25 Amazing Backyard Birds of Kentucky to watch

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Backyard Birds of Kentucky

Kentucky is an excellent place for birdwatching. If you’re a bird enthusiast, there’s no doubt that Kentucky is one of the best states to birdwatch. The state has a diverse range of climates, from the Appalachian Mountains in the east to the rolling hills of the Bluegrass Region. This variety allows for many different types of birds to visit Kentucky’s backyards and feeders. 

With its varied climate and landscape, Kentucky is home to an impressive variety of backyard birds. In addition, Kentucky has many backyard birdwatchers who are happy to share their knowledge and expertise with others.

In this blog post, we’ll look at 25 of Kentucky’s most common backyard birds 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!

Backyard Birds Of Kentucky

According to the latest data from ebird, there are 392 observed species of Birds in Kentucky. This data comes from over 257,000 checklists from just over 10,600 dedicated birdwatchers. Identifying and seeing all 392 may be quite an overwhelming 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 Backyard Birds of Kentucky:

  • 392 observed species
  • The Northern Cardinal is the most common backyard bird in Kentucky
  • The Northern Cardinal is the most common feeder bird in Kentucky
  • The Carolina Chickadee is the smallest most common feeder bird in Kentucky
  • The Red-winged Backbird is the largest backyard bird on this list
  • The Red-bellied Woodpecker and Downy Woodpecker are also the two most commonly seen woodpeckers in Kentucky.
  • The Northern Cardinal is Kentucky’s state bird

What Are The Most Common Backyard Birds Of Kentucky?

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

Top 5 Hotspots For Birdwatching In Kentucky

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

  1. Sloughs Wildlife Management Area
  2. Minor E Clark Fish Hatchery
  3. Peabody Wildlife Management Area
  4. Reelfoot National Wildlife Refuge
  5. Ballard Wildlife Management Area

Top 15 Backyard Birds Of Kentucky

The list below is determined by the number of bird watchers in Kentucky 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 and is a year-round resident of Kentucky.

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 Kentucky.

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. Mourning Dove

The Mourning Dove is a common species of bird found throughout North America. These widespread Doves can be seen throughout Kentucky 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 Kentucky.

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

3. Blue Jay

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

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 94% of all feeder sites in Kentucky.

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

4. Downy Woodpecker

The Downy Woodpecker is a small woodpecker found throughout North America and is a year-round resident of Kentucky.

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 88% of all feeder sites in Kentucky.

Feeder Type:

  • Suet Cage
  • Large & Small Hopper
  • Platform Feeder

Feeder Food:

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

5. House Finch

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

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 88% of all feeder sites in Kentucky.

Feeder Type:

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

Feeder Food:

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

6. 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 Kentucky during the winter months.

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 88% of all feeder sites in Kentucky.

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

7. 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 Kentucky.

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 88% of all feeder sites in Kentucky.

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

8. Carolina Wren

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

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 85% of all feeder sites in Kentucky.

Feeder Type:

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

Feeder Food:

  • Hulled Sunflower Seeds
  • Suet
  • Peanut Hearts
  • Mealworms

9. 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 a year-round resident of Kentucky.

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 83% of all feeder sites in Kentucky.

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

10. American Goldfinch

The American Goldfinch is a common species of bird found throughout North America and can be seen year round in Kentucky.

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 82% of all feeder sites in Kentucky.

Feeder Type:

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

Feeder Food:

  • Black Oil Sunflower Seeds
  • Hulled Sunflower Seeds
  • Nyjer

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 throughout Kentucky 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 77% of all feeder sites in Kentucky.

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. American Robin

The American Robin is a common species of bird found throughout North America and can be seen in Kentucky all year round.

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 76% of all feeder sites in Kentucky.

Feeder Type:

  • Platform feeder
  • Ground

Feeder Food:

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

13. Caroline Chickadee

The Carolina Chickadee is a small species found primarily in the southeastern United States and is a year-round resident of Kentucky.

