tufted Titmouse

Top 5 Hotspots For Birdwatching In Illinois

If you prefer to venture away from home to do some birding, then visit one of Illinois’s best hotspots for birdwatching. These hotspots are determined by the number of species observed by fellow birdwatchers in Illinois.

  1. Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary
  2. Carlyle Lake
  3. Illinois Beach State Park
  4. Waukegan Beach
  5. Horseshoe Lake State Park

Top 25 Backyard Birds Of Illinois

The list below is determined by the number of bird watchers in Illinois who have seen a species at least once, divided by the number of bird feeder sites.

1. Northern Cardinal

The Northern Cardinal is a common species of bird found in the United States. This beautiful bird is the most common backyard feeder bird in Illinois and can be seen all year round.

Northern Cardinals are small songbirds, with males and females generally weighing less between 42 – 48g (1.5 – 1.7 oz), and are 21-23cm (8.3-9.1 inches) long.

Northern cardinals have a distinctive crest on their head that can be raised when they feel threatened or aggressive; however, this behavior is not often observed in wild populations and has been lost to captive ones.

The Northern Cardinal’s feathers range from bright red in males to brownish orange in females, and their bills are short but wide at the base – giving them an upturned appearance, making them easy to identify.

Northern Cardinals have a varied diet that consists of fruits, seeds, berries, and insects and are very common at most bird feeders but prefer to eat seeds such as sunflower, safflower, and cracked corn from the ground.

The Northern Cardinal has been seen at 97% of all feeder sites in Illinois.

Feeder Type:

  • Large Tube feeder
  • Large Hopper
  • Platform Feeder
  • Ground

Feeder Food:

  • Black Oil Sunflower Seeds
  • Hulled Sunflower Seeds
  • Safflower
  • Cracker Corn
  • Peanut Hearts
  • Millet
  • Milo

2. Dark-eyed Junco

The Dark-Eyed Junco is a medium-sized sparrow found in the Northern Hemisphere from Alaska to Newfoundland and can be seen in Illinois backyards during the winter.

Males and Females are about 14-16cm (5.5-6.3 inches) long and weigh between 18-30g (0.6-1.1oz). They have a round head, short conical bill, and long tail.

The Dark-Eyed Junco varies in color depending on what region you are in but are mainly dark gray or brown with a light/pale pink bill and white outer tail feathers that are noticeable in flight.

The three most common sub-types and colors are:

  • Slate-colored Junco – Alaska, and East of the Rocky Mountains
  • Oregon Junco – Northern Rockies and Farther West
  • Gray-headed Junco – Southern Rockies

They live in coniferous forests, woodlands, scrubland, and tundra across the United States and Canada. You are more likely to find them in open areas like backyards, fields, and parks in winter.

They are ground foragers and eat insects, seeds, and berries. They eat mostly insects in the spring and summer and seeds and berries in the fall and winter.

They are also expected at backyard bird feeders in the winter, especially ones that offer sunflower seeds, millet, or cracked corn.

The Dark-eyed Junco has been seen at 95% of all feeder sites in Illinois.

Feeder Type:

  • Large Hopper
  • Platform Feeder
  • Ground

Feeder Food:

  • Black Oil Sunflower seed
  • Hulled Sunflower Seeds
  • Safflower
  • Nyjer
  • Cracker Corn
  • Peanut Hearts
  • Millet & Milo
  • Oats

3. House Finch

The House Finch is a small bird found in most of North America, including parts of the United States and Southern Canada. This common finch can be seen all year round in Illinois.

House Finches are 12-15cm (5.1-5.5 inches) long and weigh between 16-27g (0.6-0.9oz).

They have short wings that allow for a quick flight, and their beaks are stubby and slightly curved on top with a long flat head. The males are known for their bright red heads and breast with brown wings, tails, and back.

Their preferred habitat is open, grassy areas with some trees – often near farmlands. They will also be found around towns and suburbs to find food quickly on the ground, such as birdseed spilled from backyard bird feeders (or even at pet food bowls left out for our furry friends).

They are ground forages whose preferred diet consists mainly of seeds, buds, and fruit. They are common at backyard bird feeders and will often feed in large numbers, especially when black oil sunflowers seeds are present in your feeders.

The House Finch has been seen at 91% of all feeder sites in Illinois.

Feeder Type:

  • Large & Small Tube Feeder
  • Large & Small Hopper
  • Platform Feeder

Feeder Food:

  • Black Oil Sunflower Seeds
  • Hulled Sunflower Seeds
  • Safflower
  • Nyjer

4. Black-capped Chickadee

The Black-Capped Chickadee is a widespread species of bird found throughout the Northern half of North America. These chickadees can be seen in the northern half of Illinois all year round.

