List of birds of Connecticut
This list of birds of Connecticut is a comprehensive account of all the bird species recorded from the U.S. state of Connecticut. Unless otherwise noted, this list is based on the checklist produced by the Avian Records Committee of Connecticut (ARCC) dated March 14, 2022, the list used by most birders to track species recorded in the state.
This list includes all bird species known to have occurred in the state, including birds that don't breed in Connecticut, such as migrants, winter visitors and vagrants, as well as breeding species and recently extinct and extirpated species. There are about 280 species that are recorded consistently every year in the state. The Atlas of Breeding Birds of Connecticut (1994) listed 173 bird species as confirmed breeders, based on a 1982–1986 survey. An assessment before 2004 estimated the total number of species breeding regularly in the state at about 150.
Of the 451 species listed here, 307 are considered ordinary residents or migrants, expected to be encountered regularly if not necessarily annually. Nine were introduced to North America, three are extinct, four have had their local breeding populations extirpated (but two of these are still stocked for hunting), and 139 are considered rare or accidental. Twelve species are included though they have only sight records.
This list is presented in the taxonomic sequence of the Check-list of North and Middle American Birds, 7th edition through the 62nd Supplement, published by the American Ornithological Society (AOS). Common and scientific names are also those of the Check-list, except that the common names of families are from the Clements taxonomy because the AOS list does not include them.
The following tags are used to designate some species:
- (R) Rare or accidental - birds that if observed require more comprehensive documentation than regularly seen species
- (I) Introduced - a species introduced to North America as a consequence, direct or indirect, of human actions
- (X) Extinct - a species that no longer exists
- (E) Extirpated - a species that no longer occurs in Connecticut although populations exist elsewhere
- (S) - Sight record only
Ducks, geese, and waterfowl
The family Anatidae includes the ducks and most duck-like waterfowl, such as geese and swans. These birds are adapted to an aquatic existence with webbed feet, bills which are flattened to a greater or lesser extent, and feathers that are excellent at shedding water due to special oils. Forty-six species have been recorded in Connecticut.
- Black-bellied whistling-duck, Dendrocygna autumnalis (R)
- Fulvous whistling-duck, Dendrocygna bicolor (R)
- Snow goose, Anser caerulescens
- Ross's goose, Anser rossii (R)
- Graylag goose, Anser anser (R)
- Greater white-fronted goose, Anser albifrons
- Pink-footed goose, Anser brachyrhynchus (R)
- Brant, Branta bernicla
- Barnacle goose, Branta leucopsis (R)
- Cackling goose, Branta hutchinsii
- Canada goose, Branta canadensis
- Mute swan, Cygnus olor (I)
- Trumpeter swan, Cygnus buccinator (R)
- Tundra swan, Cygnus columbianus
- Wood duck, Aix sponsa
- Blue-winged teal, Spatula discors
- Cinnamon teal, Spatula cyanoptera (R)
- Northern shoveler, Spatula clypeata
- Gadwall, Mareca strepera
- Eurasian wigeon, Mareca penelope
- American wigeon, Mareca americana
- Mallard, Anas platyrhynchos
- American black duck, Anas rubripes
- Northern pintail, Anas acuta
- Green-winged teal, Anas crecca
- Canvasback, Aythya valisineria
- Redhead, Aythya americana
- Ring-necked duck, Aythya collaris
- Tufted duck, Aythya fuligula (R)
- Greater scaup, Aythya marila
- Lesser scaup, Aythya affinis
- King eider, Somateria spectabilis
- Common eider, Somateria mollissima
- Harlequin duck, Histrionicus histrionicus
- Surf scoter, Melanitta perspicillata
- White-winged scoter, Melanitta deglandi
- Black scoter, Melanitta americana
- Long-tailed duck, Clangula hyemalis
- Bufflehead, Bucephala albeola
- Labrador duck, Camptorhynchus labradorius (X)
- Common goldeneye, Bucephala clangula
- Barrow's goldeneye, Bucephala islandica
- Hooded merganser, Lophodytes cucullatus
- Common merganser, Mergus merganser
- Red-breasted merganser, Mergus serrator
- Ruddy duck, Oxyura jamaicensis
New World quail
The New World quails are small, plump terrestrial birds only distantly related to the quails of the Old World, but named for their similar appearance and habits. One species has been recorded in Connecticut.
- Northern bobwhite, Colinus virginianus (E) — sporadic escapes of pen-raised birds (for dog training or hunting), but no self-sustaining breeding population
Pheasants, grouse, and allies
Phasianidae consists of the pheasants and their allies. These are terrestrial species, variable in size but generally plump with broad relatively short wings. Many species are gamebirds or have been domesticated as a food source for humans. Turkeys have a distinctive fleshy wattle that hangs from the underside of the beak and a fleshy protuberance that hangs from the top of its beak called a snood. As with many galliform species, the female (the hen) is smaller and much less colorful than the male (the tom). With wingspans of 1.5–1.8 meters (almost 6 feet), the turkeys are the largest birds in the open forests in which they live and are rarely mistaken for any other species. Grouse inhabit temperate and subarctic regions of the Northern Hemisphere. They are game and are sometimes hunted for food. In all Connecticut species, males are polygamous and have elaborate courtship displays. These heavily built birds have legs feathered to the toes. Most species are year-round residents and do not migrate. Five species have been recorded in Connecticut.
- Wild turkey, Meleagris gallopavo
- Ruffed grouse, Bonasa umbellus
- Greater prairie-chicken, Tympanuchus cupido (E)
- Heath hen, T. c. cupido (X)
- Gray partridge, Perdix perdix (I) (E)
- Ring-necked pheasant, Phasianus colchicus (I) (E) — annual release for hunting, but no self-sustaining breeding population
Grebes are small to medium-large freshwater diving birds. They have lobed toes and are excellent swimmers and divers. However, they have their feet placed far back on the body, making them quite ungainly on land. Five species have been recorded in Connecticut.
