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Birds Of Tennessee: 17 Chirpers Of The Volunteer State

Last Updated on: July 9, 2024

There are over 400 bird species that call Tennessee home. Some are permanent residents, others are seasonal, and a few are considered accidental visitors.

Of course…

It would take forever to talk about all of them in one sitting. So, we’ll be focusing on 17 birds of Tennessee that are regularly seen in the state.

Even better, these species are also backyard visitors. Apart from teaching you how to identify and locate these birds, we’ll share some tips on how you can attract them. Read on!

The 17 Birds Of Tennessee That You Can Attract To Your Backyard

1. Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata)

Blue Jay
Blue Jay

The Blue Jay has distinct colors that make it unmistakable. Its head and upperparts are blue, with a black collar across the neck and black-and-white bars on the wings and tail. Meanwhile, its breast and belly are entirely white.

You can find Blue Jays all year throughout Tennessee. Their usual habitats are deciduous and mixed forests, groves, towns, and suburban gardens. However, they avoid purely coniferous woods. These birds are also loud, probably one of the noisiest birds in Tennessee you’ll hear!

Blue Jays forage in trees, shrubs, and on the ground. They’re omnivorous and adaptable, allowing them to eat almost anything. They may even eat baby birds and birds’ eggs. However, their diet is mostly vegetable matter, especially during winter.

You can attract these birds with seed, nut, or suet feeders. They prefer taking food and then flying away, so we recommend using a platform or tray feeder so they can make a quick exit. You can also encourage them further by installing a birdbath.

Like crows, Blue Jays are intelligent birds. They can imitate hawk cries to deceive other birds that a predator is around. Meanwhile, captive jays have been observed to create and use tools.

2. Brown-Headed Cowbird (Molothrus after)

Brown-headed Cowbird
Male
Brown-headed Cowbird
Female

From the name itself, the Brown-Headed Cowbird has a glossy brown head accompanied by an iridescent black body. In poor lighting, this bird may appear all-black. However, this color scheme is only for males. Females, instead, are entirely dull brown.

Brown-Headed Cowbirds are present throughout Tennessee all year. You’ll find them in various open habitats like fields, farms, woodland edges, and suburban areas. They usually avoid dense and unbroken forests.

They forage on the ground in noisy groups with other blackbirds and starlings. You may see them perched on a high branch while not feeding.

A Brown-headed Cowbird’s diet is primarily composed of seeds, varying from around 50% during summer to 90% during winter. The rest is filled with insects.

These birds can feed on various bird seeds and grains, especially those scattered on the ground. If you’re keeping livestock in your backyard, there’s a good chance that some cowbirds will visit.

Brown-Headed Cowbirds are brood parasites, species that don’t create their own nests. Instead, they lay their eggs in another bird’s nest to deceive the other parents into raising young cowbirds.

3. Dark-Eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis)

Dark-Eyed Junco
Male
Dark-Eyed Junco
Female

The Dark-Eyed Junco has many regional variations, but all have dark eyes, a pink bill, a white belly, and white outer tail feathers.

The slate-colored variation is the most common in the eastern United States. The male has dark gray feathers on its upperparts, head, breast, and sides. The female has the same pattern, but it has gray-brown upperparts instead.

Dark-Eyed Juncos are abundant and widespread, but they only visit Tennesse during winter. You can find them in semi-open habitats like open woodlands, fields, parks, and suburban areas.

These common birds forage for seeds and insects by hopping and running on the ground. About half of their diet comprises insects during summer, whereas they feed heavily on seeds during the winter. They may also feed on some berries.

They’ll readily visit bird feeders, where they typically consume scattered food on the ground. Some of their favorites are sunflower seeds, millet, and cracked corn.

Dark-Eyed Juncos can flash their white tail feathers to alarm other flock members.

4. Downy Woodpecker (Dryobates pubescens)

Downy Woodpecker
Male
Downy Woodpecker
Female

Downy Woodpeckers are very common, and you can see them all year throughout Tennessee. These small birds in a wide variety of habitats, such as forested areas, parks, and suburban yards. They generally prefer being around deciduous trees.

You can see them using their acrobatic skills to forage around trees, shrubs, and weed stalks. They feed primarily on insects, especially ants and beetles, but they may also consume seeds and berries.

Downy Woodpeckers are particularly attracted to suet, but black oil sunflower seeds and peanuts can work too. They’re more likely to visit a bird feeding station during winter than summer.

The Downy Woodpecker is the smallest woodpecker species. Because of this, it can use food sources and shelter that other woodpeckers cannot.

5. Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis)

Eastern Bluebird
Male
Eastern Bluebird
Female

The Eastern Bluebird is another colorful bird you can easily recognize. Its upperparts are entirely deep blue, paired with black tips on the wings and tail. Meanwhile, its throat, breast, and sides are rust-brown, and its belly is white.

The female of this species is duller overall, appearing blue-gray above and a faded rust-brown below.

You can find Eastern Bluebirds year-round throughout Tennessee, usually around an open country with scattered trees, such as open woodlands, farmlands, parks, and suburbs. You may even see them along roadsides perched on fences or utility wires.

Eastern Bluebirds usually eat berries and insects but may also eat snails, small lizards, and tree frogs. They typically perch on wires or low branches while looking for prey, often hovering to pick up their meal.

Unlike other backyard birds in Tennessee, this species will only visit bird feeders that offer specific food items – mealworms and berries. If you don’t have those, you can try installing nest boxes instead.

The Eastern Bluebird population has declined due to the loss of nesting sites. Fortunately, the population has increased due to the birdhouses installed throughout North America.

6. European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)

European Starling
Breeding
European Starling
Non-Breeding

The European Starling has black feathers that are covered with white spots. During breeding seasons in the summer, its plumage shows an iridescent purple, blue, and green.

Meanwhile, the iridescence becomes bronze during non-breeding seasons, and the white spots become more prominent.

European Starlings are widespread throughout the USA and inhabit almost any area near human settlements. They’re usually absent in extensive wilderness. You can see them in large, noisy groups foraging across the ground or seated on a high perch.

These starlings usually eat insects, seeds, and berries. They can use their bill to probe the ground, feed on fruit in trees, and even catch flying insects mid-air. You may also see them around flowers for nectar.

European Starlings come to feeders often, and they will eat almost anything. However, we don’t recommend attracting them since they’re an invasive species. Their presence threatens the survival of native birds since they compete with them for nesting sites.

All European Starlings in North America today are descendants of the 100 starlings introduced to NYC’s Central Park during the 1890s.

7. House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus)

House Finch
Male
House Finch
Female

The House Finch has a brown-streaked body that’s darker above and lighter beneath. You can easily recognize a male since it has a red wash on its head, rump, and throat. However, the female lacks this feature, so you may mistake it for other birds.

You can see House Finches in Tennessee all year, particularly around weedy areas, farms, city parks, and backyards. They usually avoid unbroken grasslands and forests. You’ll usually see them in flocks, except when they’re nesting.

Almost all of their diet comprises vegetable matter, such as seeds, buds, berries, and small fruits. They may also feed on small insects, such as aphids.

House Finches are bold and wouldn’t hesitate to come close to people. You can best attract them with a platform or tube feeder containing sunflower and nyjer seeds.

The House Finch was originally from Mexico and the western USA. A small number of these finches were released in New York in 1940 and have flourished ever since.

8. House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)

House Sparrow
Male
House Sparrow
Female

Another invasive species in North America is the House Sparrow. The male has brown upperparts with black streaks, a black throat, and a pale gray crown, cheeks, and underparts. Meanwhile, the female lacks any black color and is light brown and gray overall.

House Sparrows are found all year throughout the southern 2/3 of North America. You can always find them in places with human activity, including farms, towns, cities, and even isolated houses. Interestingly, they’re never around unaltered natural habitats.

These birds mostly forage on the ground. They primarily consume seeds but also eat insects and crumbs left by people. You may see them taking free handouts from parks, zoos, and amusement parks.

House Sparrows will also visit your backyard if various seeds and grains are scattered on the ground. Again, we don’t recommend attracting them because they’re invasive.

The House Sparrow is abundant, easy to raise, and generally human-friendly. This makes them an excellent model species for avian biological studies.

9. Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)

Mourning Dove
Mourning Dove

The Mourning Dove is a small-headed bird about the same size as a robin. Its underparts are pinkish-brown, whereas its upperparts are grayish-brown with black edges on the wings. Additionally, it has a long, pointed tail with white tips.

Mourning Doves are year-round residents of Tennessee. You can see them almost anywhere except in deep and unbroken forests. Open woods, fields, prairies, farmlands, and other man-altered locations are typical habitats.

You can usually see them foraging on the ground or perched on plants. Their diet is almost exclusively seeds, especially those of cultivated grains. In rare cases, they may also eat snails and small insects.

Mourning Doves will also readily visit backyards for food scattered on the ground or feeders close to the ground. You can attract them with a mixed seed blend.

Male and female Mourning Doves secrete a substance from their crop (a pouch on the esophagus) called crop milk or pigeon milk. This substance is high in protein and fat and is fed to their young.

10. Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)

Northern Cardinal
Male
Northern Cardinal
Female

The Northern Cardinal is famous for its flashy colors, especially against a winter background. The male has an entirely vivid red body, whereas the female is dull brown on the back, head, and underparts. However, both sexes have a prominent crest and a black mask and chin.

Northern Cardinals are abundant, and you can see them yearly in Tennessee. Some of their habitats include forest edges, dense shrubs, and inhabited areas like parks and suburban gardens.

These common birds usually forage in pairs on the ground or in low bushes. Their diet varies as they consume insects, seeds, berries, wild fruits, and other plant matter.

Northern Cardinals readily visit nearly any bird feeders you put out. However, they particularly favor sunflower seeds. Some may even nest in your property if your backyard has undergrowth.

The Northern Cardinal is obsessed with defending its territory during breeding seasons. Males and females may spend hours attacking their reflection, thinking it’s an intruder.

11. Red-Bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus)

Red-Bellied Woodpecker
Male
Red-Bellied Woodpecker
Female

Although the Red-Bellied Woodpecker has a red belly, it’s not that visible. You may have to rely on the rest of its body instead.

Specifically, it has black-and-white barred upperparts, while its face, rump, and underparts are pale brown. Additionally, the male has a red crown and nape, whereas the female has a red nape only.

Red-bellied Woodpeckers can be seen throughout Tennesse for the whole year. They are usually in deciduous or mixed forests, especially those along rivers or in swamps. However, they often venture to farmlands, suburban areas, and city parks.

Their diet is omnivorous, where they consume many insects and plant material. They also occasionally eat frogs, birds’ eggs, and small fish. You may see them foraging around tree trunks for insects and climbing branches to take berries and nuts.

Red-bellied Woodpeckers can be attracted using suet feeders, especially if your house is surrounded by wooded areas. They may sometimes go to feeders that offer sunflower seeds and peanuts.

Red-Bellied Woodpeckers are attracted to resonating sounds. Males may tap noisily on metallic objects to attract a mate.

12. Red-Winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)

Red-Winged Blackbird
Male
Red-Winged Blackbird
Female

Despite the name, the Red-Winged Blackbird doesn’t have red wings. It has black wings, but the shoulder bars are bright red with yellow edges. These shoulder bars stand out because the rest of the bird is black.

However, this only applies to males. Females have a heavily-streaked brown and white body instead.

Red-Winged Blackbirds are present in Tennessee year-round. You can see them around fresh and saltwater marshes, brushy swamps, wet roadsides, and even water hazards on golf courses.

In winter, you can see them in other areas like farm fields, feedlots, and pastures. They also form large flocks to eat with other blackbirds and starlings during this time.

Red-Winged Blackbirds often forage in open areas like mudflats and fields. They eat many insects during summer, but around 2/3 of their annual diet comprises seeds. They may also eat fruits and berries.

You can attract these blackbirds with various grains and seeds scattered on the ground, but they’ll also use large platforms or tube feeders.

Male Red-Wing Blackbirds are very aggressive during the breeding season. They will chase other males out of their nesting territory and even go for larger animals like horses and humans.

13. Ruby-Throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris)

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird
Male
Ruby-Throated Hummingbird
Female

As you may have guessed, the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird has a shiny ruby throat. However, this is only present for males. They also have iridescent green upperparts, a black line that separates the head from the throat, and pale underparts with a green wash on the sides.

Meanwhile, females are duller overall. Additionally, they lack the red throat and the black line on the face.

Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds are only present in Tennessee during summer. You can find them in semi-open habitats like forest edges, clearings, orchards, city parks, and gardens.

You’ll usually find Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds hovering among flowers since their diet is primarily nectar. However, they also eat small insects, where they’ll catch the insects mid-air or pluck them from plants.

They often visit backyards for hummingbird feeders. You can attract them further by planting colorful and tubular flowers around. We don’t recommend putting feeders close to each other, as hummingbirds tend to be very aggressive.

The Ruby-Throated Hummingbird has extremely short legs that prevent it from hopping or walking. The most it can do is shuffle from one place to another.

14. Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)

Song Sparrow
Song Sparrow

The Song Sparrow doesn’t look as remarkable as other birds in Tennessee. Its upperparts are a streaked grayish-brown, while its underparts are pale with brown streaks. That’s it.

Song Sparrows are present all year in eastern Tennessee but only during winter in the state’s western regions. These birds are abundant, usually found in various open areas, such as overgrown fields, marsh and forest edges, well-vegetated gardens, and residential areas.

