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25 Fascinating Birds Of Upstate NY (Photos, Songs, And ID Info)

Living in Upstate New York and heard some birds but are not sure which ones they were? 

New York is known for its wildlife, and according to the New York State Avian Records Committee (NYSARC), there are almost 500 species of birds there!

Upstate New York is a great location for birding, especially in the spring. The proximity to Lake Ontario makes it a great stop spot for many birds before they move further north or south. 

Examples of birds of Upstate NY include the Eastern bluebird, indigo bunting, American goldfinch, bald eagle, green heron, mourning dove, belted kingfisher, and many others. 

Birds in Upstate New York year-round include red-breasted nuthatches, house finch, American goldfinch, golden-crowned kinglet, and many others.

Birds in Upstate New York in summer include eastern bluebird, eastern phoebe, common yellowthroat, and many others.

Birds in Upstate New York in winter include bald eagles and common mergansers.

In this post, you will find photos, identification info, bird calls and songs, and all the fun information you need.

Birds Of Upstate NY

Eastern Bluebird

eastern bluebird
  • Scientific Name: Sialia sialis
  • Lifespan: 6-10 years
  • Wingspan: 9.8–12.6 in
  • Length: 7 in

Eastern bluebirds have been the state birds of New York since 1970. They are the smallest bluebird species in North America and can weigh less than an ounce. 

Males have bright blue backs and heads, rusty breasts, and white bellies; females tend to be grayer overall. Look for birds with rounded heads, dark eyes, and alert posture.

Eastern bluebirds can be seen from spring to summer around grasslands, fields, and open woods in Upstate New York. They stay in the state from March to November and migrate to southwestern parts of the US during winter.

Some populations might stay even during winter in the state.

Eastern bluebirds are cavity nesters, they use abandoned woodpecker holes or other cavities, and might also use human-made nest boxes. 

They are very social birds living in flocks with over 100 individuals, but also very territorial during the breeding season. 

To attract a female, a male bluebird will sing over 1,000 songs per hour; it sings without opening its beak wide. They have a soft melodious warble song and a liquid and musical “turee” or “queedle” call. 

Source: Jonathon JongsmaCC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

These birds are omnivores that mainly feed on insects, including grasshoppers, crickets, beetles, caterpillars, and some fruit. 

The males’ bright blue and orange colors that can be easily spotted on wire or open perches make these small blue birds very popular among birders.

Red-breasted Nuthatch

red-breasted nuthatch
  • Scientific Name: Sitta canadensis
  • Lifespan: 6 years
  • Wingspan: 8.5 in
  • Length: 4.5 in

Red-breasted nuthatches are small songbirds with blue-gray backs, pale orange undersides, and black and white striped faces. They also have straight gray beaks, long toes and claws, white supercilium (eyebrow), and black crowns on their heads.

Red-breasted nuthatches are common around wooded areas of Upstate New York year-round. 

Their song consists of a series of slowly repeated nasal notes that sound like “eeen eeen eeen,” while their call is a high-pitched, nasal, and weak “yank-yank”.

Source: Jonathon JongsmaCC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

White-breasted nuthatches, their cousins, prefer living in deciduous forests; red-breasted nuthatches can be mainly seen in coniferous woods. 

They mainly feed there on insects and seeds, especially from conifers. If no food is available, these permanent residents might migrate south as far as the Gulf coast.

Red-breasted nuthatches will hoard excess food by wedging nuts into the bark and then hammering them in with their beaks.

Eastern Phoebe

eastern phoebe
  • Scientific Name: Sayornis phoebe
  • Lifespan: up to 10 years
  • Wingspan: 10-11 in
  • Length: 5.5-6.7 in

Eastern phoebes are small songbirds that have large heads and medium-sized tails. These flycatchers have dark gray bodies and wings with two light or no wing bars, and grayish breasts with yellow to white colors.

Eastern phoebes are commonly found in Upstate NY from mid-March if the winters are mild. They breed around open woodlands, farmlands, and suburbs of the state, often close to water, and head south around September.

They migrate to winter in southern Gulf Coast states and southernmost Atlantic Coast states. 

The song of eastern phoebes they were named from is the two-noted “fee-bee”, while their call is a sharp “chip”. 

Source: G. McGrane, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

They like to sit upright and will often pump (wag) their tail after landing. 

Eastern phoebes tend to avoid open areas and prefer spots under trees, brushy areas, and overhangs. 

