Do you need help with bird identification in Alberta for birds that visit your backyard?
Get ID information and pictures to help with identifying these common backyard birds that you may spot.
American Robins and Red-winged Blackbirds are more common birds in summer in Alberta, and Black-capped Chickadees and Downy Woodpeckers are more birds common in winter in Alberta. More information about this can be found at the end of the article.
So if you’re ready to do some backyard birding, then read on to find out how to identify birds in Alberta and how to attract more birds to your yard.
Also, get free printable backyard birds of Alberta worksheets with pictures to help you identify and keep track of the birds that visit your backyard.
Top 28 backyard birds in Alberta
- Black-capped Chickadee
- American Robin
- American Crow
- Blue Jay
- Black-billed Magpie
- Downy Woodpecker
- House Sparrow
- Red-winged Blackbird
- Red-breasted Nuthatch
- White-breasted Nuthatch
- Yellow Warbler
- Tree Swallow
- Clay-colored Sparrow
- Northern Flicker
- Cedar Waxwing
- House Wren
- House Finch
- Dark-eyed Junco
- Yellow-rumped Warbler
- Rock Pigeon
- Hairy Woodpecker
- European Starling
- Chipping Sparrow
- Savannah Sparrow
- Brown-headed Cowbird
- American Goldfinch
- Song Sparrow
- White-throated Sparrow
Free Printable Backyard Birds Worksheet for Alberta
These free bird identification worksheets have all the common backyard birds in Alberta at different times of the year. So when you want to do some backyard birding, these handy guides have pictures and space to either tick off the types of birds you have seen or keep a tally of the total number of birds.
Top 28 backyard birds in Alberta
1. Black-capped Chickadee
The Black-capped Chickadee is a cute bird with a big round head and tiny body. These birds will happily feed at backyard feeders and investigate everything, including you!
They have black caps and beaks, white cheeks, and are gray on the back, wings, and tail.
They can be found in forests, open woods, parks. Black-capped Chickadees eat seeds, berries and insects, spiders, and suet.
Try suet, sunflower seeds, and peanuts or peanut butter to attract more Black-capped Chickadees to your backyard. They will even feed from your hand and are often one of the first birds to discover new feeders. They will also use nest boxes, especially if you fill them with wood shavings.
2. American Robin
American Robins are a common sight on lawns eating earthworms. They have black heads and back with red or orange breasts. They tend to roost in trees in winter, so you are more likely to see them in your backyard from spring.
American Robins can be found in many habitats, from woodlands, forests, mountains to fields, parks, and lawns. They eat earthworms, insects, snails, and fruit.
You can attract more American Robins to your yard with sunflower seeds, suet and peanut hearts, fruit, and mealworms. Platform feeders are best or food scattered on the ground. Also, try planting some native plants that produce berries, such as juniper, sumac, hawthorn, and dogwood.
3. American Crow
American crows are large all-black birds that make a hoarse, cawing sound. They are common birds found in most habitats, including treetops, woods, fields, beaches, or towns.
They eat most things and usually feed on the ground, eating earthworms, insects, seeds, and fruit. They also eat fish, young turtles, mussels, and clams and will even eat eggs and nestlings of many species of birds.
American Crows gather in large numbers of up to two million crows in winter to sleep in communal roosts.
You can attract more American Crows to your backyard by scattering peanuts but can become a nuisance as attracted by garbage or pet food if left out.
You can attract more American Crows to your backyard by scattering peanuts.
4. Blue Jay
Blue Jays are common songbirds with a blue upright crest, blue and black backs, and white undersides. They are noisy birds that travel in family groups eating acorns when available, and can migrate in large flocks along the Great Lakes and Atlantic coast.
They can be found in forests, mainly near oak, as they eat acorns. They can also be found in backyards near feeders. As well as acorns, they eat insects, nuts and seeds, and grain. They may also take eggs from nests or take nestlings
To attract more Blue Jays to your backyard, try peanuts, sunflower seeds, and suet, but they prefer these on tray feeders or hopper feeders on a post. They will also enjoy a birdbath.
5. Black-billed Magpie
Black-billed Magpies are black and white birds that are noisy. They have long tails and blue-green iridescent flashes in the wing and tail.
Black-billed Magpies live in northwestern US states and western Canada, and the coast of Alaska. They do not migrate.
