types of birds in illinois

Illinois, often celebrated for its vast landscapes and diverse ecosystems, is a haven for bird enthusiasts. With its mix of forests, wetlands, grasslands, and urban areas, the state offers a welcoming habitat for a wide variety of bird species.

Let me take you on a journey to explore the rich tapestry of birds that call Illinois home.

Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)

Let’s start our avian adventure with the iconic Northern Cardinal, Illinois’ state bird. These vibrant red songbirds are a sight to behold against the backdrop of winter snow. Their cheerful songs brighten up gardens and woodlands throughout the year.

Picture a superhero in the bird world, and you’ve got the Northern Cardinal. They’re like the flashy stars of the backyard bird feeder. The males are dressed in vibrant red feathers, while the females rock a stylish mix of warm brown tones with hints of red.

Cardinals love singing, and they’re not shy about showing off their tunes. Fun fact: they don’t migrate, so if they’re in your area, you’re lucky to see them all year round!

northern cardinals

American Robin (Turdus migratorius)

Although American Robins are associated with spring, they can be found in Illinois year-round. With their distinctive orange-red breasts and melodious calls, they are considered harbingers of the changing seasons.

These birds are like the friendly neighbors who are always around. You can spot them hopping around lawns, looking for worms after it rains. They have a really cool, orange belly and a dark back.

Robins are one of the first signs of spring, but some stick around in colder places all winter. They’re not picky about where they live, so parks, gardens, and even cities are all good with them.

american robin illinois

Red-Tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)

Look to the skies, and you might spot the majestic Red-Tailed Hawk soaring with its broad wings. These raptors are skilled hunters and a symbol of strength and grace in Illinois’ landscapes.

These birds are the superheroes of the sky. They have this majestic look, with broad, rounded wings and a short, wide tail that often has a reddish hue. Red-tailed Hawks are like the guardians of the open country, soaring high and keeping an eye out for their next meal.

They have a really sharp call, often heard in movies as the classic eagle sound. These hawks are all about that high-flying life, spotting prey from way up in the air.

hawk in illinois

Mallard Duck (Anas platyrhynchos)

Wetlands and ponds across the state are home to Mallard Ducks, known for their distinctive quacks and striking iridescent green heads on the males. They are a common sight, especially in urban parks.

These ducks are the ones you probably see at ponds and lakes, showing off their green heads if they’re males and their beautifully patterned brown feathers if they’re females.

Mallards are super social and don’t mind hanging out with humans. They’re pretty much the popular kids of the water world, dabbling around for food and making those classic quack sounds.

mallard duck lifespan-

Sandhill Crane (Antigone canadensis)

In the spring and fall, keep an eye out for the elegant Sandhill Crane. Their distinctive rattling calls and graceful flight make them a unique sight during migration.

.Imagine a tall, graceful bird with a red forehead, white cheeks, and a long, pointy beak. Sandhill Cranes are like the dancers of the bird world, known for their incredible courtship dances.

They travel in big groups and can be seen in fields or wetlands, making loud, trumpeting calls. These birds are all about family, often sticking together with their mates and young ones.

Sandhill Crane

Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus)

Illinois’ forests and woodlands are the hunting grounds of the Great Horned Owl. With their “horns” of feather tufts, these nocturnal hunters are the state’s largest owls.

Picture a wise old wizard in the form of a bird, and you’ve got the Great Horned Owl. With their tufty earlike feathers and deep, hooting voice, they’re the night-time rulers. These owls have super sharp eyesight and hearing, perfect for hunting in the dark.

They’re also pretty strong, able to take on animals bigger than themselves. Great Horned Owls are like the mysterious characters in the bird story, living in forests, deserts, and even cities.

great horned owl

House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)

Don’t forget the House Sparrows, often seen near human settlements. Their chirpy presence in cities and towns adds a touch of nature to urban life.

Think of them as the friendly neighborhood bird that’s always around. House Sparrows are small, plump, and super social. They have a mix of brown, black, and white feathers, making them pretty stylish in a birdy kind of way.

