Idaho boasts a diverse array of wild bird species. This article will explore some of the state’s well-known and easily identifiable birds. While some of these birds call Idaho home throughout the year, others are migratory, residing in the Gem State only part-time. The focus here is on 24 backyard birds in Idaho, providing insights into each species.
Following that, I’ll guide you on ways to attract these birds to your yard, offer a brief overview of the ten types of bird feeders suitable for this purpose, and highlight a few Idaho birdwatching hotspots.
How many wild bird species inhabit Idaho?
Determining the precise number of bird species in North America, the United States, or even Idaho proves challenging. Wikipedia suggests a minimum of 432 bird species officially documented in Idaho. Discrepancies in other sources state 2,059 species in North America, with an older reference citing just 914. While these numbers may not be entirely reliable, they provide a general sense of the diversity of bird species.
For the scope of this article, we’ll focus on some of the more commonly observed species, particularly those frequenting backyards in Idaho.
24 BACKYARD BIRDS IN IDAHO
Below, we’ll delve into 24 species of backyard birds in Idaho, encompassing both year-round residents and seasonal visitors. While this list is by no means exhaustive, it includes some of the more prominent and easily recognizable backyard birds in Idaho. Without further ado, let’s explore!
Scientific Name: Sitta canadensis
Length: 4.3 inches
Weight: 0.3-0.5 ounces
Wingspan: 7.1-7.9 inches
These diminutive nuthatches showcase a dark gray back, with a chest and belly ranging from boldly colored to pale rusty hues. Their face is strikingly marked in black and white stripes. These lively birds are often spotted swiftly moving around on tree trunks and branches, foraging for insects beneath the bark. They establish nests in tree cavities, and interestingly, they readily adopt backyard nest boxes.
In Idaho, Red-breasted Nuthatches can be found throughout the year. However, their population tends to shift depending on food availability, with a tendency to migrate to other states during winters when conifer seeds are less abundant.
These nuthatches easily visit feeders. Providing sunflower seeds, peanuts, or suet is likely to attract them.
Scientific Name: Zonotrichia leucophrys
Length: 5.9-6.3 inches
Weight: 0.9-1.0 ounce
Wingspan: 8.3-9.4 inches
White-crowned sparrows spend their summers in the far north, residing in Canada and Alaska, and migrate south across the United States during the winter. Distinguished by a bold black and white striped head, the rest of their face, chest, and belly maintain a plain buffy brown-gray. Their preferred foraging grounds include fields, as well as the edges of roads and trails. While they do visit bird feeders, they often stay on the ground to pick up spilled seeds.
In Idaho, the presence of white-crowned sparrows varies seasonally. Some regions, especially in the north and along the Montana border, host them only in spring and summer. In contrast, in other areas, they might be present year-round or exclusively in the winter in southern sections.
White-crowned sparrows readily visit feeders and prefer sunflower, millet, and mixed seed blends.
Scientific Name: Turdus migratorius
Length: 7.9-11.0 inches
Weight: 2.7-3.0 ounces
Wingspan: 12.2-15.8 inches
Commonly observed in backyards, Robins are often seen hopping on the grass, searching for worms and other invertebrates. While they occasionally visit bird feeders, their diet typically excludes seeds. Their distinctive features include bright red, round bellies, and yellow beaks.
Robins are year-round residents in Idaho, though they may be less frequent visitors during the winter.
American Robins infrequently visit bird feeders, so attracting them involves offering mealworms, native fruit-bearing plants, leaf-litter for foraging, or a bird bath.
Scientific Name: Zenaida macroura
Length: 9.1-13.4 inches
Weight: 3.0-6.0 ounces
Wingspan: 17.7 inches
Similar in size to a robin, Mourning Doves are a common sight in backyards, often perched on telephone wires or congregating in trees. While they occasionally visit tray feeders, they prefer hanging out beneath feeders to pick up fallen seeds. Mourning Doves exhibit mostly gray plumage with black spots on top and a pale peachy color below. Noteworthy are their pale blueish-gray eye ring and pink legs.
