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 Tennessee that have been spotted. Of these, 7 species are recognized on state checklists as regularly occurring, and 3 additional species are considered rare or accidental.
This guide will help you identify the species of red birds in Tennessee according to avibase. Some of these birds migrate, and some remain all year.
You can print out a free bird identification worksheet for Tennessee to help you identify all birds that visit your backyard.
The most common red bird in both summer and winter in Tennessee is the Northern Cardinal. The Summer Tanager is more commonly seen in summer, and several other species are more commonly seen in winter in Tennessee. Continue reading to find out more about these red birds.
10 Red Birds in Tennessee:
- Northern Cardinal
- House Finch
- Summer Tanager
- Scarlet Tanager
- Purple Finch
- Red Crossbill
- Painted Bunting
- Common Redpoll
- White-winged Crossbill
- Pine Grosbeak
10 Red Birds in Tennessee:
1. Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinals are very common red birds all year in Tennessee.
The bright red male Northern Cardinal is a bird with a red head, body, and tail, and 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 Finches are fun red birds that can be spotted in Tennessee all year.
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 Tanagers can commonly be spotted in Tennessee between April and October.
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.
4. Scarlet Tanager
Summer Tanagers are not very common, but they can be spotted during summer in Tennessee.
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.
5. Purple Finch
Purple Finches are beautiful red birds to spot in Tennessee 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 but also buds, nectar, and berries.
They readily come to feeders for black oil sunflower seeds.
6. Red Crossbill
Red Crossbills are rare birds in Tennessee, but they can be spotted in the state all year.
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. Painted Bunting
Painted Buntings are rare in Tennessee, but they can be spotted in summer, mainly in Memphis.
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.
8. Common Redpoll
Common Redpolls are considered an accidental species in Tennessee, but they have been spotted in Nashville and Chattanooga during winter.
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 part 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.
9. White-winged Crossbill
White-winged Crossbills are considered an accidental or rare species in Tennessee, but over the past ten years, a few were spotted near Mountain City.
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.
10. Pine Grosbeak
Pine Grosbeaks are an accidental species in Tennessee. They are extremely rare, and they have only been spotted in the state once near the Tennessee National Wildlife Refuge.
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 Tennessee 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 Tennessee on ebird in summer and winter.
Common Red Birds in Tennessee in Summer:
Northern Cardinal 66.1%
House Finch 30.7%
Summer Tanager 15.8%
Scarlet Tanager 10.5%
Painted Bunting 0.3%
Red Crossbill 0.2%
Purple Finch 0.1%
Common Red Birds in Tennessee in Winter:
Northern Cardinal 57.2%
House Finch 30.6%
Purple Finch 5.9%
Red Crossbill 0.1%
Common Redpoll <0.1%
Painted Bunting <0.1%
Summer Tanager <0.1%
Scarlet Tanager <0.1%
White-winged Crossbill <0.1%