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There are over 2,000 species in North America. This equates to over 7 billion birds that can be found in the United States and Canada.
This looks like a staggering number, but considering that there are over 10,000 different bird species around the world, we can appreciate and wonder at the diversity of the animals on our planet.
Still, 7 billion birds are nothing to scoff at, which is why both local and foreign birdwatchers flock, pun intended, to North America, especially during migration and breeding season.
If you are one of those who are crazy about birds, then you will enjoy this guide to North American birds. We made a list of the popular kinds of birds in North America.
Not only will you learn more about our feathered friends from the third largest continent in the world, but you will also get to have a better understanding of how truly wonderful nature is.
How Many Birds Are There in North America?
According to both the Audubon Society as well as Cornell Lab of Ornithology, there are exactly 2,059 bird species that can be found in North America.
This figure does not include extinct species and, obviously, any yet-to-be-discovered species in the area.
This, however, includes both native and introduced species, which means that even those not originally endemic birds have been included in the list.
The exact number of birds in North America has been a matter of contention as the American Birding Association only has around 1,000 bird species in their North American region catalog.
The National Geographic Bird Field Guide, on the other hand, only has 990 bird species on their list.
The reason for this is the loose categorization of the term. There have also been geographical restrictions that have been considered.
For example, a few sightings of a particular species may or not be counted. Migratory birds may not also be considered.
On the other hand, there are lists that do not include certain locations such as Mexico, parts of Central America, the Caribbean, and Hawaii, among others.
Still, 2,000 bird species in North America alone is a truly staggering number, and that figure would probably serve as the Holy Grail for birdwatchers everywhere.
Most Common Birds in North America
While there are thousands of different bird species that can be found in North America, the total population of each specific species will vary.
As such, while you may commonly see certain types of birds, another would be a rarity to behold.
List of birds of North America
Here is a short list of some of the most common birds that you will see in North America.
American robins are a staple in North American towns and cities. Except for the hottest areas in the Southern region of the continent, you can find this bird species anywhere.
Estimates of American robin populations are at 300 million individual birds.
Despite the name, European starling numbers in North America can reach anywhere from 50 to 200 million.
This is not a bad number for a species that was originally introduced into the continent around 150 years ago. However, many experts consider European starlings as an invasive species as they take food or nesting sites from other native species.
Chipping sparrows are more common in rural areas, but you can still see a few in cities and larger towns.
Introduced in the East by European settlers, the current chipping sparrow population estimates are around 200 million.
The mourning dove is one of the most prolific bird species when it comes to procreation. Capable of producing anywhere from 2 to 12 offspring annually, mourning doves can breed up to six times a year under the right conditions.
Estimates vary wildly from 100 to 475 million individuals. Regardless of the real number, you can definitely see that the mourning dove is far from a rarity.
The number of red-winged blackbirds in the world ranges from 130 to 190 million individuals. They can be found all over North America but mainly near ponds, fields, or in other wetland areas.
Red-winged blackbirds are very vocal birds. They are also very precocious breeders, with a male possibly mating with as many as 15 different females at any given time.
Dark-eyed juncos are a dime a dozen all year round, even in winter. They are more prevalent across the northern parts of North America, especially in Canada and Alaska.
These birds are considered one of the most abundant bird species in North America, with population estimates reaching as high as 630 million.
The house sparrow can be found almost anywhere and is probably one of the usual birds that you see, either in cities or around farmlands.
The population of house sparrows is believed to be around 540 million individual birds.
Rarest Birds in North America
While there are a lot of wildly abundant birds in North America, there are also others that are very rare and are only seen by a few.
This does not mean those birds that can only be found in one spot, but rather birds that are very low in numbers and are typically classified as critically endangered.
Many of these species are expected to be extinct within a few decades or even years unless conservation efforts are made to bring the total population back up.
Here are some of the rarest birds that you can find in North America.
The California condor is the rarest bird in North America. It is also the largest flying bird in the world, with a wingspan of 10 to 12 feet from tip to tip.
At their lowest, there were only 22 California condors left in the world. This was due to excessive hunting, poisoning, as well as the loss of their natural habitat.
California condors are also slow breeders, only producing an egg once every one to two years. Recovery efforts have been ongoing and there are now about 240 of these majestic creatures out in the wild.
The whooping crane has been on the endangered list since the 1900s, and they were very close to extinction during the 1940s when only two dozen of these birds were found.
Like the California condor, whooping cranes have been victims of both hunting and habitat loss. Currently, their numbers have increased to about 650 individual birds.
Whooping cranes are also known to migrate between Canada and Texas, making their route a favorite among birdwatchers during migration season. Still, these regal birds are far from the population numbers that conservationists are comfortable with.
The Kirtland Warbler is not only endangered but it can only be found in select areas. They can only be found in areas like Michigan, Wisconsin, and Ontario due to their breeding preferences, and in not quite large numbers at that.
During the 1970s, the population of Kirtland Warblers dropped to alarming levels. This is due to loss of habitat as well as because of brown-headed cowbirds that steal the warblers’ nests.
Due to conservation efforts, this songbird’s population has risen to just under 5,000. It’s still not a great number, but a step in the right direction.
The Gunnison Sage-Grouse used to be lumped up with the Greater Sage-Grouse in terms of categorization. It was not until the 200s that they were recognized as different species, and it was then that the trouble started.
Found in Western Colorado and Eastern Utah, Gunnison Sage-Grouse numbers are estimated at just 4,800 individuals. Most alarmingly, this species is no longer found in a vast majority of its former habitat.
