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Do you love birds? Ah, I have a soft spot for these little flying creatures. They make such lovely music and are refreshing to watch. Idaho birds offer more than that. You feel you are in sync with Mother Nature.
There is so much to see: you could see the sharp-tailed grouse birds performing their courtship dance. Or even see hummingbirds fluttering their tiny wings as they fly from flower to flower… It’s all so magical.
Idaho is the perfect place to add new species to your birding life list, whether you are a beginner or a seasoned bird watcher like me. You can always spot a new lifer from the comfort of your backyard or out in Idaho’s endless rolling hills or rugged wilderness.
Idaho has over 400 bird species, but covering each species is out of the scope of this article. So I will cover birds that will probably visit your yard in summer, winter, and all year round. You will learn to identify them, their food, and their unique behavior so you can spot them easily when you go out birding.
Sneak Preview of the Idaho Birds
Idaho has 433 bird species, but not all of them will visit your yard. Many birds may come in summer, some in the winter, and others all year-round.
Birds may visit your neighborhood but fail to stop at your yard. It is in your best interest to provide them with food, water, houses, and plant plants suitable for them in your yard to attract them to your yard.
Here is a quick rundown to keep you updated on the common birds visiting your yard.
|Common Idaho Winter Birds||Common All Year Round Idaho Birds||Common Summer and Fall Idaho Birds|
|Snow buntings: furry black and white birds.||Downy woodpecker: acrobatic black and white birds with a red patch on their heads.||Lazuli buntings: Blue-headed birds with white bellies and a rusty neck.
Females are primarily warm brown with hints of blue on the wings.
|Lapland longspurs: small sparrow-like birds with bold black faces and yellow beaks.||Mountain bluebirds: relatively small thrushes with brilliant blue plumages, a round head, and straight, thin beaks.||Black-capped chickadees: Summer/fall birds with a black cap and bib; white cheeks and belly; and gray back, wings, and tail.|
|Common redpolls: energetic brown and black birds with a red patch on the head and heavily streaked sides.||Mourning dove: slender-tailed, small-headed birds that are gray-brown all over.||American robins: popular Idaho birds with warm orange breasts and brown backs and wings.|
Idaho Winter Birds-Regular Idaho Birds You’ll Encounter During Snowy Months
It’s winter, and it’s cold out there. But it does not mean you have to miss out on bird-watching!
Even though it might not seem like a good idea, birding can be pretty rewarding in winter. That’s because some birds are highly adapted to thrive in winter.
Watch out for the following Idaho birds in your feeder during winter:
Snow Bunting (Plectrophenax nivalis)-Snowflakes
With winter’s cold, dark days come the furry black and white snow buntings sauntering across the bare fields. Nicknamed “snowflakes,” these birds appear like snowflakes from how they swirl in the air before they land.
Colorations and Markings: Snowflakes look like a 5-year-old has painted them: their coloration is a mix of rusty patches, white bellies, and dark streaks.
And these colors change depending on sex, age, and season.
While this aspect can make it difficult for beginners to differentiate between bunting sexes, there are a few ways to do so. Furthermore, as with most sexually dimorphic birds, male snowflakes have brighter plumage than females. So watch out for the bright colors in males as you observe them.
As summer heats up, males grow snowy-white plumage on their heads and underparts. Females will look similar to males but with mottled backs.
But both genders exhibit a buffy appearance in winter and autumn, with males gaining spotted upper parts.
Breeding males are lily white with black backs, and the breeding females are whitish all over, with a dusky head and brown streak on their back. Mating hens and cocks have a dark beak that turns orange-yellow when not breeding.
Non-breeding males have rustier faces, white bellies, and dark streaks on their backs. Non-breeding females also have rusty faces, but even darker rusty spots on their chests.
Measurements: Compared to other bunting species, the snow bunting is larger and has longer wings. An adult bird is about 15 cm long with a wingspan of 30–38 cm and weighs 30–40 grams.
Overview: snow bunting is a fascinating bird with unique traits. Winter is the best time if you hope to glimpse this snowbird.