They can be found in meadow and grasslands or other open areas feeding on fruit and grain, beetles, and grasshoppers. They have also been known to kill small mammals such as squirrels and voles and raid bird nests for eggs or nestlings and even carrion.
Black-billed Magpies will visit backyards for platform and suet feeders with black oil sunflower seeds, peanuts, fruit, suet, millet, and milo.
6. Downy Woodpecker
Downy Woodpeckers are small birds that are common at backyard feeders. They are often mixed in with other birds, such as chickadees and nuthatches.
They have black and white coloring with a red patch at the back of their heads. They look similar to the Hairy Woodpecker but smaller.
Downy woodpeckers can be found in woodlots, along streams, city parks, and backyards, and eat mainly insects, beetle larvae, berries, acorns, and grains.
To attract more Downy Woodpeckers to your backyard, try suet feeders, but they will also eat black oil sunflower seeds, millet, and peanuts on platform feeders.
7. House Sparrow
The House Sparrow is another introduced species that has done very well and is now one of the most common birds. They are found near houses and buildings and can be quite tame, so they may eat out of your hand.
They can be considered a pest as they are non-native but will be found in backyards even if you do not feed them. House Sparrows can be found in most busy areas, especially around cities, towns, farms, or anywhere there are people. They eat mostly grain and seed as well as discarded food.
You can attract more House Sparrows to your backyard feeders with most kinds of birdseed, including millet, corn, and sunflower seeds.
8. Red-winged Blackbird
Red-winged blackbirds are very common and easy to identify with the all-black coloring except for the bright red and yellow shoulder patches. The females are rather dull in comparison with streaky brown coloring.
Red-winged Blackbirds are resident over most of the US, but they may migrate after breeding from the far north. They can often be spotted sitting on telephone wires, and the males will fiercely defend their territories in the breeding season, even attacking people that get too close to nests. In winter, they roost in large numbers into the millions.
To attract more Red-winged blackbirds to your backyard, try mixed grain and seeds spread on the ground. They will also feed on large tube feeders or platform feeders.
9. Red-breasted Nuthatch
Red-breasted Nuthatches remain all year in northeastern and western states, Alaska and Canada but may move south across all of North America in winter if cone crops are poor.
They are blue-gray birds with black and white stripes on the head and a rusty underside.
Red-breasted Nuthatches can be found in coniferous woods foraging for cones, and they do visit backyard feeders.
You can attract more Red-breasted Nuthatches to your backyard with black oil sunflower seeds, suet feeders, peanuts, and mealworms.
10. White-breasted Nuthatch
White-breasted Nuthatches are active little birds that are gray-blue on the back and white on the face and belly, with a black cap. They will often have a chestnut color on the lower belly and under the tail.
They can be found in deciduous forests, woodland edges, parks, and yards with trees or at feeders. They mainly eat insects, including beetles and their larvae, caterpillars, ants, and also spiders.
White-breasted Nuthatches also eat seeds and nuts, including acorns, hawthorns, sunflower seeds, and sometimes corn crops.
They jam large nuts and acorns into tree bark and then whack them with their bills to open or ‘hatch’ them to get the seed out.
You can attract more White-breasted Nuthatches to your backyard with sunflower seeds and peanuts on tube feeders or suet feeders.
11. Yellow Warbler
Yellow Warblers are small bright yellow birds with a yellow-green back, and the males have chestnut streaks on the breast, which are a common sight in summer.
They migrate long distances and breed over most of Canada, Alaska, and Northern and Central US before heading into Central and northern South America for winter. They can be seen during migration in the southern US.
Yellow Warblers can be found along streams and wetlands in thickets and along the edges of fields foraging for insects, including caterpillars, midges, beetles, bugs, and wasps.
Warblers are hard to attract to your backyard as they are shy and eat mainly insects. To attract Yellow Warblers, you can try suet, oranges, peanut butter and plant berries and native plants that attract insects, so no pesticides or being too tidy! Birdbaths with fountains with secluded thickets nearby to provide protection.
12. Tree Swallow
Tree Swallows are small blue-green birds on the back and white below, with darker gray wings in the males. Females are browner in color.
Breeding over much of the US, Canada, and Alaska before migrating to the Gulf Coast, Florida, and Mexico and along the southern border. They can be seen during migration over southern states and can form huge flocks in the hundreds of thousands.
Tree Swallows can be found in wooded swamps, fields, marshes, and near water that provides the flying insects that they feed on.
