7 Small Crested Backyard Birds

Some birds have feathers on their heads that form a crest, often making these birds look larger than they actually are.

If you’ve noticed these crested birds in your backyard, it’s because some of these routinely visit backyards in hope of finding seeds or bird feeders.

Below, I’ll introduce you to some common small, crested birds that you may spot in your backyard.

Tufted Titmouse

If you live near the deciduous forest in eastern North America, the chances are high that you’ve already seen a Tufted Titmouse in your garden.

That’s because these small birds are eager visitors of bird feeders, especially in winter when they seek out sunflower seeds, suet, peanuts, and various other seeds.

Because of its gray crest and large black eyes, the Tufted Titmouse may give you the appearance of being larger than it actually is. This bird is not larger than a sparrow.

The plumage of the Tufted titmouse is silvery gray above and off-white below. The flanks feature a rusty or peach-colored wash.

The bill is black and short, with a black patch just above it. The legs of the bird are black and slender.

You’ll come across this bird in eastern deciduous forests and even some evergreen forests at elevations below 2,000 feet.

As foliage gleaners they’re quite the acrobatic foragers, seeking out insects such as caterpillars, beetles, wasps, ants and others. Besides insects, they’ll also eat seeds, nuts, and berries.

And because seeds, nuts, and berries seem to be abundant in bird feeders, these small, crested birds are often seen at bird feeders.

Black Crested Titmouse

Another crested backyard bird that’s worth mentioning is the Black Crested Titmouse, which is similar to the Tufted titmouse, but is an inhabitant of south Texas and northeast Mexico.

The Black crested titmouse can be found at elevations of up to 8,000 feet in most wooded areas within its range including deciduous, coniferous or mixed forests.

As its name suggests, this crested bird sports a distinctive black crest. Its plumage is gray above and pale below. Flanks and back feature shades of gray and brown.

Its tail is long relative to the body. Eyes are beady black, while the bill is also black and short. Legs are black and thin and look slightly long relative to the body.

As foliage gleaners, they methodically probe branches, bark, and other parts of the vegetation for various insects and bugs. Aside from insects, they’ll eat seeds, nuts, and berries.

If you want them as regular visitors to your bird feeders, they enjoy suet, sunflower seeds, corn, berries, and mealworms.

You can also try your hand with nest boxes, as they’ll use them when available. Usually, however, they choose abandoned woodpecker cavities for nesting. They line the cavity floor with various materials from animal fur to leaves and grasses.

Northern Cardinal

Found in most parts of the United States east of the Rocky Mountains, the Northern Cardinal is one of those birds that you can’t really mistake for another.

Its red plumage, prominent crest, orange beak and black face make this bird easy to spot and hard to forget. However, it’s only the male that’s red overall, the female has pale brown plumage with red accents.

Northern Cardinals have a short bill, a long tail, and beady black eyes. You can spot them low in the trees or shrubbery, or simply on the ground foraging for seeds and fruit including corn, sumac, blackberry, mulberry, buckwheat, dogwood, wild grape, etc.

Besides seed and fruit, they also feed on some insects, particularly when feeding nestlings. They’ll feed on beetles, cicadas, spiders, leafhoppers, crickets, etc.

Northern Cardinals will also frequently visit bird feeders, where they’ll feed on various bird seeds, but take a particular liking to black oil sunflower seed.

When nesting, the female of the species builds the nest using twigs, leaves, grapevine bark, stems, rootlets, pine needles, etc. as building materials. The nest is hidden in dense foliage.

The female lays around 2-5 eggs and incubates the eggs for 11-13 days.

Pileated Woodpecker

The size of a crow, the Pileated Woodpecker inhabits mature forests that are abundant in old trees or downed logs.

You can find these birds in southern Canada, eastern United States, and parts of the Pacific Coast and northern Rockies.

The flaming red crest on its head along with the bold white markings on its neck are the signature features of this woodpecker. The underwings are white and visible when the bird takes flight.