They have a black cap and black throat with white cheeks, and mostly gray-olive feathers on their back with a white chest and belly.

Black-capped Chickadees are tiny in size – with males and females only about 12-15cm (4.7-5.9 inches) long and weighing between 9-14g (0.3-0.5oz). They have a large head and short neck, and long narrow tails with short thick dark bills.

They can survive the harshest winter weather by eating high-calorie foods, fluffing their feathers for insulation, and roosting in tree cavities at night, often in small groups.

The Black-Capped Chickadee is an energetic species that prefers deciduous woods often found in forests or residential areas and parks where plenty of large trees are used for roosting and nesting.

Their diet consists of insects, spiders, small fruits, and seeds, but they are also familiar visitors to backyard bird feeders where they will readily eat sunflower seeds or suet. They will often make multiple trips to feeders to store extra food in tree crevices throughout the day.

The Black-capped Chickadee has been seen at 91% of all feeder sites in Illinois.

Feeder Type:

  • Large & Small Tube Feeders
  • Large & Small Hoppers
  • Suet Cage
  • Platform feeder

Feeder Food:

  • Black Oil Sunflower Seed
  • Hulled Sunflower Seed
  • Safflower
  • Nyjer
  • Suet
  • Peanuts & Peanut Hearts
  • Mealworms

5. House Sparrow

The House Sparrow is a common species of bird found throughout the world and can be seen in Illinois backyards all year round.

Males and Females are about 15-17cm (5.9-6.7 inches) long and generally weigh between 27-30g (0.9-1.1oz). They have gray color on their head and chest, black spots on the feathers around their eyes, and brownish tails; however, they also have distinctive white spots on their wings.

House Sparrows are prevalent backyard visitors that can be identified by the distinctive appearance of two white spots on each side of the wing. They typically live in cities and towns with large populations, although they will visit backyards if suet feeders or birdseed is available.

House Sparrows eat mainly weed seeds, grain, and insects during breeding time. They typically prefer sunflower hearts and suet, although they also eat thistle seed, safflower seeds, and fruit when available.

Sparrows are highly social birds living in large flocks outside of breeding season that can sometimes become aggressive towards other birds.

The House Sparrow has been seen at 91% of all feeder sites in Illinois.

Feeder Type:

  • Large Tube Feeder
  • Large Hopper
  • Platform Feeder
  • Ground

Feeder Food:

  • Black Oil Sunflower Seeds
  • Hulled Sunflower Seeds
  • Cracker Corn
  • Peanut Hearts
  • Millet 
  • Milo

6. Downy Woodpecker

The Downy Woodpecker is a small woodpecker found throughout North America and are year-round residents of Illinois. They are also the most common woodpecker in Illinois.

They are smaller than most woodpeckers at about 14-17cm (5.5-6.7 inches) long and weigh between 21-28g (0.7-1oz).

Downy Woodpeckers have a black back and white stripe down the middle. They are white below, and their wings have a checkered black and white detailing them. The males have a red patch at the back of the head, and females have a black head. They have a petite-looking bill compared to their other woodpecker relatives.

Their beaks are short, solid, and pointed at the end, which they use to chisel wood for excavation or peck at the bark to find food underneath.

Their preferred habitat is wooded areas with plenty of trees near rivers, ponds, or wetlands – even urban areas with a mix of grasslands, shrubs, and woodlands.

They are acrobatic foragers whose main diet consists of insects it can glean and probe from trees. They will also eat seeds, berries, or fruit when needed and are more common at bird feeders than their larger relatives. They prefer suet feeders and enjoy black oil sunflower seeds, peanut butter, seeds, and millet.

The Downy Woodpecker has been seen at 90% of all feeder sites in Illinois.

Feeder Type:

  • Suet Cage
  • Large & Small Hopper
  • Platform Feeder

Feeder Food:

  • Black Oil & Hulled Sunflower Seeds
  • Safflower
  • Suet
  • Peanuts & Peanut Hearts
  • Mealworms

7. Mourning Dove

The Mourning Dove is a common species of bird found throughout North America and can be seen throughout Illinois all year round.

They are about the size of an American Robin, with adults between 23-34cm (9.1-13.4 inches) long and weighing between 86-170g (3-6oz). Mourning Doves have grayish-brown feathers, and their heads are pale gray; however, they lack crests or head adornments.

Mourning Doves prefer open habitats in rural and urban areas and weedy fields.

Mourning Doves are ground foragers meaning that they eat seeds, grains, and other vegetation found on the ground. They have a varied diet but prefer to eat weed seeds such as dandelions or grasses in open fields rather than forest floors. Mourning doves also drink water from puddles created by rain which they find near trees and shrubs.

