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

Carolina Wren

Do you need help with bird identification in Kentucky for birds that visit your backyard? Get ID information, pictures, and printable worksheets to help with these birds of Kentucky identification.

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 and learn to identify birds in your backyard. Well, now you can find out what are the most common birds in Kentucky that visit feeders or hop across your lawn.

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

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Also, get free bird printables of backyard birds of Kentucky with pictures to help you with Kentucky bird identification and to keep track of the birds that visit your backyard.

20 common backyard birds in Kentucky

  1. Northern Cardinal
  2. Mourning Dove
  3. American Robin
  4. Blue Jay
  5. Indigo Bunting
  6. American Goldfinch
  7. Carolina Chickadee
  8. Tufted Titmouse
  9. Downy Woodpecker
  10. American Crow
  11. Carolina Wren
  12. European Starling
  13. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  14. Red-winged Blackbird
  15. Song Sparrow
  16. Common Grackle
  17. Barn Swallow
  18. House Finch
  19. Northern Mockingbird
  20. Brown-headed Cowbird

These are the most common backyard birds in Kentucky 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 Kentucky in summer (June and July) and winter (December and January).

This data mix ensures that whatever time of year you are bird-watching in Kentucky these are the birds you will most likely spot at feeders.

Free Printable Backyard Birds Worksheets for Kentucky

These free bird identification worksheets have all the common backyard birds in Kentucky 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 Kentucky Page 1
Backyard Birds Identification Worksheet Kentucky Page 2
Backyard Birds Identification Worksheet Kentucky Page 3

The 20 most common birds in Kentucky

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 Kentucky that you can spot.

Northern cardinal male and female for identification

2. 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

3. 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

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. Mostly resident but may migrate from the far northwest of US.

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

5. 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

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.

They breed in Canada and northern two-thirds of the united states and resident year-round across central states and appear for winter in southern states.

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.

American Goldfinch for identification

7. Carolina Chickadee

Carolina Chickadees are tiny birds with large heads, black cap and neck, white cheeks and belly, and soft gray back, wings, and tail.

They are visually very similar to the Black-capped Chickadee and they interbreed where their range overlaps.

They can be found in forested areas, parks, and backyards.

You can attract more Carolina Chickadees to your backyard feeders with Black oil sunflower seeds, Nyjer seeds, suet feeders, or peanuts.  They will feed on most types of feeders including tube feeders, suet cages, or platform feeders.

Carolina Chickadee

8. Tufted Titmouse

The Tufted Titmouse is gray on the back and white underneath with a cute gray crest and large eyes that often flock with chickadees, nuthatches, and woodpeckers.

They can be assertive over smaller birds and are found in woodlands, parks, and at backyard feeders.

You can attract Tufted Titmice to your backyard feeders with sunflower seeds, suet, and peanuts on tube feeders or suet cages.  They will also eat from platform feeders.

Tufted titmouse

9. 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.

Check out all the species of woodpecker in Kentucky you can spot.

Downy woodpecker for identification

10. 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

11. Carolina Wren

Carolina Wrens are shy birds that are dark brown on top and light brown underneath.  They have a white eyebrow stripe and upright tail and loud teakettle song.

They can be found in woods or thickly vegetated areas and will visit backyard feeders.

You can attract more Carolina Wrens to your backyard feeders with suet feeders, hulled sunflower seeds or peanut hearts in large tube feeders or on platform feeders.

Carolina Wren

12. 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

13. Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpeckers have a pale red belly that can be difficult to spot, with a red cap and nape and black-and-white stripped back.

They make a loud call in spring and summer and are found in woods and forests, especially with deadwood.

You can attract more Red-bellied Woodpeckers with suet feeders and they will sometimes feed from hummingbird feeders.

Red-bellied woodpecker

14. 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

15. Song Sparrow

Song sparrows are not as remarkable looking 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. Resident in eastern and western states but migrate in for winter to central and southern states.

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

16. 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. Resident in most eastern states but migrates after breeding from the far northern US and Great Plains.

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

17. Barn Swallow

Barn Swallows are small birds with a deep-blue back, wings and tail, and reddish-brown underneath and across the face. The tail has long outer feathers that give a deep fork.

They breed over most of North America before heading to Central and South America. They can be found flying over meadows, farms, and fields looking for insects and usually build mud nests on man-made structures such as in barns.

You can attract more Barn Swallows by putting up nest boxes or cups and may eat ground-up eggshells on a platform feeder.

barn swallow

18. 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

19. Northern Mockingbird

Northern Mockingbirds are medium-sized songbirds with small heads and long tails. They are a gray-brown color and slightly paler on the underside compared to the back. They have two white wingbars visible in flight.

They are usually seen alone or in pairs and aggressively defend their territory. A male mockingbird can learn around 200 songs in its life, copying other birds’ songs and they can sing all through the day and into the night.

Usually residents in southern and eastern states but may migrate from the north of their range.

They don’t often visit feeders but will come to open lawn areas. To attract more Northern Mockingbirds try planting fruiting trees or bushes, including hawthorns, mulberries, and blackberry brambles.

Northern mockingbird for identification

20. 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.

Brown-headed cowbird

Best Bird Feeders to Attract Birds

variety of different bird feeders will attract the most species of birds in Kentucky to your backyard

  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 Yard in Kentucky

If you would like to attract more birds to your yard in Kentucky there 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 in Kentucky

Here are some more tips to help you identify birds in Kentucky, whether you chose to go out birding or stay home bird watching in Kentucky:

  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.