Common Songbirds Found in the United States and Europe

Even with the vast Atlantic Ocean’s divide and the distinction in climates, the United States and Europe have come to share some common songbirds. Often due to intentional bird importation and release, several bird species have reached the U.S. shores and have effectively adapted to new ecological communities. The European Starling, European Goldfinch, and House Sparrow are three resilient globetrotters that have made a permanent residence in both the U.S. and Europe.

European Starlings

The European Starling is a black, medium-sized bird with pointed wings, speckled plumage, and a short tail. As a prolific species, the starling is often seen as a pest to American farmers due to its rapid spread and invasive nature in animal feedlots. The European Starling’s original habitat comes from northern Norway and Russia, yet it is now an acclimated species to the eastern and mid western U.S. after its successful introduction to New York City in the 1890s. The starling’s song consists of a clear whistle followed by a rasping alarm. The starling is also a proficient mimic of other bird calls, especially playing the part of the wood pewee and often causing confusion in bird song recording.

European Goldfinches

The European Goldfinch, though not directly related to the American Goldfinch, has had numerous sightings in the U.S. since 2002, concentrated primarily in Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Michigan. A popular caged bird species, it is believed that these hardy birds were deliberately released in the Chicago area by a bird importer and have now adjusted to these mid western climates. The European Goldfinch is five to six inches in length with a red face, black and white head, black and yellow wings, and a brown and white body. It is also found throughout Europe, northern Africa, and parts of western and central Asia, with certain imported colonies also in New Zealand and Australia. Often bred in captivity due to its colorful body and pleasant call, the European goldfinch has a sweet trisyllabic melody of a “tellit-tellit-tellit” phrase.

House Sparrows

The House Sparrow, or European Sparrow, was first introduced to the U.S in the mid 1800s. Today, it is one of the most common birds in the contiguous states, reported at 150 million in population. The House Sparrow’s natural habitat is found throughout Europe and much of Asia, yet this widespread bird has achieved residence on the North American, South American, African, and Australian continents. A friendly, cosmopolitan bird, house sparrows are often found in suburban and urban areas, willingly taking handouts from people and frequenting bird feeders. Male house sparrows have gray heads with white cheeks and a black bib, whereas females are a duller brown-gray with striped black and brown backs. The House Sparrow is a chunkier, rounder version of the American Sparrow and sings a short, relentless chirping call.

Though the U.S. and Europe maintain many distinct bird subspecies, such as the American Blue Jay and the Eurasian Jay, there are now a few hardy birds of the same species found flourishing in both parts of the world. The European Starling, European Goldfinch, and House Sparrow are three of the most common songbirds that have acclimatized from European to American climates. Due to the sometimes negative effects of a foreign species’ introduction into an established ecosystem, bird importation has recently seen tighter restrictions in the U.S., yet these abounding songbirds have settled in and become part of the permanent American avifauna.