In the great state of Kansas, there’s a vibrant and diverse community of backyard birds waiting to be discovered. With a whopping 26 species of feathered friends calling this place home, it’s a haven for both year-round residents and migratory birds. From the striking Northern Cardinal and the charming Tufted Titmouse to the lively Blue Jay and the elegant Eastern Bluebird, Kansas is a treasure trove of avian wonders. Other notable species, such as the House Finch, American Robin, and Mourning Dove, add their own unique charm to the mix. But it doesn’t stop there – with over 479 species on the official state list, Kansas is a birdwatcher’s paradise. By attracting these beautiful creatures with a variety of bird feeders and food, like mixed seed blends or black sunflower seeds, you can bring an enchanting display of nature right in your own backyard. And for those seeking even more birdwatching adventures, Kansas offers hotspots and organizations dedicated to this beloved hobby. So, come and explore the fascinating world of backyard birds in Kansas – you never know what feathered marvels await you.
Common Backyard Birds in Kansas
Kansas is home to a diverse range of bird species, making it a fantastic place for birdwatching enthusiasts. Whether you’re an avid birder or just starting out, there are plenty of common backyard birds in Kansas that you can easily spot and enjoy. Here are some of the most popular ones:
The Northern Cardinal is perhaps one of the most recognizable birds in Kansas. With its vibrant red plumage and distinctive crest, it is hard to miss. Cardinals are often seen perched on tree branches or hopping along the ground in search of food. Their melodious songs can also be heard throughout the year, making them a favorite among bird enthusiasts.
The Tufted Titmouse is a small, energetic songbird that can be found in backyards across Kansas. With its gray plumage, crest, and dark markings, it is easy to identify. These birds are social and often travel in small flocks, making their presence known with their clear, whistling calls.
The Black-capped Chickadee is a charming and friendly bird that can be found in many Kansas backyards. Their black cap, white cheeks, and soft gray feathers make them easily recognizable. Chickadees are known for their curious and acrobatic nature, often hanging upside down to search for insects and seeds. Their distinctive “chick-a-dee-dee-dee” call is a common sound in wooded areas.
The Blue Jay is an iconic bird known for its vibrant blue feathers and bold personality. These birds are often found in residential areas, parks, and woodlands throughout Kansas. Their loud calls and intelligent nature make them both a sight and sound to behold. Blue Jays are also known to mimic the calls of other bird species, making them quite entertaining to watch.
The Eastern Bluebird is a beloved species in Kansas, admired for its stunning blue plumage and melodious songs. These birds are commonly found in open fields, meadows, and suburban areas. Bluebirds are cavity nesters and will readily use nest boxes if provided. Their presence adds a beautiful splash of color to any backyard.
The House Finch is a small songbird that can be found in urban and suburban areas throughout Kansas. Males display vibrant red coloring on their heads, chests, and rumps. Females have more muted plumage with streaks and gray-brown coloring. These finches have a delightful, warbling song and are often seen perched on feeders or hopping along the ground in search of seeds.
The American Robin is a familiar sight to many, with its rust-colored breast and gray back. Robins are known for their cheerful songs, which are often heard in early morning and evening. These birds can be found in a variety of habitats, including gardens, parks, and wooded areas. Robins are adept at finding worms and insects in lawns, and they also enjoy feasting on berries and fruits.
The Mourning Dove is a gentle and peaceful bird that can be found throughout Kansas. These doves have a soft, “cooing” call that adds a soothing ambiance to any backyard. They are gray-brown in color with a long, tapered tail. Mourning Doves are ground feeders and are often seen pecking at seeds on the ground or perched on utility lines.
The European Starling is an introduced species that has become quite common in Kansas. These birds have iridescent black feathers with specks of white during the winter months. Starlings are highly social birds and often travel in large flocks. Their loud, chattering calls can fill the air as they forage for insects and fruits.
The American Goldfinch is a small, bright-yellow bird that can be seen throughout Kansas. During the breeding season, males sport vibrant yellow plumage with black wings and cap. In winter, their feathers become a more muted olive color. Goldfinches are often found in fields, meadows, and residential areas. Their joyous songs and acrobatic flights make them a delight to observe.
Other Backyard Birds in Kansas
In addition to the common backyard birds mentioned above, Kansas is home to a wide variety of other avian species. While they may not be as frequently seen in backyards, these birds can often be spotted in nearby natural habitats. Here are some of the notable species:
The White-breasted Nuthatch is a small bird with a compact body and a distinctive black cap. It can often be seen climbing up and down tree trunks in search of insects and seeds. Nuthatches are known for their upside-down feeding habits and their unique nasal calls.