These birds mostly forage on the ground, sometimes scratching the soil for items and looking around very shallow waters. They usually feed on seeds and insects, but sparrows in coastal regions may also hunt small crustaceans, mollusks, and fish.

Song Sparrows are also common backyard birds that come to bird feeders close to the ground. Therefore, we recommend using a platform feeder containing black oil sunflower seeds and other mixed seeds.

The Song Sparrow can adjust its future behavior based on personal experience and watching other birds interact with potential threats.

15. White-Breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis)

White-Breasted Nuthatch
Male
White-Breasted Nuthatch
Female

Apart from its breast, the White-Breasted Nuthatch also has a white belly and throat. These are contrasted by its blue-gray upperparts with black spots on the wings and tail.

There’s a slight sexual dimorphism in this species. The male has a black cap and nape, whereas the female has a blue-gray cap and black nape.

White-Breasted Nuthatches are familiar, year-round residents throughout Tennessee. You can find them in mature deciduous and mixed woods, with a preference for woodland edges along rivers and roads. They’re rarely in pure coniferous forests. You can also find them in parks and suburbs, so long as there are large trees around.

These birds primarily eat insects and seeds, especially in winter. Their diet proportion may vary from 0% seeds during summer up to 60% seeds during winter. They usually climb around tree trunks and large branches to find food, but they may also feed on the ground.

White-Breasted Nuthatches are common backyard birds that you can attract using sunflower seeds, peanut butter, and suet.

During winter, the White-Breasted Nuthatch often flocks with other birds like chickadees and titmice. One explanation states that mixed-species flocking increases feeding efficiency and protection against predators.

16. White-Throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis)

White-Throated Sparrow
White-Striped
White-Throated Sparrow
Tan-Striped

Surprise, surprise, the White-Throated Sparrow has a white throat. It also has gray cheeks, a black-and-white crown, and a small yellow stripe on the eyebrows. Meanwhile, the tan-striped morph has a tan and dark brown crown instead.

Both morphs have striped brown upperparts and plain gray underparts.

White-Throated Sparrows only visit Tennessee during winter. In this case, you can find them around forest undergrowth, overgrown fields, well-vegetated suburbs, parks, and gardens.

You can usually find these sparrows in flocks foraging on the ground close to thickets or up in shrubs. They primarily eat seeds and insects, feeding on mostly insects during summer and mostly seeds during winter.

Since they’re ground foragers, you can attract them with a platform bird feeder that contains millet or black oil sunflower seeds. You can use both of these, but each is effective on its own.

The White-Throated Sparrow almost always mates with an individual of the opposite morph.

17. Yellow-Rumped Warbler (Setophaga coronata)

Yellow-Rumped Warbler
Breeding
Yellow-Rumped Warbler
Non-Breeding

As the name suggests, the Yellow-Rumped Warbler has a yellow rump. However, it also has yellow markings on the crown, throat, and sides.

During the breeding season, the adult has blue-gray upperparts with black streaks, while its underparts are white with heavy black spotting. The adult is pale-brown in winter, with some dark brown streaks on the underparts.

Yellow-Rumped Warblers are only present in Tennessee during winter. You may find them around the state’s open woods, thickets, parks, and gardens.

These winter birds tend to forage in outer tree canopies, searching among twigs and leaves for insects and berries. They spend more time eating berries during winter, often traveling around in flocks.

You can also find them frequently visiting bird feeders, especially those containing sunflower seeds, peanut butter, suet, and raisins.

Yellow-Rumped Warblers are the only warbler species that can digest the wax coating on berries like bayberries and wax myrtles. This allows them to winter farther north than other warblers.

Roaming Tip: Flutter your wings by this article and learn about birds from this state — Colorado Birds.


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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the most common bird spotted in TN?

Out of all the birds in Tennessee, the most common species is the Northern Cardinal.

What birds are yellow in Tennessee?

The only birds in Tennesee that have yellow makings from our list are the White-Throated Sparrow and Yellow-Rumped Warbler.

How do I identify a bird in my backyard?

Many bids are flashy, so plumage color should be your first indicator. Suppose you need to identify birds that have similar colors. In that case, you can instead rely on body size, bill shape, and other biological features.


Conclusion

As you can see, setting up some feeders is one of the best ways to observe and enjoy the presence of the different backyard birds in Tennessee! Of course, you should still be on the lookout when you’re outside. You never know what you may find the next time you look at a tree, a shrub, or a telephone wire.

That said, we hope this article helped you get acquainted with the birds of Tennessee. So long as you have enough patience and dedication, you’ll make the most of your bird-watching experience!

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