Florida Backyard Birds to Spot at Home

Kate Mitchell

November 10, 2022

You're looking out of the window at your beautiful backyard. Suddenly, there's a little flutter of color flickering behind some leaves. What could it be? A bird, of course! 

But... which one?

Even if you get the chance to take a good look, perhaps as this tiny creature wings its way across the lawn, it can be a challenge to work out which bird you're looking at.

This guide will introduce you to some of the birds you're likely to find in your own backyard. 

What birds might I see in North Central Florida?

There are thousands of birds that live in or visit Florida. Some stay all year; others migrate and are here for either the winter or the summer months. Here are five favorites to look out for in your backyard this week.

Northern Cardinal

A striking red Northern Cardinal with a black mask

The brilliant red tufts and stark black face of the male northern cardinal make it one of the most recognizable birds you are likely to spot in your Florida yard.

Females are more of a pale brown, but still have a red tint to the crest. Like the males they have a reddish-orange beak.

The female cardinal sings as well as the male. This is unusual - in most types of birds, only the male sings, to attract a mate and defend his territory. The cardinal's lively song and bright colors made it a popular pet in the past, until sale and ownership of the bird was banned in 1918.

Cardinals do not migrate, so you might see them at any time of year. They like to eat seeds as well as grains and fruits. They are ground feeders, so you can attract them by putting out a platform or tray feeder.

Their favorite food is sunflower seeds, although cardinals will also eat a range of other seeds. If you have suitable shrubs around the edges of your yard to provide cover for them, it's possible that you could find cardinals nesting in the undergrowth. 

Mourning Dove

A slender, elegant, pale brown mourning dove

Like the cardinal, the mourning dove is a common bird in Florida and in fact across most of North America. It has several other names, including rain dove, turtle dove and Carolina pigeon.

In spite of its muted, light brown and grey coloring this is a beautiful bird. It has a slender, elegant neck and a delicate head - just like other types of dove. The large black speckles on its wings add a touch of beauty too.

This bird's plaintive, sad, cooing call is what gave it the name mourning dove. Its call can be mistaken for an owl's hoot. When it flies, especially when it's taking off or landing, the mourning dove's wings make a quiet whistling sound! This is very unusual among birds and it probably helps to warn others of approaching predators.

Mourning doves like a range of different habitats and are often seen in urban areas. They do migrate, but can be seen in Florida all year round.

These beautiful, sad-sounding birds eat seeds, especially millet, corn, sunflower and safflower. They will feed from a tray or platform feeder as long as it is large enough.

Blue Jay

A cheeky blue, black and white blue jay holds a nut in its beak

The blue jay is another easily-recognised and well-loved native Floridian bird. It has a white belly and a blue back. Its wings are barred: they have blue, white and black stripes.

Male and female blue jays have the same plumage.

Like most corvids, the blue jay is a curious, intelligent and noisy bird. It can mimic other sounds, including human speech. Blue jays also copy the calls of local hawks in a very convincing way. In captivity these amazing birds have been observed using tools to obtain food!

Blue jays are omnivorous and love to eat nuts. They can extract peanuts from the shell with their strong beaks and this is one of their favorite foods. Blue jays also like to eat insects, so if you can attract them to your backyard they will help to keep down the numbers of aphids, caterpillars and other bugs.

American Robin

A black-headed, orange-chested American robin

The American robin is not related to the famous European robin and is in fact a member of the thrush family. However, it is named after the European robin because it too has a reddish-orange breast.

This common bird has a yellow beak, a black or grey head -- with cool white eye splotches -- and a brown back. Females have paler coloring.

In the summer, American robins breed in the northern states of the USA. They migrate to Florida for the winter. You might see them arriving any time from the end of August and they will start to head back north in February or March.

In winter, robins spend the night roosting in large flocks. During the day you will see them feeding in smaller groups.

Robins like to forage on the ground. They eat fruit, berries and invertebrates -- so they too can help keep bugs away from your shrubs. Robins don't tend to visit backyard feeders as they like to scavenge, but they are very comfortable around people and may be seen hopping on the lawn.

American Goldfinch

A female American goldfinch with pale brown body, black and white wings and a yellowish head

The American goldfinch is a gorgeous, vibrant yellow -- during the summer months. However, in the winter, which is when this bird visits Florida, the male will be more of an olive color, with a yellowish head. The females are a yellow-brown color all year.

The goldfinch's distinctive beak shape can help to identify it all year round. It is conical, usually pink, and an excellent shape for extracting seeds from plants.

Goldfinches breed further north and come to Florida between November and March. They like to eat black sunflower seeds, but their favourite food is niger seed. They will visit backyard bird feeders, especially those designed for small birds. There's even a type of feeder specifically for finches!

These cute little birds are one of the few finches that can feed upside down. If you see a finch head-down on your backyard feeder during the winter months, the chances are it will be a goldfinch.

How do I identify a bird in my backyard?

It can be really tricky to identify the birds that land on our backyard feeders, brightening up our gardens with their colors and songs. Some birds look different at different times of year; others have different coloring depending on whether they are male or female.

Bird guides will give information about size, shape, color, beak shape, silhouette... the list goes on! Even a bird's behaviour can be an excellent clue as to what it might be. There's so much to think about.

And there are so many different types of bird that you might see!

Fortunately, there are loads of resources available to help us out. If you're feeling enthusiastic you could check out this great guide to the backyard birds you might spot in Central Florida.

More Information

Has this post got you all excited about birds? If so, you might want to look at this article from birdwatchinghq.com, or the Cornell Lab's very useful All About Birds website. Or you could borrow a bird guide from the library, or even join a local birding group.

We hope this information has shown you another way in which you can take joy in your beautiful backyard. Not only is it a pleasant place for you and your friends and family to hang out -- it's a space where nature can come to visit and show off its beautiful colors.

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