Red Birds in Texas – Picture and ID Guide

Hepatic Tanager

These are the 14 red birds in Texas that you can spot in your backyard or when out birding.

Some of them you may be familiar with such as a Northern Cardinal but some are not often spotted in Texas and so you may have a rare find.

Red birds of Texas are visitors at different times of the year and some may breed in the state and some prefer to stay for winter.

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I have gathered all the information you need to know when these red birds are in Texas, what they look like and where they are commonly seen.

So take a look and find the birds you are looking for.

Northern Cardinal

northern cardinal

Northern Cardinals are common red birds of Texas that can be seen all year round.

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.

Purple Finch

Purple Finch

Purple Finch are red birds that can be found in winter in Texas. They usually start appearing in October and leave mostly in March and April.

Purple Finch 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.

House Finch

house finch male

House Finch are common red birds in Texas that remain all year.

House Finch 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.

Cassin’s Finch

Cassin’s Finch are not very common in Texas but they can be spotted in winter, mostly in the west of the state.

Cassin’s Finches have a red crown and rosy pink head and are red breasted with a whiteish belly and brown back and wings.

  • Length: 6.3 in (16 cm)
  • Weight: 0.8-1.2 oz (24-34 g)
  • Wingspan: 9.8-10.6 in (25-27 cm)

They can be found in mountain forests in western states foraging in flocks for seeds.

They are not as common in backyards as House or Purple Finches but they may be attracted with sunflower seed feeders especially in winter or fruiting shrubs such as cotoneaster, mulberries, firethorn, grape and apple.

Common Redpoll

Common Redpolls are rare in Texas but a few have been spotted each year in the state, mostly in the north.

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.

Vermillion Flycatcher

vermilion flycatcher

Vermilion Flycatchers are common red birds of Texas that can be spotted throughout the year. They are more common in the south of Texas but can be spotted throughout the whole state.

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.

Scarlet Tanager

Scarlet tanager

Scarlet Tanagers are bright red birds in Texas that you can spot mostly in the east of the state, especially during migration in April and May. Some will spend the winter in Texas, arriving from Mid-August and leaving early in January or February.

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.

Flame-colored Tanager

Flame-colored Tanager (Piranga bidentata) on a tree branch

Flame-colored Tanagers are rare in Texas but they can be spotted in the south of the state in Big Bend National Park or along the Gulf coast near the southern border. They are usually spotted in Texas between March and August.

Male Flame-colored Tanagers are brightly colored birds with orange-red coloring, with darker wings and tails. Females are more yellow-orange.

  • Length 7 – 7.5 inches (18 – 19 cm)
  • Weight 1.13 – 1.71 oz (32 – 48 g). 

A rare visitor to the US, the Flame-colored Tanager has started breeding in Arizona and has been spotted in Texas. They usually inhabit woodland Mexico and Central America. Their diet is insects and berries.

Summer Tanager

summer tanager

Summer Tanagers are common red birds in Texas that can be spotted all year but are more common during the spring migration and through the summer.

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 rubs the stinger off before eating them.

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

Hepatic Tanager

Hepatic Tanager

Hepatic Tanagers are red birds that can be spotted in Texas during the summer in the south and west of the state, especially in Big Bend National Park and the Davis Mountains. They are not very common in Texas.

Hepatic Tanager males are red birds with some gray on the back. Females are yellow.

  • Piranga flava
  • Length: 3.5-7.9 in (8.8-20 cm)
  • Weight: 0.8-1.7 oz (23-47 g)
  • Wingspan: 12.6 in (32 cm)

Hepatic Tanagers breed in southwestern states and Mexico before spending the winter in Mexico, Central and South America.

They can be found in mountain ranges with pine or pine and oak woodlands and feed on insects and spiders. They will also eat some berries such as cherry and grapes.

Red Crossbill

red crossbill

Red Crossbills are rare in Texas but they can be spotted all year in the state, more often in the west.

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.

White-winged Crossbill

Male White-winged Crossbill

White-winged Crossbills are very rare in Texas and have only been spotted a couple of times in the last 10 years near San Antonio and Houston as accidental visitors. So unfortunately if you want to spot these red birds you will probably have to head further north.

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 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 

Pyrrhuloxia

Pyrrhuloxia

Pyrrhuloxia are common in Texas throughout the year in the west of the state.

Pyrrhuloxia males are grey with lots of red coloring to the face, crest, breast and tail. Females are dull gray with less red coloring.

  • Cardinalis sinuatus
  • Length: 8.3 in (21 cm)
  • Weight: 0.8-1.5 oz (24-43 g)

They are residents of the hot deserts in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and Mexico.

During the breeding season, they fiercely defend their territory but in winter they can be found in flocks of up to 1000. 

Pyrrhuloxia feed mostly on seeds but also insects. They can be found at feeders with sunflower seeds but more often prefer them scattered on the ground. 

Painted Bunting

Painted Bunting are very common in Texas especially during the breeding season between April and October. Some Painted Buting remain in Texas all 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 Bunting 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.