25 Amazing Backyard Birds of Tennessee to watch

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Backyard Birds of Tennessee

Birds are some of the most fascinating creatures on earth. There are so many different types of birds, each possessing its unique set of characteristics, and Tennessee is home to a vast array of backyard bird species.

Why is Tennessee such an excellent place for backyard birds? One reason is that the state has a diverse landscape, which offers a variety of habitats for birds. From mountains to valleys to forests to wetlands, Tennessee has it all. And because the climate in the state is temperate, there is no shortage of food or shelter for birds year-round.

Another reason Tennessee is such an excellent place for backyard birds is the people who live here. Tennesseans sincerely appreciate and love nature and take great pride in their state’s wildlife. This love and respect for nature translate into efforts by homeowners and landowners to create wildlife-friendly habitats in their backyards.

This blog post will look at 25 of Tennessee’s most common backyard birds 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 at any time of the year.

So if you’re looking to get up close and personal with some fantastic backyard bird species, look no further than Tennessee!

Backyard Birds Of Tennessee

According to the latest data from ebird, there are 433 observed species of Birds in Tennessee. This data comes from over 619,000 checklists from over 20,500 avid birdwatchers. Identifying and seeing all 433 may be 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 Tennessee:

  • 433 observed species
  • The Northern Cardinal is the most common bird species in Tennessee.
  • The Northern Cardinal is the most common feeder bird of Tennessee.
  • The Carolina Chickadee is the smallest most common feeder bird in Tennessee.
  • The American Crow is the largest backyard bird on this list.
  • The Northern Mockingbird and the Bobwhite Quail are the two state birds of Tennessee.

What Are The Most Common Backyard Birds Of Tennessee?

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

Top 5 Hotspots For Birdwatching In Tennessee

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

  1. Tennessee National Wildlife Refuge
  2. Shelby Farms Park
  3. Cross Creeks National Wildlife Refuge
  4. Meeman-Shelby Forest State park
  5. Rankin Bottoms National Wildlife Area

Top 25 Backyard Birds Of Tennessee

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

1. Northern Cardinal

The Northern Cardinal is a common species of bird found in the United States and can be seen in Tennessee backyards 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 98% of all feeder sites in Tennessee.

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. Carolina Chickadee

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

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 97% of all feeder sites in Tennessee.

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

3. 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 can be seen in Tennessee all year round.

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 94% of all feeder sites in Tennessee.

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

4. Carolina Wren

The Carolina Wren is a common bird species in the eastern part of North America and can be seen in Tennessee backyards all year round.

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 93% of all feeder sites in Tennessee.

Feeder Type:

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

Feeder Food:

  • Hulled Sunflower Seeds
  • Suet
  • 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. These small birds can be seen throughout Tennessee 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 93% of all feeder sites in Tennessee.

Feeder Type:

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

Feeder Food:

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

6. Mourning Dove

The Mourning Dove is a common species of bird found throughout North America and is a year-round resident of Tennessee.

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 Tennessee.

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

7. Red-bellied Woodpecker

The Red-Bellied Woodpecker is a medium-sized woodpecker with a long, chisel-like bill. They are found the most common woodpecker in Tennessee and can be seen in the state all year round.

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 87% of all feeder sites in Tennessee.

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

8. American Goldfinch

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

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 87% of all feeder sites in Tennessee.

Feeder Type:

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

Feeder Food:

  • Black Oil Sunflower Seeds
  • Hulled Sunflower Seeds
  • Nyjer

9. Blue Jay

The Blue Jay is a common species of bird found throughout North America and can be seen in Tennessee backyards all year round.

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 85% of all feeder sites in Tennessee.

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

10. Downy Woodpecker

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

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 85% of all feeder sites in Tennessee.

Feeder Type:

  • Suet Cage
  • Large & Small Hopper
  • Platform Feeder

Feeder Food:

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

11. American Robin

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

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 84% of all feeder sites in Tennessee.

Feeder Type:

  • Platform feeder
  • Ground

Feeder Food:

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

12. 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 Tennessee during the colder non-breeding 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 83% of all feeder sites in Tennessee.