They love to hang out where humans are, like parks, cities, and backyards. You’ll often see them chirping away or feasting at bird feeders, making themselves right at home.

white birds in illinois house sparrow

American Goldfinch

The American Goldfinch, often called the “wild canary,” is a bright yellow bird that graces Illinois gardens. They are known for their cheerful appearance and delightful songs, adding a touch of sunshine to the state.

These little birds are like tiny drops of sunshine flitting around. In the summer, the males are bright yellow with a cool black cap, while females and males in winter have more of a muted, olive-yellow mix.

They’re the acrobats of the bird feeder world, often seen hanging upside down to munch on seeds. American Goldfinches are all about the good vibes, bringing a splash of color and cheer wherever they go.

yellow and black birds in illinois goldfinch

Mourning Dove

Mourning Doves are gentle grayish-brown birds with a mournful cooing call. They are commonly found in urban and rural areas, symbolizing peace and tranquility in Illinois.

These birds have a soft, greyish-brown body with a pretty cool sound, kind of like a sad tune, which is how they got their name.

But don’t let their name fool you; Mourning Doves are actually quite peaceful and loving. They’re often seen snuggled up with their mates or gracefully walking on the ground, searching for seeds. They have a way of making any place feel a little more serene.

mourning dove

Downy Woodpecker

The Downy Woodpecker is a small, black-and-white bird with a distinctive white underside. These woodpeckers are frequent visitors to backyard feeders in Illinois and are known for their drumming on tree trunks.

Picture a tiny, energetic bird with a black and white outfit and a splash of red on the back of the head for the males. Downy Woodpeckers are the friendly carpenters of the bird world, tapping away on tree trunks looking for insects.

They’re pretty agile, able to move along branches and stems that might be too flimsy for bigger birds. These little guys are all about perseverance, showing that even the smallest birds can make a big impact.

black and white birds downy woodpecker in illinois

Cardinalidae (Cardinals)

Cardinals, represented by the Northern Cardinal in Illinois, are striking red birds with prominent crests. Their beautiful songs and vibrant plumage make them one of the state’s most beloved birds.

They’re like the pop stars of the bird world, with each species having its own unique look and sound. They bring a lot of joy and color to their surroundings, making them a favorite among bird watchers.

red birds in illinois cardinals

House Finch

 House Finches are small birds with brown streaked plumage and a cheerful, warbling song. They are often found nesting on buildings and are familiar residents of Illinois neighborhoods.

These birds are like the charming folks next door, with the males sporting a lovely red head and chest, and females wearing a more understated, earthy brown coat.

House Finches are pretty social and love to chat it up with a sweet, twittering song. They’re adaptable, making their homes in various environments, from urban areas to the wild. Their presence adds a lovely touch of music and color to the neighborhood.

house finch

Red-Bellied Woodpecker

The Red-Bellied Woodpecker has a striking red cap and a faint reddish wash on its belly. They are known for their distinctive “chur-chur-chur” calls and are often seen in woodlands and suburban areas.

Imagine a bird that looks like it’s always ready for a fancy party. The Red-Bellied Woodpecker has a striking black and white striped back with a touch of red on its belly, which can be a bit hard to spot. The real showstopper is the red cap it wears, which is super bright on males.

These birds are like the skilled carpenters of the forest, hammering away at trees to find their next meal. They’re pretty brave, too, often visiting bird feeders and not minding the company of humans.

red belly woodpecker illinois

Common Grackle

Common Grackles are large, iridescent blackbirds with striking yellow eyes. They are known for their raucous calls and are often seen in flocks, foraging for food in fields and urban settings in Illinois.

The Common Grackle is like the mysterious character in the bird world. At first glance, they might just look black, but in the sunlight, they shine with iridescent blues and purples, making them quite the lookers.

They’re known for their resourcefulness, able to eat just about anything, and their loud, almost mechanical sounds. Grackles have a way of moving in large groups, creating quite the spectacle when they decide to settle down in trees or fields.

common grackle black birds in illinois

Common Starling

Common Starlings are medium-sized birds with glossy black plumage and speckled markings. They are skilled mimics and can replicate a variety of sounds, including human-made noises.

