12 Red Birds in Virginia (+Free Photo Guide)

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Red Birds in Virginia

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From the rolling Blue Ridge Mountains to the serene shores of the Chesapeake Bay, Virginia’s diverse landscapes are a haven for bird enthusiasts. With a rich tapestry of habitats, the Old Dominion State is home to a myriad of bird species, including a striking array of red-hued avians.

The state’s varying altitudes and climates contribute to its abundant biodiversity, ensuring a dynamic and rewarding birdwatching experience throughout the year.

Red Birds Found In Virginia

Blessed with a unique combination of geographic features, Virginia offers a mix of coastal, forested, mountainous, and wetland habitats. This diverse range of environments attracts a wide variety of bird species, making the state a birdwatcher’s paradise.

Coastal areas provide crucial stopovers for migratory birds, while the thick forests of the Appalachian region offer shelter and food to countless resident species.

Northern Cardinal

Phainopepla close up 3
Northern Cardinal attributes 1 3
FeatureMeasurement
Scientific NameCardinalis cardinalis
Length8.3 – 9.1 in
Wingspan9.8 – 12.2 in
Weight1.19 – 2.29 oz

The Northern Cardinal is an iconic North American bird, easily recognized by its vibrant color and melodious song.

Appearance: Male Northern Cardinals are a brilliant scarlet red, while females display a more subdued reddish olive. Both sexes have a distinctive black ‘mask’ on their face around the bill and a pointed crest on their head. The bird’s beak is robust, cone-shaped, and bright orange in color.

Diet: Northern Cardinals are primarily granivorous, with a diet largely consisting of seeds and grains. They also eat fruits and insects. These birds typically feed off the ground and are frequent visitors to bird feeders.

Reproduction: Northern Cardinals are monogamous, and a pair will breed together for life. The female typically builds a well-hidden nest in a dense thicket or shrub. She lays 2-5 eggs per clutch, which she incubates for around two weeks.

Summer Tanager

Summer Tanager close up
Summer Tanager attributes
FeatureMeasurement
Scientific NamePiranga rubra
Length6.7 in
Wingspan28 to 30 cm
Weight29 g

The Summer Tanager is a medium-sized songbird admired for its radiant plumage and melodious song.

Appearance: Male Summer Tanagers are an impressive bright red, while females and juveniles present a softer, yellow-orange color. Both genders have a large, slightly hooked bill and relatively short tail.

Diet: Summer Tanagers primarily feed on insects, including bees and wasps, which they catch in flight or pick off vegetation. They are also known to eat fruits and berries, making them helpful in controlling pest populations and seed dispersal.

Reproduction: The female Summer Tanager builds a loose, shallow cup-shaped nest out of twigs and grass, usually hidden in the foliage of trees. The female typically lays 3-5 eggs, which she will incubate for about two weeks.

Scarlet Tanager

Scarlet Tanager close up
Scarlet Tanager attributes 1
FeatureMeasurement
Scientific NamePiranga olivacea
Length6.3 to 7.5 in
Wingspan9.8 to 11.8 in
Weight23.5 to 38 g

The Scarlet Tanager is a strikingly colorful bird known for its brilliant plumage and distinctive song.

Appearance: Male Scarlet Tanagers are notable for their vibrant scarlet bodies contrasted with black wings and tail, making them one of the most intensely colored birds. Females and juveniles, on the other hand, have a subdued olive-yellow body color with darker wings and tail.

Diet: The diet of the Scarlet Tanager is largely made up of insects, including beetles, cicadas, aphids, and others. They are adept flycatchers, seizing insects in mid-air or picking them off foliage. They also consume fruits and berries, especially during migration and in their winter habitats.

Reproduction: The female Scarlet Tanager builds a cup-shaped nest using twigs, rootlets, and grass, typically well-hidden in the dense foliage of trees. She lays 3 to 5 eggs and incubates them for about two weeks.

