What Birds Am I Likely to See?

By Bird Watcher’s Digest Staff


More than 2,000 bird species have been reported in North America, but “only” 700-some species are regulars—regularly found here at some time of the year. But only a fraction of those have been found where you live, and even fewer are likely to be encountered. So which bird species are the most common where you live? In other words, how can you find out which birds you are likely to see in your area?


 Canada goose
Canada geese are found across most of the Lower 48 throughout the 
year, although the population that breeds in Canada and the northernmost
states migrates south for the coldest months. Canada geese in the 
southernmost states are winter visitors, migrating north in the spring
to nest. Photo from Wiki Commons


You probably realize that some are more common than others, and that some species are found only in certain regions of the country, or in specific habitats, such as in deserts or near the ocean. You probably also know that some bird species are in your neighborhood all year long, but some species head south for the winter, and some that nest farther north or at higher elevations turn up in your area to spend the winter. So, the species you are most likely to see depends upon where you live and the season.

Some birds can be found across the continent, or nearly so, and are usually fairly common throughout the year:

  • Canada goose
  • Great blue heron
  • Red-tailed hawk
  • Turkey vulture
  • Mourning dove
  • Rock pigeon
  • Downy woodpecker
  • Northern flicker
  • American crow
  • Chickadee (black-capped or Carolina)
  • White-breasted nuthatch
  • Carolina or Bewick’s wren
  • American robin
  • European starling
  • Song sparrow
  • Red-winged blackbird
  • House finch
  • House sparrow

That’s a good starter list. If you are unfamiliar with any of these birds, you’d be wise to check them out in a field guide. You are likely to see these birds, but you might well see a bird that isn’t one of these. If you live in, say, Phoenix, Gambel’s quail might be a common visitor to your feeder. That would be unheard of in Philadelphia. On the other hand, red-bellied woodpeckers turn regularly at bird feeders in the East, but never in the far western states. Dark-eyed juncos are super common throughout the year in some locations, but in others, they visit only in winter.

So, how do you go about finding out what birds you are most likely to see right now where you live?

Go to ebird.org/explore. See the box under “Explore Regions” that says “Enter a region”? Type the name of your county into that box. For example: Washington, OH, or Maricopa, AZ. Then press <enter> or <return>. If you’re using a desktop or laptop computer or a tablet, look for “Bar Charts” in the left (blue) column, and click on that. Or, if you’re using a smartphone, click on “>Region navigation,” and scroll down to click on “Bar Charts.”


 eBird bar chart
Here’s a screen grab of the top few rows of an eBird bar chart showing
birds seen in Maricopa County, Arizona, by month, and how common or rare
they are. Note that winter months seem to be the best time to find a variety of
geese in the Phoenix area.


This chart shows all the species ever recorded in that county and how common they are in each month of the year. Personally, I enjoy looking at the bar chart for my county and have visited this webpage many times. It’s fun to see which rare species have been seen here and when. It’s inspiring to see which species that are commonly reported nearby are personal rarities.

Just so you know: eBird is a global database of bird sightings. As you become a better and more experienced birder, you can contribute to citizen science by reporting your bird sightings to eBird! It is free to use, and even the app (for data entry) is free.

Cornell Lab of Ornithology also makes a free app, Merlin, which helps you identify birds you see, and you will benefit from getting into the habit of trying to match a bird you’ve seen with images in a field guide (a book or an app).


American robin 
Most Americans can identify this bird species. It is an American robin,
and it resides throughout the year in most of the Lower 48. The summer
 breeding population of robins in Alaska and Canada migrates south for the
coldest months, and it is a winter-only visitor in some areas of the
southernmost states. Photo from Wiki Commons


Finally, a great way—perhaps the best way—to learn about the birds in your area is by hanging out with more experienced birders. See if you can find out if there’s a bird club near where you live and if they have a schedule of outings or other programs. Bird clubs love new members and enjoy sharing their enthusiasm for birding with those new to it. 


 Red-winged blackbirds
The red-winged blackbird is a common bird at various seasons throughout all
both the northernmost areas of North America.  Photo from Wiki Commons.