Mourning Doves are present throughout the year in Idaho.
These doves frequently visit seed feeders but favor scouring the ground for fallen seeds. Using a ground feeder with a mixed seed blend or scattering seeds on the ground is an effective way to attract them.
Scientific Name: Sturnus vulgaris
Length: 7.9-9.1 inches
Weight: 2.1-3.4 ounces
Wingspan: 12.2-15.8 inches
Originally introduced in New York in the 1890s, 100 starlings have since proliferated and become widespread across the country. Notoriously, they disrupt other birds’ nests, kill their young, and dominate feeders, depriving other birds of food. While appearing mostly dark with white specks on their backs and wings, they exhibit iridescence, displaying shades of purple and green in the right lighting.
Unfortunately, starlings are present year-round in all 48 lower states, including Idaho.
European Starlings consume a wide variety of foods but have a particular fondness for suet. Due to their invasive nature, attracting them is discouraged, although they may show up regardless.
Scientific Name: Spinus tristis
Length: 4.3-5.1 inches
Weight: 0.4-0.7 ounces
Wingspan: 7.5-8.7 inches
Goldfinches are a delight to observe at feeders, especially when adorned with bright yellow feathers in the Spring and Summer. Breeding males feature predominantly yellow or “gold” plumage, with black-tipped wings and a black cap on top of their heads. Females and juveniles are less vividly yellow, lacking the black cap. During winter, they molt, exhibiting more subdued brownish or olive colors. Recognizable features include the black on their wings and finch-like beaks.
American Goldfinches are year-round residents in Idaho, with a heightened presence in the summer.
Goldfinches prefer thistle feeders but may also consume sunflower chips. Using a thistle feeder increases the likelihood of attracting them.
Scientific Name: Melospiza melodia
Length: 4.7-6.7 inches
Weight: 0.4-1.9 ounces
Wingspan: 7.1-9.4 inches
Song Sparrows, predominantly brown on the back and wings with pronounced brown streaks on a white breast, are widespread throughout most of North America. Their plumage exhibits regional variations. Male Song Sparrows use their songs both to attract females and defend their territory.
Song Sparrows are present year-round throughout Idaho. Occasionally, they may visit bird feeders, where they enjoy mixed seeds and sunflower seeds.
Scientific Name: Pica hudsonia
Length: 17.7-23.6 inches
Weight: 5.1-7.4 ounces
Wingspan: 22.1-24.0 inches
The striking Black-Billed Magpie boasts the size of a crow but the distinctive features of a jay. With a black head, chest, and back, bright white shoulders and sides, and metallic blue along their wings, they captivate observers. Known for their varied diet, including fruit, grain, insects, small mammals, carrion, and eggs, they are even seen picking through the hair of large mammals like moose or deer for ticks. These social birds are often found perched in trees or on fence posts and are known for their loud, group vocalizations.
Black-Billed Magpies are year-round residents in Idaho. While they prefer open rangeland, they may visit backyards attracted by sunflower seeds, peanuts on a platform feeder, suet, or fruit such as orange halves.
Scientific Name: Setophaga petechia
Length: 4.7-5.1 inches
Weight: 0.3-0.4 ounces
Wingspan: 6.3-7.9 inches
True to its name, the Yellow Warbler is entirely yellow, with a brighter chest and head and a slightly darker, olive yellow back. Males feature reddish-brown streaking on their chest. Thriving in thickets and small trees near wetlands or streams, they are most commonly found during the spring and summer in Idaho.
Yellow Warblers, being insect eaters, don’t visit bird feeders. Attracting them involves planting small trees supporting caterpillars.