They are frequent visitors to backyard bird feeders and typically eat seeds that have fallen on the ground or platform feeders.

The Mourning Dove has been seen at 88% of all feeder sites in Illinois.

Feeder Type:

  • Large Hopper
  • Platform feeder
  • Ground

Feeder Food:

  • Black Oil Sunflower Seeds
  • Hulled Sunflower Seeds
  • Safflower
  • Nyjer
  • Cracker Corn
  • Peanut Hearts
  • Millet & Milo
  • Oats

8. Red-bellied Woodpecker

The Red-Bellied Woodpecker is a medium-sized woodpecker with a long, chisel-like bill. They are found in the eastern half of the United States and are year-round residents of Illinois.

Males and Females are about 24cm (9.4 inches) long and weigh around 56-91g (2-3.2oz). Red-bellied Woodpeckers have black-and-white stripes above and a paler below. The male has red from its bill to its nape, while the female only has a red nape. Red bellies can be seen during flight but are more challenging to see when perched.

They live in various habitats, including woodlands, bottomland forests, swamps, riversides, and parks. They are most commonly found near water to find insects to eat. 

They will seldom peck at the wood of trees to find food but instead will forage for insects whenever the opportunity presents itself. They also feed on nuts, fruits, and seeds and store their food in bark crevices.

Red-bellied woodpeckers also visit backyard bird feeders that offer suet, sunflowers seeds, or peanut butter mixed with birdseed. While at backyard feeders, they are bullish birds and will often dominate other smaller birds and their cousins (Downy & Hairy Woodpeckers).

The Red-bellied Woodpecker has been seen at 82% of all feeder sites in Illinois.

Feeder Types:

  • Large Hopper
  • Platform Feeder
  • Nectar Feeder
  • Suet Cage

Feeder food:

  • Black Oil & Hulled Sunflower Seeds
  • Safflower
  • Suet
  • Cracker corn
  • Peanuts & Peanut Hearts
  • Sugar Water
  • Fruit
  • Mealworms

9. American Goldfinch

The American Goldfinch is a common species of bird found throughout North America. They can be seen throughout Illinois all year round.

They are small songbirds 11-13cm (4.3-5.1 inches) long and weigh between 11-20g (0.4-0.70 oz), with males being slightly larger than females. 

Breeding adult males have a bright yellow color on their heads and rump with a black cap and black-tipped wings, making them easy to identify from other birds. Winter adult males are tan above and pale gray below with a yellow face and throat. 

Breeding adult females are olive-brown above and yellow below, and winter adult females are generally gray overall.

Their preferred habitat is overgrown, weedy fields, pastures, and well planted suburban areas and backyards.

They mainly eat seeds from wild sunflowers, composite flowers or thistles, and very few insects. 

American Goldfinches are frequent visitors of backyard bird feeders – making them easy to spot around the yard. They prefer hulled sunflower and nyjer seeds.

The American Goldfinch has been seen at 81% of all feeder sites in Illinois.

Feeder Type:

  • Large & Small Tube feeder
  • Large & Small Hopper
  • Platform Feeder
  • Ground

Feeder Food:

  • Black Oil Sunflower Seeds
  • Hulled Sunflower Seeds
  • Nyjer

10. White-breasted Nuthatch

The White-breasted Nuthatch is an exciting species to observe and can be found from southern Canada down into Central America.  They are year-round residents throughout Illinois.

White-breasted Nuthatches are small in size – only about 13-14cm (5.1-5.5 inches) in length and weighing between 18-30g (0.6-1.1oz). They have short tails with a thick dark bill. They have a distinctive appearance with blue-gray feathers on their back and a white face with a darker “hood” that runs from the top of their beak to the back, making them easily identifiable from other birds.

White-breasted Nuthatches prefer mature mixed forests and wooded areas in towns, suburbs and parks.

White-breasted Nuthatches are very energetic birds that spend most of their time climbing trees and searching for food in the bark. They mainly eat insects they can glean from bark and foliage but will also eat seeds in winter.

They are known to visit backyard bird feeders and prefer suet feeders, shelled peanuts, and sunflower seeds.

The White-breasted Nuthatch has been seen at 78% of all feeder sites in Illinois.

Feeder Type:

  • Large & Small Tube Feeder
  • Large & Small Hopper
  • Suet Cage
  • Platform Feeder

Feeder Food:

  • Black Oil and Hulled Sunflower Seeds
  • Safflower
  • Suet
  • Peanuts & Peanut Hearts
  • Mealworms

11. European Starling

The European Starling, also known as the Common Starling or just simply Starling, is a loud, boisterous bird that can be found throughout most of North America, Europe, and parts of Asia to North Africa in wintertime. These beautiful birds can be seen in Illinois all year round.

