Birds of Rhode Island

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The state of Rhode Island is home to an impressive diversity of bird life. Rhode Island is one of my favorite states to go bird-watching. More than 350 different species have been spotted in the state, including everything from songbirds to raptors.

oyster catcher in block island, rhode island.

This wide range of bird species can be attributed to the varied habitats found in Rhode Island. The state has a diverse landscape with forests, wetlands, and coastline. Each type of habitat provides different opportunities for birds to thrive.

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One of the most important habitats in Rhode Island is salt marsh. These marshes provide a vital stopover for migrating birds, as well as a place for them to find food and shelter.

The salt marshes are also home to many rare and endangered species, such as the Piping Plover and the Common Tern. Another important habitat in Rhode Island the coastal plain.

common tern flying with a fish in its mouth.

History of Rhode Island’s birds

The birds that inhabit Rhode Island today arrived over time, through various means of transportation. Some birds, such as the American Goldfinch and Mourning Dove, migrated south for the winter and returned in the spring.

Other birds, such as the Common Loon, were blown off course by storms and landed in Rhode Island’s waterways. And still others, such as the ring-necked pheasant, were introduced to the state by people who wanted them to live here.

common loon in the water.

The avian residents of Rhode Island represent a diverse assemblage of families, with nearly 120 different species documented. The largest bird family in the state is the songbirds, which includes warblers, sparrows, and thrushes.

yellow warbler.
Yellow Warbler.

Hawks and eagles are the largest predatory birds in Rhode Island, while gulls and terns are the most common seabirds. Herons, egrets, and ibises are represented by several different species, while ducks and geese are also common waterfowl.

wilet at lathrop wildlife refuge in westerly rhode island.
A Willet I spotted at Lathrop Wildlife Refuge in Westerly, Rhode Island.

One of the most interesting things about Rhode Island’s birdlife is the high number of neotropical migrants, or birds that spend their winters in Central and South America before returning to New England in the spring. These include such colorful species as orioles, tanagers, grosbeaks, and buntings.

Common birds in Rhode Island

The Rhode Island Audubon Society has identified over 250 bird species that have been observed in the state at some point. Of these, nearly 100 are considered regular or occasional visitors, while the rest are considered rare.

The most common birds in Rhode Island are typically those that thrive in human-altered environments, such as crows, pigeons, and seagulls. Songbirds and raptors also make up a large percentage of the avian population in Rhode Island.

crow i spotted in weekapaug rhode island.
Crow that I spotted at Quonochontaug Beach Conservation Area in Weekapaug, Rhode Island.

Some of the more common songbirds found in the state include robins, northern cardinals, blue jays, red winged blackbirds, brown headed cowbird and black-capped chickadees. These common backyard birds can be seen throughout Rhode Island during the spring and summer months, when they sing and build their nests.

male cardinal.
The Northern Cardinal is another bird you can expect to see in Rhode Island. Cardinals are a common backyard bird, but you’ll see them throughout Rhode Island!

If you’re looking to attract some of these common backyard birds to your yard, I’d recommend getting a bird feeder and filling it with sunflower seeds. Sunflower seeds are popular with a large variety of backyard birds. Just be sure to regularly clean your bird feeders!

tufted titmouse eating from a bird feeder.
Tufted Titmouse enjoying sunflower seeds from a bird feeder in my backyard.

Other birds that are common are Sparrows. Some sparrows you can expect to see if you’re in Rhode Island are House Sparrows, White Throated Sparrows, Song Sparrows and the Chipping Sparrow. The White Throated Sparrow can be seen in the winter while the Chipping Sparrow can be seen in the summer. Song Sparrows can be seen year-round.

white throated sparrow.
White Throated Sparrow

Some other birds you can expect to see are woodpeckers! Some woodpeckers that are common in Rhode Island are the Downy Woodpecker and the Red Bellied Woodpecker. If you’re lucky, you might see a Pileated Woodpecker!

downy woodpecker on a tree.
Downy Woodpecker on a tree.

Raptors such as hawks, owls, ospreys, and falcons can also be found throughout Rhode Island. You can find Ospreys along the shore and around ponds where they can easily fish and it’s not uncommon to find hawks even just driving around the state!

red tailed hawk on a telephone pole in rhode island.
Red-Tailed Hawk I spotted on a telephone pole in Weekapaug, Rhode Island. It’s very common to see hawks in Rhode Island!

Endangered birds in Rhode Island

The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) is responsible for the conservation and management of Rhode Island’s birds. The state has a variety of birds that are either threatened or endangered. The following is a profile of some of Rhode Island’s endangered birds.

