There are over 500 birds whose common names start with the letter C. These include location names (Cuban, Canadian), colors (Chestnut), common, and descriptive (common, crested) adjectives on a bird type name.
This list includes a selection of common and uncommon birds in the category. That includes 21 birds whose primary name starts with C (the cardinal) and a selection of birds with adjective names.
Of these, some are common in the United States and might be spotted in your backyard. Others are rare, endemic to a tiny part of the world, meaning you’re unlikely to ever see them outside of a specialty zoo.
Scientific Name: Aythya valisineria
The canvasback is a diving duck native to North America, where it extends from Central America to the upper reaches of Alaska. This duck, which is the largest diving duck on the continent, weighs up to 4 pounds and has a wingspan close to two feet.
Diving ducks get their name from their propensity for diving for algae and other food on the bottom of slow-moving waterways. These birds also have a very wide bill, which allows them to easily scrape up plants from lake bottoms.
Male canvasbacks stand out, with a russet head, a black neck, and a cram or “canvas” back. However, females are often a uniform dark brown head and back – with a black ring on their neck.
Canvasbacks are considered one of the most graceful ducks by birdwatchers.
Scientific Name: Cardinalis
Cardinals include a genus of three very distinctive birds endemic to the Americas. All three species are very similar in appearance, with high crests on their heads and colorful feathers.
Cardinals are normally about 8-9 inches long. Their crests are also normally about as high as the head, or sometimes taller.
In addition, all three species feature bright red feathers. Of these, the vermillion cardinal, which is native to Colombia and Venezuela is the brightest.
However, the northern cardinal is also extremely bright red. In addition, it’s the only species where the female is also bright – as female northern cardinals are yellow with red feathers.
The pyrrhuloxia or desert cardinal is mostly gray with a bright red belly.
Whichever you spot, cardinals are often a favorite with birdwatchers; however, they are very territorial and will often chase off other birds.
Scientific Name (Genus): Ailuroedus
Catbirds are a diverse group of birds comprising 9 Australian catbirds. There are also two North American catbirds, neither of which are related to the Australian birds (or each other).
The Australian birds get their name from their loud, howling call – which is said to sound like a cat. In addition, their brightly-colored coats often make them stand out against foliage – despite the fact that they are green.
Some species of catbird, like the green catbird, are also frequently mistaken for crying children. However, most are native to only small areas in Australia, meaning you won’t likely see them outside of Australia.
Scientific Name (Genus): Granatellus
The American chat is a group of birds closely related to cardinals. However, except for the bright red feathers and the tail, they look nothing alike.
In fact, chats can be less than half the size of the cardinal.
All three species are native to South and Central America.
They also all live in forest areas, where these brightly-colored birds can be seen picking insects and small arthropods from moss and hanging vegetation.
Chats are also a large and diverse group of songbirds closely related to the flycatcher. Almost all are native to Europe and Asia. However, there they are completely unrelated to the American chat.
Scientific Name (Genus): Poecile
Chickadees are small birds native to North America.
In most cases, chickadees are also called tits outside of North America. However, in North America, chickadees are one of the most common native birds. In fact, they’re found everywhere on the continent, in any area that has woods or thickets.
At just 2-5 inches in size, chickadees are excellent at moving through the underbrush. They also pick up seeds and may store or hoard them.
For example, mountain chickadees are famous for seed hoards, some of which have been found with over 80,000 individual seeds.
All chickadees feature a dark crown, a light throat patch, and a soft-colored body. However, the body coloration ranges from gray to brown to light yellow depending on which of the 7 species you’re looking at.
Scientific Name: Alectoris chukar
The chukar or chukar partridge is a game bird native to Asia and introduced to North America and New Zealand.
These medium-sized plump birds are popular in some areas as game birds. However, in North America, they’re a rare sight, despite having thriving populations in the Rocky Mountains, California, and the Great Basin.
In addition, chukars stand out with a distinctive, striped appearance. The birds feature a soft gray body with vivid black and white striping on the wings, and a line from the chest, up across the head.
That can make them an exotic site for birdwatchers – although they’re often spotted with other birds.
Scientific Name (Genus): Fulica
Coots include 10 species of water birds native to every continent except Antarctica. Of these, all but 3 are native to South America.
Those three include the Hawaiian coot, which is endemic to Hawaii, the Eurasian coot, and the red-knobbed coot, which is native to the African continent.
All coots feature distinctive black bodies with white beaks. However, depending on the species of coot, the white beak may extend to a black face, a white face, or a yellow face.