These birds will use mud, grass, and moss to build their nests and will attach them to the sides of limestone outcroppings or under rock ledges. 

They usually have two broods per year, and each clutch will have from two to six eggs. 

Eastern phoebes are omnivores and feed on insects and some fruits.

Besides NY, eastern phoebes are one of many common birds found in Michigan and East Tennessee.

House Finch

house finch
  • Scientific Name: Haemorhous mexicanus
  • Lifespan: up to 11 years 
  • Wingspan: 8-10 in
  • Length: 5-6 in

Originally from Mexico and Western USA, house finches were sold illegally as “Hollywood finches” in New York in the 1940s. After being threatened with jail, those sellers released these small songbirds. 

House finches became so widespread in the continent that some estimates claim from 267 million to 1.7 billion of these individuals living in North America today.

House finches can be identified by their conical bills, short wings, and shallowly notched tails. They have gray backs and wings with two white wing bars, white breasts with gray streaking, and magenta to orange crowns, faces, and throats, often extending to breasts. Females lack those bright colors on their faces.

House finches can be seen in Upstate NY throughout the year, mostly around wooded areas.

The song of house finch males is a long, jumbled warbling that consists of short notes while their call is a sharp “cheep.”

Source: Jonathon JongsmaCC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Depending on the location, house finches have different “accents” while singing; their songs will have different lengths with more or fewer syllables. 

They are gregarious and loud birds that feed on seeds, buds, flower parts, berries, small fruits, and occasionally some small insects. 

During the non-breeding season, you might also see flocks of house finches around bird feeders. If you want to attract them to your backyard, make sure to add black oil sunflower seeds, millet, and milo. 

The pink-red color of the males comes from the berries and fruits in their diet – females prefer to mate with males that have the brightest faces. 

They breed in late winter and early spring and lay 3 to 6 small, pale blue eggs with black flecks.

Common Yellowthroat

common yellowthroat
  • Scientific Name: Geothlypis trichas
  • Lifespan: up to 11 years
  • Wingspan: 5.9–7.5 in
  • Length: 4.3–5.1 in

Common yellowthroats are small New World warblers with rounded heads and medium-length, slightly rounded tails.

They are light brown above and yellow below; notice the black facial mask edged above with a white line. Females look similar but are paler and have no masks.

Common yellowthroats are breeding residents of Upstate NY and can be seen there during spring and summer, from May to October. They are common around wetlands and woods.

Males will be the first to arrive at the breeding range to set up territories’ females get there 5 days later. After breeding, they will migrate during the night to winter in Central America and the West Indies.

The song of common yellowthroats is a loud “twichety twichety twichety twich,” while their call is a soft “jip.

Source: G. McGrane, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

They are also known as yellow bandits and will spend much of their time darting low in dense thickets and fields, catching small insects and spiders.

Indigo Bunting

blue indigo bunting
  • Scientific Name: Passerina cyanea
  • Lifespan: up to 10 years in the wild
  • Wingspan: 7.1–9.1 in
  • Length: 4.5–5.9 in

Indigo buntings are small seed-eating birds found around open, weedy fields rich with trees and shrubs. They have bright blue plumage; their heads are slightly darker. They become brown during the non-breeding season; females are brown year-round.

Indigo buntings can be seen in Upstate New York during late spring and summer. The best time to see them in the state would be from May to September.

After breeding, they will move south to winter in southern Florida, central Mexico, and Central and South America. They travel by night and use stars to navigate.

Males love to sing and have a rapid, excited warble song with each note or phrase being given twice. 

When marking their territory or attracting females, males will emit a high-pitched song that lasts from two to four seconds and sounds like “sweet-sweet chew-chew.” Both sexes will also use a sharp “chip” alarm call. 

Source: G. McGrane, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Indigo buntings are territorial birds and omnivores that feed on insects, seeds, and berries. Attract them to your backyard by adding small seeds such as thistle or nyjer to your feeder.

These birds usually mate for life; occasionally, they may switch partners within a single breeding season. 

Indigo buntings have two or more broods per year with three to four white eggs with a few brownish spots. Females are the ones to build the nest and incubate the eggs.