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

13. 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 tiny birds can be seen in Tennessee 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 74% of all feeder sites in Tennessee.

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

14. Northern Mockingbird

The Northern Mockingbird is a common species of bird found in the United States, Mexico and some areas of Central America. These slender birds can be seen in Tennessee backyards 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 72% of all feeder sites in Tennessee.

Feeder Type:

  • Platform Feeder
  • Ground

Feeder Food:

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

15. White-throated Sparrow

The White-Throated Sparrow is a medium-large sparrow that lives primarily in the eastern half of the United States and is a winter resident of Tennessee during the non-breeding 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 67% of all feeder sites in Tennessee.

Feeder Types:

  • Platform Feeder
  • Ground

Feeder food:

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

16. Eastern Bluebird

The Eastern Bluebird is a small thrush that is common throughout the Eastern half of North America and is a year-round resident of Tennessee.

They are about 16-21cm (6.3-8.3 inches) long and weigh only 28-32g (1-1.1oz). The males are known for their beautiful blue feathers above and a rusty reddish-brown throat and breast

Females are gray above with blue wings and blue tail and a more orange-brown breast. You can find them in other colors depending on the region they live in – such as black or white bodies instead of blue, grayish underparts, or orange neck patches.

Their preferred habitat is an open area such as pasture or farmland with short grasses and some trees.

Their preferred diet consists mainly of insects and other small invertebrates that they find by probing the ground. They may also eat some small fruits in winter, but insects make up many of their diets.

They are very social birds, often found in pairs or flocks – especially during migration to warmer climates for wintertime.

Eastern Bluebirds will visit bird feeders when mealworms are offered.

The Eastern Bluebird has been seen at 66% of all feeder sites in Tennessee.

Feeder Type:

  • Platform Feeder
  • Ground

Feeder Food:

  • Mealworms
  • Peanut Hearts
  • Fruit
  • Suet

17. Eastern Towhee

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

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 64% of all feeder sites in Tennessee.

Feeder Type:

  • Platform Feeder
  • Ground

Feeder Food:

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

18. 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. 

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 61% of all feeder sites in Tennessee.

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

19. Purple Finch

The Purple Finch is a small finch found mainly in the eastern half of the North American continent and is a resident of Tennessee during the colder non-breeding months.

They can also be seen on the west coast of the United States and southern Canada. 

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 55% of all feeder sites in Tennessee.

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 Tennessee.

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 51% of all feeder sites in Tennessee.

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. Song Sparrow

The Song Sparrow is a medium-sized sparrow found throughout North America, and can be seen in eastern Tennessee all year round and in western Tennessee during the colder months.

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 50% of all feeder sites in Tennessee.

Feeder Type:

  • Platform Feeder
  • Ground

Feeder Food:

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

22. Common Grackle

The Common Grackle is a large blackbird found in abundance throughout the Eastern and Mid-Eastern parts of North America, and is a year-round resident of Tennessee.

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 46% of all feeder sites in Tennessee.

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

23. 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 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 45% of all feeder sites in Tennessee.

Feeder Type:

  • Platform Feeder
  • Ground

Feeder Food:

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

24. Red-winged Blackbird

The Red-Winged Blackbird is a stocky blackbird with a red shoulder and short tail. They are found in abundance in throughout North America and parts of Central America.

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 44% of all feeder sites in Tennessee.

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

25. Brown Thrasher

The Brown Thrasher is a common species of songbird found in North America and can be seen in Tennessee backyards all year round.

Males and Females are about 23-30cm (9.1-12 inches) long and weigh between 61-89g (2.1-3.1oz). They are slender birds with long legs, bills, and tails that often cock up much the same way as a Carolina Wren.

Brown thrashers have dark brown feathers above and a lighter white color with dark streaks below. They have long tails that are usually about the same length as their bodies, and their wings have two white wing bars, which also aids in distinguishing them from other species of birds. They have a gray-brown face with yellow eyes.

Brown Thrashers have a varied diet but prefer to eat insects such as grasshoppers or beetles found under rocks, leaves, or logs in the summer and fruits, nuts (acorns), and seeds in the winter.

