20 Beautiful Birds of Georgia

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The state of Georgia is filled with a variety of natural habitats, ranging from fertile Piedmont and hardwood forest to coastal beaches and the rolling hills of the North Georgia mountains

Soaring above it all, there are more than 300 different species of birds in Georgia!

Some of these fascinating flyers find the state suitable all year round, while others visit the state during their migratory travels.

Each of these Georgia birds are beautiful in their own right, as they all have unique features and behaviors that make them endlessly entertaining to watch.

Our list of the 20 most beautiful birds of Georgia features some key identifying information about each one.

Some birds (like the Northern Cardinal and Eastern Bluebird) are commonly found in yards and public bird feeders, while others (such as the Barn Owl and Pileated Woodpecker) can be a bit more elusive. 

Hopefully this list can help you learn more about your favorite backyard birds in Georgia, as well as species you might encounter while traveling through the Blue Ridge Mountains!

READ MORE: 20 Beautiful Birds of North Carolina

Georgia Woodpeckers - Red Bellied Woodpecker
Red Headed Woodpecker, photo via Canva

Birds of Georgia Guide

  1. Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus)
  2. Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus)
  3. Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens)
  4. Brown Thrasher (Toxostoma rufum)
  5. Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata)
  6. Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)
  7. Ruby-Throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris)
  8. Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus)
  9. Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis)
  10. Eastern Screech Owl (Megascops asio)
  11. Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus)
  12. Barn Owl (Tyto alba)
  13. Barred Owl (Strix varia)
  14. Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)
  15. Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii)
  16. Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)
  17. Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)
  18. Wood Duck (Aix sponsa)
  19. Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)
  20. Ring-necked Duck (Aythya collaris)

 

Woodpeckers & Other Backyard Birds in Georgia

Red-headed Woodpecker in Georgia
Red-headed Woodpecker, photo by Christina Maggitas

1. Red-headed Woodpecker

Melanerpes erythrocephalus

Easily identified by its solid-colored red head, the aptly named Red-headed Woodpecker is a medium-sized bird with a short tail and strong bill. 

Their red, black, and white color pattern is so distinctive that it has garnered them nicknames like the “flag bird” and the “flying checker-board.”

Red-headed Woodpeckers can be found in Georgia all year in open woodland, pine Savannahs, or farms.

In typical woodpecker fashion, they will hammer at wood to find insects to eat. But they’re also known to catch insects in flight or on the ground.

They may even be spotted eating some fruits and small seeds.

READ MORE: The 30 Best Hiking Trails in North Georgia Bucket List

woodpeckers in Georgia
Pileated Woodpecker, photo by Veronika Andrews via Pixabay

2. Pileated Woodpecker

Dryocopus pileatus

Pileated Woodpeckers are the largest woodpeckers in Georgia, and one of the biggest forest birds in North America.

They can grow up to 19 inches tall, with a wingspan that can reach up to 29.5 inches. 

Like the Red-headed Woodpecker, they have red feathers on their head. But they also have distinguishing red and white markings on their faces, and black bodies with white underwing patches.

Pileated Woodpeckers reside in Georgia all year round in hardwood forests and drowned forests (where there are plenty of dead trees). 

If you see rectangular holes in dead trees, it’s a surefire sign that a Pileated Woodpecker is (or was) near. They leave these unique holes after digging into rotten wood to find carpenter ants, which is their favorite snack. 

READ MORE: The 20 Best Hiking Trails in the Chattahoochee National Forest

 Downy Woodpecker in GA
Downy Woodpecker, photo by Jack Bulmer via Pixabay

3. Downy Woodpecker

Picoides pubescens

If you’ve spotted a smaller woodpecker at your bird feeder, chances are it’s a Downy Woodpecker.

While they can be found in open woodlands, they are also commonly spotted in Georgia State Parks, orchards, and backyards. 

These are the the smallest woodpeckers in Georgia (and North America), averaging from 5.5 inches to just under 7 inches long. 

Their bill tends to be slightly smaller than other woodpeckers, but they have a similar body shape, with a blocky head, wide shoulders, and a straight back. 

Insects (especially beetles and ants) are the Downy Woodpecker’s favorite meals, but they will also eat seeds, grains, acorns, and berries. 

Strangely enough, they’ve even been known to drink from hummingbird feeders! 

READ MORE: The 10 Best State Parks With Cabins In Georgia

Brown Thrasher - state bird of Georgia
Brown Thrasher, photo by Miles Moody via Pixabay

4. Brown Thrasher

Toxostoma rufum

No list of Georgia birds would be complete without including the state bird of Georgia, the Brown Thrasher.

Brown Thrashers can be found throughout the Appalachian range, heading north into Canada and west towards the Rockies. They migrate north in the summer, but spend much of the winter in the Southeastern US.