- Pied-billed grebe, Podilymbus podiceps — a rare breeder found in freshwater marshes, marshy ponds, and lakes in the western part of the state; an uncommon spring and fall migrant and then found on coastal and inland waters
- Horned grebe, Podiceps auritus — numerous spring and fall migrant, although not always; seen less in winter, usually along the coast and sometimes inland on large lakes and rivers
- Red-necked grebe, Podiceps grisegena — uncommon in spring and fall migration season, rare in winter; usually found along the coast, sometimes on inland bodies of water
- Eared grebe, Podiceps nigricollis (R)
- Western grebe, Aechmorphorus occidentalis (R)
Pigeons and doves
Pigeons and doves are stout-bodied birds with short necks and short slender bills with a fleshy cere. Seven species have been recorded in Connecticut.
- Rock pigeon, Columba livia (I)
- Band-tailed pigeon, Patagioenas fasciata (R) (S)
- Eurasian collared-dove, Streptopelia decaocto (I) (R)
- Passenger pigeon, Ectopistes migratorius (X)
- Common ground dove, Columbina passerina (R)
- White-winged dove, Zenaida asiatica (R)
- Mourning dove, Zenaida macroura
The family Cuculidae includes cuckoos, roadrunners, and anis. These birds are of variable size with slender bodies, long tails, and strong legs. The Old World cuckoos are brood parasites. Two species have been recorded in Connecticut.
Nightjars and allies
Nightjars are medium-sized nocturnal birds that usually nest on the ground. They have long wings, short legs and very short bills. Most have small feet which are of little use for walking and long, pointed wings. Their soft plumage is cryptically colored to resemble bark or leaves. Three species have been recorded in Connecticut.
- Common nighthawk, Chordeiles minor
- Chuck-will's-widow, Antrostomus carolinensis (R)
- Eastern whip-poor-will, Antrostomus vociferus
The swifts are small birds which spend the majority of their lives flying. These birds have very short legs and never settle voluntarily on the ground, perching instead only on vertical surfaces. Many swifts have long swept-back wings which resemble a crescent or boomerang. One species has been recorded in Connecticut.
- Chimney swift, Chaetura pelagica
Hummingbirds are small birds capable of hovering in mid-air due to the rapid flapping of their wings. They are the only birds that can fly backwards. six species have been recorded in Connecticut.
- Mexican violetear, Colibri thalassinus (R)
- Ruby-throated hummingbird, Archilochus colubris
- Black-chinned hummingbird, Archilochus alexandri (R)
- Calliope hummingbird, Selasphorus calliope (R)
- Rufous hummingbird, Selasphorus rufus
- Broad-billed hummingbird, Cynanthus latirostris (R)
Rails, gallinules, and coots
Rallidae is a large family of small to medium-sized birds which includes the rails, crakes, coots, and gallinules. The most typical family members occupy dense vegetation in damp environments near lakes, swamps, or rivers. In general they are shy and secretive birds, making them difficult to observe. Most species have strong legs and long toes which are well adapted to soft uneven surfaces. They tend to have short, rounded wings and to be weak fliers. Ten species have been recorded in Connecticut.
- Clapper rail, Rallus crepitans
- King rail, Rallus elegans
- Virginia rail, Rallus limicola
- Corn crake, Crex crex (R)
- Sora, Porzana carolina
- Common gallinule, Gallinula galeata
- American coot, Fulica americana
- Purple gallinule, Porphyrio martinicus (R)
- Yellow rail, Coturnicops noveboracensis (R)
- Black rail, Laterallus jamaicensis (R)
Cranes are large, long-legged, and long-necked birds. Unlike the similar-looking but unrelated herons, cranes fly with necks outstretched, not pulled back. Most have elaborate and noisy courting displays or "dances". One species has been recorded in Connecticut.
- Sandhill crane, Antigone canadensis
Stilts and avocets
Recurvirostridae is a family of large wading birds, which includes the avocets and stilts. The avocets have long legs and long up-curved bills. The stilts have extremely long legs and long, thin, straight bills. Two species have been recorded in Connecticut.
- American oystercatcher, Haematopus palliatus
Lapwings and plovers
The family Charadriidae includes the plovers, dotterels, and lapwings. They are small to medium-sized birds with compact bodies, short thick necks, and long, usually pointed, wings. They are found in open country worldwide, mostly in habitats near water. Ten species have been recorded in Connecticut.
- Northern lapwing, Vanellus vanellus (R)
- Black-bellied plover, Pluvialis squatarola
- American golden-plover, Pluvialis dominica
- Pacific golden-plover, Pluvialis fulva (R)
- Killdeer, Charadrius vociferus
- Common ringed plover, Charadrius hiaticula (R) (S)
- Semipalmated plover, Charadrius semipalmatus
- Piping plover, Charadrius melodus
- Wilson's plover, Charadrius wilsonia (R)
- Snowy plover, Charadrius nivosus (R)
Sandpipers and allies
Scolopacidae is a large diverse family of small to medium-sized shorebirds including the sandpipers, curlews, godwits, shanks, tattlers, woodcocks, snipes, dowitchers, and phalaropes. The majority of these species eat small invertebrates picked out of the mud or soil. Different lengths of legs and bills enable multiple species to feed in the same habitat, particularly on the coast, without direct competition for food. Thirty-nine species have been recorded in Connecticut.