Carolina Chickadees are only about 11cm (4 inches) long and weigh between 8-12g (0.3-0.4oz). They have gray-white feathers with a distinct dark cap on their head and dark throat with white cheeks and gray bill, giving them the “chickadee” appearance from which they get their name.

Their preferred habitat is deciduous or mixed woods with large trees for roosting and nesting. They also inhabit woodlands around towns, suburbs and parks. 

Carolina Chickadees are omnivorous birds that eat both insects and seeds – making them widespread backyard visitors. They prefer feeding on seeds and sunflower seed mixes from bird feeders but will also eat suet in wintertime.

The Carolina Chickadee has been seen at 71% of all feeder sites in Kentucky.

Feeder Type:

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

Feeder Food:

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

14. White-Breasted Nuthatch

The White-breasted Nuthatch is an exciting species to observe and can be found from southern Canada down into Central America. These little birds can be seen in Kentucky all year round.

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 71% of all feeder sites in Kentucky.

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

15. Northern Mockingbird

The Northern Mockingbird is a common species of bird found in the United States, Mexico and some areas of Central America. They can be seen in Kentucky all year round.

They are very similar to American Robins except for their size – with both sexes 21-26cm (8.3-10.2 inches) long and weighing between 45-58g (1.6-2oz). They have grayish-brown feathers with black spots on their wings and tails; however, they also have white bellies, making them recognizable.

Northern Mockingbirds are not migratory but instead stay in the same location year-round. They prefer dense shrubby areas with open patches nearby, descriptive of most backyards.

Northern Mockingbirds build open-cup nests found high in trees or bushes – making them easy to see. They are primarily carnivorous, feeding mainly on insects during the summer months and switching to berries or fruit in autumn and winter.

They are a frequent visitor to backyards and will typically visit suet feeders.

The Northern Mockingbird has been seen at 65% of all feeder sites in Kentucky.

Feeder Type:

  • Platform Feeder
  • Ground

Feeder Food:

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

16. House Sparrow

The House Sparrow is a common species of bird found throughout the world and can be seen in Kentucky 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 64% of all feeder sites in Kentucky.

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

17. Song Sparrow

The Song Sparrow is a medium-sized sparrow found throughout North America and can be seen in Kentucky all year round.

Males and Females are about 12-17cm (4.7-6.7 inches) long and weigh between 12-53g (0.4-1.9oz). They have relatively long, rounded tails and broad wings.

Song Sparrows are generally brown above with brown streaking on white below. They have a reddish-brown crown, a pale gray eyebrow, and a brown streak through the eye.

They live in most open areas such as forests edges, scrublands, wetlands, marshes, farmlands, and grasslands year-round in North America.

They mainly eat insects in the spring and summer and seeds and berries the rest of the year.

Song Sparrows are common backyard birds that visit bird feeders if the feeder offers cracked corn or millet and over some good cover. They prefer seeds scattered on the ground or a platform feeder.

The Song Sparrow has been seen at 64% of all feeder sites in Kentucky.

Feeder Type:

  • Platform Feeder
  • Ground

Feeder Food:

  • Black Oil and Hulled Sunflower Seeds
  • Safflower
  • Nyjer
  • Cracked Corn
  • Peanut Hearts
  • Millet and Milo

18. White-throated Sparrow

The White-Throated Sparrow is a medium-large sparrow that lives primarily in the eastern half of the United States. These birds can be seen in Kentucky 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 60% of all feeder sites in Kentucky.

Feeder Types:

  • Platform Feeder
  • Ground

Feeder food:

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

19. Purple Finch

The Purple Finch is a small finch found mainly in the eastern half of the North American continent. They can also be seen on the west coast of the United States and southern Canada. These beautiful birds can be seen in Kentucky during the winter months.

Males and Females are about 12-16cm (4.7-6.3 inches) long and weigh between 18-32g (0.6-1.1oz). They are about the same size as a house finch but with a chunkier appearance. They have short notched tails and a robust conical bill, perfect for cracking seeds.

