10 Red Birds in New Jersey – Picture and ID Guide

summer tanager

Red Birds are easy to spot with the flash of bright color but do you know your finch from your tanager?

There are 10 species of red birds in New Jersey that have been spotted. Of these, 9 species are recognized on state checklists as regularly occurring, and one additional species is considered rare or accidental.

This guide will help you identify the species of red birds in New Jersey according to avibase. Some of these birds migrate, and some remain all year.

Common_birds_-_part_1 x

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

The most common red bird in both summer and winter in New Jersey is the Northern Cardinal. The Scarlet Tanager is only seen in summer, and several other species are more commonly spotted in winter in New Jersey. So read on to find out when is the best time to spot all these vibrant red birds in New Jersey.

10 Red Birds in New Jersey:

  1. Northern Cardinal
  2. House Finch
  3. Scarlet Tanager
  4. Purple Finch
  5. Summer Tanager
  6. Red Crossbill
  7. Common Redpoll
  8. White-winged Crossbill
  9. Painted Bunting
  10. Pine Grosbeak

10 Red Birds in New Jersey:

1. Northern Cardinal

northern cardinal

Northern Cardinals are very common in New Jersey all year.

The bright red male Northern Cardinal is a bird with a red head, body, and tail, with black around their faces. They are an incredible sight, especially against a white winter background.  The females are also 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 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 Finches are red birds that can be spotted all year in New Jersey.

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)

Initially, they only lived in western states, but they were introduced to the eastern states and have 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. Scarlet Tanager

Scarlet tanager

Scarlet Tanagers can commonly be spotted in New Jersey during summer.

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.

4. Purple Finch

Purple Finch

Although not very common, Purple Finches are residents in New Jersey all year but are mostly spotted during winter.

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.

You can spot them in evergreen forests feeding on seeds and buds, nectar, and berries.

They readily come to feeders for black oil sunflower seeds.

5. Summer Tanager

summer tanager

Summer Tanagers are rare red birds in New Jersey, but they can be spotted here mainly between May and July.

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 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 rubbing the stinger off before eating them.

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

6. Red Crossbill

red crossbill

Another rare bird in New Jersey is the Red Crossbill. They can be seen in the state almost all year but more commonly during winter.

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 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.

7. Common Redpoll

Common Redpolls can be hard to find in New Jersey, but they can be spotted during winter, mainly in the north of the state and along the coast.

Common Redpolls have red foreheads, pinky breasts, and 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 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.

8. White-winged Crossbill

Male White-winged Crossbill

White-winged Crossbills are very rare in New Jersey, but they can be spotted during winter, mainly along the state’s coast.

White-winged Crossbills are finches with heavy crossed beaks. Males are red birds with black wings and tails and two white wingbars. Females are yellow and brown and with two white wing bars.

  • Loxia leucoptera
  • Length: 5.9-6.7 in (15-17 cm)
  • Weight: 0.8-0.9 oz (24-26 g)
  • Wingspan: 10.2-11.0 in (26-28 cm)

White-winged Crossbills live in forests in Canada, Alaska, and sometimes the northern US states when cone crops are poor further north. They can be found in spruce forests feeding on seeds.

Unusually these birds breed at any time of year as long as there is enough food.

They can often be heard in large flocks. 

9. Painted Bunting

Painted Buntings are considered an accidental species in New Jersey, but they have been spotted along the coast.

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 Bunting breed in a few states, in the south-central and some coastal areas in the Southeast US, before migrating at night to Central America, southern Florida, and some Caribbean islands.

You can find Painted Bunting in semi-open habitats, mainly foraging for seeds and insects in the breeding season.

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

10. Pine Grosbeak

pine grosbeak

Pine Grosbeaks are very rare in New Jersey but have been spotted in Barnegat Bay.

Pine Grosbeaks are a species of finch. The males are red birds with gray on the wings and tail and two white wingbars. Females are gray with dull orange heads and rumps. They are large for finches and relatively slow.

  • Pinicola enucleator
  • Length: 7.9-9.8 in (20-25 cm)
  • Wingspan: 13.0 in (33 cm)

Pine Grosbeaks are mostly found in Canada, but some can be spotted along the US border, the mountainous west, and the Sierra Nevada in California.

They live in forests of pine, spruce, and fir, feeding on seeds, fruit, and buds from these trees. They will also eat some insects in the summer.  

You can attract Pine Grosbeaks to black oil sunflower seed feeders or suet feeders.

How Frequently Red birds are Spotted in New Jersey 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 New Jersey on ebird in summer and winter.

Common Red Birds in New Jersey in Summer:

Northern Cardinal 53.2%
House Finch 24.7%
Scarlet Tanager 11.9%
Summer Tanager 1.2%
Purple Finch 0.5%
Painted Bunting <0.1%
Red Crossbill <0.1%
White-winged Crossbill <0.1%

Common Red Birds in New Jersey in Winter:

Northern Cardinal 41.0%
House Finch 23.3%
Purple Finch 2.1%
Common Redpoll 0.4%
Red Crossbill 0.3%
White-winged Crossbill 0.2%
Painted Bunting 0.1%
Summer Tanager <0.1%
Pine Grosbeak <0.1%