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7 Types of Birds That Look Like Robins

From the eastern towhee to the red-breasted nuthatch, we identify birds that look like robins to point out the differences setting them apart.

251474884 1 Ben Hatto Bnb Bypc2020Courtesy Ben Hatto
American robin

Birds That Look Like Robins

Look at that bird! It has patches of reddish-orange and a gray back, too. It must be an American robin — or, wait, is it? Robins are a classic sign of spring, but not all birds with patches of white, gray and red are robins. Here are seven birds that look like robins, commonly confused for the blue egg-laying backyard favorites.

Male Varied ThrushCourtesy Sally Harris

Varied Thrush

Robins are part of the same family as the varied thrush, so it’s easy to see why someone would get them confused. And at first, they have similar coloring, sporting reddish breasts and gray backs. Complicating things further, they’ve been known to forage in flocks of robins. Their behaviors, however, are different. The thrush tends to spend its time in treetops, while robins are more comfortable in the open. In addition, the thrush’s coloring has more of an orange tint, and the black eye bar is a giveaway.

These cheerful robin pictures will help you welcome spring.

250483772 1 Michael Demoss Bnb Bypc2020Courtesy Michael Demoss

Orchard Oriole

The male orchard oriole is a striking sight to see in early summer. But with his red breast and dark-colored head, he’s definitely one of the birds that look like robins. As the smallest of the oriole species, there’s a slight size difference between an orchard oriole and the American robin, and the beak colors differ, too. One way to tell for sure is the location where the bird feeds — if it’s visiting a fruit feeder or nectar feeder, it’s almost certainly an oriole.

Wish you saw more robins? Here’s how to attract robins to your yard year-round.

252770407 1 Gary Mcmillan Bnb Bypc2020

Spotted (and Eastern) Towhee

Both the spotted and eastern towhee are birds that look like robins, with some key differences. If you’re able to get a good look at the bird’s eyes, check whether they’re red. Red eyes are a distinctive feature of towhees that robins don’t have. If not, check for the birds’ white breast and dark-colored upperparts.

Here’s the difference between American and European robins.

Male Black Headed Grosbeak (Pheucticus melanocephalus)johnrandallalves/Getty Images

Black-Headed Grosbeak

Telling a black-headed grosbeak from a robin can be a tricky feat. Right down to the overall tune of their songs, they have much in common. If you’re in the Eastern or Midwestern U.S., chances are good you’ve seen a robin — black-headed grosbeaks live mostly in the West. If you’re in the West, look for the reddish band around the neck, the white spots on the wings and the overall black upperparts to distinguish the grosbeaks from robins. The shape and color of the beak is a good indicator, too.

Do robins migrate and fly south in winter?

hermit thrushCourtesy Debi Cline

Hermit Thrush

The American robin is in the thrush family, a group of birds known for their musical songs. The hermit thrush lacks the robin’s reddish coloring but the face, eye ring and beak look similar. The spots on its breast might make you think you’re seeing a juvenile robin. Learn how to identify a wood thrush.

Bnbbyc17 Robin Edwards 1

Red-Breasted Nuthatch

The confusion here probably has its roots in the bird’s name. Because this cute little nuthatch has a red breast, it looks a bit like an American robin. But the similarities don’t stop there — it has gray upperparts as well. However, there are plenty of ways to tell them apart. Red breasted nuthatches are commonly seen hopping up and down tree trunks; you won’t, say, see them searching for a worm in your lawn. In addition, nuthatches are smaller than robins.

250968555 1 Martin Torres Bnb Bypc2020

American Redstart

Yet another dark-headed, reddish-feathered bird… what’s a birder to do? One way to tell a male American redstart from a robin is to keep an eye out for the redstart’s distinctive behavior: fanning out its tail. As a warbler, the redstart is smaller than a robin. And its plumage has notable differences, too — including its white breast and reddish-orange streaks on the sides.

Next, discover 9 birds that look like cardinals.

Emily Hannemann
Emily Hannemann is an associate digital editor for Birds & Blooms. She has a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s degree in magazine writing from the University of Missouri - Columbia. When she’s not writing and editing, you’ll find her swimming, running, or hiking. She knows blue jays are controversial, but she loves them anyway.