We don't want to lose any bird species in Franklin County, including these

The Audubon Society recently released a report on the potential effects of climate change on bird populations. According to Survival by Degrees: 389 Species on the Brink, 19 species of birds could disappear from Ohio by 2080 if temperatures continue to rise. In Franklin County, 10 species are “highly vulnerable,” including the Scarlet Tanager and Red-headed Woodpecker.

In honor of Ohio birds — all of which we want to see stay in Ohio (except maybe grackles) — here’s a list ranking the birds that tend to come to my backyard bird feeders.

A quick series of caveats: Your bird feeder may attract different birds, or maybe only half of these birds. I also live near trees and water, and right now I have feeders with sunflower seed, thistle, peanuts and suet. Oh, and hummingbird nectar (mostly in the summer, though I saw one this week!). And to emphasize the “typical” aspect, I’m also not including migratory birds, like the Rose-breasted Grosbeak and Baltimore Oriole, which often provide the biggest thrill for birders. (I still can’t convince orioles to check out my feeders in the spring, though, even with grape jelly; serious birders, please advise).

Ok, here’s a ranking of typical Columbus backyard bird feeder birds from worst to best.

Unranked: Grackle

Also unranked: Starling

Blue Jay

Remember in high school, when you always hoped you’d get grouped together on a project with that super-hot guy/girl? But then when it finally happens, you realize this person is nice to look at but has the personality of a poisonous mushroom and a heart made of fracking waste? That’s the blue jay. Nice to look at but total jerks.

All sparrows

I know serious birders know the differences between all these tiny brown birds. Maybe someday I’ll learn those differences.

House finches

Cute and reddish but just as common as the sparrows.

American Robin

This is maybe the one bird the average Joe can identify. They’re typically ground feeders, but watching one try to balance itself on a bird feeder can be pretty entertaining. Also, believe it or not, Audubon lists this now-ubiquitous species as “moderately vulnerable” in Franklin County. (Passenger pigeons used to be everywhere, too, so...)


Nice black cap, pleasant call that says its name.

Northern Cardinal 

It’s Ohio's state bird, and not uncommon, but seeing an all-red male cardinal in the dead of winter never gets old.

Downy Woodpecker

The black and white stripes are great, but it's the bit of red on the head that gets me.

White-breasted Nuthatch

The blue-gray coloring is also a welcome sight in winter.

Tufted Titmouse

While this bird could get by on brand name alone, it’s pretty cute, too, with a tufted crest and just a bit orange-yellow on the breast.

Carolina wren

I just like the yellowish belly and the way its tail sticks up. And it doesn’t come around too often.


Aptly named, these bright-yellow little finches add splashes of neon to the backyard when flitting around the thistle feeder.

Hairy Woodpecker

Nearly identical to a Downy, but bigger.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Just to make things confusing, the Red-bellied Woodpecker doesn’t really have a red belly. It has a reddish-orange stripe on its head. But I guess the Red-headed Woodpecker got its name first, so here we are. (Apparently its belly is slightly ruddy? I don't see it). Regardless of the name, this one is striking and has a great call.

Northern Flicker

These woodpeckers are huge and brown and black and yellow and spotted and wonderful. Plus the male has a mustache. Spotting a flicker is always a thrill.