European Starling is roughly the size of a Robin at about 20-23cm (7.9-9.1 inches) long and weighing around 60-96g (2.1-3.4oz). Their breeding plumage is a glossy purplish-green with yellow beaks, and winter plumage is brown with white spots and a black bill. They have short wings which allow for a quick flight and a short tail. They have a long, slender bill and legs that are pinkish.

European Starlings winter in large flocks – often roosting with other bird species such as Blackbirds or Fieldfares to keep warm at night.

Their preferred habitat is open, grassy areas with some trees, but they can also be found in towns, suburbs, or human settlements out in the countryside.

They are opportunistic feeders that mainly eat insects and feed on berries, seeds, and grains. They are known to visit bird feeders in backyards to eat almost any type of food available – including suet mixes or peanuts.

The European Starling has been seen at 76% of all feeder sites in Illinois.

Feeder Type:

  • Large Tube feeder
  • Suet Cage
  • Large Hopper
  • Platform Feeder
  • Ground

Feeder Food:

  • Black Oil & Hulled Sunflower Seeds
  • Suet
  • Cracker Corn
  • Peanuts & Peanut Hearts
  • Fruit
  • Millet & Milo
  • Oats

12. Blue Jay

The Blue Jay is a common species of bird found throughout North America and is a year-round resident of Illinois.

Blue Jays are about 25-30cm (9.8-11.8 inches) long and generally weigh between 70 – 100g (2.5-3.5oz). They have a very short neck and bill with a thick blue crest on their head. They have very distinctive bright blue feathers on the top with white spots and gray-white color below, making them easy to identify from other birds.

Blue Jays are loud, boisterous birds that will eat almost anything they can find – making them one of the most common backyard visitors.

They are widespread at backyard bird feeders and will typically dominate smaller birds that visit simultaneously. They love sunflower seeds, cracked corn, and whole peanuts.

The Blue Jay has been seen at 71% of all feeder sites in Illinois.

Feeder Type:

  • Large Tube feeder
  • Suet Cage
  • Large Hopper
  • Platform feeder
  • Ground

Feeder Food:

  • Hulled & Black oil Sunflower Seeds
  • Safflower
  • Suet
  • Cracker Corn
  • Peanuts & Peanut Hearts
  • Fruit
  • Mealworms

13. American Robin

The American Robin is a common species of bird found throughout North America and a year-round resident of Illinois.

American Robins are 20-28cm (7.9-11 inches) long and weigh 77-85g (2.7-3oz).

American Robins have a distinctive orange chest with black spots; however, their back feathers are brownish gray. Their beaks are tiny but comprehensive at the base, giving them a very distinct appearance.

They are common in most environments across North America, especially in gardens, parks, and wooded areas around towns and suburbs.

The American Robin is known to poke around in leaf litter, looking for insects such as beetles, grasshoppers, and earthworms to eat in the summer months. They prefer berries or fruit during the autumn and winter months.

They are also known for being very friendly birds found at most bird feeders and prefer feeders that offer live mealworms.

The American Robin has been seen at 69% of all feeder sites in Illinois.

Feeder Type:

  • Platform feeder
  • Ground

Feeder Food:

  • Hulled Sunflower Seeds
  • Suet
  • Peanut Hearts
  • Fruit
  • Mealworms

14. Hairy Woodpecker

The Hairy Woodpecker is a medium-sized woodpecker found throughout North America and Southern Canada. These woodpeckers can be seen in Illinois all year round.

The hairy woodpecker has a long chisel-like bill and long stiff tail feathers. Males and Females are about 18-26cm (7.1-10.2 inches) long and weigh around 40-95g (1.4-3.4oz).

They have black-and-white feathers: black back checkered with a white, white stripe down the middle back, and white below. The male has a red patch on the back of its head, while the female does not. They get their name from the “hairy” quality of the white on their backs.

They live in various habitats, including woodlands, bottomland forests, wooded suburbs, and parks. They will actively probe and drill into wood to look for insects under the bark. They will also feed on fallen or rotting logs to chisel through dead wood to find insect larvae. They will also eat fruits and seeds when given a chance.

They are common at backyard bird feeders that offer suet, sunflower seeds, or peanut butter mixed with birdseed.

The Hairy Woodpecker has been seen at 57% of all feeder sites in Illinois.

Feeder Type:

  • Suet Cage
  • Large Hopper
  • Platform Feeder

Feeder Food:

  • Black Oil and Hulled Sunflower Seeds
  • Safflower
  • Suet
  • Peanuts and Peanut Hearts
  • Mealworms

15. Red-breasted Nuthatch

The red-breasted nuthatch is a small songbird found across most of North America and much of Canada. They can be seen in Illinois during the winter months.