These birds could win any singing competition they entered. They’re famous for their incredible vocal range, mimicking sounds and even other birds. Starlings are super social, often seen in big groups, and they have a knack for finding food in the most creative ways, making them quite the clever little birds.

common starlings illinois

Northern Flicker

Northern Flickers are medium-sized woodpeckers with distinctive markings. They have a brownish body with black spots and a noticeable white rump patch. Flickers are known for their unique “wick-a-wick-a-wick” call and can often be seen foraging for insects on the ground.

The Northern Flicker is not your average woodpecker. It’s got a stunning look with a brown body, black spots, bars, and a distinctive black ‘necklace.’ Depending on the region, they can have a splash of red or yellow on their wings and tail.

Unlike their woodpecker cousins, Northern Flickers prefer to find insects on the ground, especially ants. They have a beautiful, wild call and are known for their impressive aerial displays during mating season.


Woodpeckers in Illinois, including the Downy Woodpecker and Red-Bellied Woodpecker, are known for their drumming on tree trunks. They play an important role in the ecosystem by helping control insect populations.

With their strong beaks and shock-absorbing skulls, they can peck at wood without getting a headache. Each species has its unique look, but they all share the love for tapping on tree trunks.

woodpeckers birds in illinois

Dark-Eyed Junco

Dark-Eyed Juncos are small sparrows with dark gray plumage and white undersides. They are often seen during the winter months, foraging for seeds on the ground in Illinois.

These little birds are like the snowbirds of the feathered world, often signaling the change of seasons as they migrate. Dark-Eyed Juncos have a neat, slate-gray color on top with a stark white belly, looking like they’re dressed for a formal event.

They’re ground feeders, often spotted hopping around under feeders or bushes, fluffing up their feathers to stay warm. Juncos are quiet and unassuming, but their presence is a delight to those who notice them.

dark eyed junco

White-Breasted Nuthatch

They are small birds with a distinctive black cap and a white face. They are known for their habit of crawling headfirst down tree trunks and their nasal “yank-yank” calls.

With its striking blue-gray back and clean white underparts, it’s quite the looker. But it’s their behavior that steals the show – they can walk headfirst down tree trunks, thanks to their strong legs and feet.

Nuthatches are curious and feisty, often seen stashing away seeds for later. They have a distinctive nasal call, adding to their quirky charm.

Blue Jay

Blue Jays are striking birds with vibrant blue plumage and white markings. They are known for their intelligence and loud “jay-jay” calls. Blue Jays are common residents in Illinois and can be found in various habitats.

It is like the loud and proud show-off of the bird community. Decked out in stunning blue, white, and black plumage, they’re impossible to miss. These birds are smart cookies, known for their intelligence and complex social systems.

They can mimic other birds and even human-made noises. They are also fiercely protective of their nests and aren’t afraid to let everyone know they’re around with their loud calls. They love acorns, so if you’ve got oak trees around, you’re likely to see these beautiful birds.

blue jay blue birds in illinois

Gray Catbird

Gray Catbirds are slate-gray birds known for their melodious and cat-like calls. They are often found in dense shrubbery and woodlands, where they sing from hidden perches.

Imagine a bird that sounds like a cat, and you’ve got the Gray Catbird. These birds are a sleek slate gray all over, with a touch of chestnut under their tails. They’re named for their distinctive call that resembles a cat’s meow.

They are pretty secretive, loving to hide in dense shrubs and small trees. They have a remarkable ability to mimic the sounds of other birds and even mechanical noises, making them the impressionists of the bird world.

Song Sparrow

Song Sparrows are small brown birds with streaked plumage. They are named for their sweet and varied songs, which are a common sound in Illinois gardens and marshes.

It is like the everyman’s poet of the bird community, with a melody for every occasion. They might not be the flashiest birds, with their streaky brown appearance, but what they lack in brightness, they make up for in vocal talent.

Their song is a beautiful mix of chirps and trills, often heard across North America. These adaptable little birds can be found in a wide range of habitats, from marshes to gardens, singing their hearts out.

song sparrow

Indigo Bunting

Indigo Buntings are striking blue birds with vibrant plumage. Their cheerful songs and stunning appearance make them a welcome sight in Illinois during the breeding season.Picture a tiny bird cloaked in the most vibrant blue you can imagine, and you’ve got the Indigo Bunting.

