Pennsylvania, also known as the Keystone State, has a good mixture of city life and wide open spaces. Despite large cities like Philadelphia and Pittsburg, the state is home to many rolling hills, mountains, forests, and valleys.
Its name comes from the Latin word “Sylvania,” which means woodland.
The natural, wooded parts of PA make it easy for hundreds of bird species to live and thrive in the state. Today, we’ll talk about the 17 most common types of birds in Pennsylvania.
How Many Species of Birds Are in PA?
According to the Pennsylvania Ornithological Records Committee (PORC), there are currently 435 recognized bird species in the state of Pennsylvania. This list was most recently updated in July 2020 and includes common, uncommon, rare, accidental, and extinct bird species.
What Is the Native Bird of Pennsylvania?
The official state bird of Pennsylvania is the Ruffed Grouse. The Ruffed Grouse is a specific type of bird that comes from the Grouse family, which is native to North America. This bird, also known as a partridge, is a hardy bird that thrives during the winter months.
Most Common Birds of Pennsylvania
Although there are over 400 bird species in PA, we can quickly learn a little bit about some of the most common birds in the state. Here are 17 of the most common bird types in Pennsylvania:
- Northern Cardinal
- Blue Jay
- American Goldfinch
- Song Sparrow
- Mourning Dove
- American Robin
- Downy Woodpecker
- Scott’s Oriole
- Snow Goose
- Red-winged Blackbird
- Western Tanager
- American Woodcock
- Trumpeter Swan
- House Finch
- American Crow
- Gray Catbird
- European Starling
We’ll take a look at some identifying characteristics of each of these PA bird species. If you live in the area, you may be able to recognize a few of them in your backyard.
1. Northern Cardinal
The Northern Cardinal is a bird that most people recognize by its bright red feathers. Although only the males are brightly colored, it is their distinguishing feature.
Cardinals are prevalent in Pennsylvania and thrive in habitats like woodland edges, thickets, and suburban areas. The male bird can protect his nests, mate, and territory aggressively.
2. Blue Jay
Another bird species known for its brilliant color, the Blue Jay is a large songbird with blue, black, and white plumage. Blue Jays are known for being quite intelligent. They appreciate family bonds and display many social traits.
Blue Jays are also known for having loud, noisy calls.
3. American Goldfinch
The American Goldfinch tops off the perfect trio of bold-colored birds to start our PA list. You can recognize this species by its brilliant yellow feathers accompanied by black wings and a black forehead.
Male Goldfinches become a brighter yellow when mating, while non-breeding males are mainly brown with yellow heads.
4. Song Sparrow
If you’re looking for a species with a beautiful song, the Song Sparrow is it. Though this small bird looks average from the outside, it boasts a loud, beautiful call composed of three or four notes.
Male Song Sparrows can sing up to 24 variations of their notes – songs that the females find endearing. You can commonly find Song Sparrows in PA backyards. Note their white bellies and brown flecks.
5. Mourning Dove
Another bird common in Pennsylvania is the Mourning Dove. Appearance-wise, Mourning Doves look very similar to any average dove, sporting smooth feathers and a long, thin tail.
Though some simply like to appreciate the bird’s song, it is the most widespread game bird in North America.
6. American Robin
The American Robin is a classic staple in American ornithology. Not only can you find it in open woodlands in Pennsylvania, but you can probably spot one on the front lawn of every suburban home in America.
Robins have red-orange breasts surrounded by gray-brown feathers. They have a typical orange beak and a lovely, welcoming song.
7. Downy Woodpecker
Downy Woodpeckers are not only common in PA; they’re also prevalent throughout North America. Most people can identify a Downy Woodpecker before they see it, and that’s because of the loud banging noise they make when they peck into tree trunks for food.
Male Downy Woodpeckers have black wings with white dots, white breasts, and a black and white head. They are distinguishable from females by the bright red nap on the back of their heads.
8. Scott’s Oriole
Though another bird with bright yellow and black coloring, the Scott’s Oriole is not to be confused with the Goldfinch. The Oriole boasts a lemon-yellow breast, but its head, wings, and back are all black.
The Scott’s Oriole feeds mainly on insects and floral nectar. It often travels and forages in family groups in the foothills of PA mountains and deserts.
9. Snow Goose
Unlike the average backyard PA bird, the Snow Goose is a member of the ducks and geese family. It’s a larger, migratory bird known for its long, slender neck and massive white wings.
You can see Snow Geese in Pennsylvania during their migration period, which happens during the winter. Their paths generally cross the eastern side of the state.
10. Red-winged Blackbird
The Red-winged Blackbird is a small, stocky species of bird with males and females that couldn’t look more different.
The male bird is black from head to tail, minus its shoulder, boasting a bold red and yellow patch. The female has a broader back and is brown with a yellowish face.
These birds love being near fresh and saltwater marshes.
11. Western Tanager
The Western Tanager is one of the more beautiful birds in Pennsylvania. Its black tail and wings pose a stark difference to its bright-yellow body that fades into an orange-red head.
The stable population enjoys mixed forest settings, particularly during the breeding season.
12. American Woodcock
Many of the neighborhood PA birds have similar body shapes, but the American Woodcock is unique in its own right. The bird has short legs, a fluffy body, and a very long, thin beak. But the bird is small – about the size of a Robin.
Woodcocks have excellent natural camouflage as their feathers are several shades of brown, black, and gray.
13. Trumpeter Swan
One of the most majestic birds you can find in PA is the Trumpeter Swan. This large, white bird features a long, curving neck and a stark, black beak.
It spends much of its time floating in the water, using the length of its neck to find vegetation beneath the surface for food.
14. House Finch
The House Finch is a part of the true Finch family and is a very small bird that often weighs less than one ounce. While both the males and females have light brown feathers sprinkled with shades of white and dark brown, only the males have red accents around their heads.
This gorgeous color is even bolder and brighter when the males feed on berries and bright-colored fruit.
15. American Crow
American Crows are not the most beloved of PA birds, but they are one of the most prevalent. This species is known for its all-black feathers, accompanied by its haunting caw. Crows only become darker in color as they age, too.
16. Gray Catbird
The Gray Catbird is a fairly uninteresting bird, as its body shape resembles many other common species like robins. It has a gray body with a long tail that has a splash of orange under it.
But what is fascinating about this bird is that its call closely resembles the mewing of a cat – hence its name.
17. European Starling
The European Starling is another stunning PA bird that makes quite the impression. Its black feathers are sleek and glossy, but they feature a metallic sheen that turns them into a rainbow of colors.
They also have the unique ability to mimic up to 20 other species of birds’ calls.
You probably already knew about Pennsylvania’s rolling farmlands and famous sites of American history, but now you can say you know a little bit about its wildlife.
These birds of Pennsylvania are very common and come with beautiful sounds and colors. See which ones you recognize in your backyard!