The Downy Woodpecker is the smallest and most common woodpecker species in North America. It has a black-and-white striped back and a small bill. Downy Woodpeckers can often be observed pecking at tree trunks and branches in search of insects and sap.
Contrary to its name, the Red-bellied Woodpecker has only a faint red blush on its belly. It has a black-and-white barred back and a distinctive red cap on its head. These woodpeckers are often heard drumming on trees to establish territories or attract mates.
The Yellow Warbler is a small, brightly colored bird with a yellow body and a distinctive reddish streak on its breast. These warblers can be found in woodlands, shrubby areas, and even backyards with sufficient vegetation. They have a melodious song and can often be seen flitting among the branches of trees.
Purple Finches are medium-sized songbirds with a pinkish-red plumage. Males have a brighter coloration, while females are more muted. These finches can be seen in forests, gardens, and parks, particularly during the winter months when they may visit bird feeders.
The Ruby-throated Hummingbird is the only species of hummingbird that breeds in the eastern United States, including Kansas. These tiny birds have iridescent green feathers and, as their name suggests, males have a vibrant red throat patch. Hummingbirds are attracted to brightly colored flowers and feed on nectar.
The Gray Catbird is a medium-sized songbird with a slate gray body, a black cap, and a long tail. These birds are highly vocal and can often be heard mewing and making a mix of musical and harsh calls. Catbirds are skilled mimics and may imitate the songs of other birds.
The Baltimore Oriole is a stunning bird known for its vibrant orange plumage and black markings. Males have a distinctive black head and back, while females have a more muted coloration. Orioles are often attracted to fruit feeders and can be found in woodland edges and parks.
The Spotted Towhee is a medium-sized bird with a black head, back, and wings, and a white belly. It has reddish-brown sides and a prominent white spot on its wings. Towhees are known for their distinctive call, often described as a loud “towhee” or “chewink.” They can be found in shrubby areas, woodlands, and dense undergrowth.
The Chipping Sparrow is a small sparrow with a rusty cap and a black eye line. It is often seen hopping on the ground, foraging for seeds and insects. These sparrows are known for their catchy, trilling song, which can be heard throughout the breeding season.
Year-round Resident Birds
While some bird species migrate to and from Kansas with the changing seasons, there are several species that can be found in the state year-round. These birds have adapted to the local climate and can be regularly seen in backyards and natural areas. Here are some of the year-round resident birds in Kansas:
The Northern Cardinal, with its vibrant red plumage and distinctive crest, is a resident bird in Kansas all year long. Cardinals can often be seen in backyards and gardens, singing their melodious songs and feasting on seeds from feeders or plants.
The Tufted Titmouse is another year-round resident bird in Kansas. With its gray plumage, crest, and black markings, it is easily recognizable. These small, energetic birds are social and often travel in small flocks, delighting birdwatchers with their acrobatic maneuvers and whistling calls.
Black-capped Chickadees are year-round residents in Kansas. They are known for their friendly and curious nature, often coming close to observe humans. These small birds have a distinctive black cap, white cheeks, and soft gray feathers. They are frequent visitors to bird feeders, where they enjoy seeds and suet.
Blue Jays are a familiar sight in Kansas throughout the year. Their bold, blue plumage and intelligent nature make them hard to miss. Blue Jays are known for their loud calls, mimicking abilities, and social behavior. They can often be seen perched on branches or exploring the ground for acorns and other food sources.
Eastern Bluebirds are a welcome sight in Kansas all year long. With their stunning blue plumage and melodious songs, they add a touch of beauty to any landscape. These cavity-nesting birds often rely on nest boxes for breeding, and they can be seen perched on fences and power lines, searching for insects and berries.
House Finches are year-round residents in Kansas. Males display vibrant red coloring on their heads, chests, and rumps, while females have more muted plumage. These finches are regular visitors to backyard feeders, where they happily feast on seeds and fruits. Their pleasant warbling songs are a common sound in many neighborhoods.
American Robins are a familiar sight in Kansas throughout the year. With their rust-colored breast and gray back, they are easy to identify. Robins can be found in a variety of habitats, including gardens, parks, and woodlands. They are skilled at finding worms and insects in lawns and are known for their cheerful songs.
Mourning Doves are year-round residents in Kansas. These gentle and peaceful birds have a soft, mournful cooing call that adds a soothing ambiance to any backyard. They are gray-brown in color with a long, tapered tail. Mourning Doves are ground feeders and are often seen pecking at seeds on the ground or perched on utility lines.