Scientific Name: Bombycilla cedrorum
Length: 5.5-6.7 inches
Weight: 1.1 ounces
Wingspan: 8.7-11.8 inches
Easily distinguishable by their unique coloring, Cedar Waxwings feature a tawny brown head and chest, yellow belly, dark gray wings, and a yellow-tipped short tail. A dramatic black eye mask rimmed in white and small red, waxy nubs at the tips of their wings add to their charm. Thriving on fruit, they are one of the few North American birds that can subsist on fruit alone for extended periods, although they supplement their diet with insects and other foods.
Cedar Waxwings are present in Idaho year-round. These birds don’t feed from seed feeders, but they can be attracted to yards with native trees and shrubs producing small fruits and berries.
Scientific Name: Corvus brachyrhynchos
Length: 15.8-20.9 inches
Weight: 11.2-21.9 ounces
Wingspan: 33.5-39.4 inches
Solid black in color and notable for their size, American Crows are renowned for their high intelligence and problem-solving abilities, akin to their cousin, the raven. They roost in large groups high in tree tops, providing a bird’s eye view of their surroundings. If danger, such as an owl or hawk, is detected, the roost communicates to alert others.
American Crows are found year-round throughout Idaho. Due to their omnivorous nature, they generally do not visit bird feeders, given their large size.
Scientific Name: Junco hyemalis
Length: 5.5-6.3 inches
Weight: 0.6-1.1 ounces
Wingspan: 7.1-9.8 inches
Often associated with winter, Dark-Eyed Juncos spend their summers in Canada. With a round shape and a pale pink beak, their feather coloration varies across the United States. In Idaho, both the “Oregon” and “Pink-sided” varieties can be found. They share a dark head and brown back, with Oregon Juncos featuring a light buffy breast and Pink-sided Juncos displaying pink sides. Females, while similar, may have overall duller colors. Preferring forests and wooded areas, they are commonly seen hopping on the ground.
Dark-Eyed Juncos stay in Idaho year-round. The Oregon variety is more prevalent in the northern half of the state, while the pink-sided variety is typically found in the southeastern corner.
Juncos may occasionally visit feeders but prefer eating seeds on the ground, often picking up spilled seeds directly under bird feeders.
Scientific Name: Agelaius phoeniceus
Length: 6.7-9.1 inches
Weight: 1.1-2.7 ounces
Wingspan: 12.2-15.8 inches
One of North America’s most abundant birds, male Red-winged Blackbirds are easily identifiable by their red and yellow “shoulders” against their black bodies. In contrast, females are predominantly brown with light streaks. This species is polygynous, with males having multiple mates, up to 15 in some cases. At times, they may appear in flocks at feeders, consuming seeds rapidly.
Red-winged Blackbirds are present year-round in Idaho.
They readily visit various feeders, consuming both seed and suet.
Scientific Name: Spinus pinus
Length: 4.3-5.5 inches
Weight: 0.4-0.6 ounces
Wingspan: 7.1-8.7 inches
Pine Siskins, small members of the finch family with pointed beaks, feature brown and white streaks. Resembling female house finches, Pine Siskins always exhibit yellow hues along their wings and tail sides. Nomadic in nature, they move erratically each winter, following good seed crops, particularly conifer seeds.
Pine Siskins are found year-round in most areas of Idaho, with a higher likelihood in winter in the southwest.
They readily visit nyjer (thistle) feeders and may also consume millet or hulled sunflower.
Scientific Name: Poecile atricapillus
Length: 4.7-5.9 inches
Weight: 0.3-0.5 ounces
Wingspan: 6.3-8.3 inches
Tiny and easily recognizable, Chickadees have rounded bodies with a distinctive “black cap” and bib. White cheeks, blackish-gray wings, and fluffy, light underbodies further define them.
Common at bird feeders, Chickadees are bold and often among the first visitors to new feeders in Idaho year-round.
They frequent most seed feeders, enjoying mixed seed blends and black sunflower seeds.
