Top 10 birds in the USA

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What is your choice of the top 10 birds in the USA? And what is your top birding experience in the USA? Please email us ([email protected]) as we’d truly love to hear! And do let us know if we can post your answer here.

Here are the lists from a few of the Birding Ecotours team members and, importantly, now also other good folks underneath:


Chris (who lived in Wyoming for 2.5 years and in Ohio for 2.5 years, but who has spent most of his life in South Africa):

  1. Great Grey Owl
  2. Tufted Puffin
  3. Blackburnian Warbler (and all the other wood-warblers, the best bird family in the USA and a good reason to visit this part of the world!)
  4. Red-cockaded Woodpecker (not to mention all the other incredible woodpeckers – being from South Africa we don’t have as many species of these and they are less diverse in colour and appearance than in the USA)
  5. Either of the two Prairie Chickens
  6. Greater Roadrunner
  7. Painted Bunting
  8. Mountain Quail (still need it though!)
  9. California Condor (still need it though!)

Top 10 birds of USAGreater Roadrunner

The most memorable birding experience was seeing GYRFALCON in Michigan. This bird has to be seen to be believed. It looks as if it’s as fast as a Peregrine when it flies, but it’s as big as a buzzard/hawk!


Eduardo (who lives in Peru but visited the Ohio office of Birding Ecotours in April/May 2018):

  1. Great Grey Owl
  2. California Condor (the last of the American Vultures I still need to see)
  3. Sage Grouse (on courtship display)
  4. Piping Plover
  5. Greater Roadrunner
  6. Cactus Wren
  7. Northern Saw-whet Owl
  8. Spruce Grouse
  9. Golden Eagle
  10. Common Loon

Top 10 birds of USACommon Loon

My most memorable birding experience was seeing Snowy Owl in Ohio in May together with the whole Birding Ecotours team. This was completely unexpected for the time of the year and bird number two for my entire life wish list. It was gratifying to find it after failing to find it spending a full day out looking for it a few days previously in a different part of the state. One of my best birding experiences!


Jacob (our US office manager in Kettering, Ohio):

  1. Scissor-tailed Flycatcher (my absolute favorite bird in the US)
  2. Bay-breasted Warbler (too many amazing wood-warblers to name them, all of which are absolutely fantastic. The whole family belongs on this list but Bay-breasted happens to be my favorite).
  3. Great Grey Owl (no doubt one of the most-wanted birds for most birders in the world)
  4. Sage Grouse (both Gunnison and Greater, stunners!)
  5. Spectacled Eider (one of my top wanted species and one of many special Alaska birds).
  6. California Condor (a monster of a bird and incredibly rare with such small numbers left)
  7. Whooping Crane (similar to the condor, just a large incredible bird. A must-see species).
  8. Rivoli’s Hummingbird (while the US isn’t known for hummingbird diversity, my jaw still drops every time I see one, truly magnificent)
  9. Lewis’s Woodpecker (the US has loads of fantastic woodpeckers, none more striking than Lewis’s).
  10. Evening Grosbeak (If you’ve ever seen one, you know why it makes the list)

Top 10 birds of USAEvening Grosbeak

So many fantastic memories birding the incredibly diverse lands of the United States, makes it hard to pick just one. Seeing three Great Grey Owls at one time in Minnesota this past January while scouting was truly remarkable and something I’ll never forget and is the top experience that is fresh on my mind. I’m looking forward to making many more memories birding the states in the future!


Dylan (who lives in South Africa but has visited the USA a number of times in the last 5 years):

  1. Short-tailed Albatross
  2. California Condor
  3. Black Rail (who doesn’t like a rare, small and skulking rallid?!)
  4. Wilson’s Phalarope (few things as exciting as seeing a female in full breeding dress)
  5. Great Grey Owl
  6. Steller’s Jay
  7. Varied Thrush
  8. Cedar Waxwing
  9. Pyrrhuloxia
  10. Indigo Bunting

Top 10 birds of USAWilson’s Phalarope

My most memorable experience in the USA was whilst in Michigan in May 2019. Staying in Grayling all eyes fall firmly on Kirtland’s Warbler, with the area being the breeding stronghold for this otherwise rare bird (with an interesting history). It was thus with immense enjoyment when rounding a corner on a dirt road through some of the jack pine plantations in the area, that we stumbled into a section dripping with Kirtland’s Warblers. There were males singing from all around us, some of them perching conspicuously atop branches, giving us excellent views. Some 30 minutes later, we eventually had to tear ourselves away. It was just excellent!