These birds are like flying gems, especially the males with their stunning indigo plumage that shines brilliantly in the sunlight.

They sing from the highest points they can find, like treetops or telephone wires, delivering a series of sweet notes. Indigo Buntings migrate at night, using the stars to guide them, adding to their mystique.

indigo bunting

Icterids (Blackbirds and Orioles)

 Icterids in Illinois include the Red-Winged Blackbird and other species. They are known for their black plumage and vibrant markings. Red-Winged Blackbirds are particularly recognizable with their red shoulder patches.

This group includes some of the most recognizable and widespread birds. Icterids range from the bright orange and black Baltimore Orioles to the iridescent Common Grackle.

They’re known for their diverse songs and calls, as well as their ability to adapt to different environments. Orioles, for example, are loved for their striking colors and sweet tooth, often visiting feeders with fruit or nectar.

Blackbirds, with their glossy coats and gregarious nature, can often be seen foraging in flocks on lawns or fields.

icterids illinois birds common

Red-Winged Blackbird

The Red-Winged Blackbird is a common sight in wetlands and marshes. Males have glossy black feathers and distinctive red patches on their wings.

These birds are like the guardians of wetlands and marshes, easily recognized by the bright red and yellow shoulder patches on the males, which look like epaulets. The females are more subdued in color, with streaky brown plumage.

They are known for their rich, musical calls that fill the air in spring. They’re fiercely protective of their territory, not hesitating to dive-bomb intruders, including humans, if they get too close to their nests.

red wing birds

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird

 Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds are tiny, iridescent birds known for their rapid wingbeats and vibrant green plumage. They are the only hummingbird species that breeds in Illinois.

It is like a living jewel, with the males sporting a brilliant ruby-red throat that glitters in the sunlight. These tiny birds are powerhouses of energy, flapping their wings about 53 times a second, which allows them to hover in mid-air as they sip nectar from flowers. They’re migratory marvels, making a long journey from Central America to North America each year.

Watching a Ruby-Throated Hummingbird dart around flowers is like witnessing magic, a testament to the wonders of nature.

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird

Accipitridae (Hawks and Eagles)

 Accipitridae includes various raptors found in Illinois, such as hawks and eagles. They are known for their keen eyesight and hunting abilities.

This family is like the royalty of the skies, featuring birds with their impressive wingspans and keen eyesight. Members of the Accipitridae family are the masters of the air, soaring high with a regal presence. They’re skilled hunters, using their sharp talons and beaks to catch prey.

Whether it’s the powerful eagle spotting its next meal from high above or the swift hawk diving at incredible speeds, these birds are the embodiment of strength and grace in the bird kingdom.

hawks illinois


 The Osprey is a large raptor with a distinctive white head and dark eye mask. They are often seen near water bodies, where they hunt fish with precision.

The Osprey is like the specialized fisherman of the bird world. Sporting a white underbelly and a dark back, with a distinctive black stripe through the eye, they’re easy to spot.

Ospreys are unique because they eat almost exclusively fish, diving into the water feet first to grab their meal with their powerful talons. Watching an Osprey hunt is a spectacular sight, as they hover over water before making their dramatic plunge.

osprey birds illinois

Eastern Bluebird

Eastern Bluebirds are small, vibrant blue birds with reddish-brown breasts. They are a symbol of happiness and are commonly found in open woodlands and meadows.

They’re a symbol of joy and spring returning. Eastern Bluebirds are cavity nesters, often taking up residence in birdhouses provided by admiring humans. They have a gentle, melodious song, making them a delightful presence in any backyard.

eastern blue bird

Black-Capped Chickadee

They are small, black-capped birds known for their cheerful “chick-a-dee-dee-dee” calls. They are frequent visitors to bird feeders in Illinois.

The Black-Capped Chickadee is like the friendly neighbor in the bird community. Small in size but big in personality, these little birds have a distinctive black cap and bib with white cheeks, making them instantly recognizable. They’re curious and fearless, often the first to visit feeders and willing to eat from your hand.

Black-Capped Chickadee

Tufted Titmouse

They are small birds with a distinctive crest and gray plumage. They are known for their friendly nature and active foraging behavior in woodlands and backyards.