Red-headed Woodpecker

Red headed Woodpecker
Red headed Woodpecker close up
FeatureMeasurement
Scientific NameMelanerpes erythrocephalus
Length7.5–9.1 in
Wingspan16.5 in
Weight2.0–3.2 oz

The Red-headed Woodpecker is a striking forest bird with a bold tri-colored pattern.

Appearance: This woodpecker features a completely red head and neck, contrasting starkly with its white underparts and black wings. Its wings also have large white patches which are conspicuous in flight.

Diet: Red-headed Woodpeckers have a varied diet including insects, seeds, fruits, berries, and occasionally even the eggs of other birds. They’re also known to store food by wedging it into crevices in bark.

Reproduction: These woodpeckers nest in cavities which they excavate in dead wood or dead parts of live trees. These cavities can be found anywhere from 2 to 80 feet off the ground.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red bellied Woodpecker 1
Red bellied Woodpecker close up
FeatureMeasurement
Scientific NameThryothorus ludovicianus
Length4.7–5.5 in
Wingspan11 in
Weight0.63–0.81 oz

The Red-bellied Woodpecker is a medium-sized woodpecker commonly found in woodlands, forests, and backyards across the eastern and central U.S.

Appearance: The Red-bellied Woodpecker sports a pale gray face, throat, and belly, contrasted by a zebra-striped back. Its name derives from the subtle reddish tinge on its belly, but it’s more commonly recognized by the vivid red cap on the head of males and the partial red cap on females.

Diet: This woodpecker has a varied diet that includes insects, fruits, nuts, and seeds. They frequently forage on tree trunks and branches, using their sticky, barbed-tipped tongue to extract ants, beetles, and other insects from crevices.

Reproduction: Red-bellied Woodpeckers are cavity nesters, excavating holes in tree trunks for their nests. The inside of the nest is typically unlined or sparingly lined with wood chips.

House Finch

House Finch
House Finch close up
FeatureMeasurement
Scientific NameHaemorhous mexicanus
Length5–6 in
Wingspan8–10 in
Weight0.6–0.9 oz

The House Finch is a small songbird widely distributed across North America and is commonly found in urban and suburban areas.

Appearance: Males of this species are brightly colored with crimson faces and throats, which can extend to the chest and back, while their flanks have streaks. The female is streaked brown and lacks the red coloring. Both have a square-tipped tail and a distinctively long, flat-topped bill.

Diet: House Finches primarily eat seeds, grains, and berries. They have a particular fondness for sunflower seeds and can be commonly seen at bird feeders. Occasionally, they will also consume insects, especially during the breeding season.

Reproduction: House Finches are cavity-nesters and might choose ledges, vents, ledges, and other urban settings. They might also utilize trees or shrubs. Their nests can be made of a wide array of materials, from feathers to twigs.

Purple Finch

Purple Finch
Purple Finch close up
FeatureMeasurement
Scientific NameHaemorhous purpureus
Length4.7–6.3 in
Wingspan4.7–6.3 in
Weight0.6–1.1 oz

The Purple Finch is a vibrant songbird often mistaken for its close relative, the House Finch, but it exhibits a different hue and patterns.

Appearance: Males are raspberry red on the head, throat, and breast, with streaky brown backs and wings. The intensity of the red can vary among individuals. Females are brown and streaked all over but might show a slight blush on the face. They lack the strong facial patterns seen in female House Finches.

Diet: Purple Finches primarily consume seeds, with a preference for sunflower seeds, dandelion seeds, and buds. They also eat insects and berries, especially during the breeding season.

Reproduction: These finches often nest in conifers or mixed woodlands. The nest, typically located on a horizontal branch, is made from twigs and grass, then lined with feathers.

Red Crossbill

Red Crossbill
Red Crossbill close up
FeatureMeasurement
Scientific NameLoxia curvirostra
Length5.5–7.5 in
Wingspan9.8–10.6 in
Weight0.9–1.4 oz

The Red Crossbill is a distinctive finch known for its unusual bill, which has evolved to extract seeds from conifer cones.