To attract more Tree Swallows to your backyard, try nest boxes as they readily take to them.
13. Clay-colored Sparrow
These small, plain birds of the northern prairies and Great Plains have distinctive head markings which set them apart from other sparrows. They have a gray collar around their necks and long notched tails.
Clay-colored sparrows are the most common sparrow you can spot in summer in the northern prairies. They breed in Canada and the northern Great Plains before migrating south to south Texas and Mexico.
In summer, you can find them in shrubland, looking for seeds and leaf buds or the occasional insect.
14. Northern Flicker
Northern Flickers are large woodpeckers, between the size of a robin and a crow, with brownish coloring and black spots, bars, and crescents and red on the nape. The undersides of tail and wing feathers are bright yellow in eastern birds and red in western birds.
They can be found on the ground looking for ants and beetles in woods or forest edges. Those that breed in Canada or Alaska migrate to southern states, but otherwise, they can be found all year over the lower 48.
You can attract more Northern Flickers to your backyard feeders with suet and black oil sunflower seeds.
15. Cedar Waxwing
Cedar Waxwings are elegant social pale brown birds on the head, chest, and crest, which fades to gray on the back and wings and tail. Their belly is pale yellow, and there is bright yellow on the tip. They have a narrow black mask over their eyes and bright red on the wingtips.
They breed in Canada before heading to the southern US for winter. They are resident all year in northern US states. They make a high-pitched call and can be found in berry bushes, in woodlands, and along streams.
To attract Cedar Waxwings to your backyard, plant native trees and shrubs with small fruit such as serviceberry, dogwood, juniper, winterberry, and hawthorn. You can also try fruit on platform feeders.
16. House Wren
House Wrens are small nondescript brown birds with darker barred wings and tails and a paler throat. Breeding in most states before migrating to the far south and Mexico for winter.
House Wrens can be found in backyards, parks and open woods foraging for insects, and spiders, such as beetles, caterpillars, and earwigs in brush piles. They can often be found energetically hopping through tangles and low branches with their tails up, stopping to sing their cheerful song.
House Wrens are fierce for their size. When it comes to getting the best nest holes, they will often harass larger birds, sometimes dragging eggs or nestlings out of a nest site they want.
You can attract more House Wrens to your backyard by leaving piles of brush or putting up a nest box.
17. House Finch
House Finches have a red head and breast in the males and brown-streaked coloring in the females. Initially, only in western states they were introduced to the eastern states and have done very well, even pushing out the Purple Finch.
House finches can be found in parks, farms, forest edges, and backyard feeders. They can be found in noisy groups that are hard to miss. House finch feed on seeds, buds, and fruit, including thistle, cactus, cherries, apricots, plums, strawberries, blackberries, and figs.
You can attract more House Finches to backyard feeders with black oil sunflower seeds or nyjer seeds in tube feeders or platform feeders.
18. Dark-eyed Junco
Dark-eyed Juncos are sparrows that are different colors depending on the state. They are generally slate-colored in the east and black, white, and brown in the west.
They can be found in open and partially wooded areas, often on the ground, and are common across the continent. Some remain resident all year in the western US states and in the Appalachian Mountains. Those that breed in Canada and Alaska migrate south in winter to much of the United States.
You can attract more Dark-eyed Juncos to backyard feeders with a variety of seeds such as black oil sunflower seeds, nyjer, cracked corn, millet, and peanuts. Platform feeders or scattered on the ground are best.
19. Yellow-rumped Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warblers are gray with flashes of yellow on the face, sides, and rump and white in the wings. Females may be slightly brown, and winter birds are paler brown with bright yellow rumps and sides turning bright yellow and gray again in spring.
After breeding predominantly in Canada, they migrate in large numbers south across most of the southern and central states and the Pacific Coast, and throughout Mexico and Central America.
Yellow-rumped Warblers can be found in coniferous forests, especially during the breeding season. During winter, they can be found in open areas with fruiting shrubs. In summer, they eat insects primarily and on migration, and in winter, they mostly fruit, including bayberry and wax myrtle.
You can attract Yellow-rumped Warblers to your backyard with sunflower seeds, suet, raisins, and peanut butter.
20. Rock Pigeon
Rock Pigeons are blueish gray with two black bands on the wing and black on the tail tip. They have iridescent throat feathers and orange eyes.
