31 Types Of SMALL Birds In Texas (ID Guide With Photos)
Did you recently come across a small bird in Texas, and want to know what species it was?
Identifying small backyard birds in Texas is not as easy as it might seem, since there are many species of birds in Texas that are on the small side.
To help you identify the bird you saw, we’ll cover the most common small birds of Texas in this article.
What are the types of small Texas birds?
The 31 types of small birds commonly found in Texas are:
- Carolina Wren
- Ruby-throated Hummingbird
- Black-chinned Hummingbird
- House Wren
- Yellow-rumped Warbler
- Eastern Phoebe
- Painted Bunting
- Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
- Palm Warbler
- Gray Catbird
- Tufted Titmouse
- Great Crested Flycatcher
- Northern Parula
- Barn swallow
- White-eyed Vireo
- Black-and-white Warbler
- Yellow-throated Warbler
- Ruby-crowned Kinglet
- Downy Woodpecker
- Carolina Chickadee
- Common Yellowthroat
- Summer Tanager
- Eastern Bluebird
- Common Starling
- House Finch
- Red-winged Blackbird
- Northern Cardinal
- American Goldfinch
- Lesser Goldfinch
- Black-throated Green Warbler
While many of these types of birds are found year-round in Texas, a number of birds only occur in the state during the nesting season in summer.
Yet other species are winter visitors in Texas, and some are vagrants that only rarely occur in the state.
Now let’s dive into the details, and take a closer look at each of these bird species in order to get the full scoop:
Scientific name: Thryothorus ludovicianus
The Carolina Wren is a common little garden bird with chestnut brown upperparts and creamy white underparts. Wings and tails have dark brown barring.
Males and females look alike, as do young individuals. The Carolina Wren is a non-migratory species, and can be spotted all year round in the state of Texas.
It is a familiar tiny bird, which can be found in backyards, scrubland, and forests. It feeds mostly on insects and other small invertebrates.
A great way to attract these birds to your backyard is by leaving out brush piles, since wrens love to forage for insects in brush piles.
Scientific name: Archilochus colubris
The Ruby-throated Hummingbird is the smallest bird in Texas. Weighing just 0.1 ounces, it is truly a tiny songbird compared to other species.
The male has a black throat that reflects flashes of ruby red when it catches the sunlight.
Similar to other Hummingbirds, it can fly straight up, down, or backwards, and can also hover in mid air, with its wings generating a humming sound like a tiny generator.
Hummingbirds are fascinating creatures that breathe up to 250 times per minute and have a heartbeat of over 1,200 times per minute.
The Ruby-throated Hummingbird is attracted to gardens and backyards in eastern Texas that have tubular flowers that produce a lot of nectar.
In addition to flower nectar, it also feeds on insects. It is a long-distance migrant, and spends its winter in Central America.
Scientific name: Archilochus alexandri
The Black-chinned Hummingbird is native to western Texas, and together with the Ruby-throated Hummingbird, it is one of the smallest Texas birds.
It is a common and adaptable species that does well in a wide variety of natural and man-made habitats.
This hummingbird species is a generalist, which explains why it thrives in so many different habitats, ranging from remote deserts and mountains to parks and backyard gardens.
Males can be recognized by their dark head and black throat, while females and immature birds are more drably colored.
Black-chinned Hummingbirds are not as aggressive as other species of Hummingbirds, and are thus often dominated by other Hummingbirds.
This tiny Texas bird favors a wide variety of woodland and shrubland habitats, as well as urban areas. It is largely migratory, and spends the winter in the western part of Mexico.
Scientific name: Troglodytes aedon
The House Wren is a small songbird with a relatively long beak. Compared to other wrens, it has a long tail, which it likes to cock up.
At a distance, House Wrens resemble uniformly brown birds, but when viewed close up, you can discern subtle barring on their wings and tail.
In contrast to the Carolina Wren, which is a year-round resident in Texas, the House Wren is a winter visitor in Texas, where it winters from September through April.
Scientific name: Setophaga coronata
While the sexes of the Yellow-rumped Warbler are dissimilar, they both have a yellow rump.
This warbler exists in several variations, and the population in east Texas are also called “Myrtle Warblers”.
These small birds have blueish-gray upperparts with dark streaks, as well as a yellow rump and yellow flanks.
The Yellow-rumped Warbler is a winter visitor in Texas, where it can be seen from August through April.
