Do you know your backyard birds?

birds at a feeder
Donna Apsey/Shutterstock

Bird-watching is one of the fastest growing hobbies in the United States, with more people drawn to the entertainment and challenge of birding every year. Let's test how much you know about these popular feathered friends.

Question 1 of 14

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Which common backyard bird is not native to North America?

The starling was introduced to the United States in 1890, with 60 of the birds released into New York's Central Park by a man named Eugene Schieffelin. The starlings flourished and have spread across the continent from east to west, and from southern Canada down to Central America. They now number around 150 million, to the dismay of many native bird lovers.

Question 2 of 14

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What color is a robin’s egg?

Robin eggs are famous for their beautifully vibrant light blue coloring. The color "robin egg blue" has even become an official Crayola color. But it's not just us humans who love the hue. A recent study showed that a male robin is more attentive to his offspring if the female lays eggs with a vibrant shade of blue.

Question 3 of 14

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Name this species of common backyard bird:

Bluebirds are found across North America, with each of the three species taking up residence in different parts of the continent. Specifically this is the eastern bluebird, and it looks very similar to the western bluebird with each sporting rust-colored chests. The mountain bluebird stands apart, dressed entirely in vibrant blue that fades to white only on its stomach and base of tail.

Question 4 of 14

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What birds are in the same family as blue jays?

Blue jays are part of the corvidae family, which includes crows, ravens, rooks, jackdaws, jays, magpies, treepies, choughs and nutcrackers. This family is known for its smarts. Species under its umbrella are considered the most intelligent birds and among the most intelligent animals, possessing complex communication skills, self-awareness and even tool-making skills.

Question 5 of 14

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What is the best kind of seed to use to attract a wide variety of birds?

Sunflower seeds are considered the best choice to offer birds because of their high fat content and widespread popularity among many different bird species. Corn can attract non-bird species that you don't want raiding your feeders, while millet is often spurned by birds and goes to waste. Meanwhile, canary seed is popular among house sparrows and starlings, which can dominate feeders.

Question 6 of 14

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Name this common backyard bird:

There are seven species of chickadee found across North America, including the Carolina chickadee pictured here. The Carolina chickadee is one of the most common chickadees found at feeders, alongside the black-capped chickadee. Because the two species look almost identical, it's easier to differentiate the two by their range, with the Carolina chickadee sticking to the Southeast.

Question 7 of 14

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What is not one of the names for this bird species?

The mourning dove is one of the most abundant birds in North America and has one of the largest ranges of all dove species on the continent, which lends to its diversity of names. It is also known as the turtle dove and rain dove among several other labels. But it is not a ground dove.

Question 8 of 14

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Which state does not have the northern mockingbird as its state bird?

The northern mockingbird is a popular choice for a state bird. Currently five states have it as their state bird, including Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Texas. It was named the state bird of South Carolina in 1939, but the Carolina wren took over that title in 1948.

Question 9 of 14

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What species is this common backyard bird, which is more often heard than seen?

The great horned owl is a common backyard bird that you're unlikely to see at your feeder. The most widely distributed owl in the Americas, it will hunt and eat just about anything that won't eat it. Though it is a less-often seen resident, you'll know one is around if other birds, especially crows, jays and mockingbirds, are mobbing it in its roost in an attempt to drive it away.

Question 10 of 14

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Other than a hummingbird feeder, the best way to attract hummingbirds to your yard is:

Water, shelter and nesting spots are all ways to bring hummingbirds to your yard, but the best way is to provide food in the form of nectar-bearing flowers. In our guide to attracting hummingbirds, we list some of the best native flowering plants to attract these flying jewels to your yard. Adding even a couple of hanging baskets of nectar-bearing flowers will help lure more hummingbirds to your feeders.

Question 11 of 14

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Which bird species is a nest parasite that lays eggs in nests of other perching birds?

The brown-headed cowbird is a specialist in infiltrating other birds' nests with its own offspring. The other three species listed below are among the 221 known species that the cowbird uses as a host. It will lay eggs -- as many as 36 each season -- in nests of other perching birds, ranging from hummingbirds to raptors.

Question 12 of 14

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Which food should you not add to a backyard feeder?

Peanut butter, millet and cracked corn are all common foods on the menu at bird feeders that should be used with careful consideration. But bread crumbs should not be used because they provide little nutritional value to birds that visit feeders seeking seeds, and moldy bread is potentially toxic to birds.

Question 13 of 14

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What type of bird depends almost entirely on man-made nesting boxes in eastern U.S.?

Purple martin numbers have dramatically declined because starlings and house sparrows out-compete purple martins for nest cavities. The eastern population of purple martins is now entirely dependent on nest cavities provided by humans, in the form of bird boxes or fake gourds, which need to be maintained by the people who set them out because starlings and sparrows will take over even these refuges.

Question 14 of 14

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Which species of common backyard bird is pictured here?

The American goldfinch is a brightly colored visitor to bird feeders. Found coast to coast across North America, the males sport the more vibrant yellow coloration. If you want to attract more of these birds to your yard, hang feeders containing Nyjer thistle seed and plant native perennial flowers that produce seedheads favored by finches (zinnias, sunflowers, cornflowers and marigolds are examples). 


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