- Upland sandpiper, Bartramia longicauda
- Whimbrel, Numenius phaeopus
- Eskimo curlew, Numenius borealis (X)
- Long-billed curlew, Numenius americanus (R)
- Bar-tailed godwit, Limosa lapponica (R)
- Black-tailed godwit, Limosa limosa (R)
- Hudsonian godwit, Limosa haemastica
- Marbled godwit, Limosa fedoa
- Ruddy turnstone, Arenaria interpres
- Red knot, Calidris canutus
- Ruff, Calidris pugnax (R)
- Sharp-tailed sandpiper, Calidris acuminata (R)
- Stilt sandpiper, Calidris himantopus
- Curlew sandpiper, Calidris ferruginea (R)
- Red-necked stint, Calidris ruficollis (R)
- Sanderling, Calidris alba
- Dunlin, Calidris alpina
- Purple sandpiper, Calidris maritima
- Baird's sandpiper, Calidris bairdii
- Little stint, Calidris minuta (R) (S)
- Least sandpiper, Calidris minutilla
- White-rumped sandpiper, Calidris fuscicollis
- Buff-breasted sandpiper, Calidris subruficollis
- Pectoral sandpiper, Calidris melanotos
- Semipalmated sandpiper, Calidris pusilla
- Western sandpiper, Calidris mauri
- Short-billed dowitcher, Limnodromus griseus
- Long-billed dowitcher, Limnodromus scolopaceus
- American woodcock, Scolopax minor
- Wilson's snipe, Gallinago delicata
- Spotted sandpiper, Actitis macularius
- Solitary sandpiper, Tringa solitaria
- Lesser yellowlegs, Tringa flavipes
- Willet, Tringa semipalmata
- Spotted redshank, Tringa erythropus (R)
- Greater yellowlegs, Tringa melanoleuca
- Wilson's phalarope, Phalaropus tricolor
- Red-necked phalarope, Phalaropus lobatus
- Red phalarope, Phalaropus fulicarius (R)
Skuas and jaegers
They are in general medium to large birds, typically with gray or brown plumage, often with white markings on the wings. They have longish bills with hooked tips and webbed feet with sharp claws. They look like large dark gulls, but have a fleshy cere above the upper mandible. They are strong, acrobatic fliers. Three species have been recorded in Connecticut.
- Pomarine jaeger, Stercorarius pomarinus (R) (S)
- Parasitic jaeger, Stercorarius parasiticus
- Long-tailed jaeger, Stercorarius longicaudus (R)
Auks, murres, and puffins
Alcids are superficially similar to penguins due to their black-and-white colors, their upright posture, and some of their habits; however, they are only distantly related to the penguins and are able to fly. Auks live on the open sea, only deliberately coming ashore to nest. Six species have been recorded in Connecticut.
- Dovekie, Alle alle (R)
- Common murre, Uria aalge (R)
- Thick-billed murre, Uria lomvia (R)
- Razorbill, Alca torda
- Black guillemot, Cepphus grylle (R)
- Atlantic puffin, Fratercula arctica (R)
Gulls, terns, and skimmers
Gulls are typically medium to large birds, usually gray or white, often with black markings on the head or wings. They have longish bills and webbed feet. The large species take up to four years to attain full adult plumage, but two years is typical for small gulls. Terns are in general medium to large birds, typically with gray or white plumage, often with black markings on the head. They have longish bills and webbed feet. They are lighter bodied and more streamlined than gulls, and look elegant in flight with long tails and long narrow wings. Skimmers are tropical and subtropical species. They have an elongated lower mandible. They feed by flying low over the water surface with the lower mandible skimming the water for small fish. Thirty-one Laridae species have been recorded in Connecticut.
- Black-legged kittiwake, Rissa tridactyla (R)
- Ivory gull, Pagophila eburnea (R) (S)
- Sabine's gull, Xema sabini (R)
- Bonaparte's gull, Chroicocephalus philadelphia
- Black-headed gull, Chroicocephalus ridibundus
- Little gull, Hydrocoloeus minutus (R)
- Ross's gull, Rhodostethia rosea (R)
- Laughing gull, Leucophaeus atricilla
- Franklin's gull, Leucophaeus pipixcan (R)
- Common gull, Larus canus (R)
- Short-billed gull, Larus brachyrhynchus (R)
- Ring-billed gull, Larus delawarensis
- California gull, Larus californicus (R)
- Herring gull, Larus argentatus
- Iceland gull, Larus glaucoides
- Lesser black-backed gull, Larus fuscus
- Slaty-backed gull, Larus schistisagus (R)
- Glaucous gull, Larus hyperboreus
- Great black-backed gull, Larus marinus
- Sooty tern, Onychoprion fuscata (R)
- Bridled tern, Onychoprion anaethetus (R)
- Least tern, Sternula antillarum
- Gull-billed tern, Gelochelidon nilotica (R)
- Caspian tern, Hydroprogne caspia
- Black tern, Chlidonias niger
- Roseate tern, Sterna dougallii
- Common tern, Sterna hirundo
- Arctic tern, Sterna paradisaea (R)
- Forster's tern, Sterna forsteri
- Royal tern, Thalasseus maxima
- Sandwich tern, Thalasseus sandvicensis (R)
- Black skimmer, Rynchops niger
Tropicbirds are slender white birds of tropical oceans with exceptionally long central tail feathers. Their long wings have black markings, as does the head. One species has been recorded in Connecticut.
- White-tailed tropicbird, Phaethon lepturus (R)
Loons are aquatic birds the size of a large duck, to which they are unrelated. Their plumage is largely gray or black, and they have spear-shaped bills. Loons swim well and fly adequately, but are almost hopeless on land, because their legs are placed towards the rear of the body. Three species have been recorded in Connecticut.
- Red-throated loon, Gavia stellata — rather common, mostly along the coast and at the mouths of major rivers during spring and fall migration; uncommon in winter and at that time found mostly in eastern Long Island Sound; as many as 100 to 200 individuals gather together in November; many go south by early winter.
- Pacific loon, Gavia pacifica (R)
- Common loon, Gavia immer — historically, the bird rarely nests in Connecticut and no recent nesting was observed up to 2004 in the state; rather common in spring and fall during migration; found in coastal waters, large lakes, and reservoirs; most likely to be seen in eastern Long Island Sound; pollution (particularly acidified lakes which decrease food resources and increase mercury poisoning) has cut the population in the northeast, along with fluctuating reservoir levels and lakeshore residential development.