This bird is like the elegant, sophisticated one at the party, with its soft gray body, white belly, and a cute tuft of feathers on its head.

It has a large black eye that gives it a wise look. They’re quite social and often found in mixed flocks with other small birds, showing off their agility as they flit from branch to branch. Their song is a cheerful whistle, adding a lovely soundtrack to any morning.

Tufted Titmouse

Waxwing Birds

They are sleek, crested birds known for their silky plumage and distinctive wing markings. Cedar Waxwings are known for their fondness for fruit and are often seen perched in trees.

Whether it’s the Cedar Waxwing with its yellow-tipped tail and red wax-like wing tips or the Bohemian Waxwing with its rich, rufous undertones, these birds are all about style.

They have a soft, high-pitched call and are incredibly social, sharing food and even passing berries from bird to bird.

Waxwing Birds


They are predatory birds with a unique hunting strategy. They impale their prey, often insects or small vertebrates, on thorns or sharp objects before consuming them.

The Shrike is like the bird world’s version of a wolf in sheep’s clothing. At first glance, they look harmless, but they’re fierce predators, known as “butcher birds” for their habit of impaling their prey on thorns or barbed wire.

They have a hook at the tip of their beak, perfect for catching insects, small birds, or mammals. They have a pretty song, which contrasts with their predatory nature. Despite their fierce hunting methods, shrikes are fascinating birds, with a striking appearance that includes a black mask across their eyes, reminiscent of a bandit.


Black Vulture

Black Vultures are large, dark birds known for their soaring flight. They are scavengers and play a vital role in cleaning up carrion in the ecosystem.

Picture the Black Vulture as the clean-up crew of the wilderness. They might not have the prettiest job, dining on dead animals, but it’s super important for keeping the environment clean.

They are large birds with dark feathers, a bald black head, and a short tail. They’re strong fliers and can often be seen soaring in the sky, looking for their next meal. These birds are very social and care deeply for their family, often seen in large groups.

black vulture

Regulidae (Kinglets)

 Kinglets are small, vibrant birds known for their energetic behavior. The Ruby-Crowned Kinglet and Golden-Crowned Kinglet are two common species in Illinois.

Kinglets are like the tiny, energetic sparks of the bird world. They are super small, but what they lack in size, they make up for in spirit and a beautiful, flittering song.

With vibrant colors, like the gold crown of the Golden-crowned Kinglet or the fiery orange crest of the Ruby-crowned Kinglet, they’re a delight to spot. Kinglets are constantly on the move, flitting from branch to branch in search of insects, even in cold weather.

Regulidae (Kinglets)


Treecreepers, such as the Brown Creeper, are small birds with mottled brown plumage. They forage for insects on tree trunks and are skilled climbers. Imagine a little bird that’s a master climber, and you’ve got the Treecreeper. These birds have a unique, curved bill that they use to pick insects out of tree bark, and stiff tail feathers to support themselves as they climb up trees like little feathered mountaineers.

Their brown, mottled plumage camouflages them perfectly against the tree bark, making them a bit of a challenge to spot. Treecreepers are like the quiet adventurers of the forest, always exploring the nooks and crannies of trees.

Treecreepers birds


 Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers are tiny birds with striking blue-gray plumage. They are often seen flitting about in shrubs and trees, capturing tiny insects.

They are active and energetic, constantly on the hunt for their next meal of insects. They have a high-pitched, wheezy song that adds a lively soundtrack to their habitat. Watching a Gnatcatcher dart around can be quite entertaining, as they’re agile flyers with a lot of personality.


Old World Flycatchers

They include various species known for their insect-catching prowess. While not native to Illinois, they are occasionally spotted during migration.

This group includes a wide variety of birds known for their insect-catching abilities. Old World Flycatchers can range from the unassuming brown and gray of the Spotted Flycatcher to the stunning colors of the European Robin, which is actually a part of this family.

They’re skilled hunters, often catching insects mid-air with a quick, acrobatic flight. Each species has its unique charm, but they all share the trait of being excellent at controlling insect populations.

Old World Flycatchers birds


Landfowl, including species like the Wild Turkey, are ground-dwelling birds known for their powerful legs and foraging behavior in woodlands and fields.