Read More: Examples of brown-speckled bird eggs

American Goldfinch

american goldfinch
  • Scientific Name: Spinus tristis
  • Lifespan: 3-6 years
  • Wingspan: 7.5-8.7 in
  • Length: 4.3-5.5 in

American goldfinches are one of the most colorful and musical birds in New York. These tiny finches have small heads, long wings, and short split tails. 

Males are bright yellow with black wings and black caps; females have gray backs and heads, dark wings, and yellow breasts and bellies.

American goldfinches are permanent residents of Upstate New York, commonly found around fields, marshes, and wooded areas of the state year-round. They breed there from late June to as late as August.

American goldfinches’ song consists of a series of musical warbles and twitters while their “tsee-tsi-tsi-tsit” or “per-chi-cor-ree” call is often emitted during flight.

Source: G McGrane, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Male and female American goldfinches have colorful carotenoid-based orange bills during the breeding season. The bill serves as an indicator of the overall health of the bird – the more saturated with orange a bill is, the higher the testosterone levels are in that specific bird. 

They are the state bird of New Jersey, Iowa, and Washington

American goldfinches are omnivores that mainly feed on seeds and occasionally on some insects. They also love to visit bird feeders, so make sure to sunflower and nyjer seeds to attract them.

Dark-eyed Junco

dark eyed junco
  • Scientific Name: Junco hyemalis
  • Lifespan: 3-11 years
  • Wingspan: 7.1-9.8 in
  • Length: 5.1-6.9 in

Dark-eyed juncos are small sparrows that can weigh less than an ounce. They are slate gray overall and have white bellies and pink beaks; females are paler and might have brown backs and sides.

Their rounded heads, short beaks, and fairly long tails make them easy to identify.

Dark-eyed juncos are permanent residents of Upstate New York in wooded areas, especially around conifers. They breed in the state from April to around August.

The song of male dark-eyed juncos is a strong musical trill that lasts around two seconds and consists of up to 20 notes. Both sexes usually have a quieter song that includes different whistles, trills, and warbles. Their calls include high-pitched “chip” and “tick” sounds.

Source: G. McGrane, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

They often forage while hopping and running on the ground and might even scratch the ground/snow with their feet in pursuit of food. 

Dark-eyed juncos are nicknamed “snowbirds” because they’re commonly sighted in winter throughout North America. 

They are omnivores that mainly feed on seeds, and some insects in summer. 

Read More: Examples of birds of the Northeast

Golden-crowned Kinglet

Golden-crowned Kinglet
  • Scientific Name: Regulus satrapa
  • Lifespan: around 5 years
  • Wingspan: 5.5-7.1 in
  • Length: 3.1-4.3 in

With a length of as little as 3.1 inches, golden-crowned kinglets are one of the smallest birds in the USA. 

These songbirds are greenish-gray above and grayish below; they also have white wing bars, white eyebrows, black lines through their eyes, and yellow crests edged in black they were named for.

Golden-crowned kinglets are permanent residents of Upstate New York and can be commonly found around wooded areas of the state year-round.

They breed in pine, mixed pine, spruce, balsam fir, and hemlock trees found in bogs, and parks of the state, usually from May to July.

Golden-crowned kinglets’ song consists of a series of very high-pitched “tsee” notes.

Source: G. McGrane, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

These tiny birds are active foragers in trees and shrubs; their diet consists of insects, insect eggs, and spiders. 

Golden-crowned kinglets are also noted for their remarkable ability to survive cold weather and temperatures as low as -40°F. 

Tufted Titmouse

tufted titmouse
  • Scientific Name: Baeolophus bicolor
  • Lifespan: 2 years
  • Wingspan: 8-10 in
  • Length: 5.5-6.3 in

The tufted titmouse is a small songbird native to North America. It can be identified by its gray back, head, and tail, white face with dark eyes, gray crest on top of the head, rufous sides, and grayish-white breasts and bellies.

The tufted titmouse is a permanent resident of New York and can be found around wooded habitats year-round. They breed in the state during summer, from March to May, and lay 5-8 white eggs with brown speckles. 

 The song of tufted titmice consists of a series of 4 to 8 whistled notes that sound like “peter-peter-peter.” Their most common call is nasal and mechanical “tsee-day-day-day.”

Source: G. McGrane, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Some estimates claim that there are over 8 million of these birds in existence today. 

Tufted titmice are omnivores that mainly feed on berries, nuts, seeds, fruits, and insects. They are common visitors to bird feeders and will first scout a feeder from cover before flying in to grab a seed; make sure to add sunflower seeds to attract one.