Scientific name: Sayornis phoebe
The Eastern Phoebe is a plump small flycatcher with mostly gray colored plumage. The wings are slightly darker with blackish primarie and two light gray wing bars.
Both sexes, as well as juveniles, look very similar and have buff white underparts. It hunts flying insects from a perch, and catches them in flight.
It is a winter visitor in Texas that can be seen wintering in parks, backyards and woodlands from September to March.
Scientific name: Passerina ciris
The Painted Bunting is a beautiful small songbird with a very colorful plumage.
Adult males have a bright red chest, throat, belly, and rump, contrasting with a dark blue hood. Their backs and the wings are yellowish green.
Females and immatures are pale green on top, with buff yellow underparts.
During the months of May through September, the Painted Bunting may be seen breeding in the southeastern part of the state.
This small bird is migratory, with most individuals wintering in Central America, except for a few individuals that spend the winter in southern Texas.
The secretive nature of the Painted Bunting makes it hard to observe when you’re bird watching, notwithstanding the bright colors of the male.
Its preferred habitat are clearings and margins of dense forests in areas close to water.
Similar to other buntings, it feeds mostly on seeds, except for the breeding season, when insects form an important part of its diet.
Scientific name: Polioptila caerulea
Except for its long tail, the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher looks a lot like a warbler.
The upperparts of adult males are blue-gray, while their underparts are a lighter gray. The black tail has white stripes at its margins.
Adult females and immatures are grayish on top, and light gray underparts. The eye of both sexes has a white eyering.
The Blue-gray Gnatcatcher may be encountered as a breeding species from early May through August throughout Texas (except for a small part of north Texas).
It is a partial migrant, with southern Texas birds being year-round residents. More northern birds, however, spend the winter in Mexico and Central America.
A great way to identify this tiny bird is by its long tail that is often pointed upwards.
Scientific name: Setophaga palmarum
Both sexes of the Palm Warbler are quite similar to one another, with the exception that males tend to have a little more vibrant coloration than females.
The upperparts of adults are olive-brown and subtly striped, while the wings are darker overall with two light wingbars.
A great feature for identifying these tiny birds is their yellow throat and yellow supercilium (eyebrow stripe). The underparts are also mostly yellow with brown streaks.
The Palm Warbler breeds in the northern parts of North America, and winters in Texas from September through April.
Scientific name: Dumetella carolinensis
The Gray Catbird is easily recognizable due to its long tail. Both sexes and juveniles look alike and have dark gray body coloration, a black cap and a rufous red undertail.
The Gray Catbird is a scarce breeding bird in Texas, but its numbers increase during the cold season, due to large numbers of migratory catbirds that winter in Texas.
They like to forage for insects and berries on the ground, and can be found in forests and scrubland.
They are secretive small birds that are hard to observe.
Scientific name: Baeolophus bicolor
The Tufted Titmouse is a common and easily recognizable small songbird thanks to the distinctive crest on its head.
The sexes resemble each other, and have grayish-blue upperparts with a black forehead and a crest on the back of their head. The underparts are pale gray, but the flanks are tinged with buff orange.
It is a year-round resident throughout Texas, and is readily observed, since it isn’t very shy. In fact, this assertive little bird likes to bully smaller birds.
The Tufted Titmouse is a common bird at backyard feeders, and also breeds in nestboxes.
It prefers deciduous forests, as well as parks and backyards, where it feeds on small invertebrates and seeds.
Great Crested Flycatcher
Scientific name: Myiarchus crinitus
The Great Crested Flycatcher is a slim, long-bodied flycatcher. Adults have a dark brown head and back, as well as reddish brown wings and yellowish underparts.
The tail is rufous orange, and the crest of this bird is relatively small, and not very useful as a distinguishing feature.
The Great Crested Flycatcher is a common species in Texas during the summer, and it can be seen in the state from April through September.
It nests in a wide variety of woodland habitats, and feeds on insects as well as berries. Its winter range extends from Central to South America.
Scientific name: Setophaga americana
The Northern Parula is a colorful wood warbler that has distinct markings on its body.
The upperparts of adult males are mostly blue, and they have a yellowish green patch on the back, in addition to two white wingbars.
One of the most distinctive features is the bright yellow throat, as well as an orange breast band.
The eye of the Northern Parula has a partial white eyering, which is a great feature for identification of this little warbler.
It is a common summer visitor in Texas that can be seen in deciduous and mixed woodland. And although it is a migratory bird, some individuals can be seen year-round in southern Texas.