The White-breasted Nuthatch is a year-round resident bird that can be found in Kansas. These small birds have a compact body and a distinctive black cap. Nuthatches are known for their upside-down feeding habits and their unique nasal calls. They are often seen climbing up and down tree trunks in search of insects and seeds.
Downy Woodpeckers are year-round residents in Kansas. They are the smallest and most common woodpecker species in North America. These woodpeckers have a black-and-white striped back and a small bill. They can often be observed pecking at tree trunks and branches in search of insects and sap.
While some birds in Kansas stay year-round, many species are migratory, traveling to and from the state with the changing seasons. These birds rely on different habitats for breeding and wintering, offering birdwatchers the opportunity to observe a wide variety of avian visitors. Here are some of the migratory birds that can be spotted in Kansas:
Yellow Warblers are a familiar sight in Kansas during the breeding season. These small, brightly colored birds have a yellow body and a distinctive reddish streak on their breast. They can be found in woodlands, shrubby areas, and even backyards with sufficient vegetation. Yellow Warblers are known for their melodious songs and can often be seen flitting among the branches of trees.
Purple Finches are migratory birds that can be observed in Kansas during the winter months. These medium-sized songbirds have a pinkish-red plumage, with males displaying brighter colors than females. Purple Finches can be seen in forests, gardens, and parks, particularly when they visit bird feeders to feast on seeds.
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are migratory birds that breed in Kansas during the summer months. These tiny birds have iridescent green feathers, and males have a vibrant red throat patch. Hummingbirds are attracted to brightly colored flowers and feed on nectar. They are a delight to observe as they hover mid-air, their wings beating rapidly.
Gray Catbirds are migratory birds often seen in Kansas during the summer months. These medium-sized songbirds have a slate gray body, a black cap, and a long tail. Catbirds are highly vocal, mewing and making a mix of musical and harsh calls. They are skilled mimics and may imitate the songs of other birds.
Baltimore Orioles are migratory birds that can be observed in Kansas during the summer months. These stunning birds have vibrant orange plumage with black markings. Males have a distinctive black head and back, while females are more muted in coloration. Orioles are attracted to fruit feeders and can be found in woodland edges and parks.
Spotted Towhees are migratory birds that can be seen in Kansas during the breeding season. These medium-sized birds have a black head, back, and wings, and a white belly. They have reddish-brown sides and a prominent white spot on their wings. Towhees are known for their distinctive call and can be found in shrubby areas, woodlands, and dense undergrowth.
Chipping Sparrows are migratory birds that visit Kansas during the breeding season. These small sparrows have a rusty cap and a black eye line. They are often seen hopping on the ground, foraging for seeds and insects. Chipping Sparrows are known for their catchy, trilling song, which can be heard throughout the breeding season.
Tree Swallows are migratory birds that spend the summer months in Kansas. These sleek, iridescent birds have a deep-blue back, white underparts, and a forked tail. They are remarkable aerial acrobats and can be seen darting through the air to catch insects. Tree Swallows nest in tree cavities or nesting boxes near water.
Indigo Buntings are migratory birds that can be observed in Kansas during the breeding season. The males are strikingly blue, while the females are more subdued in coloration. Indigo Buntings are often found in brushy areas, woodland edges, and fields. They are known for their beautiful, warbled songs.
Cedar Waxwings are migratory birds that visit Kansas during the winter months. These sleek, brown birds have a distinctive crest, a black mask, and a yellow-tipped tail. Waxwings are social birds and often travel in large flocks. They are known for their high-pitched trilling calls and their fondness for berries.
Attracting Backyard Birds
If you’re interested in attracting more birds to your backyard in Kansas, there are several steps you can take. By providing the right food, water, and shelter, you can create a welcoming environment for a wide variety of avian species. Here are some tips for attracting backyard birds:
Choosing the Right Bird Feeders
When it comes to bird feeders, there are many options to choose from. Different feeders attract different bird species, so it’s a good idea to have a variety of feeder types in your yard. Tube feeders, hopper feeders, and platform feeders are all popular choices. Be sure to place feeders in areas where birds feel safe and protected.
Mixed Seed Blends
Mixed seed blends are a great choice for attracting a wide variety of birds. Look for blends that contain a combination of sunflower seeds, millet, cracked corn, and other seeds. Different bird species have different preferences, so offering a diverse selection of seeds will attract a greater number of birds to your yard.