Appearance: Males are typically bright red or orange, while females are greenish-yellow or olive. Both genders have the characteristic crossed bill, which they use to expertly extract seeds from tightly closed conifer cones.

Diet: Red Crossbills primarily feed on the seeds of coniferous trees, such as spruce, pine, and fir. Their specialized bills allow them to efficiently pry apart conifer cone scales to access the seeds.

Reproduction: Red Crossbills are somewhat nomadic and don’t adhere to a strict breeding schedule. Instead, they breed whenever and wherever food is abundant. Their nests are usually built on horizontal branches of conifer trees.

Pine Grosbeak

Pine Grosbeak close up
Pine Grosbeak attributes
FeatureMeasurement
Scientific NamePinicola enucleator
Length7.9 to 10.0 in
Wingspan13.0 in
Weight52 to 78 g

The Pine Grosbeak is a striking bird native to the northern regions of North America, often found in coniferous forests. Both males and females have a plump and robust body with a large beak adapted for eating seeds. The male Pine Grosbeak displays a vibrant reddish-pink plumage, while the female has a more subdued grayish-brown coloration.

These birds are typically seen in small flocks, foraging for food in trees and on the ground. They have a preference for seeds, particularly those from various conifer species. The Pine Grosbeak uses its strong bill to crack open the cones of tall trees and extract the seeds, but they also consume berries and small fruits when available.

Vermilion Flycatcher

Vermilion Flycatcher close up 1
Vermilion Flycatcher attributes 1
FeatureMeasurement
Scientific NamePyrocephalus obscurus
Length5.1–5.5 in
Wingspan9.4 to 9.8 in
Weight11 to 14 g

The Vermilion Flycatcher is a small and colorful bird native to the Americas. The male Vermilion Flycatcher is a striking sight, displaying a vibrant red plumage on its head, breast, and underparts, contrasting with its brown wings and black tail below. Females, on the other hand, have more muted colors, featuring a pale yellowish belly and grayish-brown upperparts.

Vermilion Flycatchers are known for their lively and acrobatic flight displays, which they perform during courtship or to defend their territories. They often sing a series of soft, whistled notes while engaged in these aerial displays. They construct cup-shaped nests, usually in shrubs or low trees, where females lay their eggs and raise their young.

Red-Winged Blackbird

Red Winged Blackbird attributes
Red Winged Blackbird close up
FeatureMeasurement
Scientific NameAgelaius phoeniceus
Length6.7-9.1 in
Wingspan12.2-15.7 in
Weight41.5-65 g

The Red-Winged Blackbird is a familiar sight across North America, especially in wetlands and open areas. Known for its striking coloration and distinct call, it is often seen perched on cattails or utility lines.

Appearance: Male Red-Winged Blackbirds are glossy black with bright red-and-yellow shoulder patches, while females are streaky brown, resembling a large sparrow. The males’ red patches become more prominent when they’re displaying or agitated.

Diet: Red-Winged Blackbirds primarily feed on seeds and insects. Their diet includes grains, sunflower seeds, and corn, but they also eat beetles, caterpillars, and other small invertebrates, especially in the breeding season.

Reproduction: Red-Winged Blackbirds nest in marshes, along watercourses, and in wet fields. The female constructs a cup-shaped nest using grass and sedge, attaching it to plants above water. She typically lays a clutch of 3 to 4 blue-green eggs, which she incubates for about 11-12 days. Males, being polygynous, often have multiple mates during a single breeding season.

Pine Grosbeak

Pine Grosbeak close up
Pine Grosbeak attributes
FeatureMeasurement
Scientific NamePinicola enucleator
Length7.9 to 10.0 in
Wingspan13.0 in
Weight52 to 78 g

The Pine Grosbeak is a striking bird native to the northern regions of North America, often found in coniferous forests. Both males and females have a plump and robust body with a large beak adapted for eating seeds. The male Pine Grosbeak displays a vibrant reddish-pink plumage, while the female has a more subdued grayish-brown coloration.