Both males and females are about 11-12cm (4.3 inches) long and weigh between 8-13g (0.3-0.5oz). They have a long, pointy bill, short, broad wings, and very short tails.

Both sexes are blueish-gray above and reddish-cinnamon below. Their heads are striped with a black cap, white eyebrows, a black line through the eye, and finally, white cheeks. Very similar looking to the white-breasted nuthatch.

Red-breasted nuthatches can be found in coniferous forests such as spruce and fir, where they like to forage on the trunks and branches. They are very energetic and acrobatic birds and can often be seen hanging upside down while searching for food.

Their diet is primarily insects and spiders they glean from trees and bark in the summer and eat seeds in the winter.

They are also familiar visitors to backyard bird feeders where they eat seeds and suet.

The Red-breasted Nuthatch has been seen at 56% of all feeder sites in Illinois.

Feeder Type:

  • Large and Small Tube Feeders
  • Large and Small Hoppers
  • Suet Cage
  • Platform Feeder

Feeder Food:

  • Black Oil Sunflower Seeds
  • Hulled Sunflower Seeds
  • Suet
  • Peanuts and Peanut Hearts
  • Mealworms

16. Red-winged Blackbird

The Red-Winged Blackbird is a stocky blackbird with a red shoulder and short tail. They are found in abundance in North America and Central America, and are year-round residents of Illinois.

Males and Females are about 17-23cm (6.7-9.1 inches) long and weigh between 32-77g (1.1-2.7oz). Males are all black with red shoulder patches tipped with a golden yellow color. Females have mostly dark brown plumage above, are heavily streaked below, and have some orange coloration on their face and throat.

They live in open habitats such as wetlands, marshes, prairies, meadows, pastures, agricultural fields, and suburban parks. They nest in marshes, wet prairies, and hayfields across the Northern half of North America from Alaska to Newfoundland.

They eat insects, seeds, and berries primarily during nesting or feeding their young and grain in the winter. Red-winged blackbirds gather in large flocks during the winter. They will often visit bird feeders that offer mixed seeds and grains and prefer to feed on the ground.

The Red-winged Blackbird has been seen at 49% of all feeder sites in Illinois.

Feeder Type:

  • Ground feeding
  • Large Tube Feeder
  • Large Hopper
  • Platform Feeder

Feeder Food:

  • Black Oil Sunflower Seeds
  • Hulled Sunflower Seeds
  • Cracker Corn
  • Peanut Hearts
  • Millet
  • Oats
  • Milo

17. Brown-headed Cowbird

The Brown-headed cowbird is a small blackbird found across North America and can be seen in Illinois all year round.

The males range between 19-22cm (7.5-8.7 inches) long and weigh between 42-50g (1.5-1.8oz). The females range between 16-20cm (6.3-7.9 inches) long and weigh 42-50g (1.3-1.6oz). They have a short tail and thick sharp-tipped beak.

The males have a glossy black body with a dark brown head, and the females are grayish-brown above and a paler color below.

They prefer open areas with scattered trees like grasslands, pastures, meadows, marshes, or even agricultural fields.

The Brown-headed cowbird is a brood parasite, which means that it doesn’t build a nest of its own, but instead lays its eggs in the nests of other bird species. The host birds will then incubate and raise the cowbird chick as their own.

Cowbirds can be seen hopping around on the ground or flying low to the ground looking for food. They eat mainly seeds and grain but will also eat insects and spiders if given a chance.

Since they don’t build their own nests,  they will often be found close to humans in places like parks, golf courses, and even the backyard, which means they will often visit backyard bird feeders, especially if you use a  platform feeder or scatter seed on the ground. 

Brown-Headed cowbirds can often be a nuisance, and some people even take their feeders down in the spring or summer if they see too many cowbirds visiting.

The Brown-headed Cowbird has been seen at 46% of all feeder sites in Illinois.

Feeder Type:

  • Large Hopper
  • Platform Feeder
  • Ground Feeding

Feeder Food:

  • Black Oil Sunflower Seeds
  • Hulled Sunflower Seeds
  • Cracker Corn
  • Peanut Hearts
  • Millet
  • Oats
  • Milo

18. Common Grackle

The Common Grackle is a large blackbird found in abundance throughout the Eastern and Mid-Eastern parts of North America. These beautifully colored birds can be seen in Illinois all year round.