Brown thrashers are most commonly found in forests near open fields where they can forage for insects on the ground; however, you can find a brown thrasher hanging around a bird feeder in the backyard, especially if suet and seeds are offered.

The Brown Thrasher has been seen at 44% of all feeder sites in Tennessee.

Feeder type:

  • Platform
  • Ground

Feeder Food:

  • Black oil Sunflower Seeds
  • Hulled sunflower seeds
  • Suet
  • Cracker Corn
  • Peanut Hearts

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

  • Northern Cardinal (62% frequency)
  • Carolina Chickadee (49% frequency)
  • Carolina Wren (49% frequency)
  • Blue Jay (47% frequency)
  • American Crow (47% frequency)
  • Tufted Titmouse (45% frequency)
  • Mourning Dove (43% frequency)
  • American Robin (42% frequency)
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker (39% frequency)
  • Northern Mockingbird (37% frequency)

What Are The Most Common Winter Backyard Birds Of Tennessee?

  • Northern Cardinal (57% frequency)
  • Carolina Chickadee (51% frequency)
  • American Crow (45% frequency)
  • Carolina Wren (45% frequency)
  • Blue Jay (43% frequency)
  • Tufted Titmouse (43% frequency)
  • American Robin (40% frequency)
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker (38% frequency)
  • Mourning Dove (37% frequency)
  • Downy Woodpecker (35% frequency)

Birds To Spot Beyond The Backyard In Tennessee

If you decide to birdwatch away from your home, these are some of the other birds to look out for:

  1. Bobwhite Quail
  2. Purple Martin
  3. Tree Swallow
  4. Chimney Swift
  5. Eastern Kingbird
  6. Rusty Blackbird
  7. Brewer’s Blackbird
  8. Killdeer
  9. Broad-winged Hawk
  10. Cedar Waxwing
  11. Bobolink
  12. Barn Swallow
  13. Great Blue Heron
  14. Eastern Meadowlark
  15. Swainson’s Thrush
  16. Common Nighthawk
  17. Fish crow
  18. Indigo Bunting
  19. Savannah Sparrow
  20. Swamp Sparrow
  21. Palm Warbler
  22. Ruby-throated Hummingbird
  23. Bald Eagle
  24. Evening Grosbeak
  25. Mississippi Kite
  26. Baltimore Oriole
  27. Blackpoll Warbler
  28. Tennessee Warbler
  29. Rose-breasted Grosbeak
  30. Red Crossbill

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How many species of birds are in Tennessee?

There are 433 documented species of birds in Tennessee.

What kind of birds live in Tennessee?

Tennessee is home to many species of birds that range in size from small Song Birds to larger Water Birds and Birds of Prey. The most common of which include the Northern Cardinal (62% frequency), Carolina Chickadee (49% frequency), Carolina Wren (49% frequency), Great Blue Heron (23% frequency), Canada Goose (22% frequency), Turkey Vulture (20% frequency), Black Vulture (13% frequency) and the Red-tailed Hawk (12% frequency).

What are the two state birds of Tennessee?

The Two state birds of Tennessee are the Northern Mockingbird and the Northern Bobwhite Quail.

What Birds Of Prey Are In Tennessee?

Tennessee is home to many birds of prey species such as Falcons, Hawks, Eagles, Owls and Vultures. Some of the most common include the American Kestrel, Cooper’s Hawk, Red-shouldered Hawk, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Bald Eagle, Great Horned Owl, Barred Owl, Eastern Screech-Owl, black Vulture and the Turkey Vulture.

What Is The Most Common Backyard Bird In Tennessee?

The most common backyard bird in Tennessee is the Northern Cardinal. It also happens to be the most common feeder bird in Tennessee.

Keep An Eye Out For The Backyard Birds Of Tennessee

Birds are a joy to watch and can be very entertaining. The backyard birds of Tennessee are diverse and beautiful, and there is something for everyone to enjoy. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced birdwatcher, we hope this article has introduced you to some new species and given you some ideas about which ones to look out for in your backyard.

If you’re looking to venture out and do some birding, then visit one of Tennessee’s best hotspots for birdwatching. We would also love to hear about your favorite birdwatching spots or experiences in Tennessee.

If you have 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.

Thanks for reading!

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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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