17 Red Birds You Should Know – Picture and ID Guide

vermilion flycatcher

Finches and Tanagers are often red birds that you can spot, but there are several different species to learn.

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

This guide will help you identify the red birds in North America that you have spotted. Find out what states these red birds live in and in what habitats they can be found.

17 Red Birds in North America:

  1. Northern Cardinal
  2. Purple Finch
  3. House Finch
  4. Cassin’s Finch
  5. Common Rosefinch
  6. Brown-capped Rosy Finch
  7. Common Redpoll
  8. Vermillion Flycatcher
  9. Scarlet Tanager
  10. Flame-colored Tanager
  11. Summer Tanager
  12. Heptatic Tanager
  13. Red Crossbill
  14. White-winged Crossbill
  15. Pine Grosbeak
  16. Pyrrhuloxia
  17. Painted Bunting

17 Red Birds in North America:

1. Northern Cardinal

northern cardinal

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. Purple Finch

Purple Finch

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.

3. House Finch

house finch male

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.

4. Cassin’s Finch

Cassin’s Finches have a red crown, rosy pink head, and 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.

5. Common Rosefinch

common-rosefinch

Common Rosefinch males are bright red on the head, breast and rump and brown with hints of red over the rest of the body.

  • Length: 5.8 in (15 cm)
  • Weight: 0.8 oz (23 g)
  • Wingspan: 9.5 in (24 cm)

Common Rosefinches are rarely seen in North America as it is usually from Europe and Asia, however, they have been seen mainly in the western edge of Alaska in summer.

6. Brown-capped Rosy Finch

brown capped rosy finch

Credit: Dominic Sherony

Brown-capped Rosy Finch are reddish-pink on the belly and wings that is brighter during the breeding season.  They are brown with hints of pink on the rest of their body and brown capped. Juveniles and non-breeding adults are mostly brown.

  • Leucosticte australis
  • Length: 5.5-6.3 in (14-16 cm)
  • Weight: 0.8-1.2 oz (23-33 g)
  • Wingspan: 13.0 in (33 cm)

Brown-capped Rosy-Finch can be spotted in Colorado and New Mexico in the mountains feeding on seeds, insects, and spiders.

They will come to backyard feeders for sunflower seeds or Nyjer seeds.

7. Common Redpoll

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 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.

8. Vermillion Flycatcher

vermilion flycatcher

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 reasonably common in the southwest but also along the Gulf Coast in smaller numbers.

9. Scarlet Tanager

Scarlet tanager

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.

10. Flame-colored Tanager

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

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.

11. Summer Tanager

summer tanager

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.

12. Hepatic Tanager

Hepatic Tanager

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.

13. Red Crossbill

red crossbill

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.

14. White-winged Crossbill

Male White-winged Crossbill

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. 

15. Pine Grosbeak

pine grosbeak

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.

16. Pyrrhuloxia

Pyrrhuloxia

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. 

17. Painted Bunting

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.