Dom (who lives in South Africa but has visited the USA for three weeks during spring migration in 2018):

  1. Snowy Owl
  2. Sage Grouse
  3. Great Grey Owl
  4. Magnolia Warbler (they’re just ridiculously good-looking)
  5. Harlequin Duck
  6. Greater Roadrunner
  7. Tufted Puffin
  8. Swallow-tailed Kite
  9. Short-tailed Albatross
  10. Ross’s Gull

Top 10 birds of USAMagnolia Warbler

My favorite USA birding experience was during a particularly memorable afternoon at Magee Marsh. The morning had been an amazing one with migrants everywhere and good weather however the weather turned with a downpour in the late afternoon which sent everybody running for cover. I decided to stick it out and when I saw the skies clearing, I headed back out onto the boardwalk with the sun soon reappearing and the place was just dripping with warblers. I was able to enjoy point-blank views of these busy birds as they went about their business with just about nobody else around. It was so peaceful to be out here with only the birds (and bird song) for company, and a memory I look back fondly on.


Andy (who has visited the eastern half of the US multiple times in the last 20 years)

    1. Sage Grouse
    2. Varied Thrush
    3. Snowy Owl
    4. Tufted Puffin
    5. Whooping Crane
    6. Greater Roadrunner
    7. Yellow-throated Warbler
    8. Evening Grosbeak
    9. Red-headed Woodpecker
    10. Bufflehead

Top 10 birds of USA

Yellow-throated Warbler

One of my best and earliest birding memories of my time in the US was twitching my lifer Snowy Owl. I arrived back into Washington Dulles Airport after leading a Costa Rica tour ready to twitch the owl that had been reported about 8 hours drive away – it was just about doable on my layover. I’d been having frequent updates on this bird during my tour and was excited for the chase. As morning came around, we set off, however I was a little surprised to be taken back to the airport and into a parking garage… there was a Snowy Owl sat on a streetlight waiting for me, right there – talk about convenient! I’m a huge fan of migration, especially visible migration, so having attended the Biggest Week in American Birding (in Ohio) several times, the general overall experience offered here is pretty much unparalleled and gets me really excited, day after day and year after year.


Bill Fiero (who lives in New York and has birded extensively throughout the US)

  1. I agree with Andy on Varied Thrush.  Seen in New York occasionally although I’ve never seen it here.
  2. Nelson’s Sparrow. Some birds just appeal to me. Still have to see it in NY.
  3. Red Knot. So great to see large groups (all too seldom) at the shore on migration.
  4. Pine Grosbeak.  Haven’t had an irruption in our area since 2008, but it was quite a show.
  5. Bay-Breasted Warbler. What a unique warbler!
  6. Worm-eating Warbler.  What a unique warbler!
  7. Scott’s Oriole.  Probably because we had one in Union Square Park in lower Manhattan a few years ago.
  8. Blue Bunting.  A rare target bird that wanders into the lower Rio Grande Valley from time to time. It was such a treat to see the deep blue.
  9. Rose-breasted Grosbeak.  Because wow!
  10. Hammond’s Flycatcher.  Had a spectacular day in NYC’s Central Park watching this really cool mega.

Top ten birds in USANelson’s Sparrow (Bill Fiero)


Elise Erhart (who lives in Ohio)

  1. Western Tanager
  2. Eastern Screech Owl
  3. Anna’s Hummingbird (I love ALL hummingbirds but I have a favorite memory with this one!)
  4. Blackburnian Warbler
  5. Carolina Chickadee
  6. Brown Creeper
  7. American Woodcock
  8. Ruddy Turnstone
  9. Brown Pelican!
  10. Rosy-faced Lovebird

Top ten USA birdsBlackburnian Warbler


Cassie Crawford (who lives in Ohio)

  1. Kirtland’s Warbler
  2. Atlantic Puffin
  3. Great Grey Owl
  4. Northern Saw-whet Owl
  5. Connecticut Warbler
  6. Pinyon Jay
  7. Brown-headed Nuthatch
  8. Mississippi Kite
  9. Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
  10. Lewis’s Woodpecker

Top ten USA birdsKirtland’s Warbler

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