Scientific Name: Hirundo rustica
Length: 5.9-7.5 inches
Weight: 0.6-0.7 ounces
Wingspan: 11.4-12.6 inches
Barn Swallows, inhabitants of open fields, boast a dark blue back, orange accents between the eyes and on the throat, and a breast and belly ranging from light tawny to bright orange. Recognizable by their long, deeply forked tail, they are agile fliers that swoop and cruise over water, fields, farms, and meadows to catch airborne insects.
Migrating to the U.S. for breeding, Barn Swallows are found throughout Idaho during spring and summer.
Due to their insect-based diet, they do not visit bird feeders. Attracting them can involve providing nest boxes or access to barns, outbuildings, or gazebos.
Scientific Name: Haemorhous mexicanus
Length: 5.1-5.5 inches
Weight: 0.6-0.9 ounces
Wingspan: 7.9-9.8 inches
The House Finch is a common backyard bird in Idaho, originally native to the western half of the United States. Despite their widespread presence across the country, they may gather in large flocks at feeders if attracted. Males exhibit streaked brown coloring with some red on the head and chest, while females are entirely brown.
House Finches are frequently observed in Idaho, although they may be less common in the eastern part of the state and along the Montana border.
Similar to other finches, House Finches are attracted to thistle feeders and are often seen at seed feeders, particularly enjoying black sunflower seeds.
Scientific Name: Passer domesticus
Length: 5.9-6.7 inches
Weight: 0.9-1.1 ounces
Wingspan: 7.5-9.8 inches
Often considered pests, House Sparrows are one of the few wild bird species in the U.S. that can be legally trapped and humanely killed. Introduced in the 1800s, they have proliferated rapidly, resembling mostly brown birds with black and brown streaking on their wings and a buffy chest. Aggressive and territorial, they tend to evict other birds from nesting sites, displaying a preference for areas with human activity.
House Sparrows are widespread throughout Idaho, especially in areas with human presence.
Similar to European Starlings, House Sparrows are invasive and will consume a wide range of food types.
Scientific Name: Euphagus cyanocephalus
Length: 8.3-9.8 inches
Weight: 2.1-3.0 ounces
Wingspan: 14.6 inches
Common in the western U.S., Brewer’s Blackbirds are often found foraging on the ground or perched on trees and utility lines. Males display a dark appearance with iridescent blue, purple, and green hues, while females are brown with a black eye. Social birds, they are frequently seen in small groups and nest in colonies of 100 or more.
Brewer’s Blackbirds are year-round residents throughout Idaho.
They will visit bird feeders, but due to their size, prefer platform feeders or seed scattered on the ground. Most seed mixes, especially those with sunflower, cracked corn, and millet, are suitable.
Scientific Name: Streptopelia decaocto
Length: 11.4-11.8 inches
Weight: 4.9-6.3 ounces
Wingspan: 13.8 inches
Native to parts of Europe and Asia, the Eurasian Collared-Dove made its way to the U.S. during the 1970s, believed to have originated from escaped birds in the Bahamas. Resembling a Mourning Dove but with a chunkier body and longer tail, they lack the black spots on their back and feature a plain back with a black stripe across their neck.
The Eurasian Collared-Dove is present in Idaho year-round.
These doves frequent backyards, consuming seeds and grain, often from platform feeders or scattered on the ground. They particularly enjoy millet.
Scientific Name: Junco hyemalis
Length: 5.5-6.3 inches
Weight: 0.6-1.1 ounces
Wingspan: 7.1-9.8 inches
Dark-eyed Juncos are commonly associated with winter in the U.S., spending their summers in Canada. These small, round birds with pale pink beaks display varying feather coloration across the United States. In Idaho, both the “Oregon” variety and the “Pink-sided” variety are found. While both share a dark head and brown back, the Oregon variant has a light buffy breast, while the pink-sided variant features pink sides. Females resemble males but may have duller overall coloring. Found in forests and wooded areas, Juncos are often seen hopping around on the ground.