Tufted titmice are cavity nesters that build their nests in tree holes, nest boxes, or even in old woodpecker nests. If they find snake skin, they might use it as a building material.

Blue Jay

blue jay
  • Scientific Name: Cyanocitta cristata 
  • Lifespan: 7 years
  • Wingspan: 13–17 in
  • Length: 9–12 in

Blue jays are one of the most common and easily identifiable birds in the state of New York. 

These songbirds have bright blue heads, backs, wings, and tails, white bands on wings, and gray breasts. They also have white faces, blue crests on top of their heads, and black bands stretching from the crest to the throat.

Blue jays are permanent residents of Upstate New York and can be seen around deciduous and coniferous forests and residential areas throughout the year.

They are very noisy birds that often mimic hawk sounds when approaching a feeding site to drive away other birds. They make a large variety of other sounds and may even learn to mimic human speech.

Blue jays’ song is a mixture of clicks, chucks, whirrs, whines, liquid notes, and elements of other calls. Their alarm call is a loud, almost gull-like scream.

Source: G. McGrane, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Blue jays are not state birds of any US state; they are the mascot of Toronto Blue Jays, a Major League Baseball team. 

These songbirds are highly intelligent and can even use tools.

Blue jays are boisterous birds that mate for life and work together to build a nest for their young. When the female sits on the eggs, the male will feed and take care of her. 

Blue jays are omnivores that mostly feed on seeds, berries, nuts, and occasionally insects. They will also store food and eat it later. 

Blue jays are common birds of Pennsylvania, Maryland, North Texas, Florida, and Central Texas.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

yellow-bellied sapsucker
  • Scientific Name: Sphyrapicus varius
  • Lifespan: 4-6 years
  • Wingspan: 16 in
  • Length: 8.5 in

Yellow-bellied sapsuckers are medium-sized woodpeckers weighing from 1.2 to 2.2 oz. They have an upright posture, stout, thick, straight beaks, and stiff, forked tails.

Males have black and white barred backs, white wing stripes that are visible in flight and red caps edged in black. Females have red throats and distinctive facial patterns.

Yellow-bellied sapsuckers are breeding residents of wooded areas of Upstate New York and can be seen there from spring to fall.

During the breeding season, they are common in deciduous and mixed coniferous forests; when not breeding, they tend to move to the edge of the forest, open woodland, and semi-open habitats.

They have several types of vocalizations: nasal “neaah” and “wee-wee” calls when trying to attract mates, low “week-week” calls when meeting other family members, and “quarr” alarm calls during a conflict.

Source: G. McGrane, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Yellow-bellied sapsuckers play an important role in the ecosystem as they drill holes many other birds later use to nest.

They are omnivores and usually forage alone or in small groups, feeding on sap, insects, fruit, berries, nuts, buds, and seeds.

Yellow-bellied sapsuckers are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act – it is illegal to take, kill, or possess these birds without a permit. 

Hairy Woodpecker

hairy woodpecker
  • Scientific Name: Leuconotopicus villosus
  • Lifespan: up to 15 years
  • Wingspan: 13-16 in
  • Length: 9.8 in

Hairy woodpeckers are medium-sized woodpeckers with 17 recognized subspecies. 

They have black and white plumage, black wings with white patches, two white stripes on the heads, and a large white patch down the center of their black backs. 

Hairy woodpeckers are permanent residents of Upstate New York and can be seen throughout the year in wooded areas of the state. They breed in the state from April to July.

The call of hairy woodpeckers is a short and sharp “peek” that is very similar to that of downy woodpeckers.

Source: Jonathon JongsmaCC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

These contrastingly black and white woodpeckers resemble downy woodpeckers – the main difference between the two is the smaller size and shorter beak of downy woodpeckers. 

They forage along trunks and main branches of large trees and got the name “hairy” because of the thread-like white feathers in the middle of their backs.

Similar to other woodpeckers, hairy woodpeckers also play an important role in the ecosystem as they make nesting holes and eat the insects that destroy forest trees, saving forests as a result. They also consume some berries, seeds, and nuts. 

Thick bones and cartilage that act as a shock absorber allow them to hammer at tree back without injuries, and a tongue twice the size of the beak helps probe trees for insects.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

ruby-throated hummingbird
  • Scientific Name: Archilochus colubris
  • Lifespan: 3-5 years
  • Wingspan: 3.1-4.3 in
  • Length: 2.8-3.6 in

Ruby-throated hummingbirds are one of the smallest birds in New York with a weight of as little as 0.07 oz (less than a penny) and a length of as little as 2.8 inches.

