7 Birds With Crests In North America (With Pictures In 2024)

Last updated on March 23rd, 2024 at 01:24 pm

Birds with crests are unique and eye-catching, standing out in the avian world. These crests might result from simple evolutionary traits or play essential roles in social hierarchies and breeding partner selection.

These crested wonders are found across the globe, with some preferring coastlines and others thriving in hot, arid desert climates. In North America, you’ll discover native crested birds along coastlines and in the Southern states. Some migratory birds also visit North America for tropical overwintering.

In this article, we’ll be exploring 7 birds with crests of North America. By gaining knowledge about the various types of ranges and the birds that demonstrate them, you will enhance your ability to identify and appreciate the unique characteristics of each species. So let’s dive in and discover the fascinating world of crested birds!

7 Birds With Crests In North America

1. Vermilion Flycatcher

Birds With Crests
  • Scientific Name: Pyrocephalus rubinus
  • Wingspan: 9.5 inches
  • Size: 5 inches in length
  • Average Weight: 0.5 – 0.7 ounces

The Vermilion Flycatcher, a tiny yet brilliantly colored bird, boasts a stunning red and orange chest, black wings, and a distinctive bright red crest. It’s not the largest bird around, measuring just 5 inches in length with a wingspan of 9.5 inches. Found mainly in the Southwestern United States, Southern Mexico, Eastern Guatemala, and Central America, it prefers habitats near water sources for easy access to its favorite foods like mosquitoes, dragonflies, beetles, and grasshoppers. Despite its small size, this bird is fiercely territorial and will defend its nest vigorously against predators, emitting alarm calls to rally nearby birds for support if needed.

Do you know: In 1839, John Gould, an English ornithologist, established the current genus Pyrocephalus for the Vermilion flycatcher.

2. Cedar Waxwing

Cedar Waxwing is eating the seed
  • Scientific Name: Bombycilla cedrorum
  • Wingspan: 8-11 inches
  • Size: 6-7 inches in length
  • Average Weight: 1.1 – 1.4 ounces

The Cedar Waxwing boasts a vast global range, spanning Europe and parts of Asia and North America. Recognizable by its pale tufted crest and black face mask, its gray body with white underparts is complemented by small patches of red on each wing.

This bird is commonly sighted during winter months, feasting on juniper berries and other evergreen fruits. In summer, it sustains itself on a diet of berries and insects, crucial for winter preparation. Found in deciduous forests, orchards, and even parks and gardens, Cedar Waxwings thrive where food is abundant.

Do you know: The oldest known Cedar Waxwing was a male, aged at least 7 years and 1 month when he was recaptured and released during banding activities in Maryland in 2014. He was initially banded in the same state in 2008.

READ ALSO: White Birds In Florida

3. Steller’s Jay

Birds With Crests
  • Scientific Name: Cyanocitta stelleri
  • Wingspan: 16-18 inches
  • Size: 11-12 inches in length
  • Average Weight: 3-5 ounces

The Steller’s Jay, predominantly found in the Western United States and Mexico, is easily recognizable due to its colorful appearance. With shimmering blue feathers and a distinctive crest of blue-black plumes atop its head, it possesses an exotic allure. This adaptable bird inhabits various habitats, including prairies, chaparral brushlands, scrub forests, and coniferous woodlands, favoring areas with abundant tree cover for shade. Its diet primarily comprises acorns and nuts, supplemented by insects and small rodents.

Do you know: The Steller’s Jay and the Blue Jay are the only jays in the New World that utilize mud to construct their nests. The species was named “Steller’s Jays” to honor the German naturalist Georg Wilhelm Steller, who made notable contributions to the study of Alaskan wildlife in the 18th century.

4. Ruby-Crowned Kinglet

Birds With Crests
  • Scientific Name: Regulus calendula
  • Wingspan: 7 inches
  • Size: 4 inches in length
  • Average Weight: 0.2 – 0.3 ounces

The Gold-Crowned Kinglet and the Ruby-Crowned Kinglet share a strikingly similar appearance, differing mainly in the color of their crests.

While the Gold-Crowned Kinglet boasts a golden crest, the Ruby-Crowned Kinglet sports a vibrant red crest flanked with black. Otherwise, their markings and colorations remain identical.

The Ruby-Crowned Kinglet favors habitats near water sources like streams or ponds, where it can easily capture its preferred prey of beetles, flies, spiders, ants, and other flying insects. Additionally, they supplement their diet with berries and seeds when necessary.