They are about the size of a Mourning Dove and are around 28-34cm (11-13.4 Inches) long and weigh between 74-142g (2.6-5oz). Males are slightly larger than females. They have a flat head with yellow eyes and a stout beak to eat insects, seeds, fruits, small invertebrates, and snails. They have a long tail and shiny black plumage. The male has a greenish iridescence to their feathers, while the female is less glossy with brown feathers on her head.

The Common Grackle is usually found in large flocks in open habitats that include farmlands or grassland areas. Still, it will also be seen around residential areas where food scraps are available, like compost piles or bird feeders. They can sometimes be found near wetlands too.

Common Grackles are opportunistic omnivores that eat mainly insects and some grain but supplement with food items like seeds, fruits, small invertebrates, and snails. They usually feed or forage on the ground but will also scavenge in the garbage around residential areas if given the opportunity.

The common grackle will often visit backyard bird feeders and don’t seem to be too picky when it comes to the type of feed present.

The Common Grackle has been seen at 45% of all feeder sites in Illinois.

Feeder Type:

  • Large Hopper
  • Platform Feeder
  • Ground

Feeder Food:

  • Black oil Sunflower Seeds
  • Hulled Sunflower Seeds
  • Safflower
  • Suet
  • Cracker Corn
  • Peanuts & Peanut Hearts
  • Fruit
  • Millet & Milo
  • Oats

19. Cooper’s Hawk

The Cooper’s Hawk is a medium-sized hawk found throughout North America and is a year-round resident of Illinois.

Males are about 37-39cm (14.6-15.3 inches) long and weigh 220-410g (7.8-14.5oz). Females are about 42-45cm (16.5-17.7 inches) long and weigh 330-680g (11.6-24oz).

They have broad rounded wings, a long, rounded tail, and a large head. Adults are bluish-gray above, with rusty colored bars below and thick darker bands on their tails. Juveniles are brown above, with orange-colored highlights on the head and dark streaks below.

Cooper’s hawks are often found in riparian woodlands, suburbs, and parks where they can find plenty of prey.

The Cooper’s Hawk is a versatile predator that preys on small mammals such as squirrels and rats and small birds up to the size of a Blue Jay. They often hunt by perching on a branch and waiting for prey to pass by. When prey is spotted, they will swoop down, grasp it with their feet and kill using a sharp blow of the bill.

In suburban areas, they sometimes hunt birds at bird feeders or squirrels in backyards and small rodents such as mice and rats.

The Cooper’s Hawk has been seen at 44% of all feeder sites in Illinois.

Feeder Type:

  • N/A

Feeder Food:

  • Unsuspecting Doves, Jays and Robin-sized birds

20. Pine Siskin

The Pine Siskin is widespread throughout North America and some parts of Canada and Mexico. These little birds can be seen in Illinois during the winter months.

Both males and females are about 11-14cm (4.3-5.5 inches) long and weigh between 12-18g (0.4-0.6oz). Both males and females are brown, with dark streaking throughout their bodies. They are a small finch with a sharply pointed bill and a short notched tail.

They are slightly darker above and paler below with two whitish-yellow wing bars. A yellow wing stripe can be seen during flight but is more difficult to see when perched.

They prefer open coniferous forests where they can forage in trees, looking for seeds among needles of the branches. Pine siskins are social birds and often travel in a few hundred bird flocks. They are very active and can be seen hopping around on the ground or flying quickly from tree to tree.

Pine siskins eat seeds almost exclusively but will take insects or larvae when available if seeds are not readily accessible. They are also frequent visitors to backyard bird feeders that offer sunflower seeds, or nyjer seeds.

The Pine Siskin has been seen at 36% of all feeder sites in Illinois.

Feeder Type:

  • Large and Small Tube Feeder
  • Small Hopper
  • Platform Feeder
  • Ground

Feeder Food:

  • Black Oil Sunflower Seeds
  • Hulled Sunflower Seeds
  • Nyjer

21. American Tree Sparrow

The American Tree Sparrow is a small sparrow found throughout North America and can be seen in Illinois during the winter months.

Males and females are about 13-14cm (5.5 inches) long and weigh around 13-28g (0.5-1.0oz). They have a long, thin tail, a small bill, and a small head.

Their bill is bicolored, which is dark above and yellow below. They have a rusty-colored cap, a rusty eye line, and a rusty-colored striped back. Their wings have two white wing bars, and their underparts are primarily gray with some pale brown coloration on their sides and breast.

American Tree Sparrows can be found in open areas near woods, gardens, or parks during the warmer months and move to more dense areas such as weedy fields, shrubs, and forest edges during the colder months. They breed in the far north of Canada and spend their winter migration below the Canadian border.

They eat mostly seeds in winter and insects during the summer months. They forage mainly on the ground but can also be seen in bushes or trees.