While they can be tricky to spot since they tend to hang out among shrubbery, thickets, and brush, once you spot them you’re sure to take note of their beauty.

They are a foxy brown and have a whitish underside, with dark streaking. Another impressive attribute of Georgia’s state bird is their unique singing ability.

Brown Thrashers can sing over 1,100 different song types, including imitations of birds such as Wood Thrushes and Northern Flickers. 

READ MORE: The 15 Best Day Hikes on the Appalachian Trail in Georgia

Blue Jay - blue birds of Georgia
Blue Jay, photo by Christina Maggitas

5. Blue Jay

Cyanocitta cristata

With their captivating blue wings and tail feathers, bold black markings, and bright white bellies, Blue Jays stand out among the beautiful blue birds of Georgia.

They’re incredibly adaptable and will feed on everything from nuts, seeds, and grains to small wildlife, including frogs, rodents, and other birds!

Blue Jays are also known for their intelligence, and will frequently mimic the call of the Red-shouldered hawk. 

If you’re looking to Blue Jays in GA, they’re common throughout the year and reside along forest edges and in parks, groves, and woodlots.

While their bright color might lead you to believe they’re easy to find, Blue Jays can actually be quite inconspicuous as they fly covertly through the trees. 

READ MORE: 52 Best Georgia Hiking Trails for the 52 Hikes Challenge

Northern Cardinal - red birds in Georgia
Northern Cardinal by Christina Maggitas

6. Northern Cardinal

Cardinalis cardinalis

The Northern Cardinal is an incredibly popular bird known for its eye-catching red color. 

But it’s only the males that sport that vibrant red shade of feathers.

Female Cardinals are far less flashy, sporting neutral-colored feathers with dashes of red along the tops of their heads and the base of their tails. 

Northern Cardinals inhabit all states east of the Rockies, and can be spotted during any season at woodland edges, in thickets, gardens, and towns.

They feed on seeds, insects, grasses, flowers, and berries, and are very common visitors to backyard bird feeders.

To heighten your chances of attracting them, try putting out sunflower seeds.

READ MORE: The 15 Best Treehouse Rentals in the Georgia Mountains

 

Hummingbirds & Other Small Birds in Georgia

Red-throated Hummingbirds in Georgia
Red-throated Hummingbird, photo by Christina Maggitas

7. Ruby-Throated Hummingbird

Archilochus colubris

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are the only species of hummingbirds that nest in Georgia. So they’re also the most common hummingbirds in Georgia.

These dazzling birds show up in a quick flash of green, with wings that can beat around 53 times a second.

They can reside in Georgia all year round. But, as a migratory species, many will arrive in late February or early March and leave before the fall colors peak in late October.

Red and orange flowers attract them naturally, but they will easily be swayed towards a hummingbird feeder if you put out the right mixture.

To make your own hummingbird nectar, mix 1 part sugar with 4 parts water until the sugar is dissolved. Please do not add red food coloring, as it is not good for the birds. 

READ MORE: The 20 Best Places to Live in the Georgia Mountains

Rufous Hummingbird
Rufous Hummingbird, photo by Diana Roberts via Pixabay

8. Rufous Hummingbird

Selasphorus rufus

Although it is a fairly common hummingbird in Georgia during the winter, the Rufous Hummingbird is still a relatively rare sight in the state.

If you do spot one, it won’t be a bird you’ll soon forget, as it zips by flaunting its brilliant orange shades. 

Despite their size, these are feisty birds and will charge hummingbirds double their weight at flowers and feeders. 

They also have an incredible memory for location, which helps them find flowers to feed on each year.

Some Rufous Hummingbirds have even been spotted buzzing around places where a feeder had been the previous year in hopes of finding nectar, even though the feeder had been removed.

READ MORE: The Best North Georgia Christmas Events

Eastern Bluebird in Georgia
Eastern Bluebird, photo via Canva

9. Eastern Bluebird

Sialia sialis

Looking like something straight out of Snow White, Eastern Bluebirds are among some of the most delightful small birds in Georgia.

Their bluish coloring is incredibly vibrant in the males, with the females sporting a more subdued shade of the color. Both have rusty-colored chests with white accents.

A year-round resident of Georgia, Eastern Bluebirds live in open country with scattered trees, farms, and other kinds of semi-open habitats (such as open pine woods and even suburbs).

In the past, these beautiful birds’ population was declining due to habitat loss and the loss of nesting sites.

Recent decades have shown an increase in their population, in large part thanks to backyard birdhouses!

READ MORE: The Top 25 Blue Ridge Mountain Towns in GA & NC

 

Owls in Georgia

Eastern Screech Owl - Owls in Georgia
Eastern Screech Owl, photo by Irene K-s via Pixabay

10. Eastern Screech Owl

Megascops asio

Of all the species of owls in Georgia, the Eastern Screech Owl is the most common.