These birds are more often found on the ground than in the air, foraging for food with their strong legs and feet. They come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors, from the iridescent feathers of a peacock to the subtle elegance of a quail.

It plays an important role in their ecosystems, and many species have been domesticated for their eggs, meat, and feathers.


Rock Dove

Rock Doves, often referred to as pigeons, are adaptable birds commonly found in urban environments. They come in various colors and are known for their cooing calls.

These birds are famous for their adaptability, living comfortably in cities around the globe. They have sleek bodies, come in various colors from grey to white, and sometimes have iridescent feathers around their necks.

Pigeons have a bit of a bad rap as city pests, but they’re actually pretty amazing for their incredible homing abilities, allowing them to find their way back to their nests over very long distances.

Rock Dove birds


Anhingas, also known as Snakebirds, are waterbirds with long necks and sharp bills. They are skilled swimmers and are often seen with their bodies submerged, with only their necks and heads above water.

The Anhinga is like the stealthy submarine of freshwater habitats.They are often called the “Snakebird,” because when it swims, its long neck sticks out of the water while its body remains submerged, looking like a snake ready to strike.

Anhingas have long, thin bodies with sharp bills, perfect for spearing fish. They have a unique way of drying their feathers by spreading them out like a cloak because, unlike most birds, their feathers get completely soaked, helping them dive deeper.


Snowy Owl

Snowy Owls are large, striking white owls with distinctive yellow eyes. They are winter visitors to Illinois and are known for their Arctic origins.

Picture the Snowy Owl as the majestic guardian of the Arctic. With their stunning white feathers that help them blend into their snowy surroundings, these owls are not just beautiful; they’re powerful hunters.

They have large, round heads with captivating yellow eyes. They’re one of the few owl species that are diurnal, meaning they’re active during the day, especially in the summer. Watching a Snowy Owl silently glide over a snowy field is like witnessing a piece of the Arctic come to life.

snowy owl


American Coots are waterbirds with black plumage and white bills. They are often seen swimming in lakes and ponds, using their lobed toes for efficient paddling.

Coots might look like ducks at first glance, but they’re more like the quirky cousins of the waterfowl world. They have dark bodies, white bills, and fascinating feet that are not webbed like ducks but have lobed toes, helping them paddle through water and walk on soft mud.

They are often seen in groups, bobbing on the water’s surface or foraging along the shores. They’re vocal birds, with a variety of calls and sounds that add character to their watery homes.

coot illinois


 Bitterns, such as the American Bittern, are wading birds known for their cryptic plumage. They are often heard making “booming” calls in wetland habitats.

They are like the magicians of the marsh, experts at blending in with their surroundings. These birds are part of the heron family, but they’re more secretive, hiding among reeds and grasses in wetlands.

Bitterns have streaked brown and beige plumage that looks just like the reeds they live in, making them almost invisible when they stand still. Their most famous trait is their booming call, which can be heard far and wide, a deep, resonant sound that adds to the mystery of wetlands.



Illinois’ birdlife is as diverse as its landscapes. Whether you’re a casual observer or a dedicated birder, the state offers a treasure trove of avian wonders to explore. From the vibrant Northern Cardinal to the elegant Sandhill Crane, you have different types of birds in Illinois. Each bird plays a unique role in the ecological tapestry of Illinois. So, grab your binoculars, head outdoors, and embark on your own birdwatching adventure to discover the feathered wonders of the Prairie State.


What is the most common bird in Illinois?

The American Robin (Turdus migratorius) is one of the most common and widely recognized birds in Illinois.

What is the state bird of Illinois?

The Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) holds the honor of being the official state bird of Illinois.

What is the largest bird in Illinois?

The largest bird in Illinois is the Sandhill Crane (Antigone canadensis), known for its impressive height and wingspan.

What is the big red bird in Illinois?

The “big red bird” in Illinois is likely referring to the Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis), known for its bright red plumage.

What is the Bluebird of Illinois?

The Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis) is often referred to as the “Bluebird of Illinois.”

Meta Description: “Explore the fascinating world of birds in Illinois, from the iconic Northern Cardinal to the majestic Sandhill Crane. Learn about the diverse avian species that call the Prairie State home.”

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