Top 20 Backyard Birds in Illinois (Free Picture ID Printable)

Mourning Dove

Have you wondered what those birds are that are visiting your backyard in Illinois? Do you need help identifying common backyard birds in Illinois?

There is a great joy in putting up bird feeders and watching what comes to visit but it gets better if you know who they are. Well, now you can find out what are the most common birds in Illinois that visit feeders or hop across your lawn.

So if you’re ready to do some backyard birding in Illinois then read on to find out how to identify birds and how to attract more birds to your yard.

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Also, get free printable backyard bird worksheets with pictures for Illinois to help you identify and keep track of the birds that visit your backyard.

20 Most common backyard birds in Illinois:

  1. Northern Cardinal
  2. American Robin
  3. Dark-eyed Junco
  4. Mourning Dove
  5. Song Sparrow
  6. American Goldfinch
  7. Red-winged Blackbird
  8. House Wren
  9. Common Yellowthroat​
  10. European Starling​
  11. American Crow​
  12. Common Grackle​
  13. Indigo Bunting​
  14. House Sparrow​
  15. Downy Woodpecker​
  16. Black-capped Chickadee​
  17. American Tree Sparrow
  18. Blue Jay​
  19. Gray Catbird
  20. House Finch

These are the most common backyard birds in Illinois that may visit your lawn or feeders.  They are the birds that appear most frequently on state checklists on ebird and the data is a combination of backyard birds most frequently spotted in summer (June and July) and winter (December and January). Find out more about the winter birds in Illinois.

This data mix ensures that whatever time of year you are bird-watching in your backyard these are the birds you will most likely spot in Illinois.

Free Printable Backyard Birds Worksheets for Illinois

These free bird identification worksheets have all the common backyard birds in Illinois 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.

Backyard Birds Identification Worksheet Illinois Page 1
Backyard Birds Identification Worksheet Illinois Page 2
Backyard Birds Identification Worksheet Illinois Page 3

The 20 most common birds in Illinois

1. Northern Cardinal

The bright red male Northern Cardinal with black around their faces is a great sight, especially against a white winter background.  The females are also a little showy with their brown coloring, sharp brown crest, red highlights, and red beaks.

Northern Cardinals will sometimes attack their own reflection during breeding season as they obsessively defend their territories.

You can attract more Northern Cardinals to backyard feeders with sunflower seeds, peanut hearts, millet, and milo.

They will feed from large tube feeders, hoppers, platform feeders, or food scattered on the ground.

There are a surprising number of red birds in Illinois that you can spot.

Northern cardinal male and female for identification

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.

They eat sunflower seeds, suet and peanut hearts, fruit, and mealworms. They may even eat mealworms out of your hand.

Platform feeders are best or food scattered on the ground.

American Robin for identification

3. 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.

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.

Dark eyed junco for identification

4. Mourning Dove

Mourning Doves are graceful small-headed birds, plump bodies and long tails.  They are a soft brown with black spots on the wings.

They can be seen perching on telephone wires and forage for seeds on the ground.

You can attract more Mourning Doves to your backyard by scattering millet on the ground or on platform feeders.  They will also eat black sunflower seeds, nyjer, cracked corn and peanut hearts.

Mourning Dove

5. 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.

You can attract more song sparrows to your backyard feeders by putting black oil sunflower seeds, cracked corn, and nyjer on platform feeders.

Song sparrow for identification

6. American Goldfinch

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.

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. 

Check out all the yellow birds in Illinois that you can spot.

American Goldfinch for identification

7. 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 brown streaky coloring.

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.

Red winged blackbird for identification

8. House Wren

House Wrens are small nondescript brown birds with darker barred wings and tail 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.

house wren

9. Common Yellowthroat

Common Yellowthroats are small songbirds that are brownish on the back and bright yellow underneath, with long tails.  The males have a black mask across the face.  The brightness of the yellow can vary geographically and they may be more olive in parts underneath.

They breed over much of North America and so can be found in the spring and summer often in marshy or wetland areas and brushy fields living in thick, tangled vegetation.  They eat mostly insects and will be found in large backyards that have dense vegetation.

common yellowthroat

10. 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.

You can attract more European Starlings to your backyard feeders with black oil sunflower seeds, suet, cracked corn, and peanuts.

European Starling for identification

11. American Crow

American crows are large all-black birds that make a hoarse, cawing sound. They are common birds that can be 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.

You can attract more American Crows to your backyard by scattering peanuts.