The Rhode Island red chicken is a breed of chicken that was developed in Rhode Island in the early 1800s. The breed is now listed as endangered by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy. There are only about 200 purebred Rhode Island red chickens left in the world.

chicken at the fantastic umbrella factory in charleston rhode island.
Rhode Island Red Chicken at the The Fantastic Umbrella Factory in Charleston, Rhode Island.

The piping plover is a small, sand-colored bird that is listed as threatened by the federal government and endangered in Rhode Island. The plover was once common on beaches along the Atlantic coast, but its population has declined due to habitat loss and predation by domesticated animals.

piping plove in weekapaug rhode island.
Piping Plover I spotted at Quonochontaug Beach Conservation Area in Weekapaug, Rhode Island.

Best Spots For Bird Watching

Looking to see some of Rhode Island’s native birds? Below are some of my favorite spots to go bird watching in Rhode Island! Many of these places are also great trails for hiking in Rhode Island.

Sachuest Point National Wildlife Reserve

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that a wildlife reserve is a great spot to go bird watching. This beautiful park is home to so many different species of birds from songbirds to raptors.

For songbirds, you can expect to see northern cardinals, the gray catbird, mourning doves, eastern bluebirds, and many others.

But, there are other beautiful birds to be seen too. You can also expect to see some stunning raptors such as Ospreys, Northern Harriers, and various hawks. There were even snowy owls at this reserve last winter!

northern harrier flying.

Quonochontaug Beach Conservation Area

Between the pond and the ocean, there are so many different birds to be seen here! I have had such great luck with seeing new and exciting birds here. I’ve spotted Buffleheads, Piping Plovers, Loons, and Terns at this beautiful coastal area. I’ve also seen Blue Herons, Common Eiders, and Red-Tailed Hawks here.

blue heron in weekapaug rhode island.

Napatree Point Conservation Area

Napatree Point is another area that is great for bird watching. Some birds I have spotted along this beautiful beach are Oyster Catchers, Common Eiders, Piping Plovers, Brants, Mergansers, and Purple Sandpipers. This conservation area is the perfect spot for spotting coastal birds.

common eider at napatree point in rhode island.

Beavertail State Park

Beavertail is a great place to view some amazing coastal birds that can be found in Rhode Island! I have seen some great birds here, from the color Harlequin Duck to the Black Scoter. You can also expect to see Purple Sandpipers, Seagulls, and Double-crested Cormorants.

double-crested cormorant at beavertail state park in rhode island.

Block Island

Sometimes, I like to take a day trip to Block Island since it’s so close. This beautiful island is home to many amazing birds. Perhaps my favorite bird watching moment here was seeing an adult and baby Oyster Catcher walking along the beach. It really was quite the site to see!

baby and adult oyster catchers on the north end of the island.

The Fantastic Umbrella Factory

The Fantastic Umbrella Factory is a great place to visit in Rhode Island to see birds! You’ll find emus, chickens, and ducks at this 19th century farmyard turned unique tourist spot. This spot is open year-round, so be sure to visit if you’re in Rhode Island!

emu at the fantastic umbrella factory in charleston rhode island.
One of the emus at The Fantastic Umbrella Factory in Charleston, Rhode Island.


Do you have more questions about birds in Rhode Island? We have answered some of the most frequently asked questions below!

What’s the most common bird in Rhode Island?

The most common bird in Rhode Island is the American crow.

What is one of the common birds that you can see in winter in Rhode Island?

One common bird that can be seen in winter in Rhode Island is the American goldfinch. These small birds are easily recognizable by their bright yellow feathers. They can often be seen in flocks, and they love to eat seeds.

Are Cardinals common in Rhode Island?

Yes, Cardinals are common in Rhode Island. In fact, they can be found in most parts of the United States. Cardinals are a bright red bird with a black face and bill. They are a popular bird to watch because of their beautiful colors.


When it comes to the birds of Rhode Island, there is a great deal of variety to be found. From songbirds to waterfowl, there is something for everyone who enjoys wildlife. The best time to go birding in Rhode Island is during the spring and fall migrations, when the most species can be seen. However, even during the winter months there are plenty of birds around to watch and enjoy.

One of the best things about birding in Rhode Island is that there are so many different habitats to explore. Whether you’re interested in coastal marshes or inland forests, there’s sure to be a place where you can find some great birding. In addition, Rhode Island is home to several Important Bird Areas (IBAs), which are designated by Audubon as being critical for bird conservation.

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