Do you know: Metabolic studies on Ruby-crowned Kinglets indicate that these small birds utilize approximately 10 kilocalories per day.

5. Blue Jay

Blue Jay is sitting on the snow
  • Scientific Name: Cyanocitta cristata
  • Wingspan: 13-17 inches
  • Size: 9-12 inches in length
  • Average Weight: 2.5 – 3.5 ounces

The Blue Jay is common in gardens across North America and Europe, being present year-round in all 50 states. Its vivid blue plumage and crest make it instantly recognizable. The bird’s wings and tail feature distinctive black and white bars along with its pale grayish-white undersides.

These adaptable birds make their homes in various environments, including woodlands, suburbs, scrublands, and farmland. They have a diverse diet, consuming insects, seeds, eggs, small chicks, and carrion.

To attract Blue Jays to your garden, fill bird feeders with a variety of offerings. Sunflower, safflower, peanuts, and mixed seeds are sure to entice these colorful, crested birds into your backyard.

Do you know: An extensive study of Blue Jay feeding habits revealed that only 1% of jays showed evidence of consuming eggs or birds. The majority of their diet consisted of insects and nuts.

READ ALSO: Yellow Birds In Florida

6. Pileated Woodpecker

Birds With Crests
  • Scientific Name: Dryocopus pileatus
  • Wingspan: 26-30 inches
  • Size: 15-19 inches in length
  • Average Weight: 8-12 ounces

The famous cartoon character “Woody the Woodpecker” drew inspiration from the Pileated Woodpecker, showcasing their resemblance. Sporting a bright red crest, red cheek markings, and a black eye bar, along with black wings, upperparts, and underparts, this woodpecker stands out.

Found in deciduous forests, parks, woodland edges, and suburban areas across North America, including New York, Colorado, Florida, Texas, and Virginia, the Pileated Woodpecker holds the title of the largest woodpecker species in the United States.

Using its sharp beak to drill into trees in search of ants and beetle larvae, it often leaves distinctive holes behind. These cavities are sometimes repurposed by smaller birds for nesting during the breeding season.

Do you know: A Pileated Woodpecker pair remains together on its territory throughout the year. They defend their territory vigorously in all seasons, yet during the winter, they may tolerate new arrivals.

7. Crested Caracara

Crested Caracara is coming down towards the ground
  • Scientific Name: Caracara cheriway
  • Wingspan: Approximately 47-59 inches
  • Size: Medium to large, measuring around 19-23 inches in length
  • Average Weight: Approximately 1.5 – 3.3 pounds

The Crested Caracara, the sole bird of prey on our list, originates from Central America, though a few sightings have been reported in North America. Characterized by a black cap, yellow-orange legs and face, and a white neck, it also sports a black crest atop its head.

This large bird displays both scavenging and hunting behaviors for food acquisition. Feeding on carrion, it employs its razor-sharp talons and beak to tear flesh and consume it. When hunting, it swoops down on small mammals like mice and squirrels, as well as frogs, lizards, and large insects.

Preferring open habitats, the Crested Caracara is known to gather materials for nest construction rather than occupying existing nests like many other birds of prey. Unfortunately, in Florida, habitat loss has led to its classification as an endangered species.

Do you know: The Crested Caracara is unique among falcons in its nesting behavior, as it collects materials to build its nest. In contrast, other falcons typically lay their eggs in old nests from different species or on the ground in a scrape.


There you have it – 7 birds with crests that you can find throughout North America.

Many of these you’ll be able to attract to your garden with the right food. To spot others, like the Double-Crested Cormorant, you may need to plan a trip a little further afield.

Either way, these beautiful birds are worth keeping an eye out for!


1. Why do some birds have crests?

Birds have crests for various reasons. Crests can serve as a means of communication, defense, courtship displays, or even for identification among individuals of the same species. They are versatile features with both functional and aesthetic purposes.

2. What is the little bird with a crest?

Tufted Titmice have larger heads, black eyes, and a gray crest that can be raised or lowered.

3. What is the purpose of a bird’s crest?

Crests have multiple purposes, including signaling excitement or agitation, aiding in communication through displays, enhancing camouflage, and serving as a distinctive feature for identifying individual birds within a species.

4. How can I identify birds with crests in North America?

Identifying crested birds in North America involves observing their unique features, such as their crest shape and coloration, as well as their behavior and habitat. Field guides, birding apps, and local birdwatching groups can be valuable resources for identification.



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