Black Sunflower Seeds
Black sunflower seeds are a favorite among many bird species, including cardinals, chickadees, and finches. These seeds have a high oil content and provide essential nutrients for birds. Place black sunflower seed feeders in areas where birds can easily access them, such as near shrubs or trees.
Thistle feeders, or nyjer feeders, are designed specifically for tiny birds like finches and goldfinches. Thistle seeds are small and lightweight, making them perfect for these small-beaked birds. Hang thistle feeders in areas with good visibility and where birds can feel safe.
Mealworms are a popular food source for many bird species, including bluebirds and robins. These high-protein treats can be offered in specialized feeders or scattered on the ground. Be sure to provide fresh water nearby for birds to drink and bathe in after enjoying their mealworm feast.
Water Sources and Bird Baths
Providing a clean and accessible water source is essential for attracting backyard birds. Birds need water for drinking and bathing, especially during hot summer months. Bird baths, water fountains, or shallow dishes can all serve as water sources. Be sure to change the water frequently to prevent the spread of disease.
Nesting Boxes and Shelter
Providing nesting boxes and natural shelter can encourage birds to make your backyard their habitat. Different bird species have different preferences, so it’s important to research the specific requirements of the birds you wish to attract. Nesting boxes should be placed at an appropriate height and facing the correct direction.
Birdwatching Hotspots in Kansas
Kansas offers a wealth of birdwatching opportunities for enthusiasts of all levels. From vast wetlands to picturesque state parks, there are plenty of locations where you can observe a diverse range of bird species. Here are some of the top birdwatching hotspots in Kansas:
Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area
Located in central Kansas, the Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area is one of the largest interior marshes in the United States. It is a significant stopping point for migratory birds, offering excellent opportunities for birdwatching. During migration seasons, thousands of waterfowl, shorebirds, and other bird species can be observed in this diverse wetland habitat.
Quivira National Wildlife Refuge
Quivira National Wildlife Refuge is another top birdwatching destination in Kansas. It is located in the central part of the state and encompasses a variety of habitats, including wetlands, grasslands, and woodlands. The refuge is a vital feeding and resting area for migratory birds, and it supports a diverse range of species, including waterfowl, shorebirds, and raptors.
Kanopolis State Park
Kanopolis State Park, located in central Kansas, offers a beautiful natural setting for birdwatching. The park is situated along the Smoky Hill River and features a mix of woodlands, prairies, and shoreline habitats. It is home to a variety of bird species, including bald eagles, wild turkeys, and numerous songbirds.
Clinton Lake, located near Lawrence in eastern Kansas, is a popular birdwatching spot. The lake and its surrounding woodlands provide a diverse range of habitats, attracting a wide variety of bird species. Birdwatchers can expect to see bald eagles, waterfowl, songbirds, and raptors, among others.
Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve
Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, located in the Flint Hills region of eastern Kansas, is a unique and important bird habitat. The preserve is home to a large expanse of tallgrass prairie, which is a dwindling ecosystem in North America. Birdwatchers can expect to see grassland bird species such as meadowlarks, bobolinks, and sparrows.
Flint Hills National Wildlife Refuge
The Flint Hills National Wildlife Refuge is located in eastern Kansas and encompasses a mixture of grasslands, woodlands, and wetlands. The refuge is an important breeding area for waterfowl, and it also provides habitat for a variety of songbirds and raptors. Birdwatchers can enjoy observing birds along the refuge’s trails and from its designated viewing areas.
Cheney State Park
Cheney State Park, located near Wichita in south-central Kansas, is a popular spot for both birdwatching and outdoor recreation. The park features a large reservoir surrounded by woodlands and prairies, providing diverse habitats for bird species. Waterfowl, shorebirds, and songbirds can all be observed in this area.
Milford Lake, located in north-central Kansas, is the state’s largest lake and offers abundant birdwatching opportunities. The lake and its surrounding woodlands provide habitat for a variety of bird species, including waterfowl, bald eagles, woodpeckers, and warblers. Birdwatchers can explore the lake’s shoreline trails or venture out on the water in a kayak or canoe.
Wilson State Park
Wilson State Park, situated in the Smoky Hills region of central Kansas, is a scenic destination for birdwatching. The park features a large reservoir surrounded by rugged limestone cliffs and woodlands. Bird species commonly seen in the area include waterfowl, bald eagles, great blue herons, and numerous songbirds.