They can live in rural areas where there are open woodlands, or suburban backyards with plenty of mature trees.  

During the day, these owls roost in holes or dense cover before coming alive at dusk.

That’s when they hunt for large insects and small rodents by watching from a perch, then plunging down to scoop their prey from the ground.

Despite their name, these nightbirds don’t really screech, but rather sing out in whinnies and soft trills. Still, the sound can be a bit spooky in the dark.

Surprisingly, these beautiful birds are relatively small for owls, measuring around 6 to 9 inches long. 

READ MORE: 101+ Fun Things to Do in North Georgia

Great Horned Owl
Photo by Amber Dawn via Pixabay

11. Great Horned Owl

Bubo Virginianus

When you picture an owl in your mind’s eye, it probably looks something like the Great Horned Owl.

They have that quintessential look, with a stocky body, piercing yellow eyes, and large tufts of feathers on their head that look like horns.

These striking owls can be found throughout North America. They live in Georgia all year round in a variety of habitats, including swamps, forests, open country, and along creeks and streams. 

They are extremely skillful and aggressive hunters, searching for their prey mostly at night while perched in the trees.

They can hunt during the night thanks to their great hearing and ability to see well in low light conditions.

Great Horned Owls primarily prey on mammals, but they also enjoy eating snakes, lizards, frogs, birds, and insects.

READ MORE: The 25 Best Easy Hiking Trails to Waterfalls in Georgia

Barn Owl -Georgia owls
Barn Owl, photo by LoneWombatMedia via Pixabay

12. Barn Owl

Tyto alba

Given the fact that they often fly around at night, alerting you of their presence with an eerie shriek, it’s no wonder Barn Owls are the subject of folklore and superstition.

These spooky nocturnal birds often roost in places like church belfries, farms, and barns during the bright hours of the day before becoming active at night.

A Barn Owl’s diet mostly consists of rodents, but will also be supplemented with lizards and insects.

Their hearing and vision are so accurate in low light levels, they can strike their prey in complete darkness!

Barn Owls are also one of the most widespread land birds, as they live on six continents and several islands. You can find Barn Owls in Georgia all year round.

READ MORE: The 20 Best Fall Fairs and Festivals in Georgia

barred owls in Georgia
Barred Owl, photo by Jack Bulmer via Pixabay

13. Barred Owl

Strix varia

Barred Owls are relatively large, stocky birds named for the horizontal stripes of light and dark brown running down their wings, back, and tail.

They are slightly smaller than the Great Horned Owl, and far less aggressive.

While they typically live in the same areas, Barred Owls will move somewhere else if there’s a Great Horned Owl nearby.

These two owl species can often be mistaken for one another, but Barred Owls have a very distinctive call– a loud “hoo, hoo, hoo-hoo.”

Barred Owls are also very inquisitive, and will often watch people as they walk by. If they do fly away, you can usually spot them a couple of trees away, continuing their investigation.

READ MORE: The 25 Best North Georgia Waterfalls (& How to Get to Them)

 

Birds of Prey in Georgia

Red-Tailed Hawk - Birds of Prey in Georgia
Red-Tailed Hawk, photo by Jason Gillman via Pixabay

14. Red-tailed Hawk

Buteo jamaicensis

Once prized by the Cherokee people for their feathers, Red-tailed Hawks are widespread in North America as well as being the most commonly seen hawks in Georgia.

While their red tail is their distinguishing trait, the rest of their body can vary slightly in color from a deeper brownish-black to pale shades of tan.

However, they all share the same relative size, standing at about two feet tall, with a wingspan of around four feet.

These hawks have a varied diet that includes small mammals, birds, and reptiles, but it will vary based on their location and season.

After watching from a high perch and locating potential prey, these hawks will swoop down and capture the creature with their sharp talons. 

READ MORE: Non-Venomous vs Venomous Snakes In Georgia (Identification Guide)

Cooper's Hawk - hawks of Georgia
Cooper’s Hawk, photo via CC BY-SA 3.0

15. Cooper’s Hawk

Accipiter cooperii

Cooper’s Hawks are most prevalent in Georgia in the winter, when they’re typically seen at the edges of forests.

These are medium-sized hawks (about the same size as a crow), with a blue-gray back and white and tan underbelly.

Incredibly skillful fliers, Cooper’s Hawks hunt by stealth, using dense cover to camouflage them as they move from perch to perch in search of their next meal. 

When they’re ready, they’ll burst through the canopy at high speeds to overtake their prey (mostly small birds and mammals).

At other times they’ll fly lower to the ground and grab their prey from behind shrubbery in a surprise attack!

READ MORE: The Best Christmas Lights in Atlanta and North Georgia

Osprey - hawks birds of Georgia
Osprey, photo by Iain Poole via Pixabay

16. Osprey

Pandion haliaetus

Commonly found along coastlines and at lakes and rivers, Ospreys are a fish-hawk whose diet is composed almost entirely of fish.