They have green upperparts, gray to white breasts, and black tail feathers with white outer edges. Males also have bright crimson gorgets (throats) while females have white throats.

Ruby-throated hummingbirds are summer residents of New York and are common around wood edges and residential areas. They stay in the state from April to late October, before migrating south for winter.

Ruby-throated hummingbirds move very quickly, around 25 mph, and will beat their wing over 50 times per second.

These birds are mostly solitary, except during the breeding season which lasts a few days.

To attract these hummingbirds with red necks to your backyard, you can set up hummingbird feeders or plant tubular flowers. 

They are quite bold and might even feed at hanging plants and feeders on your porch or next to your windows!

Ruby-throated hummingbirds are the smallest birds found in Texas; check the full list here.

Belted Kingfisher

belted kingfisher
  • Scientific Name: Megaceryle alcyon
  • Lifespan: 6-14 years
  • Wingspan: 19-23 in
  • Length: 13 in

Belted kingfishers are large and conspicuous kingfishers with large heads, shaggy crests on the top and back of their heads, and straight, thick, pointed beaks. 

Males are slate blue with white underparts, while the females are a lot brighter and have orange patches on their bellies and flanks.

Belted kingfishers are year-round birds in Upstate NY that are commonly found in wooded areas near water. They breed in the state around April and May.

The alarm calls of belted kingfishers are harsh mechanical rattles and occasionally screams.

Source: Jonathon JongsmaCC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

They also have two fused toes which can also help distinguish these blue-winged birds from others.

These birds are common in Southern California and can be very territorial – males will often charge at and chase intruders away. 

Belted kingfishers are carnivores that dive to catch fish and crayfish with their heavy beaks; they also feed on mollusks, crustaceans, amphibians, and lizards. 

They can’t digest bones, so just like owls, belted kingfishers will regurgitate the undigested pieces as pellets.

Bald Eagle

bald eagle
  • Scientific Name: Haliaeetus leucocephalus
  • Lifespan: 20-30 years
  • Wingspan: 70.8-90.5 in
  • Length: 31 in

Bald eagles are some of the largest birds of prey in New York. They can be identified by their overall brown plumage with bright white heads and tails, and yellow beaks and feet.

Before attaining these characteristics around the age of five, these raptors are mostly dark brown with varying amounts of white mottling.

Bald eagles are nonbreeding residents of New York, commonly found near water. The best time to see bald eagles in Upstate NY would be during winter.

Some popular places where you can find them there are near Onondaga Lake and the Montezuma Wetlands Complex.

Their population in the state of New York recovered from just 2 bald eagles in the 1970s to close to 1,000 birds now.

The call of bald eagles consists of a series of high-pitched whistling or piping notes.

Source: National Park Service, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

They build the largest nests of any North American bird that can be up to 13 ft deep and 8.2 ft wide. 

These magnificent raptors are hard to miss as they soar through the air with their 7.5-foot-wide wingspan.

Bald eagles are carnivores and opportunistic feeders that primarily consume fish they snatch from the water with their sharp talons.

They are also one of the largest birds found in Ohio, Michigan, and Florida.


  • Scientific Name: Pandion haliaetus
  • Lifespan: 15-20 years
  • Wingspan: 50–71 in
  • Length: 23 in

Thanks to their special reversible outer toe, these “fish hawks” can properly grasp their favorite food, fish. Ospreys are commonly found near lakes, ponds, and wetlands and are dark brown overall with white breasts, white faces, dark stripes through the eyes, and squarish heads.

These huge birds of prey are unmistakable when seen up close. 

Ospreys are breeding residents in Upstate New York. They can be seen in these parts from April to September, primarily in the northernmost parts.

Ospreys have several vocalizations: a slow whistled “kyew-kyew” guard call and a short clear whistle “cheereek” alarm call.

Source: Unknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Ospreys are piscivorous and fish makes up 99% of their diet. They will hover above the water, locate their prey and then swoop down for the capture with their talons extended. 

During their 20-year-long lifetime, these migratory birds can travel over 160,000 miles. 