They are common in cities but also visit backyards to find food on the ground. Some cities have ordinances against feeding pigeons as they are considered pests.
21. Hairy Woodpecker
The Hairy Woodpecker can be found across most of North America, except some of the far south. They have a small flash of red at the back of their heads but are predominantly black and white.
They are slightly larger than their look like the Downy Woodpecker and with a longer bill. They can be found in large trees and can be heard tapping if you listen for them.
Hairy Woodpecker’s diet is mostly insects, especially larvae of wood-boring beetles but also ants, beetles, bees, wasps, caterpillars, and spiders.
You can attract more Hairy Woodpeckers with suet feeders, but also peanut and black oil sunflower seeds, especially in winter.
22. European Starling
European Starlings are not native but are now one of the most numerous songbirds. They are stocky black birds with iridescent purple, green, and blue tones.
Considered a pest by some due to their aggressive behavior, these birds fly in large, noisy flocks and can be seen perched in groups on the top of trees or flying over fields in flocks.
Starlings eat predominantly insects, including beetles, flies and caterpillars, earthworms, and spiders. They also eat fruit, including cherries, holly berries, mulberries, Virginia Creeper, sumac, and blackberries, as well as grains and seeds.
You can attract more European Starlings to your backyard feeders with black oil sunflower seeds, suet, cracked corn, and peanuts.
Chipping Sparrows are slender, long-tailed birds with a grayish belly and brown and black-streaked back, with a rusty crown and black eye line. In winter, the colors are more subdued.
Breeding over much of North America and Canada then flying to Mexico and Florida or in the far south, they remain all year.
They can be found in small flocks on open ground and come to backyards for many kinds of birdseed.
24. Savannah Sparrow
If you get a close enough look, you will see this brown sparrow has a distinctive yellow patch by the eye. They have short tails and a streaky brown coloring.
The breed in Canada and the US before migrating to Southern States and Mexico. These birds do not regularly visit feeders, but they may visit your yard if you keep brush piles, have long grass, and live near fields.
They feed on insects and spiders in the breeding season and seeds in the winter.
25. Brown-headed Cowbird
Brown-headed Cowbird males are black-bodied and brown-headed Blackbirds with short tails and thick heads. Females are brown all over with slight streaking.
They are often considered a nuisance as they destroy the eggs of smaller songbirds so that they can lay their eggs in the nest and have the bird foster their chicks.
They breed in much of the north and west of North America before heading further south but remain all year in the Eastern and Southern states and Pacific Coast.
26. American Goldfnch
American Goldfinches are popular birds with the males bright yellow and black coloring in spring. The females are more dull brown, as are males in winter.
American Goldfinches breed in far northern states and Canada before migrating to southern states. They remain all year in the rest of the U.S.
They can be found in weedy fields and overgrown areas foraging for sunflower, thistle, and aster plants. They are also common in suburbs, parks, and backyards.
To attract more American Goldfinches to your backyard, try planting thistles and milkweed. They will visit most bird feeders and prefer sunflower seed and nyjer seed.
27. Song Sparrow
Song sparrows are not as remarkable as other backyard birds, but these predominantly brown-streaked birds use their almost constant song to attract mates in spring and summer.
They can be found in open, shrubby, and wet areas, often perched on a low shrub singing. They are often found at backyard feeders.
Song Sparrows eat a wide variety of insects and plants, including beetles, caterpillars, midges, spiders, and earthworms. They will also eat buckwheat, sunflower, raspberries, wild cherries, blackberries, wheat, and rice.
You can attract more song sparrows to your backyard feeders by putting black oil sunflower seeds, cracked corn, and nyjer on platform feeders.
28. White-throated Sparrow
White-throated Sparrows have a distinctive black and white striped head, bright white throat, and yellow between the eye and bill. Their backs are brown, and underneath is gray.
They are migratory birds, mainly breeding in Canada before heading south in winter to eastern and southern states and California. You can find White-throated Sparrows on the ground in forests and woods and along the edges of wooded areas, often in large flocks.
White-throated Sparrows diet is mainly seeds of grasses and weeds as well as fruits such as grape, sumac, mountain ash, blueberry, blackberry, and dogwood. They will also eat many insects from the forest floor, especially in summer.
You can attract White-throated Sparrows to your backyard feeders with millet and black oil sunflower seeds on platform feeders.