Because it is strictly a winter bird — arriving in fall and departing at the first sign of spring. So unless you want to take a trip to the arctic tundra (which I don’t recommend), winter is your best bet!
The snow bunting is a diurnal bird and often migrates in enormous flocks, and hierarchically—males dominate over females while adults dominate over juveniles.
Snow buntings are omnivorous birds that feed on different kinds of food. They eat leaf buds and seeds, insects, crustaceans, and even small fish. But the young ones mostly eat insects.
Sound: Male and female snow buntings give clear skew, short buzzes, and sharp chi-tik calls when foraging for food.
Lapland longspurs are small and sparrow-like birds common in Idaho during winter. Their name stems from their large hind claws, which help them navigate challenging terrain like snow and mud.
Colorations and Markings: Males are eye-catching, but breeding males are even more attractive than females.
A breeding male has a yellow-orange beak with a dark tip, black face, bib, crown, white eyebrows, and a rusty nape. They also have heavily streaked upper parts in black, brown, and white, and buffy white bellies with black streaks — a stunning and colorful bird.
Non-breeding males have whitish, black, and brown streaks on their backs and crowns, whitish bellies, clean napes, and rusty patches on their wings. Non-breeding males also have brown streaked flanks, a brown beak, and blackish outlines on their heads.
In contrast, female birds look dull and less colorful when breeding and when not breeding. In the breeding season, female longspurs resemble non-breeding males. And they look even duller when they aren’t breeding.
A juvenile Lapland Longspur’s plumage resembles that of a non-breeding adult, but it is duller, darker, and streakier.
Measurements: Lapland longspur is a small sparrow-like bird with a large wingspan. Adults have a wingspan of up to 29 I’m, grow to 15-16 I’m long, and weigh slightly over 22 grams.
Overview: The Lapland longspur forages for food in a jerky, quick low crouch. Their winter and summer diets differ but they mostly eat seeds and insects.
Like most birds, the Lapland longspur breeds in pairs, but they regroup once the breeding season ends.
Sound: Lapland longspurs usually have tik tik calls accompanied by short and clear ‘tue.’ They give clear and repeated ‘treeu’ and ‘dyuee’ calls during breeding.
The common redpoll is a frequent sight in Idaho throughout winter. It’s a bird you won’t want to miss—especially when it’s around.
Colorations and markings: common redpolls are among the smallest finches with distinctive colors and dark bibs.
The adult birds have brownish-gray feathers with a distinct red patch on top of their heads. Plus, they have a dark bib and dark streaks on their back, sides, and wings.
Though male and female common redpolls look similar, you can tell them apart: the male has a pink wash on the chest, while the female has a white breast, darker ribs, extensive streaks on their backs, and rumps.
Juveniles resemble adults but have paler plumages and lack the red patch common in males.
Redpolls’ beaks change color depending on breeding status. Their beaks become horn-colored at the base and dusky at the tip during the breeding season but turn yellowish with a dark tip when not breeding.
Overview: Common redpolls are partial migrants who usually stalk your yard and feeders in winter for food. For their tiny size, they are well adapted to survive the cold seasons.
Common redpolls eat small invertebrates, plants, and seeds such as nyjer and sunflower. After having their fill, they store some seeds in special throat pouches.
Measurements: Common redpolls can grow up to 14 cm long and weigh between 12 and 16 grams. Their wingspan is 19-22 cm.
Sound: Like most birds in Idaho, redpolls have unique songs. They produce a string of buzzy trills and twitters (chit-chit-chit-zeeeet). Normal calls sound like tsoooet, djek-djek-djek, and tek (alarm call).
Bohemian waxwings are plump, soft-feathered birds with distinct facial features.
While common in Idaho during winter, they may fail to visit backyards and feeders because of their nomadism.
If you scout the northern parts of Idaho, you may spot one or two birds scurrying fruit trees for berries.
Colorations and markings: the Bohemian waxwing has a conspicuous crest, brownish-gray plumage, and a short tail.
You’ll also notice a black mask on their faces, surrounded by a faint peach blush.