Contrary to the name, Purple Finches are not really purple. The males have a raspberry-colored head, breast, and rump, with their wings and back having a pinky tinge. The females have no red and a patterned head and are more brown and white above and streaked below.

They live in coniferous forests, woodlands, gardens, and parks. They primarily forage on the ground or in trees for seeds, buds, fruit, and some insects and spiders

They are also common at backyard bird feeders that offer sunflower seeds, thistle, or nyjer seed during the winter.

The Purple Finch has been seen at 45% of all feeder sites in Kentucky.

Feeder Type:

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

Feeder Food:

  • Black Oil Sunflower Seeds
  • Hulled Sunflower Seeds
  • Nyjer
  • Millet

20. Brown-headed Cowbird

The Brown-headed cowbird is a small blackbird found across North America and is a year-round resident of Kentucky.

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 42% of all feeder sites in Kentucky.

Feeder Type:

  • Large Hopper
  • Platform Feeder
  • Ground Feeding

Feeder Food:

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

21. Hairy Woodpecker

The Hairy Woodpecker is a medium-sized woodpecker found throughout North America and Southern Canada. Hairy Woodpeckers can be seen in Kentucky 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 42% of all feeder sites in Kentucky.

Feeder Type:

  • Suet Cage
  • Large Hopper
  • Platform Feeder

Feeder Food:

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

22. Eastern Towhee

The Eastern Towhee is a medium-sized sparrow that can be found in the eastern half of the United States and is a year-round resident of Kentucky.

The Eastern Towhee is about 17-21cm (6.8-8.2 inches) long and weighs 32-52g (1.1-1.8oz) and resembles a thrasher with a long tail.

They vary in color depending on their region but are usually sooty black above with a reddish undertone and lighter white belly. The females have the same pattern, but they have a brown color above instead of dark black. Males will also sing their very particular song – often described as “drink your teeeeeea”.

They can be found in deciduous, mixed, or coniferous forests throughout much of eastern North America and prefer a habitat in dense thickets near forest edges and clearings where leaf litter is abundant.

The Eastern Towhee is a ground foraging omnivore that prefers a diet that consists of insects and other small invertebrates that they find foraging on the ground. They may also be found eating some seeds and berries in winter if available, but insects make up a large portion of their diet during warmer months.

They are very secretive birds, difficult to spot as they prefer dense undergrowth or areas with thick shrubbery. You can often see them flicking their tails up and down while feeding on the ground – a particular behavior that is easily recognizable if you know what you’re looking for.

Eastern Towhees will visit backyard bird feeders, especially platform feeders where seed is easily accessible.

The Eastern Towhee has been seen at 40% of all feeder sites in Kentucky.

Feeder Type:

  • Platform Feeder
  • Ground

Feeder Food:

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

23. Common Grackle

The Common Grackle is a large blackbird found in abundance throughout the Eastern and Mid-Eastern parts of North America. They can be seen throughout Kentucky 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 38% of all feeder sites in Kentucky.

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

24. Chipping Sparrow

Chipping Sparrows are ubiquitous sparrows that are found throughout North America  and are a summer/spring resident of Kentucky.

They are about 12-15cm (4.7-5.9 inches) long, weigh between 11-16g (0.4-0.6oz). Chipping Sparrows are slender, long-tailed birds with gray faces, chestnut heads, and a white belly. They have a black line through the eye, back and wings.

They have relatively short wings that allow for quick travel through thick vegetation or high into the trees where they will find their nests on a thin branch close to the trunk of a tree. Their beaks are short but thick at the end for catching insects and eating seeds from grasses or trees.

Their preferred habitat is open woodland, forest edges, and clearings. It will also be found in parks and residential areas.

Chipping Sparrows eat insects they can glean from the ground, vegetation, or the air in summer months and forage for seeds in wild grasses and weeds in the fall and winter months.