Scientific name: Hirundo rustica
The Barn Swallow inhabits nearly all of North America south of the Arctic circle and may be found in a wide variety of habitats.
It has iridescent blue upperparts that shimmer in various shades of dark blue when the sunlight hits them.
Its underside is reddish-orange, including a chestnut orange forehead and throat, as well as a light reddish-orange belly.
The deeply forked tail of Barn Swallows is another great feature you can use to identify this bird.
However, keep in mind that immature barn swallows have a duller plumage than adults, as well as a shorter tail that is less forked.
The Barn Swallow used to nest in caves and hollow trees, but nowadays it prefers to do so beneath the overhangs of buildings and bridges, as well as inside barns (which explains how it got its name).
Barn Swallows are still a reasonably common sight in most areas. However, the overall numbers of Barn Swallows have been steadily decreasing, especially in the northern section of their range.
This decline is likely a result of the loss of foraging areas and nesting opportunities.
The Barn Swallow feeds on flying insects, such as mosquitoes and flies, and catches them closer to the ground than other species of swallows. In its winter quarters it also feeds on termites.
It is a strictly migratory bird, and spends the winter in Central and Southern America.
Scientific name: Vireo griseus
The White-eyed Vireo is a relatively drab bird with a mix of grayish brown and pale greenish colors.
A great feature to identify it by is its pale iris, which distinguishes it from other similar looking birds.
The underparts are buff white, and there are two distinctive white wing bars. The White-eyed Vireo is a year-round resident in Texas.
It breeds in deciduous forests, and feeds on insects and other small invertebrates.
Scientific name: Mniotilta varia
The Black-and-white Warbler has black upperparts with white stripes, as well as black wings with white wing bars. When the wings are folded, the stripes look more like white spots.
Unlike many other warblers, female Black-and-white Warblers look very similar to the males, except for lacking the black stripe behind and below their eye, which increases the white area on their black head.
The Black-and-white Warbler breeds in the eastern parts of Texas, where it can be found from May to August..
It is a seasonal migrant that spends the winter in Central America, with a small percentage of its population wintering in Texas and the Gulf Coast.
It can be found in a range of diverse forest habitats, and feeds on insects and other invertebrates.
Scientific name: Setophaga dominica
The Yellow-throated Warbler is easily identifiable by its vibrant yellow throat, which contrasts with black-and-white head markings and a blueish gray back.
While Yellow-throated Warblers rarely visit your backyard feeder, you can still attract them to your backyard by planting native shrubs and trees that provide a suitable foraging habitat for these birds.
Yellow-throated Warblers are year-round residents in Texas, where they nest in deciduous woodlands. But they can be hard to observe, since they mostly forage in treetops.
Scientific name: Regulus calendula
The Ruby-crowned Kinglet is a tiny bird that is best identified by its ruby-red crown on its head, although this is only present in adult males.
Females and juveniles look similar to males, but lack the red crown patch. They are common winter birds in Texas, where they can be found in a range of woodland habitats.
Kinglets are “hyperactive” birds that are always on the go, looking out for insects in the leaves of shrubs and trees.
Scientific name: Picoides pubescens
The Downy Woodpecker is the smallest woodpecker found in Texas.
While males are black and white with a small red patch on their nape, females are entirely black and white.
The wings of both sexes are black with white bars, which look like spots when the wings are folded.
Downy Woodpeckers are non-migratory, and can be seen all year round in east Texas, but they don’t occur in the arid regions in the southwest.
You can tell this woodpecker apart from the Hairy Woodpecker by its smaller size and short bill.
While Downy Woodpeckers don’t migrate, they like to move around outside of the breeding season, in search of areas with plentiful food.
Their preferred habitat is deciduous or mixed forest, where they feed on insects and insect larvae found under the bark of trees. During winter they also eat berries and seeds.
Scientific name: Poecile carolinensis
The Carolina Chickadee is easily identifiable by its black cap and black throat. Both sexes look similar and have a grayish back and buff white underparts.
The black markings on the head contrast with the bright white cheeks. It is a year-round resident in Texas, and nests in deciduous forests.
The Carolina Chickadee readily visits backyard feeders, and has a preference for black oil sunflower seeds. It also accepts nest boxes as a substitute for treeholes.