Various threats to the Gunnison Sage-Grouse include disease, climate change, loss of habitat, and lack of water due to drought. Currently, efforts are being made to ensure that this endangered bird species does not become too late to save from extinction.
The island scrub-jay holds the distinction of being a North American bird with the smallest range, being found only on Santa Cruz Island, a few miles off the coast of California.
From a known estimate of 12,000 individuals, a current approximation of the Island scrub-jays population stands at 2,300.
Reasons for the dangerously low populations include predation by other animals such as sheep, disease, and loss of habitat. Island scrub jays also do not migrate, making their options for a new habitat where breeding conditions and survivability can improve slim to none.
Extinct Birds in North America
Aside from common and rare birds and everything else in between, there are also bird species that, unfortunately, no longer exist.
Extinction pretty much means there are no living birds of these types anywhere on the planet.
Still, seeing a bird previously known to be extinct has always been the dream of any full-blooded birdwatcher and, with the planet being as large as it is, it’s not outside the realm of possibility.
As such, these extinct birds pretty much become mythical in status, and seeing one live is pretty much the Holy Grail when it comes to birdwatching.
Unfortunately, all of the birds listed below are truly extinct across the known world. You can pretty much say that they are, in fact, dead as a dodo, yet another extinct bird.
Here are some bird species that used to prowl North America that have been declared extinct and have been lost in time.
The great auks were closely related to penguins and, like their cousins, were large flightless birds.
Great auks used to be found in different areas across North America such as the coasts of Canada, Florida, and other northeastern parts of the United States.
Poaching and climate change quickly decimated the population of these once-abundant birds. The last confirmed sighting of the great auk was in 1852.
The Carolina parakeet was only found in the United States and was used to number in the tens to hundreds of thousands for each of the at least 28 states where it can be found.
Deforestation is considered the major cause of the rapid decline and eventual extinction of the Carolina parakeet. They were also killed by farmers as well as for their beautiful feathers.
Recognized as extinct by the IUCN in 1920, the last confirmed Carolina parakeet died at the Cincinnati Zoo in 1918. No further sightings of this once-abundant bird have been made since then.
The passenger pigeon was endemic to North America and had numbered in the billions during their peak. However, it took less than a century for this bird species to become extinct.
Vast deforestation, excessive hunting for food and sport, predation, and other factors caused the sharp decline of the population and, despite conservation efforts and legislation, nothing could stop them from dying out.
Declared extinct in 1914, the last known passenger pigeon, named Martha, died that same year in the Cincinnati Zoo, coincidentally in the same cage where the last Carolina parakeet also died.
Not much is known about the Labrador Duck as they were discovered pretty late, and at that point, Labrador Duck sightings were already rare.
Endemic to North America, Labrador Ducks can be found in New Jersey and New England, among others. It is also known to migrate to Labrador and Quebec for the summer.
The last known sighting of the Labrador Duck was in 1878. It was believed that changes in the coastal ecosystem due to human influence caused a sharp decline in the species’ food sources, causing their extinction.
The imperial woodpecker was known to be the largest woodpecker species that had existed. It used to reside in the forests of Mexico and was considered rare long before it became extinct.
Like with many species, deforestation was considered one of the reasons for the imperial woodpecker’s extinction. The species was also hunted for food as well as for use in folk medicine.
Although considered extinct by the Mexican government for the past two decades, it is still considered critically endangered but possibly extinct by the IUCN.
Best Places for Birdwatching in North America
There are many locations across North America where birdwatchers go in order to either see a diverse collection of birds in the area or to have a chance to get a glimpse of a rare bird in its natural albeit limited habitat.
There are also locations that are perfect especially during migration season, as seeing flocks of birds flying to and from their destinations is truly a sight to behold.
Locations such as Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, Mackenzie Delta in the Yukon, Vancouver Island in British Colombia, Bristol in Rhode Island, and Hawaii are some of the most popular locations for birdwatchers who want to see both common and rare birds.
Other places that birdwatchers might consider visiting in North America include Harlingen in Texas, Toledo in Ohio, Everglades National Park in Florida, Point Pelee National Park in Ontario, and many more.
You can join birdwatching societies and forums to get a list of the best birdwatching locations as well as what bird species you can possibly see.
They will also provide the best times that you can make your visit. This is usually during migration season where you can observe different bird species fly, breed, feed, and live their usual lives.
How to Attract Birds
If you live in an area with a lot of birds, you do not need to travel to attract them to your home. There are little actions that you can do to turn your yard into a place that fine-feathered friends would love to visit.
All you need are bird feeders with adequate food, a bird bath with fresh clean water, and a place for them to root and nest. You can also plant trees and plants that can serve as food sources and possible homes for your feathered friends.
Ivy, honeysuckle, holly, hawthorn, and guelder rose are favorites of birds. Wildflowers can also attract insects that birds can feed on.
Of course, it would be important to keep any animals that prey on birds away. That may include your pet cat.
By setting up your yard or garden to be bird-friendly, you can easily have your own birdwatching spot right by your porch.
The world has such a rich collection of birds with varying attributes that make each one special and unique. However, we should always consider that these creatures are still living beings, just like us.
As such, we must always do our part to ensure that the world stays livable for these creatures. Something as simple as disposing of your trash properly can help immensely in making sure that some birds like to fly another day.
We have to realize that we share the planet with other creatures and that our actions can directly or indirectly cause them harm.
By finding that right balance to make sure that we are doing minimal damage to the environment and its inhabitants, we can guarantee that these birds will still be around for present and future generations of birdwatchers to enjoy.