Besides rusty under tails and yellow-tipped tails, waxwing birds have red waxy tips on some of their plumes.
Female birds bear close to males but have narrower yellow markings on the tail tip and less pronounced wing markings.
Juveniles have dull plumages with whiter bellies, tiny black face masks, and few red markings on the wing tip. They also lack the black mark on their necks.
Overview: Bohemian waxwings are movers who move in large, compact, and boisterous groups.
Off breeding, waxwings prefer open fields with lots of fruits, insects, and seeds. But during mating, they mostly eat insects like mosquitoes and midges.
Measurements: a fully grown waxwing bird measures 16-19 cm long with a wingspan of 33 cm and weighs 45–70 grams.
Sound: unlike most songbirds, Bohemian waxwings lack an actual song but communicate in high-pitched calls as they roam in flocks.
Hawk Owl – Is it a Hawk or an Owl?
The hawk owl (Surnia ulula) is a medium-sized boreal forest owl that behaves like a hawk.
Colorations and markings: Except for their necks, which converge in a black V-shaped pattern, Hawk owls are gray with white mottles. Their undersides are off white and extend to their feet.
Its pale face, lined with black edges and yellow eyebrow-like markings, gives them a piercing gaze over its bright yellow eyes.
Although hawk owls echo sparrowhawks in flight, their long tails, larger size, and a pale patch across their chest distinguish them.
Overview: Hawk owls are among the few howls that are neither nocturnal nor crepuscular but active during the day only.
Like all hawks, hawk owls are carnivorous. In winter, their diet consists mainly of smaller birds, squirrels, and rabbits. Mice, fish, and frogs are a delicacy for the summer season.
Hawk owls have unique traits: they hunt during the daytime, roll in the snow and preen themselves. They also like perching on vantage positions like snags or spruce tree tops as they survey the surroundings for prey.
Measurements: Hawk owls are slender and medium-sized birds measuring 35–45 in. long. They weigh up to 380 grams and have a wingspan of 70–82 cm for top flight and aerial maneuvers.
Sound: hawk owls produce screeching, and crackle sounds during distress, but males also emit “Ulululululul ‘” during courtship and rolling whistles to attract a mate.
All Year Round, Idaho Birds
Idaho has many all-year-round bird species, including rare, endangered, common, and beautiful ones.
Here are some birds that may visit your yard all year round.
Downy Woodpecker—The Smallest Woodpecker
The Downy Woodpecker is among the most widespread bird species in Idaho. You may confuse it with its cousin, the hairy woodpecker. The two species have white and black plumage, but the hairy woodpeckers are larger and have longer bills.
Downy woodpeckers have black and white colors on the upper parts, which form a series of lines on their wings. They also have plain white underparts.
Males, however, have a red nape that helps distinguish them from females. Instead of the red napes, females have black ones.
Both genders have short, nub-like beaks and zygodactyl foot development,
Juveniles resemble adults but have pronounced colors and a large beak because their heads are smaller.
Woodpeckers are omnivorous, often pecking trunks, branches, and twigs in search of insects, seeds, nuts, and fruits.
Downy woodpeckers are acrobatic birds, often showcasing their prowess by falling, rising during flight, and perching upside down.
Measurements: Adult birds measure between 14 and 18 cm and have a wingspan of 25–30 cm. Depending on the wingspan, a woodpecker’s body mass is 20 to 35 grams.
Sound: The first indication of a woodpecker’s presence in the woods is drumming sounds. Males use the drumming sounds to attract females and mark territories. The birds make their drumming noises by tapping on trees with their long beaks.
During their breeding season—April and May—downy woodpeckers intensify their drumming on trees.
Their calls are strident, whinnying “kee-kee-kee” cries.
Mountain Bluebird-Idaho’s State Bird
Colorations and markings: Besides their blue wing and tail tip plumage, their miniature body size and a thin soot black beak sell mountain bluebirds.
Males look different, with flashy blue plumage and contrasting white bellies.
Females are less conspicuous, with gray-brown upper parts and pale rusty stomachs. This makes them blend well into their habitat and are challenging to spot.