All coots also have large, webbed feet which are distinctly colored in either yellow, blue, or red.
Coots are extremely common. In addition, at a distance, they may be mistaken for ducks by inexperienced birdwatchers.
Scientific Name (Family): Phalacrocoracidae
Cormorants include some 40 species of waterbirds, commonly called either cormorants or shags. However, there’s no distinction between either name – with some members of the same genus having birds of both names.
Most of them are duck-like in appearance. However, cormorants normally have longer necks. In addition, many have crests, which can be quite large.
Like many other water birds, they also group together, with some gathering in groups of hundreds of birds.
Cormorants can also drive significant depths to find food on the sea or lake bottom. Some have been filmed diving as far as 260 feet below the surface of the water.
In addition, these birds feed their young similarly to the way their closest relatives, the pelican, do, by regurgitating food from a pouch.
Scientific Name (Genus): Molothrus
Cowbirds include 6 species of birds, all native to the Americas. Of these, three can be spotted in the United States, with the brown-headed cowbird and the bronze cowbird having a range over most of the U.S.
Cowbirds are all darkly colored and about 8+ inches long. In addition, they are obligate brood parasites.
This means that, like the more famous cuckoo, they don’t make their own nests and don’t incubate their eggs. Instead, they lay eggs in the nest of another bird, and let that bird do the work.
In addition, unlike the cuckoo, the cowbird will lay eggs in over 100 different types of bird nests. And, unlike the cuckoo, cowbirds will often continue to monitor nests after laying eggs, attacking the nest if the incubating mother pushes the foreign egg out.
10. Cloud Cisticola
Scientific Name: Cisticola textrix
The Cloud Cisticola is a medium-sized bird native to the African continent. Its appearance is similar to that of a thrush, but with stripes on the wings and back and spots on the chest and neck.
Cisticolas live in grasslands. However, they find trees and shrubs to build nests and roost in. In addition, many can be found inhabiting holes in succulents, where they may build nests and hatch eggs.
Scientific Name (Family): Gruidae
Cranes are a family of birds that all sport long legs and long necks. Like herons, cranes are also adapted well to both flight and living in the water.
Normally, they inhabit wetlands and dive for small fish and crustaceans.
However, most migrate to warmer areas in the winter. Here, they can be distinguished from cranes by the fact that they fly with necks outstretched.
In addition, cranes are normally very large. Some are over 5 feet in length from beak to tail. Most are about half that – although wingspans can be over 3 feet.
Most cranes feature caps or markings on their heads. In the common crane, that’s black. But, in many others, it’s bright red.
This can lead to cranes having a very distinctive appearance in wetlands, where they’re a favorite for many birdwatchers.
Scientific Name (Family): Certhiidae
Creepers or tree creepers are a family of small birds with unique foraging behavior.
These small birds grip bark with their feet and run up the tree, normally in search of small beetles and insects which might be on the tree.
Creepers hop from one grip to another with both feet, sinking their long claws into the bark when they land.
Most creepers are also the same color as the trees they inhabit. However, mottling and patterns can allow them to blend in with lichen and moss on those trees.
Scientific Name: Loxia (finch)
Crossbills are a genus of birds containing six species. While they have their own name, crossbills are also a type of finch.
They also get their name from their unique beak, which has crossed tips. This beak is useful in feeding on pine cones – and as specialist feeders that only eat pine cones, they need the adaption to survive.
Crossbills are also found in Eurasia, North Africa, North America, and South America. The Scottish crossbill is endemic to Scotland and only feeds on the Scottish pine. Others, like the Cassia, specialize in the lodgepole pine.
Crossbills are also unique in that there’s a significant amount of color variation, even in the same species. Males are usually red or reddish with black or gray markings. Females may be greenish.
However, the brightness and exact patterns vary even within one species.
Scientific Name (Genus): Corvus
Crows include over 40 species of corvid, almost all of which are black – although some have pied markings. Most crows also have completely black beaks, black legs, and black eyes.
However, there are some exceptions.
For example, the pied crow has a white ruff. The Australian little crow has yellow eyes. The capecrow can have a purplish sheen to its feathers. The Sinaloa crow features a white neck. And, the house crow is gray.
But, with three cows with white markings, three with white eyes, and two with brown or gray feathers – there’s not much variation in the other 32 species.
However, there is variation in beak size and width.