Scientific name: Geothlypis trichas
The Common Yellowthroat is a brightly colored small wood warbler. Adult males have a bright yellow throat and chest, as well as a broad black mask that covers the forehead and cheeks.
The black face mask is bordered on top by a grayish white band, which transitions into the olive brown nape and back. Females are similar, but lack the black face mask.
The Common Yellowthroat is a small bird that can be found in Texas during the winter months, and is found in south Texas and in the Coastal Prairies at this time of the year.
It prefers shrubland and grassy habitats, and feeds on insects and other invertebrates.
Scientific name: Piranga rubra
The Summer Tanager is a beautiful and alluring little songbird with a peaked (as opposed to rounded) crown.
Adult male Summer Tanagers are entirely bright red, although they have slightly darker feathers on their wings.
It can be hard to observe Summer Tanagers, since they like to forage high in the treetops of deciduous and mixed forests.
In contrast to males, females and immatures are buff yellow, although they sometimes have a few patches of pale red.
The Summer Tanager is a summer visitor and breeding species in Texas, and can be seen here from May through August.
This small songbird is strictly migratory, and spends the rest of its year in Mexico and Central America.
Scientific name: Sialia sialis
The Eastern Bluebird is a brightly colored and widespread breeding bird in Texas.
The upperparts of adult male Eastern Bluebirds are a rich shade of admiral blue. Their blue coloration also extends to their wings, tail, and the back of their heads.
The partial orange collar of males creates the impression of having a cap on their head. Male bluebirds have a prominent orange chest, with shades of warm-toned rufous brown.
The upperparts of adult females have a more grayish-brown color. However, females also have blue tail feathers and wing feathers, as well as a rufous-orange chest and flanks.
It is a migratory bird in the northern part of its range, but can be seen year-round in the southern part of the United States. Northern populations winter in Mexico.
The Eastern Bluebird nests in holes, and competes with House Sparrows and European Starlings for nesting sites.
During their fall migration, they can be seen in flocks that like to feed on fruits and berries.
The population of Eastern Bluebirds underwent a dramatic decline at the end of last century, due to lack of nesting holes and competition with European Starlings.
But largely thanks to the efforts of numerous Texas citizens providing nest boxes for Eastern Bluebirds, these beautiful birds are a common sight once more.
Scientific name: Sturnus vulgaris
The Common Starling (also known as European Starling) is a common backyard bird in Texas. Adult Common Starlings are uniformly black with a glossy sheen.
During winter, the black feathers of Common Starlings are covered with light spots, which can be a great characteristic to identify them.
This species is originally from Europe, Asia, and North Africa, but it was introduced to North America and many other parts of the world, where it has established itself as a successful breeding species within a short period of time.
Common Starlings inhabit open country with few trees as their original habitat, but they are also among the most successful urban birds, and are especially common in parks and gardens.
While Common Starlings nest in tree holes in the wild, they are also known to nest inside buildings and nest boxes in urban settings.
Unfortunately, native birds are sometimes driven out of their nesting sites by competing Starlings.
Similar to grackles and other blackbirds, Common Starlings form large flocks outside of the nesting season.
These flocks can contain more than a million individuals, and can be seen performing amazing aerial acrobatics.
Scientific name: Haemorhous mexicanus
The House Finch is one of the most common small birds found in Texas, and is usually found in settled areas, ranging from small towns to large metropolitan centers.
Adult male House Finches can be identified by the bright red feathers on the head and upper breast, although in some cases they are more orangeish or yellowish in color.
The females lack any red coloration, and instead have grayish streaks on a brown background.
The House Finch was originally a western bird, and it wasn’t until the 1940s that it was discovered in New York and other places on the east coast of the US.
The eastern House Finch population began to grow in the 1950s and 60s, and by the year 2000, it had expanded so far west that it connected with the original western population.
The House Finch is entirely herbivorous, and feeds on seeds, buds, and fruits.
If you set up a bird feeder in your backyard, you can expect House Finches to be among the first birds to visit it.
The House Finch is found in Texas all year round. And while it is not a migratory bird, it does move to areas with the most plentiful food supply outside of the breeding season.
Scientific name: Agelaius phoeniceus
The Red-winged Blackbird is one the most abundant birds in Texas, and it is one of the most common black birds found in Texas during the summer.
The great thing about these Texas blackbirds is that you can easily distinguish males from females.
Male Red-winged Blackbirds are completely black except for the bright red patches on their wings. In contrast, females (and juveniles) are a blackish brown color with white streaks.