Its strong, pointed beak is excellent for hammering away at the bark of trees, looking for insects to feed on.

In their search for carpenter ants as well as wood-boring beetle larvae, termites, caterpillars, cockroaches, and other insects, Pileated woodpeckers dig rectangular holes in the bark of trees. These holes are often used as a nesting site by other species of birds.

Other than the fact that these woodpeckers enjoy old forests, they don’t have a particular preference as to the type of forest. They can be found in evergreen, deciduous, or mixed forests alike.

They even make an appearance in wooded suburbs and backyards. They’ll sometimes even visit bird feeders, where they seem to enjoy suet the most. They’ll even use nest boxes, if available.

Steller’s Jay

Another crested small bird that will certainly catch your eye if it were to visit your backyard is the Steller’s Jay.

The black, triangular crest extends its color to cover the entire head and neck of the bird, conferring a hooded appearance to it.

The rest of the body has plumage with various shades of blue. The wings are discreetly checkered. The eyes are black, while the bill is strong and sharp with a slight hook at the end.

You can spot the Steller’s Jay in evergreen forests of Western North America at elevations of 3,000-10,000 feet.

They’re also a common occurrence in campsites, parks, picnic areas, and even backyards. They’re noisy birds and extremely good at imitating the calls of other birds but also the sounds of cats, dogs, squirrels, and some mechanical objects.

Steller’s Jays are general foragers with an omnivorous diet. They feed on a variety of foods including seeds, insects, berries, nuts, and the eggs and nestlings of several other birds.

They can be attracted to feeders with seeds, nuts, suet, and other large seeds.

In areas where their range overlaps with that of the Blue Jay, they’re known to interbreed.

Blue Jay

Bearing a close resemblance to the Steller’s Jay, the Blue Jay can be found in south Canada, eastern and central United States, as well as south Florida and northeastern Texas.

Blue jays have a light blue crest, white or light gray underneath, and various shades of blue on their wings and back. Wings are checkered, featuring black and white markings along with hues of blue.

They’re found wherever oak trees are abundant since they have a great fondness for acorns. They are usually more comfortable at forest edges. You can also spot them in parks and backyards.

In backyards, they enjoy visiting feeders for peanuts, sunflower seeds, and suet. As omnivores, they have a varied diet. They’ll feed on seeds, grains, insects, but also eggs, nestlings, and other small animals.

Blue Jays build their nests in coniferous or deciduous trees, 10-25 feet high above the ground. They prefer thick outer branches.

Blue Jays are intelligent and resourceful birds, with strong social bonds, often mating for life.

Cedar Waxwing

A sleek-looking crested bird found in most of North and Central America all the way down to Colombia, the Cedar Waxwing is another crested small bird that will visit your backyard.

Its plumage gives the impression of being shiny and silky, almost fur-like with various warm colors such as brown, lemon-yellow, but also gray and white.

The black eye-patches bordered with white and the black throat and beak accentuate the sleek shape of the bird even more. The black wingtips feature wax-like red droplets.

The Cedar Waxwing loves berries just as much as it loves insects. In summer, you can spot them catching insects in flight, while in the fall, they’ll gather by the hundreds to feed on berries.

They often fly in similar patterns and numbers as starlings do. They also bear a resemblance to them in the size and shape of their bodies.

If you want to attract Cedar Waxwings to your backyard, you can easily do so by planting native shrubs and fruiting trees including juniper, dogwood, hawthorn, cedar, winterberry, and others.


Crested birds are an interesting sight for birdwatchers, especially when these birds look larger than they are due to the size of their crests.

Although most of these crested birds prefer forests and woods as their habitat, they will visit backyards and parks for food.

Sometimes, simply just planting native shrubs and trees in your yard will even determine them to build nests on your property.

Depending on your fondness for a particular crested bird species, you can lure them to your backyard by placing out seeds and foods they like or by putting up nest boxes.

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