Glen Elder State Park
Glen Elder State Park, located in north-central Kansas, is known for its excellent birdwatching opportunities. The park surrounds Waconda Lake, which attracts a variety of waterfowl, shorebirds, and bald eagles. The woodlands and grasslands surrounding the lake also support numerous songbird species.
Birding Organizations in Kansas
Kansas is home to several birding organizations that provide resources, education, and opportunities for birdwatchers of all levels. These organizations offer a sense of community as well as organized birding events and field trips. Here are some of the birding organizations in Kansas:
Kansas Ornithological Society
The Kansas Ornithological Society (KOS) is a statewide organization dedicated to the study and preservation of birds. KOS publishes the Kansas Ornithological Society Bulletin and hosts annual meetings that include field trips, speakers, and presentations. Membership in KOS provides opportunities to connect with fellow birdwatchers and contribute to bird conservation efforts.
Kansas City Birding Club
The Kansas City Birding Club is a local organization that aims to promote the enjoyment and conservation of birds in the Kansas City area. The club organizes field trips, meetings, and educational programs for birdwatchers of all levels. Membership in the Kansas City Birding Club provides access to a supportive community and opportunities to learn from experienced birders.
Kansas Birding Festival
The Kansas Birding Festival is an annual event that brings together birdwatchers, naturalists, and outdoor enthusiasts. The festival offers a wide range of activities, including guided bird walks, workshops, and presentations. It provides an opportunity to explore Kansas’s diverse bird habitats and learn from expert birdwatchers.
Birds and Beers Topeka
Birds and Beers Topeka is a casual social group that brings together birdwatchers and bird enthusiasts in a relaxed setting. The group meets regularly at local establishments to enjoy beverages, discuss bird sightings, and share experiences. Birds and Beers Topeka provides a relaxed and friendly environment for birdwatchers to connect and learn from one another.
Wichita Audubon Society
The Wichita Audubon Society is a local chapter of the National Audubon Society, dedicated to bird conservation and education. The society organizes birding field trips, monthly meetings, and educational programs for birders of all levels. Membership in the Wichita Audubon Society provides opportunities to connect with fellow birdwatchers and contribute to local bird conservation efforts.
Conservation Efforts for Backyard Birds
Conserving and protecting backyard birds is essential to ensure their survival and maintain healthy ecosystems. There are several actions that individuals can take to support bird conservation efforts in Kansas and beyond. Here are some conservation practices that can help backyard birds thrive:
Providing Native Plants and Habitats
One of the most effective ways to support backyard birds is by providing them with suitable habitats and native plants. Native plants offer food sources, shelter, and nesting sites for birds. They also attract insects, which are an important food source for many bird species. Avoid using pesticides and herbicides that can harm birds and their natural food sources.
Reducing Pesticide Use
Pesticides can be harmful to birds, as well as other wildlife and beneficial insects. Minimize the use of pesticides in your yard and garden, opting for natural and organic pest control methods instead. This will help create a safe environment for birds and prevent the contamination of their food sources.
Preventing Window Collisions
Window collisions are a major threat to birds, causing numerous fatalities each year. To prevent collisions, make windows more visible by adding decals, tapes, or window films. Placing bird feeders and bird baths closer to windows can also help redirect birds and reduce the risk of collision.
Avoiding Feral and Outdoor Cats
Feral and outdoor cats are major predators of backyard birds. To protect birds, it is important to keep cats indoors or supervise them when outside. Cat owners can also consider fitting their cats with safe and comfortable collars that have bells to warn birds of their presence.
Participating in Citizen Science Projects
Participating in citizen science projects can contribute valuable data to bird conservation efforts. Projects such as the Great Backyard Bird Count and eBird allow birdwatchers to report their observations and contribute to scientific research. By participating in these projects, you can help scientists better understand bird populations and migration patterns.
Supporting Bird Conservation Organizations
There are several bird conservation organizations in Kansas that work tirelessly to protect and preserve bird habitats. Supporting these organizations through donations, volunteering, and membership can make a significant impact. These organizations often conduct research, educational programs, and land conservation efforts that benefit both backyard birds and their natural habitats.
Kansas offers a wealth of opportunities for birdwatchers, with a wide variety of bird species that can be observed throughout the year. From the vibrant Northern Cardinal to the acrobatic Tufted Titmouse, there is no shortage of fascinating bird species to discover in Kansas backyards. By attracting birds with the right feeders, food, and habitat, and by supporting bird conservation efforts, individuals can help ensure that these beautiful creatures continue to thrive in the state. So grab your binoculars, head outside, and enjoy the wonderful world of Kansas backyard birds.