American Tree Sparrows frequently visit bird feeders in the winter that offer black oil sunflower seeds, nyjer thistle, or millet.

The American Tree Sparrow has been seen at 36% of all feeder sites in Illinois.

Feeder Type:

  • Ground
  • Platform Feeder
  • Large hopper

Feeder Food:

  • Black Oil Sunflower Seeds
  • Nyjer
  • Peanut Hearts
  • Millet

22. Carolina Wren

The Carolina Wren is a common bird species in the eastern part of North America and is a year-round resident of Illinois.

Carolina Wrens are small backyard birds typically between 12 – 14cm (4.7-5.5 inches) long and weigh between 18-22g (0.6-0.8oz), with males slightly larger than females. They have rusty-brown feathers with white spots on their tails and wings, with lighter brown-orange chest and belly, and a bold white line above the eye, making them very easy to identify from other birds.

Carolina Wrens spend most of their time in thick vegetation such as brushy woods, underbrush or shrubs, looking for insects and spiders to eat – making it easy to see when they fly out from their hiding place.

They are the only wren that will visit backyard bird feeders regularly and typically prefer suet feeders.

The Carolina Wren has been seen at 34% of all feeder sites in Illinois.

Feeder Type:

  • Large Tube feeder
  • Suet Cage
  • Large & Small Hopper
  • Platform Feeder
  • Ground

Feeder Food:

  • Hulled Sunflower Seeds
  • Suet
  • Peanut Hearts
  • Mealworms

23. White-throated Sparrow

The White-Throated Sparrow is a medium-large sparrow that lives primarily in the eastern half of the United States and can be seen in Illinois during the winter months.

Males and Females are about 16-18cm (6.3-7.1 inches) long and weigh between 22-32g (0.8-1.1oz). They have a round head, long legs, and long tail.

Both sexes are brown above and gray below with a black and white striped head and a yellow spot above the eye and bill. Another morph is tan striped instead of black and white striped. Both morphs have a strongly outlined white throat.

They live in brushy woodlands, forest edges, wooded urban areas, parks, and gardens across the Eastern United States. Most often seen in backyards during the winter months.

They are ground foragers that often flock together to eat insects in summer and seeds and berries the rest of the year. They are common backyard birds that will visit feeders in the winter, especially ones that offer seeds scattered on the ground or a platform feeder.

The White-throated Sparrow has been seen at 32% of all feeder sites in Illinois.

Feeder Types:

  • Platform Feeder
  • Ground

Feeder food:

  • Black Oil Sunflower Seeds
  • Hulled Sunflower Seeds
  • Cracker Corn
  • Millet
  • Milo

24. American Crow

The American Crow is a large bird found throughout most of North America, except in some areas in the southern United States along the border with Mexico. American Crows can be seen throughout Illinois all year round.

American Crows are large at about 40-53cm (115.8-21 inches) long and weigh between 316-620g (11.2-22oz). They are black all over, including their legs, feet, bill, and eyes.

They have a very distinct, short tail with broad wings that allow for a quick flight. They are known to be brilliant birds – able to use tools to obtain the food they otherwise couldn’t reach.

Their preferred habitat is open areas such as pastures with some trees – either deciduous or coniferous to roost at night when they sleep. They will often be found in urban areas where food is plentiful – for example, at dumpsters behind supermarkets or garbage bins.

They are omnivores and very opportunistic and will eat small mammals, insects, and amphibians but may also be found eating fruits or grain in the wintertime when other food sources are scarce. We have even personally seen crows stealing chicks from other nests and flying away to eat them.

Not your typical visitor to backyard bird feeders but may hang around yards that offer a compost heap, easy access to garbage, or pet food lying around.

The American Crow has been seen at 30% of all feeder sites in Illinois.

Feeder Type:

  • Platform Feeder
  • Ground

Feeder Food:

  • Black Oil & Hulled Sunflower Seeds
  • Suet
  • Cracker Corn
  • Peanuts & Peanut Hearts
  • Fruit
  • Millet & Milo
  • Oats

25. Tufted Titmouse

The Tufted Titmouse is a small species of bird that can be found throughout much of the Eastern half of North America and is a year-round resident of Illinois.

They are gray above and white below with a crested head and small black forehead. Tufted Titmice are only about 14 – 16cm (5.5-6.3 inches) long and weigh around 18-26g (0.6-0.9oz).

Tufted Titmice are sociable birds found in pairs or groups living in deciduous woods, towns, wooded suburbs, and parks. They are omnivorous with a diet that consists mainly of insects and some seeds and berries.

Although they prefer to glean foliage for their preferred food, Tufted Titmice will readily visit bird feeders searching for sunflower seeds, peanuts or suet.

