Red Birds in Alabama – Picture and ID Guide

You probably recognize a Northern Cardinal and finches and tanagers are often the red birds that you can spot but there are several different species to learn.

This guide will help you identify the 9 species of red birds in Alabama according to avibase and the Alabama Ornithological Society. Some of these birds migrate and some remain all year.

You can print out a free bird identification worksheet for Alabama to help you identify birds that visit your backyard.

Red birds that migrate into California for summer are Scarlet Tanagers and Summer Tanagers and winter red birds in Alabama are Purple Finch and Vermilion Flycatchers.

So read on to find out when is the best time to spot all these vibrant red birds in Alabama.

9 Red Birds in Alabama

  1. Northern Cardinal
  2. House Finch
  3. Summer Tanager
  4. Purple Finch
  5. Scarlet Tanager
  6. Painted Bunting
  7. Vermilion Flycatcher
  8. Red Crossbill
  9. Common Redpoll

Red Birds in Alabama:

1. Northern Cardinal

northern cardinal

Northern Cardinals are the most common red bird in Alabama all year. They do not migrate from the state.

The bright red male Northern Cardinal is a bird with a red head, body and tail, with black around their faces. They are 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.

  • Length: 8.3-9.1 in (21-23 cm)
  • Weight: 1.5-1.7 oz (42-48 g)
  • Wingspan: 9.8-12.2 in (25-31 cm)

Northern Cardinals are found in eastern and southern states and 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 on large tube feeders, hoppers, platform feeders, or food scattered on the ground.

2. House Finch

house finch male

House Finch are common red birds all year in Alabama.

House Finches are another bird with a red head and breast in the males and brown-streaked coloring in the females. 

  • Length: 5.1-5.5 in (13-14 cm)
  • Weight: 0.6-0.9 oz (16-27 g)
  • Wingspan: 7.9-9.8 in (20-25 cm)

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.

3. Summer Tanager

summer tanager

Summer Tanagers are common red birds in Alabama in the summer between April and November. A few are also spotted in winter here.

Summer Tanager males are bright red birds and females are yellow. 

  • Piranga rubra
  • Length: 6.7 in (17 cm)
  • Weight: 1.1 oz (30 g)

They breed in southern and eastern states before heading to Central and South America for winter.

They are forest songbirds and can be found in open woodlands and feed on bees and wasps in mid-flight. They catch them and kill them by beating them against a branch and then rub the stinger off before eating them.

You can attract more Summer Tanagers to your backyard with berry bushes and fruit trees.

4. Purple Finch

Purple Finch

Purple Finch can be spotted in Alabama in winter between November and May.

Purple Finches look very similar to House Finch with the reddish-purple head and breast with more brown on the back and wings. 

  • Length: 4.7-6.3 in (12-16 cm)
  • Weight: 0.6-1.1 oz (18-32 g)
  • Wingspan: 8.7-10.2 in (22-26 cm)

They breed in Canada and overwinter in eastern states but can be found all year in the north-east are Pacific coast.

They can be spotted in evergreen forests feeding on seeds but also buds, nectar and berries.

They readily come to feeders for black oil sunflower seeds.

5. Scarlet Tanager

Scarlet tanager

Scarlet Tanagers migrate into Alabama for breeding and they can be spotted here between mid-March and November. They are more common here during the spring and fall migration with birds passing through.

Scarlet Tanagers are bright red birds with black wings and tails. Females are yellow with darker wings and tails.

  • Piranga olivacea
  • Length: 6.3-6.7 in (16-17 cm)
  • Weight: 0.8-1.3 oz (23-38 g)
  • Wingspan: 9.8-11.4 in (25-29 cm)

They breed in eastern forests in summer before migrating to South America.

Scarlet Tanagers can be hard to spot as they stay high in the forest canopy. 

You can attract more Scarlet Tanagers by planting berry plants such as blackberries, raspberries, huckleberries, juneberries, serviceberries, mulberries, strawberries and chokeberries.

6. Painted Bunting

Painted Bunting are considered accidental species in Alabama however they have been recorded here according to the Alabama Ornothological Society. They are more common here during winter, but they have been spotted throughout the year.

Painted Bunting males are a brightly colored patchwork of color with mostly red coloring underneath and with bright blue heads, green wings, and backs. Females are bright yellow-green.

  • Passerina ciris
  • Length: 4.7-5.1 in (12-13 cm)
  • Weight: 0.5-0.7 oz (13-19 g)

Painted Buntings breed in a few states, in the south-central and along with some coastal areas in the Southeast U.S, before migrating at night to Central America, southern Florida, and some Caribbean islands.

You can find Painted Bunting in semi-open habitats foraging mostly for seeds but also insects in the breeding season.

To attract painted Bunting to your yard try adding low dense vegetation and feeders filled with seeds such as white millet or black oil sunflower seeds.

7. Vermilion Flycatcher

vermilion flycatcher

Vermilion Flycatchers are winter red birds in Alabama that can be spotted here between October and May.

Vermilion Flycatchers are bright red birds from the front and brown on the back. with a brown mask across the face. Females are gray and brown with a pale reddish belly.

  • Pyrocephalus rubinus
  • Length: 4.8-5.4 in (12.3-13.8 cm)
  • Weight: 0.4-0.5 oz (11.3-14.8 g)

They can be found all year in the far south in desert landscapes catching insects or sitting on exposed perches. 

They are fairly common in the southwest but also along the Gulf Coast in smaller numbers.

8. Red Crossbill

red crossbill

Red Crossbills are rare red birds in Alabama that have only been spotted here a few times in winter in the northeast of the state between November and June.

Red Crossbill males are red birds with darker wings and tails. Females are yellow and brown.

They can be found year-round in northern and western states and in winter in eastern states.

They feed on conifer seeds and forage in flocks from tree to tree, even breaking unopened cones with their powerful beaks.  As well as coniferous forests they can be found along roadsides consuming grit in the mornings.

9. Common Redpoll

Common Redpolls are accidental spies of red birds in Alabama that have only been spotted here a few times in spring.

Common Redpolls have red foreheads, pinky breasts, and are brown and white over the rest of their bodies.

  • Acanthis flammea
  • Length: 4.7-5.5 in (12-14 cm)
  • Weight: 0.4-0.7 oz (11-20 g)
  • Wingspan: 7.5-8.7 in (19-22 cm)

They can be found in winter in northern states and less frequently in central states.

In winter they will sometimes tunnel into the snow to stay warm during the night. They can eat up to 42% of their body mass every day and can store up to 2 grams of seeds in a stretchy park of their esophagus.

They can be found in weedy fields or feeding on catkins in trees but they will also come to feeders for small seeds such as nyjer seeds or thistle.

How Frequently Red birds are Spotted in Alabama in Summer and Winter

Checklists for the state are a great resource to find out which birds are commonly spotted here. These lists show which red birds are most commonly recorded on checklists for Alabama on ebird in summer and winter.

Common Red Birds in Alabama in Summer:

Northern Cardinal 66%
House Finch 23%
Summer Tanager 20%
Scarlet Tanager 4.2%
Purple Finch 0.3%
Painted Bunting 1%
Red Crossbill >1%
Common Redpoll >1%

Common Red Birds in Alabama in Winter:

Northern Cardinal 56%
House Finch 30%
Purple Finch 7.4%
Painted Bunting 1%
Summer Tanager >1%
Red Crossbill >1%
Common Redpoll >1%