Common Birds at Different Times of Year in Alberta
The birds that are attracted to backyards in Alberta change throughout the year. The lists below show the backyard birds most commonly seen at different times of the year.
Notable differences show that American Robins, Red-winged Blackbirds, American Crows, Tree Swallows, and Yellow Warblers are more common in summer and Black-capped Chickadees, Downy Woodpeckers, and Blue Jays are more common in winter.
Common birds in Alberta all year
Black-billed Magpie 51%
Black-capped Chickadee 46%
American Robin 34%
American Crow 31%
House Sparrow 25%
Downy Woodpecker 23%
Northern Flicker 22%
Red-winged Blackbird 20%
Red-breasted Nuthatch 19%
Blue Jay 18%
Summer birds Alberta
American Robin 55%
Red-winged Blackbird 46%
American Crow 40%
Black-billed Magpie 38%
Tree Swallow 33%
Black-capped Chickadee 32%
Clay-colored Sparrow 26%
Yellow Warbler 26%
Savannah Sparrow 23%
Chipping Sparrow 23%
Winter birds Alberta
Black-billed Magpie 66%
Black-capped Chickadee 63%
Downy Woodpecker 37%
House Sparrow 33%
Blue Jay 27%
Red-breasted Nuthatch 26%
White-breasted Nuthatch 23%
Northern Flicker 21%
Common Redpoll 20%
House Finch 17%
Best Bird Feeders to Attract Birds in Alberta
A variety of different bird feeders will attract the most species of birds
- Tube Feeders can be filled with different types of birdseed and depending on the seed different birds will be attracted. Black oil sunflower seeds attract Goldfinches, Chickadees, Woodpeckers, Nuthatches, and Pine Siskins.
- Ground Feeders or a tray below a Tube Feeder with Black oil sunflowers tube feeders attract Cardinals, Jays, Finches, and Sparrows.
- Platform feeders with Millet or Corn attract small and medium-sized birds such as sparrows, Blackbirds, Towhees, Juncos, Doves, Grackles, and Starlings.
- Peanut feeders attract Woodpeckers, Chickadees, Nuthatches, Titmice, Jays, Juncos, Finches, and Sparrows.
- Suet Feeders are great, especially in winter, for Woodpeckers, Cardinals, Nuthatches, Kinglets, Wrens, and Chickadees.
- Hummingbird feeders attract these tiny fascinating birds but they also attract other birds too.
How to Attract Birds to Your Backyard in Alberta
If you would like to attract more birds to your yard in Alberta, here are some tips:
- Provide bird feeders for different types of birds to get the most species to visit your yard.
- Provide a water feature such as a birdbath fountain or stream. Ensure that the water is clean and not stagnant
- Grow native plants that will provide food and shelter. Plants, trees, and shrubs that provide fruit, berries, and nuts. Blackberries, wild grasses, elderberries, serviceberries, Oaks, Beeches, Cherries, sumacs, hemlocks, Purple Coneflowers, Sunflowers, Milkweed, Cardinal Flowers, Trumpet Honeysuckle, Virginia Creeper, Buttonbush, and Dogwoods.
- Let your grass grow long to provide cover and seeds.
- Leave a brush pile to provide food, protection, and nesting opportunities for birds.
- Don’t use pesticides and herbicides as these may be toxic to birds and prevent the natural foraging opportunities for insects and seeds that birds will seek in your yard.
- Set up nest boxes to attract breeding birds and ensure they are cleaned every year.
How to Identify Birds in Alberta
Here are some tips to help you identify birds:
- Size – Size is the easiest thing to notice about a bird. Birds are often measured in inches or centimeters in guide books. It’s best to take a note of the bird in terms of small, medium, or large to be able to look for it later. A small bird is about the size of a sparrow, a medium bird is about the size of a pigeon and a large bird is the size of a goose.
- Shape – Take note of the silhouette of the bird and jot it down or draw the outline. Look at tail length, bill shape, wing shape, and overall body shape.
- Color pattern – Take a note of the main color of the head, back, belly, and wings, and tail for the main color and then any secondary colors or patterns. Also take note of any patterns such as banding, spots, or highlights.
- Behavior – Are they on the ground or high up in the trees. Are they in flocks or on their own? Can you spot what they are eating?
- Habitat – Woodlands, parks, shrubs, grasslands or meadows, shore or marsh.
- Use a bird identification app such as those created by ebird or Audubon