Ospreys nest near water, on top of dead trees, and use branches, sticks, twigs, moss, and fish bones as material. The female will have a clutch of 3 eggs that both partners incubate.

American Kestrel

american kestrel
  • Scientific Name: Falco sparverius
  • Lifespan: 5 years in the wild
  • Wingspan: 20-24 in
  • Length: 9 in

American kestrels are the smallest, the most colorful, and the most widespread North American falcons. They have gray and white head patterns, rusty backs and tails, gray wings, and buff breasts with gray spots. Females are browner and slightly larger than males. 

American kestrels are permanent residents of the open fields of New York and can be seen there year-round, although some populations might migrate south. They begin pairing up from late March to early April.

American kestrels have three basic vocalizations – the “klee” or “killy“, the “whine“, and the “chitter“.

Depending on the plumage, size, and vocalizations, there are 17 subspecies of American kestrel. 

They are cavity nesters that might occasionally nest in woodpecker holes or abandoned nests of other birds. Both parents will take turns and incubate their four to five eggs.

American kestrels are carnivores, always on the lookout for grasshoppers, rodents such as mice, shrews and voles, and even small birds.

Great Horned Owl

great horned owl
  • Scientific Name: Bubo virginianus
  • Lifespan: 15-25 years
  • Wingspan: 35.8-60.2 in
  • Length: 22 in

Great horned owls are the largest owl species in New York. They weigh almost 3.5 pounds and span almost 5 feet across the wings.

These aggressive birds of prey can be identified by their large heads, long, earlike tufts, intimidating yellow eyes, and deep hooting calls. Great horned owls also have gray-brown plumage with a mottled pattern and white patch at their throats. 

Great horned owls are permanent residents of the state of New York and can be seen year-round in wooded areas of Upstate NY. 

They are never easy to spot but you can try to locate them by their low-pitched but loud “ho-ho-hoo hoo hoo” call. 

Source: BushmanCC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Great horned owls have one of the most diverse diets of all North American raptors and can feed on rabbits, hares, rats, mice, voles, other small mammals, larger mid-sized mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates. 

They rely on their acute hearing and excellent eyesight to locate their prey before flying in near silence and catching the unsuspecting animal by surprise. 

Great horned owls are monogamous birds and may stay together for over five years, sometimes even for a lifetime. 

American Black Duck

american black duck
  • Scientific Name: Anas rubripes
  • Lifespan: up to 26 years
  • Wingspan: 35-37 in
  • Length: 23 in

American black ducks are the heaviest of all the waddling ducks and can weigh up to 3.6 pounds. Both sexes look alike and resemble female mallards. American black ducks have dark bodies with lighter heads, yellow-green beaks, dark tails, and webbed fleshy orange feet. 

American black ducks are permanent residents of Upstate NY and can be usually found around ponds, lakes, canals, and channels.

Female black ducks will emit loud quacks, along with a six-syllable call that falls in pitch, while the males will emit raspy, reedy calls and flutelike whistles.

These Upstate NY waterfowl are very gregarious and can be seen in flocks of thousands of birds. They are also excellent swimmers and will often dive to avoid predators. 

They build their nests on the ground and hide them well. American black ducks will have a clutch of 6-14 oval eggs. 

They are omnivores and have a diverse diet, feeding on wetland grasses, sedges, seeds, aquatic plants, mollusks, snails, amphipods, insects, mussels, and small fish.

Common Merganser

common merganser
  • Scientific Name: Mergus merganser
  • Lifespan: up to 13 years
  • Wingspan: 34-37 in
  • Length: 25 in

Common mergansers are the largest of the three North American merganser species. They are also known as goosanders. Males have white bodies, black backs, dark heads, dark eyes, and thin red beaks; females are gray with reddish-brown heads and red beaks.

Common mergansers are winter residents in Upstate NY; some populations may stay year-round in southern parts. They breed in northern parts of the US and Canada and can be commonly found around lakes and rivers.

Look for ducks sitting on rocks in midstream, disappearing around the bends, or flying along the river. You might spot gulls waiting for these ducks to come to the surface with fish and then try to steal their prey.

Common mergansers are carnivores that mainly feed on fish, mollusks, crustaceans, worms, insect larvae, and amphibians.

Common Loon

common loon
  • Scientific Name: Gavia immer
  • Lifespan: 20-30 years
  • Wingspan: 50-57.8 in
  • Length: 32 in

Common loons are large diving waterbirds with rounded heads and dagger-like beaks.