Another feature to identify the female mountain bluebirds is white eye rings, which males lack.
Measurement: An adult mountain bird is about 16–20 cm long, 30 gm heavy (approximately one ounce), and has a 28–36 cm wingspan.
Overview: residing in Idaho all year round, the mountain bluebird is Idaho’s state bird. Many love the mountain bluebird, Idaho’s state bird, because it symbolizes love, hope, and happiness.
It has a remarkable ability to forage and hunt while hovering in the same spot.
During the summer months, mountain bluebirds get their protein from caterpillars and other insects found on plants or in leaf litter. In the winter, they sometimes supplement their diet with berries that grow on bushes in their habitat.
For arctic bluebirds, the breeding season occurs in spring and summer. Mature male and female birds will form a monogamous pair bond that will produce up to three broods.
Sound: A mountain bluebird’s call sounds like a soft few while its song sounds like a rapid chur chur warbled chirp.
Mourning Dove—A Symbol of Love, Peace, and Hope
Have you ever heard a mournful, soft coo outside your window and raced to see if it was an owl, only to find a svelte, medium-sized bird? That’s a mourning dove!
Colorations and markings: Mourning doves have small heads marked with comma-shaped black spots behind and below the eyes. Their bodies are brown and gray, with dark spots on the wings.
Females look like males but have more substantial browning to their plumage and a smaller body size.
Measurements: The mourning doves measure 9-13 inches long and have an average wingspan of 15–18 inches. An adult bird weighs 110–170 grams.
Overview: Mourning doves are common in crop fields, yards, and farms. You’ll spot them busily foraging the ground for seeds. Like common redpolls, they pick and store seeds in throat pouches to digest later.
When not nesting or breeding, they always form a large flock, often perching in groups on lampposts and telephone wires.
Mourning doves mate throughout the year, but more in spring to fall. Breeding pairs always preen each other’s necks lovingly.
Sound: Mourning dove songs and calls sound almost the same. Their songs are soft coo-oos, while calls sound more like coo-oo-oo. Most people mistake hawk owls’ vocalization for that of an owl.
Summer and Fall Idaho Birds
Ornithologists have recorded many birds in Idaho during the summer. Here are the common birds you expect to see during summer in your yard.
Lazuli Bunting (Passerina amoena)—Blue Linnets
The lazuli buntings, also known as the blue linnets, are one of gorgeous Idaho birds. At a glance, lazuli birds resemble mountain bluebirds but are pretty different. The lazuli birds have marked faces with smaller and slender bodies.
Colorations and Markings: With dazzling azure plumage on their backs and chests, orangish breasts, and white bellies, males stick out from their flocks. In addition, males have white bars, dark tips on their upper wings, and a gray-black beak.
Hens are distinct from cocks. They have warm gray-brown on their backs, heads, and breasts, with whitish underparts. Though their wings possess whitish-brown bars, they aren’t as broad as in males. A hint of blue is also present in female wings and tails.
Lazuli juveniles resemble female birds but have mottled bluish backs.
Overview: Lazuli buntings are early migrants who, unlike most birds, molt en route.
These all-year-round birds like and breed in bushy areas. If you want to lure them out of the bushes to your backyard, offer them white proso millet or sunflower seeds.
Measurements: with the capability to grow up to a length of 15 cm, an adult lazuli bunting weighs about 22 grams and has a wingspan of 18 cm.
Sound: these birds produce high-pitched and fast-paced sweet warbles that will attract the attention of anyone.
Their standard calls comprise sharp, short, but repetitive ‘wheat’ notes.
Black-capped Chickadee – The Curious Cute Birdie
Because of their oversized round heads atop their tiny bodies, many consider black-capped chickadees adorable.
Since they are easy birds to attract to feeders, you don’t have to scope far and wide of Idaho to watch them.
Colorations and markings: mountain chickadee and black-capped chickadees are two birds that look alike, but they have some distinct features.
One way to differentiate them is by their distinctive black caps and buffy sides in the black-capped chickadee.