Dark-eyed Juncos stay in Idaho throughout the year, with the Oregon coloration being more prevalent in the northern half and the pink-sided variety in the southeastern corner of the state.
Although Juncos occasionally visit feeders, they prefer ground-feeding, frequently picking up spilled seeds beneath bird feeders.
Scientific Name: Spizella passerina
Length: 4.7-5.9 inches
Weight: 0.4-0.6 ounces
Wingspan: 8.3 inches
Chipping Sparrows showcase their crispest feathers in the summer, featuring a buffy gray breast, brown and tan streaked wings, a rusty red cap, and a black line through the eye with white above. In winter, their markings may appear less defined, and their coloring more buffy-brown. Common sparrows, they prefer open ground for feeding.
Chipping Sparrows are found throughout Idaho only during the spring and summer.
These sparrows are frequent visitors to backyard feeders, often staying on the ground to pick up spilled seeds. Attract them with sunflower and mixed seeds, especially scattered on the ground.
Scientific Name: Piranga Iudoviciana
Length: 6.3-7.5 inches
Weight: 0.8-1.3 ounces
The male Western Tanager is easily recognizable with a bright orange face, contrasting with bright yellow chest and back alongside black wings. Females are typically duller, appearing more olive-yellow with gray wings and lacking the orange face. Common in woods, especially among conifer forests, they primarily feed on insects plucked from foliage at the tops of trees.
Western Tanagers can be found throughout Idaho during the spring and summer breeding season.
Not frequenting seed feeders, Western Tanagers can be attracted with dried fruit or fresh oranges. A bird bath or water feature may also draw them to your yard.
Scientific Name: Molothrus ater
Length: 7.5 – 8.7 inches
Weight: 1.5 – 1.8 ounces
Wingspan: 12.6 – 15.0 inches
Brown-headed Cowbirds, often associated with blackbirds, travel in large flocks and may mob feeders. Males exhibit an iridescent black body with a dark brown head, while females are a lighter brown overall. Unfortunately, they are nest parasites, laying eggs in the nests of other birds, which can harm other species.
Cowbirds are found in Idaho only during the spring and summer.
Readily visiting feeders, Brown-headed Cowbirds will consume various mixed seeds.
Scientific Name: Colaptes auratus
Length: 11.0-12.2 inches
Weight: 3.9-5.6 ounces
Wingspan: 16.5-20.1 inches
Medium to large-sized woodpeckers, Northern Flickers are colorful birds commonly found in U.S. backyards. They feed mainly on insects and often forage on the ground. Identified by black spots on their bellies, a solid black bib, barred black and gray wings, and a brown face on a gray head, males have a red “mustache” absent in females. Idaho hosts the “red-shafted” variety, characterized by bright red feathers on the underside of their wings and tail.
Northern Flickers are common throughout Idaho all year.
While not frequenting feeders like other woodpeckers, they will visit suet feeders. Observing them digging for bugs may occur in yards with leaf piles.
Bird Watching in Idaho
Idaho offers fantastic opportunities for birdwatching, with diverse landscapes and a variety of bird species. If you’re an enthusiast looking to explore beyond your backyard, the Audubon Society in Idaho organizes meetups, workshops, field trips, and birding tours, providing a great way to deepen your involvement.
For Idaho residents eager to expand their life list, here are some popular birding locations in the state:
Learn more about each location and its offerings from birdwatchersdigest.org
How to Attract Birds to Your Yard
If you’re keen on bringing the beauty of birds to your backyard, follow these simple tips to create an inviting haven for our feathered friends:
- Put Out Bird Feeders:
- Start by placing bird feeders in your yard. Consider options like tube feeders, hopper feeders, platform feeders, or window feeders. Each attracts different species, so choose based on your preferences and the birds in your region.
