7 Most Common Gray Backyard Birds

Gray is a common color among birds, which can make it difficult for you to distinguish between some of them. This especially when the similarities go well beyond the color of the plumage.

Even with all these little gray birds looking similar at first, a closer look can reveal the particularities of each.

If you’re curious to learn how to identify the gray birds visiting your backyard, I trust this article will provide some answers.

Tufted Titmouse

A regular of backyard feeders during the winter months, the Tufted Titmouse has its habitat in the deciduous forests of the eastern part of US.

To quickly identify it, look for the gray crest and black tuft above its beak. The back of the bird is gray, the underside is off-white with an orange mark on each of the sides.

Despite its small size, it’s assertive with other birds that come to feeders. It often flocks with chickadees, nuthatches, and woodpeckers, all of which are frequent visitors at bird feeders.

The diet of Titmice is made up almost entirely of insects during the summer. As a foliage gleaner, it feasts on caterpillars, wasps and bees, beetles, scale insects, spiders, and various insect eggs and pupae.

Because they’re non-migratory, staying put year-round, their diet changes with the seasons, switching to seeds, berries, and nuts during winter. Hence their presence at bird feeders.

They even have a hoarding habit in the fall and winter, stocking up on seeds and storing them for later use.

If you want to attract Tufted Titmice to your backyard, you can put up nest boxes. Titmice prefer tree cavities as their nesting site, so nest boxes can be an attractive choice to them.

Northern Mockingbird

Just by looking at it, you’re not going to be particularly impressed by the Northern Mockingbird. But wait until you hear its repertoire of melodies, calls, and songs.

That’s right, this mockingbird does exactly what its name says – mimics the sounds of other birds, making you think there’s an entire army of birds in your yard, when in fact, it’s just a mockingbird making its presence known.

A mockingbird can learn as many as 200 songs throughout its lifetime by constantly adding songs to its repertoire.

The adult mockingbird is grayish above, whitish below. It has a pointed, black bill with a slight downward curve and long, thin legs.

One reason why the Northern Mockingbird is a frequent visitor to your yard is that it has an omnivorous diet. There’s a high probability then that your bird feeder will have something of interest to them.

From insects to seeds, nuts and berries, the Northern Mockingbird will eat most things you’ll offer it.

Mind you, this singing bird enjoys singing incessantly, sometimes even into the night, so you might not want it that much in your backyard.

It’s like they try to make up for their lack of color in their plumage by being as colorful and flamboyant as possible with their singing.

Carolina Chickadee

Easy to mistake for other small gray birds, the Carolina Chickadee is a foliage gleaner that prefers the forest habitat, which supplies the abundance of insects they need in their diet.

Found in the eastern parts of the United States, this small bird has a black cap, black bib, beady black eye, white cheeks, yellowish breasts and belly, and gray back and wings.

If your backyard has trees, especially the large coniferous types, you can put out nest boxes or nest tubes to attract a pair.

While insects make up most of their diet in the summer, in winter they switch to berries, seeds, so you will see them around your feeding tables sampling from the seed mixes you lay out for them. Peanut chips, suet, and sunflower, however, do seem to be their favorite of all.

If you’re familiar with Chickadees, it probably hasn’t skipped your attention that the Carolina Chickadee is a dead ringer for the Black-Capped Chickadee. Except the latter is both larger and longer tailed.

With the differences being so subtle, it’s easy to mistake one for the other. Chickadees themselves seem to do so too by hybridizing with one another in areas where their ranges overlap.

Gray Catbird

Another gray bird that may grace you with its presence in your backyard, the Gray Catbird is slightly larger than the Northern Mockingbird and almost just as melodious.

Its song can last as long as 10 minutes at a time. When perched up a branch, the Gray Catbird lowers its tail, making it look like it’s hump-backed.

The plumage color is a beautiful metallic gray with a black crown on its head and a touch of color on the underside of the tail – a rich, orange-brown spot of color.

In their search for insects and berries, they usually forage the ground, but sometimes will glean the foliage of shrubs and young deciduous trees.

If you want to attract them to your backyard, there are ways to achieve that – planting berry producing shrubs (e.g. dogwood, winterberry, and serviceberry) will provide both a habitat for insects they can hunt as well as berries they can eat.

As a relative of mockingbirds, it shares their talent for musicality and mimicry. Gray Catbirds can tie together the songs of multiple birds and make a song of their own.

Dark-eyed Junco

With its breeding grounds in Canada, the Dark-eyed Junco is a gray little sparrow that enjoys moving about in the forest floors. In winter, the bird migrates to North America fleeing the chilly winters of Canada.

As for its physical characteristics, imagine a plump little bird with a sharp conical bill, and beady black eye. The plumage is a darker gray above and a lighter one below.

The Dark-eyed Junco forages the forest ground for insects and seeds. They also consume berries in the summer. The nest is also built on the ground.

Because of their relatively distributed range, regional differences can be observed in the color of the plumage. For example, the Oregon variety features earthy tones and a black hood instead of the gray.

Brown-headed Cowbird

With grasslands as its habitat is not only a common backyard bird in North America, it’s also one of the most common “brood parasites”.

The term denotes a bird that will lay its eggs in the nests of other birds, sometimes at the expense of the host nest’s chicks. They will go as far as to destroy the eggs and nestlings of smaller birds.

And if you think they stick around to raise their young, the Brown-headed Cowbird will do no such thing, leaving its young in the care of foster parents.

Research has revealed that the Brown-headed Cowbird will lay its eggs in the nests of some 220 bird species. It has even been held responsible for the decline of several species.

Whatever your views on the Cowbird may be, one thing is certain – it’s one of the most common gray backyard birds that will visit your feeders and forage your grounds for various seeds.

The male bird has a black plumage and a brown hood, which make it easy to identify and distinguish from other birds. Female and juvenile brown headed cowbirds are gray, and are often confused with sparrows.

White-breasted Nuthatch

With white, gray and black markings, the White-breasted Nuthatch has an elongated black bill, black eyes, and a generally elongated shape that gives it a highly aerodynamic look.

This allows it to glide with ease up and down the trunk of trees, foraging for insects. Besides insects, it will also eat acorn seeds and nuts by using their long and pointed bills to hatch the seeds out.

As common feeder birds, you’ll often see them at bird feeders. Sunflower seeds, suet, and peanuts are their top favorites.

The White-breasted Nuthatch will also store seeds in the furrows of tree barks for later in the winter. To this end, it will make several trips to and from bird feeders to stock up on various seeds.

They’ll also join foraging flocks of titmice and chickadees because it makes it easier for them to find food, but also because it helps to protect against predators.

The optimal environment for Nuthatches is woodland edges, mature woods, and deciduous forests.

Unlike in the case of other birds, the distinction between male and females isn’t as stark. Both the male and the female Nuthatch look the same, apart from the crown on their heads. Females have a gray crown, while males sport a black one.


Even if you can identify all the gray birds that visit your backyard, you can now identify at least seven of them.

Whether you want them to build nests on your property or just visit your feeders, there are ways to achieve that.

Planting berry shrubs for birds that feed on berries, stocking up on seed mixes that these birds love, and even putting up nest boxes or nest tubes for the birds that are most likely to use them.

The reverse may also be true – some birds can be viewed as invasive, too boisterous or undesirable on your property. If that’s the case, make sure to avoid placing out feeders and the like.

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