The Tufted Titmouse has been seen at 30% of all feeder sites in Illinois.

Feeder Type:

  • Large & Small Tube Feeder
  • Large & Small Hopper
  • Suet Cage
  • Platform Feeder

Feeder Food:

  • Black Oil and Hulled Sunflower Seeds
  • Safflower
  • Nyjer
  • Suet
  • Peanuts & Peanut Hearts
  • Mealworms

What Are The Most Common Backyard Birds All-Year-Round In Illinois

  • Northern Cardinal
  • House Finch
  • Black-capped Chickadee (Northern Illinois)
  • House Sparrow
  • Downy Woodpecker
  • Mourning Dove
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker
  • American Goldfinch
  • White-breasted Nuthatch
  • European Starling
  • Blue Jay
  • American Robin
  • Hairy Woodpecker
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Brown-headed Cowbird
  • Common Grackle
  • Cooper’s Hawk
  • Carolina Wren
  • American Crow
  • Tufted Titmouse

What Are The Most Common Winter Backyard Birds Of Illinois?

  • Dark-Eyed Junco
  • Red-breasted Nuthatch
  • Pine Siskin
  • American Tree Sparrow
  • White-throated Sparrow

Birds To Spot Beyond The Backyard In Illinois

When you decide to venture away from your home to do some birdwatching, these are some of the other birds to look out for:

  1. American Golden-Plover
  2. Tree Swallow
  3. Common Nighthawk
  4. American White Pelican
  5. Purple Martin
  6. Killdeer
  7. Cedar Waxwing
  8. Chimney Swift
  9. Rusty Blackbird
  10. Broad-winged Hawk
  11. Cliff Swallow
  12. Swainson’s Thrush
  13. Brewer’s Blackbird
  14. Yellow-rumped Warbler
  15. Bald Eagle
  16. Northern Rough-winged Sparrow
  17. Rock Pigeon
  18. Sharp-shinned Hawk
  19. Snow Bunting
  20. Merlin
  21. Red-tailed Hawk
  22. Little Blue Heron
  23. Common Redpoll
  24. Great Blue Heron
  25. Palm Warbler
  26. Gray-cheeked Thrush
  27. Gold-crowned Kinglet
  28. Northern Flicker
  29. Ruby-throated Hummingbird
  30. Willow Flycatcher

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What kind of birds are in Illinois?

Illinois is home to many kinds of bird species like songbirds, water birds, and birds of prey. The most common of which include the Northern Cardinal (50% frequency), American Goldfinch (37% frequency), Red-winged Blackbird (36% frequency), Mallard (33% frequency), Red-tailed Hawk (17% frequency), and Turkey Vulture (12% frequency).

How many species of birds are in Illinois?

To date, 440 species have been observed in Illinois.

What birds of prey live in Illinois?

Illinois is home to many raptor species such as Hawks, Falcons, Eagles, Owls and Vultures. Some of the most common include the Red-Tailed Hawk, Cooper’s Hawk, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Merlin, American Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Northern Harrier, Bald Eagle, Barn Owl, Barred Owl, and Great-horned Owl, and the Turkey Vulture. These are a few, as around 24 species of raptors reside in Illinois.

What Is The State Bird Of Illinois?

The Northern Cardinal is the state bird of Illinois.

What Is The Most Common Backyard Bird Seen In Illinois?

The most common backyard feeder bird seen in Illinois is the Northern Cardinal.

Keep a watchful Eye for the backyard birds of Illinois

The backyard birds of Illinois come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from the tiny Black-capped chickadee to the more prominent Cooper’s Hawk.

While all of these birds are beautiful in their way, the Northern Cardinal is perhaps the most iconic and well-known backyard bird in Illinois. This brightly colored songbird is found throughout the state and is also the state bird of Illinois.

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced birder, we hope this article has helped identify some new species that you can watch for in your backyard or local hotspots.

If you are interested in bird watching away from the backyard, be sure to visit any of the five hotspots listed above. We would also love to hear from you about your favorite birdwatching spots or experiences in Illinois.

If you have any questions about identifying more species or finding out which ones live near you, let us know! We would love to help identify new bird species for our readers.

Don’t forget to check out our other blog posts for more information about birds and nature. Also, don’t forget to share this post with your friends and family!

So get outside and enjoy nature’s beauty – Illinois is home to some fantastic birds!

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Author
I am an avid birdwatcher with a passion for learning all I can about these fantastic creatures. I love finding new species of birds in my backyard, neighborhood, or when I travel. I enjoy sharing everything I learn about how these creatures live their lives; feedback and experience is much appreciated!

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