Male and female black-capped chickadees have identical physical appearances, but males are larger. They possess black caps and necks, whitish underparts and cheeks, buffy sides, a gray back, wings, and tails.
Measurements: Measuring near 15 cm from beak-tip to tail-tip, the black-capped chickadee has a wingspan of 16–21 cm and a body weight of 9–15 grams.
Overview: Popular for their torpor abilities, these chickadees are non-migratory birds you can expect to visit your feeder.
Did you know chickadees can generate new neurons every 28 days? This factor gives them an upper hand when attempting to adapt to change. That’s because new ones replace brain neurons with old information die and.
Even though this chickadee species likes to eat seeds, their main menu primarily comprises insects like caterpillars.
Sound: black-capped chickadees have different calls and sounds, but their typical call is the ‘chickadee-dee-dee.’
Males also produce a three-note ‘free-bee-bee.’
American Robin – The Spring Harbingers
American robins are among the most common birds in Idaho and quite common in backyards.
Colorations and Markings: American robins are large songbirds with round bodies, brown backs, blackish heads, and warm orange underparts.
The American robin looks lovely with unique colors: reddish orange underparts and a yellow beak with a black tip. It also features a white throat, stomach, and eye arc contrasted with brown legs and back and a blackish head.
Like most caves, female mountain birds are less flashy than their male counterparts— their underparts are less bright. Juvenile males have a paler color, dark spots on their breasts, and whitish patches on their pinion.
Measurements: An adult American robin measures eight to 11 inches long, has a 12-16 inches wingspan, and weighs about 75 grams.
Overview: it is a diurnal bird rummaging for food and water throughout the day and roosts at night in large flocks.
The American robin diet comprises earthworms, caterpillars, mollusks, berries, and fruits.
Sound: The constant, melodious, upbeat chirps of American robins are one telltale sign of spring. They also make mumbling cuck, and tuck noises or abrupt ‘yeep’ and ‘peep’ alarm calls to communicate with one another.
So, what is the Best Way to Attract Birds to Backyards in Idaho
Birds may visit your locality but your yards, especially if it is not conducive.
Here are four simple ways to attract songbirds to your backyard:
- Feeders: are a great way to attract birds; they love food, and you can provide them with their favorite meal. Feeders will also help birds cope with food scarcity in winter. Depending on the species of bird you want to attract, you can provide them with sunflower seeds, suet, nuts, peanut butter, millet, or mealworms.
- Install birdhouses: Providing birdhouses or nesting boxes is another great way to help birds.
- Provide water: birth tabs are great all year round. In winter, use heaters, and in summer, change them every two or three days.
- Plant flowers in your backyard: this will provide the birds with nectar, insects, and buds. It will also provide cover from potential predators. Ensure you plant native plants and eliminate the invasive ones.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Answer: Idaho is home to natural landscapes that host many birds. Whether in the wild or your backyard, here is a list of common Idaho birds you can count on seeing.
• The Mountain bluebird; the state bird of Idaho,
• American robin
• Snow bunting
• Common redpoll
• Lapland longspur
• Bohemian waxwing
• Hawk owl
• Mourning dove
• Lazuli bunting
• Downy Woodpecker
• A black-capped chickadee
Answer: Idaho has two species of a magpie: the yellow-billed magpie and the black-billed magpie.
Answer: The ravens are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. This law outlaws killing or harassing any bird that spends some part of its life in the US, even if it is not native to the country. The act protected all kinds of birds, including ravens.
Answer: Several birds in Idaho have black and white plumage. The black-capped chickadee is the most well-known black-and-white bird in Idaho.
The Common Birds You’ll Find in Idaho
Bird watching is thrilling, especially if you visit or live in Idaho, which has 433 bird species. Whatever your birding level, you will find new species to add to your life list.
I highlighted 11 common Idaho bird species in this article that will most likely visit your backyard in summer, winter, and all year round. You will thus have a diverse and dynamic flock in your feeders, birdhouses, and bird baths throughout the year.
You can invite birds to your backyard by providing them with food and water. Remember to use a suitable feeder since different bird feeders attract different birds.
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