The storm-petrels are the smallest seabirds, relatives of the petrels, feeding on planktonic crustaceans and small fish picked from the surface, typically while hovering. The flight is fluttering and sometimes bat-like. Until 2018, this family's three species were included with the other storm-petrels in family Hydrobatidae. Two species have been recorded in Connecticut.
- Wilson's storm-petrel, Oceanites oceanicus — seen regularly in eastern Long Island Sound during the summer, but uncommon further west.
- White-faced storm-petrel, Pelagodroma marina (R)
Though the members of this family are similar in many respects to the southern storm-petrels, including their general appearance and habits, there are enough genetic differences to warrant their placement in a separate family. Two species have been recorded in Connecticut.
Shearwaters and petrels
The procellariids are the main group of medium-sized "true petrels", characterized by united nostrils with medium septum and a long outer functional primary. Seven species have been recorded in Connecticut.
- Northern fulmar, Fulmarus glacialis (R)
- Black-capped petrel, Pterodroma hasitata (R)
- Cory's shearwater, Calonectris diomedea (R)
- Great shearwater, Ardenna gravis (R)
- Sooty shearwater, Ardenna griseus (R)
- Manx shearwater, Puffinus puffinus (R)
- Audubon's shearwater, Puffinus lherminieri (R) (S)
Storks are large, heavy, long-legged, long-necked wading birds with long stout bills and wide wingspans. They lack the powder down that other wading birds such as herons, spoonbills and ibises use to clean off fish slime. Storks lack a pharynx and are mute. One species has been recorded in Connecticut.
- Wood stork, Mycteria americana (R)
Frigatebirds are large seabirds usually found over tropical oceans. They are large, black, or black-and-white, with long wings and deeply forked tails. The males have colored inflatable throat pouches. They do not swim or walk and cannot take off from a flat surface. Having the largest wingspan-to-body-weight ratio of any bird, they are essentially aerial, able to stay aloft for more than a week. One species has been recorded in Connecticut.
- Magnificent frigatebird, Fregata magnificens (R)
Boobies and gannets
- Brown booby, Sula leucogaster (R)
- Northern gannet, Morus bassanus — rarely found during spring and fall migration, and seldom seen in winter, although regularly present in December, mostly in eastern Long Island Sound.
Anhingas are cormorant-like water birds with very long necks and long, straight beaks. They are fish eaters which often swim with only their neck above the water. One species has been recorded in Connecticut.
- Anhinga, Anhinga anhinga (R)
Cormorants and shags
Cormorants are medium-to-large aquatic birds, usually with mainly dark plumage and areas of colored skin on the face. The bill is long, thin and sharply hooked. Their feet are four-toed and webbed. Two species have been recorded in Connecticut.
- Great cormorant, Phalacrocorax carbo — rather common along the coast from fall through spring, but also found on the Connecticut river and other large bodies of water.
- Double-crested cormorant, Nannopterum auritum — now common from spring to fall, this bird was a rare migrant around 1900; much less common in winter, but sightings are increasing; mostly found on some coastal islands, but also on major rivers and some inland lakes; by the late 1990s, there were at least 1,000 nesting pairs in the state; these birds compete with fishermen and with less robust species, so efforts have been made in New York and southern New England to cut down the population; in the years leading up to 2004, the birds were less seen in the summer than previously.
Pelicans are very large water birds with a distinctive pouch under their beak. Like other birds in the order Pelecaniformes, they have four webbed toes. Two species have been recorded in Connecticut.
Herons, egrets, and bitterns
The family Ardeidae contains the herons, egrets, and bitterns. Herons and egrets are medium to large wading birds with long necks and legs. Bitterns tend to be shorter necked and more secretive. Members of Ardeidae fly with their necks retracted, unlike other long-necked birds such as storks, ibises, and spoonbills.egrets, including the great egret, were decimated in the past by plume hunters, but numbers recovered when given protection in the 20th century. Twelve species have been recorded in Connecticut.
- American bittern, Botaurus lentiginosus — uncommon but widespread and found at any time of the year; mostly found in large marshes in summer or winter, and migrants may use small marshes; numbers likely declined when the common reed displaced cattail marshes
- Least bittern, Ixobrychus exilis — rarely seen; found in spring through fall in large marshes; prefers marshes roughly equally mixed between vegetation and open water
- Great blue heron, Ardea herodias — common in marshes and other bodies of water from spring through fall; numbers have been increasing in recent decades; increasingly seen in winter, but still uncommon then
- Great egret, Ardea alba — rather common along the coast from spring through fall and rarely in early winter; less commonly found inland; groups of about 100 pairs nest on Great Captain Island off Greenwich, Charles Island off Milford, and Dyuck Island at Westbrook; numbers have been increasing
- Little egret, Egretta garzetta (R)
- Snowy egret, Egretta thula — rather common along the coast from spring through fall; can be found roosting at night with great egrets and cormorants; found in woody vegetation on coastal islands, including Great Captain Island, Charles Island, and Dyuck Island; the population on Long Island Sound (including New York state) declined a bit from 1,650 pairs in 1977 to 1,390 in 1998.
