Bird Habitats

Understanding where birds live is key to finding and photographing them. Below are simple profiles of different habitat types and the bird species most often associated with them – please note that these habitat types are not singular and some environments encompass features of multiple habitats.

Mature Forest

An undisturbed tract of land, with multilayered canopies of large trees, young/small trees, and dead trees (both standing and fallen). Mature forests are full of diverse vegetation and wildlife; their conservation is vital to the survival of many birds.

Types of Mature Forest: 

  • Deciduous Forest: Deciduous trees and shrubs lose their leaves seasonally, usually this means they drop their leaves sometime in the fall, are leafless through winter, then begin to grow back new leaves the following spring, so that they are at full bloom for summer. Deciduous plants go through this process to better survive winter conditions. While the lack of leaves makes deciduous trees and shrubs poor winter shelter options for birds, they do provide great benefit to birds once the leaves return. In fact, migratory birds often return to northern breeding grounds just as deciduous plants are beginning to bloom – this is no coincidence as birds often use these plants for breeding and nesting activities. Woody deciduous plants also play hosts to thousands of insects (the number one source of food for birds) and provide other food sources like berries, nuts, seeds, sap, and nectar.
  • Evergreen Forest: Evergreen denotes a plant that retains its leaves throughout the year (thus “ever”) and whose leaves are always green (thus “green”). Evergreen plants can either be trees or shrubs and many are conifers (cone bearing seed plants). For these reasons, evergreen plants play a very important role in providing food and shelter for birds - food from the seeds and berries evergreens produce and shelter from the hardy needle branches, which offer protection for birds against the weather (especially in winter when deciduous trees lose their leaves) and predators (which makes evergreen plants a prime spot for nesting).
  • Mixed Forest: A forest in which there is both deciduous and evergreen vegetation.

Birds Most Commonly Associated with Mature Forest Habitat

Black-Capped Chickadee     Blue Jay     Downy Woodpecker     Kinglets     Pileated Woodpecker     Purple Finch     Red-Bellied Woodpecker     Rose-Breasted Grosbeak     Red-Eyed Vireo     Scarlet Tanager     Tufted Titmouse     Veery     Warblers     White-Breasted Nuthatch

Open Woodland

An environment with scattered trees and relatively open canopy, also limited understory vegetation. Can be an open area surrounded by or within a forest.

Birds Most Commonly Associated with Open Woodland Habitat

American Goldfinch     American Robin     Baltimore Oriole     Black-Capped Chickadee     Blue Jay     Cedar Waxwing     Downy Woodpecker     Eastern Bluebird     Eastern Phoebe       Gray Catbird     House Finch     Indigo Bunting     Mourning Dove     Northern Cardinal     Northern Flicker     Northern Mockingbird               Purple Finch     Red-Bellied Woodpecker     Rose-Breasted Grosbeak     Ruby-Throated Hummingbird     Tufted Titmouse     Warblers     White-Breasted Nuthatch

Backyard/Lawn

An environment in which the vegetation is primarily limited to grassland (which is often mowed) and maybe a garden. A wooded backyard features scattered trees. 

Birds Most Commonly Associated with Backyard/Lawn Habitat

American Goldfinch     American Robin     House Finch     Indigo Bunting     Mourning Dove     Northern Cardinal     Northern Mockingbird

Overgrown Grassland or Field

Unmanicured, natural area full of tall grasses, weeds, and shrubbery such as brambles and thickets.

Birds Most Commonly Associated with Overgrown Habitat

American Goldfinch     Dark-Eyed Junco     Eastern Towhee     Gray Catbird     Indigo Bunting     Northern Cardinal

Wetland

Anything from a river, lake, pond, swamp, stream, canal, or other type of wetland. 

Birds Most Commonly Associated with Wetland Habitat

Bald Eagle     Cedar Waxwing     Ducks     Geese     Gray Catbird    Herons     Northern Cardinal     Osprey     Roseate Spoonbill     Shore Birds     Sparrows