These birds are typically seen in small flocks, foraging for food in trees and on the ground. They have a preference for seeds, particularly those from various conifer species. The Pine Grosbeak uses its strong bill to crack open the cones of tall trees and extract the seeds, but they also consume berries and small fruits when available.

Where to Spot Virginia’s Red Birds

Venturing through Virginia’s verdant landscapes offers bird enthusiasts a chance to discover a diverse avian tapestry. Here are some prime spots to witness this state’s rich birdwatching experience, especially for those with a penchant for red birds:

  1. Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge: Spanning over 112,000 acres, this sanctuary harbors a variety of bird species. The dense woodlands and wetlands attract many songbirds, including the vibrant Northern Cardinal and red-winged denizens.
  2. Shenandoah National Park: Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, this park’s varied elevations and habitats make it a haven for birds. Its lush forests are home to the Scarlet Tanager and other red-breasted species.
  3. Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge: Located on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, this coastal refuge is an essential stopover for migratory birds. While it’s famous for its wild ponies, the diverse habitats also support red birds like the Red-headed Woodpecker.
  4. James River Park: Situated in Richmond, this urban oasis with its riparian habitats attracts numerous bird species. The thickets and woodlands along the river are particularly favorable for spotting the Summer Tanager and other red-plumaged birds.
  5. Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge: An expansive coastal habitat, it’s a prime location for waterfowl and wading birds. The diverse ecosystems, from beach to forest, provide shelter for various red bird species, making it a must-visit for birdwatchers.
State’s Red BirdsTop Birdwatching Spots
Maryland’s Red birds1. Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge
2. Assateague Island
3. Catoctin Mountain Park
West Virginia’s Red birds1. Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge
2. Monongahela National Forest
3. New River Gorge National Park and Preserve
North Carolina’s Red birds1. Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge
2. Cape Hatteras National Seashore
3. Pisgah National Forest
Kentucky’s Red birds1. Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area
2. Mammoth Cave National Park
3. Daniel Boone National Forest
Tennessee’s Red birds1. Great Smoky Mountains National Park
2. Reelfoot Lake
3. Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area

FAQs on Red Bird Species Found in Virginia

Why are black oil sunflower seeds favored by many bird species?

Black oil sunflower seeds are a top pick for many bird species, especially those from central and south America. These seeds are nutritionally dense and cater to a variety of birds, ranging from the vibrant red birds to those with green wings. Their popularity in backyard feeders across the northern and western states, as well as the southern and eastern states, is unmatched. Whether it’s the painted bunting with its bright yellow-green hue or the medium-sized bird like the adult male house finch, these seeds are a magnet.

What distinguishes the painted bunting from other birds?

The painted bunting, predominantly found in Central and South America, stands out among other birds due to its striking appearance. Adult males flaunt a bright yellow-green color, combined with a bright red body. This medium-sized bird often frequents forest edges and is particularly drawn to berry bushes and fruit trees. Their attraction to backyard feeders filled with black oil sunflower seeds is a testament to their diverse diet.

How do white-winged crossbills adapt to their diet?

White-winged crossbills, characterized by their distinctive two white wing bars, are specialized feeders. Native to forest canopies of the northern and western states, these birds have a unique adaptation to extract conifer seeds, especially from pine cones. During the winter months, they rely heavily on these seeds. Their affinity for conifer seeds makes them a rare sight at backyard feeders stocked with black oil sunflower seeds.

Are rose breasted grosbeaks common in the eastern United States?

Rose breasted grosbeaks, known for their vibrant red birds appearance, especially in adult males, are a treat for birdwatchers in the eastern United States. These birds, part of the finch family, have a striking black head and white belly. While they enjoy tiny seeds, their preference for black oil sunflower seeds is evident. Often seen near forest edges, their occasional visits to backyard feeders make them a cherished sight, particularly during migratory periods.

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