- Little blue heron, Egretta caerulea — not common, seen from spring through early fall, but most often from mid- to late summer and early in the fall when young birds enter the state from the south; found nesting in woody areas of coastal islands, including Great Captain Island and Charles Island; the nesting range expanded to the north along the East Coast in the 20th century
- Tricolored heron, Egretta tricolor — seldom found in the state; seen in coastal waters in the spring and summer, occasionally nested in the woody areas of the Norwalk Islands; in the mid 20th century the species became more abundant in New York and southern New England
- Cattle egret, Bubulcus ibis — rarely seen; found in coastal waters in spring and summer; has been seen regularly nesting in the woody areas of the Norwalk Islands; a native of the Old World, the egret showed up in the 1880s, first in South America and by the 1940s had spread north to Florida and then along the East Coast
- Green heron, Butorides virescens — rather common; found in marshes and swamps from spring through fall; loss of marshes and damage to them likely caused a decline in this population in the 20th century
- Black-crowned night-heron, Nycticorax nycticorax — rather common on the coast and on the Connecticut river from spring through fall; rarely found in winter; spreads inland along the Connecticut and Housatonic Rivers in late summer; nests on coastal islands, including Great Captain Island, Charles Island, and Dyuck Island; the population in the state was about 500 pairs as of 2004; numbers declined in the Northeast United States in the 20th century, probably because of human disturbances and pesticide use; the Long Island Sound population (including New York state) declined from 2,400 pairs in 1977 to 1,390 in 1998
- Yellow-crowned night-heron, Nyctanassa violacea— rarely seen; found in coastal marshes from spring through early fall, usually in the western part of the state
Ibises and spoonbills
The family Threskiornithidae includes the ibises and spoonbills. They have long, broad wings. Their bodies tend to be elongated, the neck more so, with rather long legs. The bill is also long, decurved in the case of the ibises, straight and distinctively flattened in the spoonbills. Four species have been recorded in Connecticut.
- White ibis, Eudocimus albus (R)
- Glossy ibis, Plegadis falcinellus
- White-faced ibis, Plegadis chihi
- Roseate spoonbill, Platalea ajaja (R)
New World vultures
The New World vultures are not closely related to Old World vultures, but superficially resemble them because of convergent evolution. Like the Old World vultures, they are scavengers. However, unlike Old World vultures, which find carcasses by sight, New World vultures have a good sense of smell with which they locate carcasses. Two species have been recorded in Connecticut.
The osprey is a medium-large fish-eating bird of prey or raptor. It is widely distributed because it tolerates a wide variety of habitats, nesting in any location which is near a body of water and provides an adequate food supply. It is the only member of its family.
- Osprey, Pandion haliaetus — The distinctive black and white birds are common in the state from spring through fall; seen mostly on platforms on the east and central coastline; also called "fish hawks".
- migrations are heaviest in early to mid-spring (around St. Patrick's Day) and late summer through early fall (around Labor Day), with most juveniles migrating a bit later.
- feeds on medium-size fish, including flounders, which they catch by diving from the air, feet first; the birds are unique in Connecticut as the only species with a fish-only diet, and they are one of the few raptors that prey on live fish; they can be seen hovering over the water before splashing down, sometimes 2 or 3 feet in the water; the birds can catch up to 10 fish a day; adults feed their fledglings for up to 8 weeks; ospreys have been known to snatch goldfish from ornamental fish ponds.
- Formerly the bird was rare, in part due to pesticide contamination (including DDT), with just nine nests in the state as of 1974 and increasing to 162 (with 315 fledglings) by 1999; their range has expanded westward along the coast over time and up the Connecticut and Quinnipiac rivers; their nests stay intact through the winter, when the birds migrate as far as South America; in the 1990s, raccoon predation may have kept the population down at Great Island on the Connecticut river before barriers were put on the poles supporting nests; when raccoons were more scarce, ospreys successfully nested on the ground, but they typically build nests at the highest possible locations, including cell phone towers.
- In May 2008, the Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk set up a webcam of an osprey nest on Manressa Island, a peninsula on the west side of Norwalk Harbor, near a power plant. (A link to the webcam can be found at this Web page.) The tan color of the chicks makes them a bit difficult to see against the similarly colored nest on the black-and-white webcam feed. The aquarium monitors ospreys "because, as a predator, at the top of the food chain, osprey are an important indicator of the health of the entire ecosystem," according to the aquarium website.
Hawks, eagles, and kites
Accipitridae is a family of birds of prey which includes hawks, eagles, kites, harriers, and Old World vultures. These birds have very large powerful hooked beaks for tearing flesh from their prey, strong legs, powerful talons, and keen eyesight. Fifteen species have been recorded in Connecticut.
- White-tailed kite, Elanus leucurus (R)
- Swallow-tailed kite, Elanoides forficatus
- Golden eagle, Aquila chrysaetos
- Northern harrier, Circus hudsonius
- Sharp-shinned hawk, Accipiter striatus
- Cooper's hawk, Accipiter cooperii
- Northern goshawk, Accipiter gentilis
- Bald eagle, Haliaeetus leucocephalus
- Mississippi kite, Ictinia mississippiensis
- Red-shouldered hawk, Buteo lineatus
- Broad-winged hawk, Buteo platypterus
- Swainson's hawk, Buteo swainsoni (R)
- Zone-tailed hawk, Buteo albonotatus (R)
- Red-tailed hawk, Buteo jamaicensis
- Rough-legged hawk, Buteo lagopus
Barn-owls are medium to large owls with large heads and characteristic heart-shaped faces. They have long strong legs with powerful talons. One species has been recorded in Connecticut.
- Barn owl, Tyto alba
Typical owls are small to large solitary nocturnal birds of prey. They have large forward-facing eyes and ears, a hawk-like beak, and a conspicuous circle of feathers around each eye called a facial disk. Eleven species have been recorded in Connecticut.
- Eastern screech-owl, Megascops asio
- Great horned owl, Bubo virginianus
- Snowy owl, Bubo scandiacus
- Northern hawk owl, Surnia ulula (R)
- Burrowing owl, Athene cunicularia (R)
- Barred owl, Strix varia
- Great gray owl, Strix nebulosa (R)
- Long-eared owl, Asio otus
- Short-eared owl, Asio flammeus
- Boreal owl, Aegolius funereus (R)
- Northern saw-whet owl, Aegolius acadicus
Kingfishers are medium-sized birds with large heads, long pointed bills, short legs, and stubby tails. One species has been recorded in Connecticut.
- Belted kingfisher, Megaceryle alcyon
Woodpeckers are small to medium-sized birds with chisel-like beaks, short legs, stiff tails, and long tongues used for capturing insects. Some species have feet with two toes pointing forward and two backward, while several species have only three toes. Many woodpeckers have the habit of tapping noisily on tree trunks with their beaks. Eight species have been recorded in Connecticut.
