Looking out for a brilliant bird guide for the Hawkeye State? If yes, go through our common birds in Iowa feature to learn more!

Bird identification Iowa-enthusiasts certainly have a lot to look forward to with this guide of ours. We’ve researched and compiled some of the most popular and wonderful species of birds native to Iowa. So the next time you spot a brightly colored little birdie – you know exactly what you’re looking at!

Oh, and did we mention, we’ve also created mini-profiles for each bird type, full of helpful info and fun facts? All you need to do is grab a comfy seat, have your piping hot cup of java at the ready, and scroll down to begin!

Common Birds In Iowa – The 6 Most Popular Candidates

1.  Dark-eyed Junco

If you happen to catch a Dark-eyed Junco fluttering around your porch in the summer – consider yourself very lucky indeed! These tiny little birds are about the size of a House Finch. Other identification features include a round head atop a short neck and a very rounded body. Juncos also have pretty long tails that are almost squarish in appearance.

As far as hues are concerned, Dark-eyed Juncos aren’t the most vivid birds with dark-grey bodies and white bellies. However, strangely enough, Western Juncos have pink flanks, brownish backs, and some ebony feathers right on the top of their head.

Juncos are big on gorging on insects and seeds. Thus, if you’re looking to add a Dark-eyed Junco or two from the coniferous forest, they inhabit to your backyard – fill up your bird feeder with seeds of all kinds.

2. Black-capped Chickadee

bird identification iowa

One of the most commonly sighted birds of Iowa in the summers is the Poecile atricapillus (aka Black-capped Chickadee). These cute little rounded birdies like frequenting mixed forests and have a range that extends from the northern US, southern Canada, and Alaska.

Identifying features of the Black-capped Chickadees include a raven cap and bib, along with a light ochre front lower belly. Overall, a Chickadee’s body is relatively rounded, with a sizable spherical head and a rounded tail. Their diet includes insects, berries, and seeds, but birders will tell you that they love suet too.

3. White-breasted Nuthatch

If you’re looking to attract a bird that’s as brave as it is beautiful – say hello to the White-breasted Nuthatch. While they’re not the most common birds in Iowa (in the summers), they can be spotted with relative ease during the cold months.

A White-breasted Nuthatch is about the same size as a chickadee, but it’s pretty easy to identify thanks to its tiny tail. These birdies also have short legs, rounded bodies, and sizable heads. Their bills are rather short in size and are darkly colored. Color-wise, White-breasted Nuthatches are slate blue above and a dull-white below. They also have sable caps and black wingtips.

Nuthatches like hanging about in oaky woodlands and are partial to a diet of seeds, nuts, and insects. Oh, and they don’t mind the occasional meal of suet from a bird feeder either.

4. Blue Jay

birds of iowa

The Cyanocitta cristata or Blue Jay is likely one of the most common avifauna species in the areas of the eastern United States. But that doesn’t stop them from being colorful little crowdpleasers. Blue Jays measure about 10 to 12 inches in length, putting them in the same size category as Robins.

Blue jays are vivid blue in color with white underbellies, and they also have spots or patches of whites in their wings. Other identifying features include long, patterned tails and large-crested heads. It might surprise you to know that Blue Jays aren’t precisely timid in nature. In fact, they’ve been to intimidate smaller species of birds and have quite a hearty appetite.

If you want to add a Blue jay or two to your garden landscape, you might want to tempt their attention with nuts and suet. However, be sure to place the feeder for Blue jays away from the feeders you have for smaller birds.

5. European Starling

Fun fact: The European Starling isn’t native to the United States. These picturesque birds were introduced to the U.S back several centuries ago and since then, seem to taken over southern Canada, Alaska, and northern Mexico.

They’re extremely easy to identify, thanks to their iridescent colors on top of brownish bodies. Size-wise, European starlings measure about eight inches, making them smaller than American Robins. The shape of this species’ body includes a large head, squarish tails, and streamlined bodies. Also, the bills tend to turn yellow in the spring.

These birds are frequently found in woodlands with trees with cavities (that’s where you’ll find their nests). The European Starling likes to feed on insects but will resort to eating bread crumbs and other food scraps when available.

6. American Goldfinch

Much like Blue Jays, the American Goldfinch belongs to the colorful birdies club. Measuring approximately five inches in length, these birds sport bright yellow hues that are super difficult to miss. However, the females of the species are dull green, almost olive with brown tails. In winters, male American Golfinches can get a little in color, but you can still recognize them via their round little bodies and short tails.

birds native to iowa

The species tends to frequent clearings, instead of forests and prefer to be around plants like thistles and weeds. Their diet consists mainly of seeds (i.e. thistle seeds and the like). If you want to attract American Goldfinches to your porch, try adding sunflower seeds or Nyjer to your bird feeders.


We hope you’ve enjoyed going through our common birds in Iowa article. Of course, we couldn’t include all the species popular in the Hawkeye State, but we’ve tried our best to include some that are common during the spring and winter seasons.

Hopefully, now you’ll have plenty of knowledge to stun your fellow birders and add more life to your garden by attracting these species to rest awhile on your property. Also, if you’ve spotted a bird that isn’t common to the area, be sure to comment below so other watchers can keep an eye out and benefit from your experience!

Read more about Birds Native To South Carolina – A Birdwatching Series Special

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