Generally speaking, this blackbird lives in open fields and near water. It is often found in marshes, wetlands, and around lakes.
To find food, the Red-winged Blackbird travels many miles a day, especially outside of the nesting season.
While this blackbird is primarily a seed-eater during fall and spring, it switches to feeding almost exclusively on insects during summer.
Depending on where it is found, the Red-winged Blackbird is either a seasonal migrant (in the north of its range), or a resident (in the south of its range).
Red-winged Blackbirds roost in flocks up to millions of individuals strong, creating a deafening noise with their rapidly beating wings.
In spring, males are usually the first ones to arrive in order to claim a desirable territory before the females arrive.
During the mating season, the male will sing from a conspicuous perch and display the red shoulder patches on his feathers in order to attract the attention of females.
After a female chooses a mate, she builds her nest over shallow water in a thick stand of vegetation. Her chosen mate then aggressively defends the nest against other blackbirds.
The most successful males are bigamous, and can mate with multiple females at the same time.
Scientific name: Cardinalis cardinalis
As the state bird of no less than seven US states, the Northern Cardinal is one of the most familiar red birds in Texas.
Male Northern Cardinals have a bright crimson red coloration on their head, chest, and belly, and slightly darker red on their back and wing feathers.
In addition, the face has a black mask extending from the bright red bill to the throat.
Female Northern Cardinals are not quite as colorful as males, and have a more buff-brown body color with some reddish tinges, although they also have a bright red bill.
The Northern Cardinal is a common backyard bird in Texas, and can be seen year round in backyards, small forests, and parks.
During the winter months it doesn’t defend its territory, and sometimes gathers in flocks of up to 25 individuals that feed together. The Northern Cardinal is a regular visitor at bird feeders.
Scientific name: Spinus tristis
The American Goldfinch is easily recognizable due to its distinctive bright coloration.
Adult males have almost entirely bright yellow plumage, except for a black cap, black wings, and a black tail.
Females are not as brightly colored, but are more buff yellowish-brown with black wings.
It is a common year-round breeding bird in Texas, and a regular visitor at bird feeders offering sunflower seeds.
During the winter months, it forms flocks that forage together, feeding on thistles in weedy fields.
Scientific name: Spinus psaltria
The Lesser Goldfinch is found in southwest Texas, and this is the easternmost part of its breeding range in North America.
Adult males have a black cap and black wings, which contrast with bright yellow underparts. Their black wings have a white stripe, which is most obvious in flight.
Females and juveniles are olive green, with lighter underparts and dark wings with a white wing bar.
The Lesser Goldfinch is a year-round resident in southwest and south Texas, and outside of the breeding season it likes to forage in flocks, mainly feeding on thistles.
Black-throated Green Warbler
Scientific name: Setophaga virens
The Black-throated Green Warbler is an eastern species that can be found in Texas during migration.
Adult males have a bright yellow face that contrasts with a black throat and chest. Their back and nape is olive green.
Females and immature birds are similar, but lack the black plumage, making them more inconspicuous.
This bird species is present in the western half of Texas during migration in April and September. It favors mixed forests, and feeds on small insects.
Scientific name: Auriparus flaviceps
The Verdin is a small bird of the southwestern United States, and can be found as a year-round resident in southwest and central Texas.
Adult males and females look similar, and are largely light gray, except for a yellow head and throat, and a reddish patch on the shoulder.
It is a year-round resident in arid desert habitats and mesquite forests, where it can be quite common.
It feeds on small insects and other invertebrates, but can be hard to spot, due to the fact that it is usually solitary and secretive.
What are the small brown birds found in Texas?
The small brown birds that can be regularly seen in Texas backyards are wrens, which are tiny birds with a loud voice.
During the summer months, the most common wren species in Texas is the Carolina Wren, while in winter it is joined by House Wrens, which spends the winter in the state.
In addition to wrens, female House Finches are small birds that are brownish gray, and are commonly found in backyard gardens all over Texas.
How can you attract small backyard birds in Texas?
The top 5 things you can do to get these birds to visit your backyard are as follows:
- Set up a feeder with sunflower seeds, or a bird seed mix
- Set up a bird bath
- Plant shrubs to provide nesting opportunities
- Plant native fruiting plants to provide foraging opportunities
Tip: if you want to attract Eastern Bluebirds to your backyard feeder, it’s best to offer mealworms, since they’re not interested in seeds.