- Red-headed woodpecker, Melanerpes erythrocephalus
- Red-bellied woodpecker, Melanerpes carolinus
- Yellow-bellied sapsucker, Sphyrapicus varius
- Black-backed woodpecker, Picoides arcticus (R)
- Downy woodpecker, Dryobates pubescens
- Hairy woodpecker, Dryobates villosus
- Northern flicker, Colaptes auratus
- Pileated woodpecker, Dryocopus pileatus
Falcons and caracaras
Falconidae is a family of diurnal birds of prey, notably the falcons and caracaras. They differ from hawks, eagles and kites in that they kill with their beaks instead of their talons. Five species have been recorded in Connecticut.
- Crested caracara, Caracara plancus (R) — accepted by ARCC March 7, 2022
- American kestrel, Falco sparverius
- Merlin, Falco columbarius
- Gyrfalcon, Falco rusticolus (R)
- Peregrine falcon, Falco peregrinus
New World and African parrots
Parrots are small to large birds with a characteristic curved beak. Their upper mandibles have slight mobility in the joint with the skull and they have a generally erect stance. All parrots are zygodactyl, having the four toes on each foot placed two at the front and two to the back. Most of the more than 150 species in this family are found in the New World. One species has been recorded in Connecticut.
- Monk parakeet, Myiopsitta monachus (I)
Tyrant flycatchers are passerine birds which occur throughout North and South America. They superficially resemble the Old World flycatchers, but are more robust and have stronger bills. They do not have the sophisticated vocal capabilities of the songbirds. Most, but not all, are rather plain. As the name implies, most are insectivorous. Nineteen species have been recorded in Connecticut.
- Ash-throated flycatcher, Myiarchus cinerascens (R)
- Great crested flycatcher, Myiarchus crinitus
- Tropical kingbird, Tyrannus melancholicus (R)
- Western kingbird, Tyrannus verticalis
- Eastern kingbird, Tyrannus tyrannus
- Gray kingbird, Tyrannus dominicensis (R)
- Scissor-tailed flycatcher, Tyrannus forficatus (R)
- Fork-tailed flycatcher, Tyrannus savana (R)
- Olive-sided flycatcher, Contopus cooperi
- Eastern wood-pewee, Contopus virens
- Yellow-bellied flycatcher, Empidonax flaviventris
- Acadian flycatcher, Empidonax virescens
- Alder flycatcher, Empidonax alnorum
- Willow flycatcher, Empidonax traillii
- Least flycatcher, Empidonax minimus
- Gray flycatcher, Empidonax wrightii (R)
- Pacific-slope flycatcher, Empidonax difficilis (R)
- Eastern phoebe, Sayornis phoebe
- Say's phoebe, Sayornis saya (R)
Vireos, shrike-babblers, and erpornis
The vireos are a group of small to medium-sized passerine birds. They are typically greenish in color and resemble the wood warblers except for their heavier bills. Seven species have been recorded in Connecticut.
- White-eyed vireo, Vireo griseus
- Bell's vireo, Vireo bellii (R)
- Yellow-throated vireo, Vireo flavifrons
- Blue-headed vireo, Vireo solitarius
- Philadelphia vireo, Vireo philadelphicus
- Warbling vireo, Vireo gilvus
- Red-eyed vireo, Vireo olivaceus
Shrikes are passerine birds known for their habit of catching other birds and small animals and impaling the uneaten portions of their bodies on thorns. A shrike's beak is hooked, like that of a typical bird of prey. Two species have been recorded in Connecticut.
Crows, jays, and magpies
The family Corvidae includes crows, ravens, jays, choughs, magpies, treepies, nutcrackers, and ground jays. Corvids are above average in size among the Passeriformes, and some of the larger species show high levels of intelligence. Five species have been recorded in Connecticut.
- Blue jay, Cyanocitta cristata
- Eurasian jackdaw, Corvus monedula (R)
- American crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos
- Fish crow, Corvus ossifragus
- Common raven, Corvus corax
Tits, chickadees, and titmice
The Paridae are mainly small stocky woodland species with short stout bills. Some have crests. They are adaptable birds, with a mixed diet including seeds and insects. Three species have been recorded in Connecticut.
- Black-capped chickadee, Poecile atricapilla
- Boreal chickadee, Poecile hudsonicus (R)
- Tufted titmouse, Baeolophus bicolor
Larks are small terrestrial birds with often extravagant songs and display flights. Most larks are fairly dull in appearance. Their food is insects and seeds. One species has been recorded in Connecticut.
- Horned lark, Eremophila alpestris
The family Hirundinidae is adapted to aerial feeding. They have a slender streamlined body, long pointed wings and a short bill with a wide gape. The feet are adapted to perching rather than walking and the front toes are partially joined at the base. Eight species have been recorded in Connecticut.
- Bank swallow, Riparia riparia
- Tree swallow, Tachycineta bicolor
- Northern rough-winged swallow, Stelgidopteryx serripennis
- Brown-chested martin, Progne tapera (R) (S)
- Purple martin, Progne subis
- Barn swallow, Hirundo rustica
- Cliff swallow, Petrochelidon pyrrhonota
- Cave swallow, Petrochelidon fulva
The kinglets are a family of birds which are very small insectivorous birds. The adults have colored crowns, giving rise to their name. Two species have been recorded in Connecticut.
The waxwings are a group of birds with soft silky plumage and unique red tips to some of the wing feathers. In the Bohemian and cedar waxwings, these tips look like sealing wax and give the group its name. These are arboreal birds of northern forests. They live on insects in summer and berries in winter. Two species have been recorded in Connecticut.
Nuthatches are small woodland birds. They have the unusual ability to climb down trees head first, unlike other birds which can only go upwards. Nuthatches have big heads, short tails, and powerful bills and feet. Two species have been recorded in Connecticut.