They are frequent visitors at bird feeders and prefer to eat seeds such as black oil sunflower seeds, millet, or cracked corn from a platform feeder or the ground. You will often see them in small flocks around your feeders.

The Chipping Sparrow has been seen at 38% of all feeder sites in Kentucky.

Feeder Type:

  • Large & Small Hopper
  • Platform Feeder
  • Ground

Feeder Food:

  • Hulled Sunflower Seeds
  • Black Oil Sunflower Seeds
  • Nyjer
  • Cracked Corn
  • Millet

25. 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 can be seen in Kentucky all year round.

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 37% of all feeder sites in Kentucky.

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

What Are The Most Common Backyard Birds All Year Round In Kentucky?

  • Northern Cardinal
  • Mourning Dove
  • Blue Jay
  • Downy Woodpecker
  • House Finch
  • Tufted Titmouse
  • Carolina Wren
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker
  • American Goldfinch
  • European Starling
  • American Robin
  • Caroline Chickadee
  • White-breasted Nuthatch
  • Northern Mockingbird
  • House Sparrow
  • Song Sparrow
  • Brown-headed Cowbird
  • Hairy Woodpecker
  • Eastern Towhee
  • Common Grackle
  • Red-winged Blackbird

What Are The Most Common Winter Backyard Birds Of Kentucky?

  • Dark-eyed Junco
  • White-throated Sparrow
  • Purple Finch

Birds To Spot Beyond The Backyard In Kentucky

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 Crow
  2. Rusty Blackbird
  3. Cliff Swallow
  4. Lapland Longspur
  5. Bank Swallow
  6. Semipalmated Sandpiper
  7. Tree Swallow
  8. Northern Rough-winged Swallow
  9. Chimney Swift
  10. Horned Lark
  11. Broad-winged Hawk
  12. Killdeer
  13. Bobolink
  14. Rock Pigeon
  15. American Golden-Plover
  16. Common Nighthawk
  17. Turkey Vulture
  18. Barn Swallow
  19. Snow Bunting
  20. Swainson’s Thrush
  21. Brewer’s Blackbird
  22. Cedar Waxwing
  23. Swamp Sparrow
  24. Black Vulture
  25. American Pipit
  26. Savannah Sparrow
  27. White-crowned Sparrow
  28. Indigo Bunting
  29. Wild Turkey
  30. American Tree Sparrow

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What Kind Of Birds Live In Kentucky?

Kentucky 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 (66% frequency), American Robin (51% frequency), Blue Jay (50% frequency), Canada Goose (25% frequency), Great Blue Heron (19% frequency), Red-tailed Hawk (15% frequency), Black Vulture (13% frequency) and the Coopers Hawk (6% frequency).

How Many Species Of Birds Are In Kentucky?

There are 392 documented species of birds that have been observed in Kentucky.

What Birds Of Prey Are In Kentucky?

There are 22 birds of prey that regularly occur in Kentucky. Fifteen of these species are falcons, eagles and hawks and seven are owls. Some of the most common birds of prey in Kentucky include the American Kestrel, Bald Eagle, Osprey, Peregrine Falcon, Northern Harrier, Cooper’s Hawk, Red-Tailed Hawk, Merlin, Barn Owl, Long-eared Owl, Great-horned Owl, and the Turkey Vulture.

What Is The State Bird Of Kentucky?

The State bird of Kentucky is the Northern Cardinal.

What Is The Most Common Backyard Bird Seen In Kentucky?

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

Keep An Eye Out for the backyard birds of Kentucky

We hope you enjoyed this blog post about the backyard birds of Kentucky! Now that you know a little bit more about the different species of birds that live in Kentucky, we encourage you to get out there and start birdwatching! You never know what new species you might see.

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

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.

Happy birdwatching!

Photo of author
Author
When I was going through a really tough time in my life, I began watching birds as a way to find peace during the most stressful parts of my day. Now I am an enthusiastic birdwatcher and love feeding the wild birds in my backyard. It's so peaceful to be surrounded by nature and watch these beautiful creatures flit around.

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