- Add a Water Source:
- Provide birds with a water source, as they need it not just for bathing but also for drinking. A pedestal birdbath or a simple terra cotta flower pot saucer can serve this purpose. Enhance the appeal with a solar fountain, as moving water attracts birds even more.
- Offer Birdhouses:
- Invite birds to make your yard their home by putting up birdhouses. Choose birdhouse designs suitable for the species you wish to attract. Eastern Bluebirds, for example, readily inhabit birdhouses, especially if strategically placed.
- Provide Shelter:
- Ensure your yard has trees, bushes, and shrubs that offer shelter. Birds rely on these natural features to escape predators. If your yard lacks mature trees, incorporate landscaping features that create safe spaces for birds to rest and nest.
- Add Native Plants:
- Opt for native plants that produce nuts, berries, and seeds, as these are natural food sources for many birds. Native plants are preferable, as they support local ecosystems and are familiar to native bird species. Avoid invasive and non-native plants, as they may pose risks to local bird populations.
By implementing these tips, you’ll not only attract a diverse array of birds but also contribute to creating a bird-friendly environment. Keep in mind the specific preferences of the birds in your region, and enjoy the beauty and melodies they bring to your backyard.
10 VARIETIES OF AVIAN DINING STATIONS
Presented here are 10 commonly employed avian dining stations that people establish in their outdoor spaces.
- Hopper Feeder: Named for the central compartment, or “hopper,” that contains bird seed, hopper feeders resemble houses with side perches for birds. Often covered on top to shield the seed from the elements, these feeders are ideal for black sunflower seeds or mixed birdseed. Some, like my preferred one, are also squirrel-proof.
- Platform Feeder: Also known as tray feeders, these open-top feeders can be hung from trees, hooks, or poles. Suitable for a variety of birds, they are simple to set up but susceptible to any yard-dwelling creature that can reach them. Black sunflower seeds or mixed birdseed work well, and I currently have one in my backyard.
- Tube Feeder: Clear plastic tube-shaped feeders ranging in size from a few cups to over 5 lbs are excellent for keeping seed fresh and dry. Various birds use tube feeders, and they can be filled with black sunflower seeds or mixed seeds. Notably, Squirrel Buster offers reliable, squirrel-proof tube feeders.
- Suet Feeder: Designed specifically for suet cakes, these feeders consist of a wire cage, sometimes with a tail-prop for larger birds. Popular in winter for high-fat foods, they often attract woodpeckers. Consider a suet feeder with a long tail prop to attract larger woodpeckers like the Pileated and Northern Flicker.
- Window Feeder: Small feeders that attach to glass windows via suction cups, these are similar to tray feeders. Ideal for those with limited space, they are easy to start with and attract various bird types. Use black sunflower seeds or mixed birdseed. One of the most popular window feeders on Amazon is also a top choice overall.
- Thistle Feeder: Tailored for thistle seeds, these tube-shaped feeders with small holes along the sides attract finch family birds like the American Goldfinch and House Finch. A recommended thistle feeder is available from Droll Yankees.
- Ground Feeder: Positioned at ground level, these tray feeders are favored by birds like Mourning Doves and Juncos, as well as ground-dwelling animals. Suitable for black sunflower seeds or mixed birdseed, recycled plastic ground feeders are available.
- Oriole Feeder: Specifically designed for orioles, these orange-colored feeders often feature plastic or glass dishes for holding jelly, a favorite of orioles. They also allow attachment of orange halves. A straightforward oriole feeder with jelly trays for orange halves is available.
- Hummingbird Feeder: Also known as nectar feeders, these are crafted for hummingbirds to extract sugar water. While designed for hummingbirds, other birds, like Downy Woodpeckers, may also be attracted. Making hummingbird nectar without boiling water is explained in this article.
- Peanut Feeder: Resembling thistle feeders, peanut feeders have wider mesh holes for whole unshelled or shelled peanuts. Attracting birds like Blue Jays, Squirrel Buster offers a reliable squirrel-proof option, while a simple one is also effective.