Treecreepers are small woodland birds, brown above and white below. They have thin pointed down-curved bills, which they use to extricate insects from bark. They have stiff tail feathers, like woodpeckers, which they use to support themselves on vertical trees. One species has been recorded in Connecticut.
- Brown creeper, Certhia americana
These dainty birds resemble Old World warblers in their structure and habits, moving restlessly through foliage while seeking insects. The gnatcatchers are mainly a soft bluish gray in color and have the long sharp bill typical of an insectivore. Many species have distinctive black head patterns (especially males) and long, regularly cocked black-and-white tails. One species has been recorded in Connecticut.
- Blue-gray gnatcatcher, Polioptila caerulea
Wrens are small and inconspicuous birds, except for their loud songs. They have short wings and thin down-turned bills. Several species often hold their tails upright. All are insectivorous. Five species have been recorded in Connecticut.
- House wren, Troglodytes aedon
- Winter wren, Troglodytes hiemalis
- Sedge wren, Cistothorus platensis (R)
- Marsh wren, Cistothorus palustris
- Carolina wren, Thryothorus ludovicianus
Mockingbirds and thrashers
The mimids are a family of passerine birds which includes thrashers, mockingbirds, tremblers, and the New World catbirds. These birds are notable for their vocalization, especially their remarkable ability to mimic a wide variety of birds and other sounds heard outdoors. The species tend towards dull grays and browns in their appearance. Three species have been recorded in Connecticut.
- Gray catbird, Dumetella carolinensis
- Brown thrasher, Toxostoma rufum
- Northern mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos
Starlings are small to medium-sized Old World passerine birds with strong feet. Their flight is strong and direct and most are very gregarious. Their preferred habitat is fairly open country, and they eat insects and fruit. The plumage of several species is dark with a metallic sheen. One species has been recorded in Connecticut.
- European starling, Sturnus vulgaris (I)
Thrushes and allies
The thrushes are a group of passerine birds that occur mainly but not exclusively in the Old World. They are plump, soft plumaged, small to medium-sized insectivores or sometimes omnivores, often feeding on the ground. Many have attractive songs. Twelve species have been recorded in Connecticut.
- Eastern bluebird, Sialia sialis
- Mountain bluebird, Sialia currucoides (R)
- Townsend's solitaire, Myadestes townsendi (R)
- Veery, Catharus fuscescens
- Gray-cheeked thrush, Catharus minimus
- Bicknell's thrush, Catharus bicknelli
- Swainson's thrush, Catharus ustulatus
- Hermit thrush, Catharus guttatus
- Wood thrush, Hylocichla mustelina
- Fieldfare, Turdus pilaris (R)
- American robin, Turdus migratorius
- Varied thrush, Ixoreus naevius (R)
Old World flycatchers
The Old World flycatchers form a large family of small passerine birds. These are mainly small arboreal insectivores, many of which, as the name implies, take their prey on the wing. One species has been recorded in Connecticut.
- Northern wheatear, Oenanthe oenanthe (R)
Old World sparrows
Old World sparrows are small passerine birds. In general, sparrows tend to be small plump brownish or grayish birds with short tails and short powerful beaks. Sparrows are seed eaters, but they also consume small insects. Two species have been recorded in Connecticut.
- House sparrow, Passer domesticus (I)
- Eurasian tree sparrow, Passer montanus (I) (R) — accepted by ARCC March 7, 2022
Wagtails and pipits
Motacillidae is a family of small passerine birds with medium to long tails. They include the wagtails, longclaws, and pipits. They are slender ground-feeding insectivores of open country. Two species have been recorded in Connecticut.
Finches, euphonias, and allies
Finches are seed-eating passerine birds that are small to moderately large and have a strong beak, usually conical and in some species very large. All have twelve tail feathers and nine primaries. These birds have a bouncing flight with alternating bouts of flapping and gliding on closed wings, and most sing well. Eleven species have been recorded in Connecticut.
- Brambling, Fringilla montifringilla (R)
- Evening grosbeak, Coccothraustes vespertinus
- Pine grosbeak, Pinicola enucleator (R)
- House finch, Haemorhous mexicanus
- Purple finch, Haemorhous purpureus
- Common redpoll, Acanthis flammea
- Hoary redpoll, Acanthis hornemanni (R)
- Red crossbill, Loxia curvirostra
- White-winged crossbill, Loxia leucoptera
- Pine siskin, Spinus pinus
- American goldfinch, Spinus tristis
Longspurs and snow buntings
The Calcariidae are a group of passerine birds that had been traditionally grouped with the New World sparrows, but differ in a number of respects and are usually found in open grassy areas. Four species have been recorded in Connecticut.
- Lapland longspur, Calcarius lapponicus
- Chestnut-collared longspur, Calcarius ornatus (R)
- Smith's longspur, Calcarius pictus (R)
- Snow bunting, Plectrophenax nivalis
New World sparrows
Until 2017, these species were considered part of the family Emberizidae. Most of the species are known as sparrows, but these birds are not closely related to the Old World sparrows which are in the family Passeridae. Many of these have distinctive head patterns. Twenty-seven species have been recorded in Connecticut.
- Grasshopper sparrow, Ammodramus savannarum
- Lark sparrow, Chondestes grammacus
- Lark bunting, Calamospiza melanocorys (R)
- Chipping sparrow, Spizella passerina
- Clay-colored sparrow, Spizella pallida
- Field sparrow, Spizella pusilla
- Brewer's sparrow, Spizella breweri (R)
- Fox sparrow, Passerella iliaca
- American tree sparrow, Spizelloides arborea
- Dark-eyed junco, Junco hyemalis
- White-crowned sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys
- Golden-crowned sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla (R) (S)
- Harris's sparrow, Zonotrichia querula (R)
- White-throated sparrow, Zonotrichia albicollis
- Vesper sparrow, Pooecetes gramineus
- LeConte's sparrow, Ammospiza leconteii (R)
- Seaside sparrow, Ammospiza maritima
- Nelson's sparrow, Ammospiza nelsoni
- Saltmarsh sparrow, Ammospiza caudacuta
- Henslow's sparrow, Centronyx henslowii (R)
- Savannah sparrow, Passerculus sandwichensis
- Song sparrow, Melospiza melodia
- Lincoln's sparrow, Melospiza lincolnii
- Swamp sparrow, Melospiza georgiana
- Green-tailed towhee, Pipilo chlorurus (R)
- Spotted towhee, Pipilo maculatus (R)
- Eastern towhee, Pipilo erythrophthalmus
This species was historically placed in the wood-warblers (Parulidae) but nonetheless most authorities were unsure if it belonged there. It was placed in its own family in 2017.