During summer, adults have black heads and bills, white breast color, and black-and-white spots on their backs. By the time these loons reach south, the dramatic black and white colors will change into a winter plumage of dull dark gray with white on the front of the neck and breast.

Common loons are breeding residents of the northern parts of Upstate NY. They breed on the lakes of the Adirondack Mountains and in the St. Lawrence River region.

Common loons are known for their eerie, beautiful calls called the wail, tremolo, yodel, and hoot. 

Source: Jonathon JongsmaCC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

They are excellent divers that can stealthily submerge without a splash to catch fish. They can go over 200 feet below the water’s surface, stay there for up to 5 minutes, and swallow their prey underwater.

Common loons primarily feed on fish, crustaceans, insect larvae, mollusks, and occasionally aquatic plants. 

They are monogamous and the pair may breed together for a decade or more. Both the male and the female will often together defend a territory. 

Common loos are the state birds of Minnesota, provincial birds of Ontario (Canada), and one of 5 species of loon commonly found in Canada.

Great Blue Heron

a great blue heron with orange beak
  • Scientific Name: Ardea herodias
  • Lifespan: 15 years
  • Wingspan: 66–79 in 
  • Length: 36–54 in

Great blue herons are the largest species of heron in New York. They are gray-blue with black plumes on their head, and long orange beaks.

Great blue herons are year-round residents of New York, found around marshes and pond edges. They are present in the largest numbers during their breeding season, from April to July.

With a wingspan of up to 6.6 ft, these blue-winged birds are hard to miss. When flying, they will hold their neck in an S-shape with legs trailing behind. 

Source: G. McGrane, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Great blue herons are monogamous only for a single season and will go through some interesting courtship rituals, locking and rubbing their bills on the feathers of the other bird before mating. 

Both parents will take turns in incubating the eggs. These enormous blue birds nest in colonies called heronries that can occasionally have more than 500 nests. 

Great blue herons are carnivores that feed on fish, amphibians, reptiles, invertebrates, small mammals, and even other birds. 

These wading birds of New York will slowly stalk their prey in shallow waters, striking with lightning speed, catching them with their long and sharp beaks.

Green Heron

green heron
  • Scientific Name: Butorides virescens
  • Lifespan: up to 8 years
  • Wingspan: 25-26 in
  • Length: 18 in

Selected as the official Bird of the Year 2015 by the American Birding Association, green herons are small dark herons with dark reddish necks, greenish backs, red-orange legs, and dark beaks. 

Green herons are breeding residents in Upstate New York and can be seen there during summer, around marshes, streams, and pond edges. The best time to see them is from May to September.

Green herons also have a loud and sudden “kyow” call. 

They are rare bird species that use tools, often leaving bread crusts, insects, and feathers on the surface of the water to attract small fish, patiently waiting for the fish to come, and snatching it with their dagger-like bills. 

Green herons also feed on crayfish, other crustaceans, insects, grasshoppers, frogs, rodents, and even snakes. 

Read More: Examples of birds found in New York City

Mourning Dove

mourning dove
  • Scientific Name: Zenaida macroura
  • Lifespan: 2 years in the wild
  • Wingspan: 18 in
  • Length: 12 in

Mourning doves are one of the most abundant and widespread North American birds; they are also very popular gamebirds. Mourning doves were named after the sad cooing sounds they make while singing.

They have light brown bodies, black spots on wings, long tails, and iridescent necks.

Mourning Doves are permanent residents of New York and can be found around suburban yards and parks of the state throughout the year.

They have several vocalizations: distinctive “coo-woo-woo” calls when attracting females, soft greeting “ork” calls, and short “roo-oo” alarm calls.

Source: Jonathon JongsmaCC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Mourning doves are monogamous birds where both parents incubate the eggs and raise the young. They are excellent at breeding and can raise up to 12 young per year.

Mourning doves are omnivores with seeds making 99% of their diet; they might also consume some insects or snails. 

Read More: Examples of birds in Florida with long beaks


This concludes our list of birds in Upstate NY.

Examples include several types of songbirds, hummingbirds, raptors, ducks, loons, herons, and many others.

Next time you see any of these birds in person, you should be able to recognize them with ease! 

And if you enjoyed our article, here are our other popular reads on birds: Examples of white birds in Hawaii and Examples of the biggest blue birds in the world

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