They’ll fly over the water and hover in mid-air for just a moment once a fish is spotted before diving down to snatch them out of the water their sharp talons.

After they’ve captured their prey, they’ll rise from the water and soar away, often to feast in the trees.

They grasp slippery fish with their reversible outer toes (which is unusual for a hawk) and barbed pads on the soles of their feet.

Other unique features of the Osprey include a marked sort of kink in their wings that creates an M-shape when they fly. 

READ MORE: The 20 Best Lakes in the North Georgia Mountains

Bald Eagles in Georgia
Bald Eagle, photo by Steve Felberg via Pixabay

17. Bald Eagle

Haliaeetus leucocephalus

The most recognizable bird in the nation, the Bald Eagle has been the United States’ national symbol since 1782. These beautiful birds of prey are also considered sacred in Cherokee culture.

But by the mid-20th century they were so endangered, Congress passed the the Bald Eagle Protection Act to protect them. Thanks to conservation efforts, they were finally removed from the Endangered Species list in 2017. 

These majestic birds aren’t actually bald, but have a white-feathered head in stark contrast to their dark brown bodies. 

They often feed on carrion, such as dead fish that wash up on the shore, and will even steal food from smaller birds like Osprey. But despite their thieving tendencies, they are strong predators. 

Your best chance at seeing one of these magnificent birds is to search around large bodies of water, including lakes, swamps, and wide rivers.

READ MORE: The 10 Best Kayaking Rivers in Georgia

 

Ducks in Georgia

Wood Ducks in Georgia
Wood Duck, photo by Robin Arnold via Pixabay

18. Wood Duck

Aix sponsa

The Wood Duck is one of the most beautiful and unique ducks in Georgia. It’s also the most common, and is the only duck that breeds in significant numbers here. 

Wood Ducks have a chestnut-colored chest and iridescent green head contrasted with white stripes. They have a long body with a thick tail, short wings, thin neck, and boxy head.

Unlike most waterfowl, their unique shape makes them more comfortable flying through the woods and nesting in trees.

They feed mostly on aquatic plants and seeds, as well as some crustaceans. 

They do this by either taking food directly from the surface of the water, or submerging their head and neck in search of a meal. Occasionally they will also look for insects on land. 

READ MORE: The 10 Best Places for River Tubing in North Georgia

Mallards - Georgia ducks
Mallards, photo by NickyPe via Pixabay

19. Mallard

Anas platyrhynchos

Mallards are abundant throughout the northern hemisphere, and they nest and live in Georgia year-round.

Males have an easily identifiable bright green head, with grey-brown flanks and a black tail. Females lack the males’ flashy-colored heads, and are instead brown, black, and tan all over.

Mallards are the ancestor of almost all domestic duck breeds, and in many places they have become domesticated to some degree.

They will readily accept handouts from people, but it’s generally considered a bad idea to feed ducks bread

When they have to search for their own food, they forage in the water by submerging their heads. They’ll also graze on land, plucking seeds and grubbing for roots.

READ MORE: Lake Blue Ridge Boat Rentals, Cabin Rentals, Camping & Fishing

Ring-necked Ducks of Georgia
Ring-necked Duck, photo by Lee Dusing via Pixabay

20. Ring-necked Duck

Aythya collaris

Ring-necked Ducks are another one of the ducks in Georgia that have different color schemes for males and females.

Males are a shiny black with white and grey accents, while females are a chocolate brown with a lightly patterned face. Despite their names, the ring on their necks is hardly ever visible.

Ring-necked Ducks are commonly found in small flocks or pairs, diving down to feed on invertebrates, mollusks, and other aquatic plants.

However, during migration and winter, they may gather in flocks that number into the thousands!

While these are diving ducks, they generally like smaller bodies of water and shallow wetlands, such as ponds, bays, and swamps. -by Christina Maggitas, lead image via Canva

 

Leave No Trace logo

We encourage anyone who loves the Blue Ridge region to learn about the Leave No Trace principles of responsible environmental stewardship. 

Stay on marked trails, take only pictures, pack out your trash, and be considerate of others who share the trails and parks you explore. 

Remember that waterfalls and rocky summits can be dangerous. Never try to climb waterfalls or get close to a ledge to get a selfie.

When you're exploring the wilderness, it's better to be safe than to be a statistic!

Growing up in rural south Georgia, Christina Maggitas developed a love for nature at a young age and spent the majority of her formative years outdoors. Since first visiting the Great Smokey Mountains with her family as a child, she has always admired the beauty of the Blue Ridge region and spends as much time as she can hiking north Georgia. She has a passion for writing and storytelling with the hopes of inspiring others to enjoy the great outdoors. Currently, Christina is a senior at Kennesaw State University where she is studying Journalism and Emerging Media.