- Yellow-breasted chat, Icteria virens
Troupials and allies
The icterids are a group of small to medium-sized, often colorful passerine birds restricted to the New World and include the grackles, New World blackbirds, and New World orioles. Most species have black as a predominant plumage color, often enlivened by yellow, orange, or red. Fourteen species have been recorded in Connecticut.
- Yellow-headed blackbird, Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus
- Bobolink, Dolichonyx oryzivorus
- Eastern meadowlark, Sturnella magna
- Western meadowlark, Sturnella neglecta (R)
- Orchard oriole, Icterus spurius
- Bullock's oriole, Icterus bullockii (R)
- Baltimore oriole, Icterus galbula
- Black-backed oriole, Icterus abeillei (R) (S)
- Red-winged blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus
- Brown-headed cowbird, Molothrus ater
- Rusty blackbird, Euphagus carolinus
- Brewer's blackbird, Euphagus cyanocephalus (R) (S)
- Common grackle, Quiscalus quiscula
- Boat-tailed grackle, Quiscalus major
New World warblers
The wood warblers are a group of small, often colorful passerine birds restricted to the New World. Most are arboreal, but some are more terrestrial, such as the Ovenbird. Most members of this family are insectivores. Forty species have been recorded in Connecticut.
- Ovenbird, Seiurus aurocapilla
- Worm-eating warbler, Helmitheros vermivorum
- Louisiana waterthrush, Parkesia motacilla
- Northern waterthrush, Parkesia noveboracensis
- Golden-winged warbler, Vermivora chrysoptera
- Blue-winged warbler, Vermivora cyanoptera
- Black-and-white warbler, Mniotilta varia
- Prothonotary warbler, Protonotaria citrea
- Tennessee warbler, Leiothlypis peregrina
- Orange-crowned warbler, Leiothlypis celata
- Nashville warbler, Leiothlypis ruficapilla
- Connecticut warbler, Oporornis agilis
- MacGillivray's warbler, Geothlypis tolmiei (R) (S)
- Mourning warbler, Geothlypis philadelphia
- Kentucky warbler, Geothlypis formosa
- Common yellowthroat, Geothlypis trichas
- Hooded warbler, Setophaga citrina
- American redstart, Setophaga ruticilla
- Cape May warbler, Setophaga tigrina
- Cerulean warbler, Setophaga cerulea
- Northern parula, Setophaga americana
- Magnolia warbler, Setophaga magnolia
- Bay-breasted warbler, Setophaga castanea
- Blackburnian warbler, Setophaga fusca
- Yellow warbler, Setophaga petechia
- Chestnut-sided warbler, Setophaga pensylvanica
- Blackpoll warbler, Setophaga striata
- Black-throated blue warbler, Setophaga caerulescens
- Palm warbler, Setophaga palmarum
- Pine warbler, Setophaga pinus
- Yellow-rumped warbler, Setophaga coronata
- Yellow-throated warbler, Setophaga dominica
- Prairie warbler, Setophaga discolor
- Black-throated gray warbler, Setophaga nigrescens (R)
- Townsend's warbler, Setophaga townsendi (R)
- Hermit warbler, Setophaga occidentalis (R)
- Black-throated green warbler, Setophaga virens
- Canada warbler, Cardellina canadensis
- Wilson's warbler, Cardellina pusilla
Cardinals and allies
The cardinals are a family of robust seed-eating birds with strong bills. They are typically associated with open woodland. The sexes usually have distinct plumages. Eleven species have been recorded in Connecticut.
- Summer tanager, Piranga rubra
- Scarlet tanager, Piranga olivacea
- Western tanager, Piranga ludoviciana (R)
- Northern cardinal, Cardinalis cardinalis
- Rose-breasted grosbeak, Pheucticus ludovicianus
- Black-headed grosbeak, Pheucticus melanocephalus (R)
- Blue grosbeak, Passerina caerulea
- Lazuli bunting, Passerina amoena (R)
- Indigo bunting, Passerina cyanea
- Painted bunting, Passerina ciris (R)
- Dickcissel, Spiza americana
- Fauna of Connecticut
- Flora of Connecticut
- List of birds
- List of mammals of Connecticut
- List of birds of North America
- Lists of birds by region
- Long Island Sound for an extensive list of various species
- Gallo, Frank (March 14, 2022). "Checklist of the Birds of Connecticut". Connecticut Ornithological Association.
- Hammerson, Geoffrey A., Connecticut Wildlife: Biodiversity, Natural History, and Conservation, University Press of New England: Hanover, New Hampshire, and London, 2004, ISBN 1-58465-369-8, Chapter 20 "Birds"
- "Check-list of North and Middle American Birds". American Ornithological Society. June 29, 2021. Retrieved August 9, 2021.
- McNamee, Patrick, special correspondent, "Ospreys star in their own reality show: Aquarium trains webcam on birds of prey's nest", The Advocate of Stamford, Connecticut, May 28, 2008, Stamford edition, page A9
- Web page titled "View an active osprey nest / News flash!" Archived 2008-05-19 at the Wayback Machine at the Maritime Aquarium website, accessed May 31, 2008
- Connecticut Birds (Zeranski and Baptist, 1990)
- The Atlas of Breeding birds of Connecticut (Bevier, 1994)
- The Connecticut Warbler, journal of the Connecticut Ornithological Association