American Crow for identification

12. Common Grackle

The Common Grackle is a blackbird that is taller and longer tailed than a typical blackbird and with glossy iridescent bodies.

They eat many crops but mostly corn and gather in noisy groups high up in trees.

You can attract more Common Grackles to your backyard with most mixed grain and seed, sprinkled on the ground or on platform feeders.

Common grackle

13. Indigo Bunting

Indigo Buntings are small birds with the males being bright blue with streaks of black in the wings and tail, females are brown.

They migrate far from breeding grounds in eastern States to winter grounds in Florida, Central and South America, and the Caribbean.

Indigo Buntings can be found in weedy fields and shrubby areas foraging for seeds and insects.  You can attract more to your backyard with small seeds such as nyjer and thistle.

Indigo bunting

14. 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 will 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.

You can attract more House Sparrows to your backyard feeders with most kinds of birdseed, including millet, corn, and sunflower seeds.

House sparrow for identification

15. 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.

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.

There are other species of woodpecker in Illinois for you to spot.

Downy woodpecker for identification

16. 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 will investigate everything including you! 

They have black-caps and beaks, white cheeks, and are gray on the back, wings, and tail.  

To attract more Black-capped Chickadees try suet, sunflower seeds, and peanuts or peanut butter. They will even feed from your hand.

Black-capped Chickadee

17. American Tree Sparrow

American Tree sparrows can be found in winter after breeding in Canada.

They are long-tailed brown-streaked plump birds with rusty caps, gray faces, and a rusty eyeline.  They forage in small flocks in weedy fields and under bird feeders.

You can attract more American Tree Sparrows to your backyard platform feeders with black oil sunflower seeds, nyjer, cracked corn, and millet.  They also feed off the ground under tube feeders foraging for seeds dropped or discarded from above.

American tree sparrow

18. 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.

They enjoy peanuts, sunflower seeds, and suet but prefer these on tray feeders or hopper feeders on a post.  They will also enjoy a birdbath.

Blue Jay for identification

19. Gray Catbird

Gray Catbirds are so named because of their distinctive catty mew song that can last for up to 10 minutes. 

They are medium-sized songbirds with a slate gray coloring, black cap and tail, and a reddish patch under their tails.

You can spot Gray Catbirds in dense shrubs, small trees, and along forest edges or hedgerows.

You can attract more Gray Catbirds to your backyard feeders with fruit and fruit trees or shrubs such as dogwood, winterberry, and serviceberry.

gray catbird

20. House Finch

House Finches have a red head and breast in the males and brown-streaked coloring in the females.  Originally only in western states it was introduced to the eastern states and has done very well, even pushing out the Purple Finch.

They can be found in parks, farms, forest edges, and backyard feeders. They can be found in noisy groups that are hard to miss.

You can attract more House Finches to backyard feeders with black oil sunflower seeds or nyjer seeds in tube feeders or platform feeders.

house finch male

Best Bird Feeders to Attract Birds

variety of different bird feeders will attract the most species of birds

  1.  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.
  2. Ground Feeders or a tray below a Tube Feeder with Black oil sunflowers tube feeders attract Cardinals, Jays, Finches, and Sparrows.
  3. Platform feeders with Millet or Corn attract small and medium-sized birds such as sparrows, Blackbirds, Towhees, Juncos, Doves, Grackles, and Starlings.
  4. Peanut feeders attract Woodpeckers, Chickadees, Nuthatches, Titmice, Jays, Juncos, Finches, and Sparrows.
  5. Suet Feeders are great, especially in winter, for Woodpeckers, Cardinals, Nuthatches, Kinglets, Wrens, and Chickadees.
  6. Hummingbird feeders attract these tiny fascinating birds but they also attract other birds too.

How to Attract Birds to Your Backard in Illinois

If you would like to attract more birds to your yard in Illinois here are some tips:

  1. Provide bird feeders for different types of birds to get the most species to visit your yard.
  2. Provide a water feature such as a birdbath fountain or stream.  Ensure that the water is clean and not stagnant
  3.  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.
  4. Let your grass grow long to provide cover and seeds.
  5. Leave a brush pile to provide food, protection, and nesting opportunities for birds.
  6. 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.
  7. Set up nest boxes to attract breeding birds and ensure they are cleaned every year.

How to Identify Birds

Here are some tips to help you identify birds so you can keep track of all the new birds you see whether you go out birding or stay backyard birding in Illinois:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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?
  5. Habitat – Woodlands, parks, shrubs, grasslands or meadows, shore or marsh.
  6. Use a bird identification app such as those created by ebird or Audubon