The Cutest Birds in America
The votes are in—see if your favorite bird made our list of the cutest birds in America, then get the birding basics to attract them to your yard.
How do you define cute? If you think about it, it’s rather subjective. What one person thinks is cute, another might not find attractive at all. So “cute,” in and of itself, is tricky, but now add the complication of trying to define cute birds. You’re sure to have all sorts of opinions!
Now, we wouldn’t dream of identifying the cutest birds in America all on our own. So we put together an online poll and asked you, the readers, to vote for the cutest, prettiest, best-looking birds in America. Take a look at the Top 10 results. You’ll also want to see the write-in winner that we accidentally left off the ballot!
#1: Northern cardinal
It must be the bright red feathers of the male cardinal that won over voters, who gave this bird top honors. Even female cardinals have gorgeous hints of red along their wings, tail feathers and crest. Together, their behavior can be defined as cute, too. In late winter or early spring, courtship begins. Keep an eye out, because the male will sometimes offer the female a seed, touching his bill lightly to hers. Put out black-oil sunflower seed if you live in the East and want to attract cardinals to your backyard.
#2: American goldfinch
During the height of summer, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more colorful visitor to your yard than the American goldfinch. They look almost like canaries. Remember, these birds turn a fuller olive green in winter. Then it’s fun to observe them as they make a transformation from early spring through fall. They really seem to brighten along with the sun as the days get longer, and then they;ll start to fade again in fall. Offer thistle seed to attract these beauties.
Backyard Tip: Use an upside-down thistle feeder to keep goldfinches around but bully birds away!
#3: Snowy owl
It was hard to decide which owl to put on the nomination list, but the snowy owl claimed an impressive third place. Not bad for a bird that barely makes it into the lower 48 states! In winter, this owl looks like a big puffy cotton ball with flecks of black. If you’re lucky enough to live in or visit someplace where the snowies have gone for winter, look for them perched atop buildings and other structures in open areas so they can search for food. They even have a reputation for frequenting the open fields at airports.
#4: Indigo bunting
The color of the male indigo bunting has to be one of the most vibrant, gorgeous blues found in nature. It’s almost iridescent, like a peacock. Females are a dull brown, but you can still identify them by their thicker grosbeak bill. These birds are migrants and are common throughout the East in late spring and summer. If you want to attract them to your yard, try mealworms or a thistle feeder.
#5: Rufous hummingbird
We couldn’t put every hummingbird on the nomination list for cute birds, because we were afraid they would dominate. After all, nearly everyone can agree that a 3- to 4-inch hummingbird is cute! The rufous came in at a solid fifth on our list. It’s found mostly in the West, though some rufous are gaining a reputation for wintering in the lower Southeast. The male has a stunning gorget and beautiful cinnamon coloring across his back. Offer sugar water for this and all hummingbirds.
#6: Cedar waxwing
This charmer may have some of the sleekest, shiniest feathers in the whole bird world. If you get the chance to take a closer look at these handsome birds, notice the black masks across their eyes, and the way every feather seems to be in perfect place. Males and females of both cedar and Bohemian waxwings look similar and travel in groups. If you want to see these in person, either plant a tree with plenty of berries or take a trip to your local park or nature center where berry shrubs and trees are planted.
Backyard Tip: Make this the year you plant a new shrub with berries. The cedar waxwings will love it!
#7: Mountain bluebird
All bluebirds are beloved for the brilliant spots of color they offer, but we put the mountain bluebird on the nomination list because the male is blue all over. Females are grayer overall, but they have baby blue highlights along their wings and tail feathers. As we learned from our Kaufman Field Guide, this western species has a unique habit of hovering in midair before it drops down to pick an insect up off the ground. Offer mealworms to this and all other bluebirds.
#8: Bald eagle
Bald eagles seem to hold a lot of sentimental value for people. Conservationists have worked hard to bring our national bird back in greater numbers since it was labeled endangered back in 1967. Immature eagles take three or four years to reach maturity, so they’ll be a brown-and-white mix until they get their signature white tails and heads. If you want to see a bald eagle, look near open water, since they mostly eat fish.
Backyard Tip: Watch the famous Decorah eagles nesting online at ustream.tv/decoraheagles.
#9: Baltimore oriole
This list wouldn’t be complete without a flash of orange on it. Orioles are one of the most colorful birds you can attract to your backyard—just put out oranges or a special oriole sugar-water feeder. The females aren’t quite as stunning as their male counterparts, but their softer hue is still pretty.
#10: Painted bunting
You’ll probably do a double take the first time you see a painted bunting. I know I did! Females don’t boast as many colors as the amazing males, but they’re still an intriguing lime green. You’ll have to go south if you want to see these birds. Try Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas or Louisiana in summertime, or southern Florida in winter. Those lucky enough to live in their range can attract them with millet.
Write-in Winner: Black-capped chickadee
Don’t be mad, but we left this cutie off our list the first time. We heard about it, too! Several people wrote in, asking us how we could forget the black-capped chickadee. We publicly apologize to those who were shocked by our omission, and we’re crowning the black-capped chickadee our write-in winner. Who doesn’t love this little black-and-white flier, found throughout much of the U.S.? You can easily attract it with black-oil sunflower seed.