In addition, crows are only defined colloquially as being small and black corvids. Ravens are distinguished only by being larger. And, some birds known as rooks are actually crows and not true rooks.
Scientific Name (Family): Cuculidae
Cuckoos include an extremely diverse family of birds consisting of over 150 species. However, all of these birds are very closely related.
In addition, they all share the habit of brood parasitism, meaning that they lay their eggs in the nests of other birds.
Here, cuckoos can be highly specialized. Newly hatched cuckoos may closely match the smell and sounds made by the host parent’s own hatchlings.
In addition, some birds only lay eggs in a single host nest. Others may choose from over 10 or more species.
Adding to that, not all cuckoos are “just” brood parasites. Instead, some may diversify, with eggs laid in other nests as well as in their own nests – where the female will normally incubate the eggs.
Scientific Name (Genus): Numenius
Curlews are a group of wading birds, similar to pipes, but with significantly longer bills. In fact, these birds stand out with disproportionately long bills – which can be more than a third of the length of the bird.
For example, the long-billed curlew is normally about 23 inches long with a bill as much as 8.5 inches long.
Otherwise, curlews behave similarly to pipes. They probe sand with their long bills, looking for crabs, small invertebrates, insects, and even eggs.
They’re also interesting in that while the adults continue to look after the young after hatching – it’s usually the male who does so, while the female flies to winter grounds.
Scientific Name: Tetra urogallus
The Capercaillie is a large grouse found across most of Europe. The bird, which is the largest grouse and which can weigh as much as 16 pounds, lives in forests and wooded areas.
It’s also famous for its courtship display. Here, the male, who is often as much as twice the size as the female, puts on a display with a wide fan-tail and pose and a full day of song.
That song is interesting, with loud clicks and drops, scraping sounds, and pops, rather than what most people would think of as “birdsong”.
Capercaillie are also endangered in some parts of their natural habitat. That’s because forests have been replaced with single-species deciduous trees for forestry purposes.
The capercaillie, which does not fly well and which needs a low-lying brush and tall grass to hide nests in, doesn’t do well in these environments.
Scientific Name: Fringilla coelebs
The chaffinch or common chaffinch is a tree-dwelling finch native to Europe, Siberia, and the northern parts of the African continent.
These finches stand out with sexual dimorphism, with males showing a distinctive red coloration with gray banding and black and white wings. Females are gray, brown, and light yellow, but share the white band on the wings.
Otherwise, you might think you were looking at different bird species.
Chaffinches group together and can forage in flocks of 30 or more birds.
They’re also known for taking care of fledglings, with parents feeding young birds for several weeks after they leave the nest.
Scientific Name: Phylloscopus collybita
The Chiffchaff is a small bird native to temperate Europe, Asia, and North Africa. The birds were also grouped with the similar-looking willow warbler and wood warbler, until 1789.
Today, chiffchaffs are one of the most common birds in Europe, especially if you count subspecies, which are only differentiated by their songs.
Chiffchaffs are small at under 5 inches in length.
Most are also gray or brown with yellowish markings. However, some subspecies can be quite brightly colored, with yellow or green markings.
In addition, chiffchaff can be mostly white depending on the size of the white patch on their bellies.
Scientific Name (Genus): Pyrrhocorax
Choughs include two species of corvids, closely related to crows. These birds sport extremely black plumage but have brightly colored legs and bills.
Both species are native to the mountains of Eurasia, although they are found outside of the mountains when it isn’t breeding season.
In addition, while one is the red-billed chough, it has almost the exact coloration of the Alpine chough. Therefore, both can be difficult to tell apart.
The white-winged chough, however, is not a true chough.
Choughs are also one of the only birds with a flea specially adapted to live on them. However, this flea is sometimes, but rarely, found on other corvids.
Scientific Name: Crex crex
The corncrake is a rail native to Europe and Asia, which migrates to Africa for the winter. Like other rails, this bird lives in wetlands, where it feeds on insects, invertebrates, and even small mammals.
Crakes are also common in literature, as they have an extremely loud call – especially for a bird just 12 inches long – making them extremely notable for people who live nearby.
Crakes mostly call at night, where they can repeat a call over 20,000 times in a single night.
Crakes are brown with black speckles and spots, and can be difficult to distinguish from some other rails.
22. Cactus Wren
Scientific Name: Campylorhynchus brunneicappillus
The cactus wren is a large, speckled wren, endemic to the deserts of North America and Mexico. These birds are brown with distinctive white spots and eyebrows – as well as a black beak.
They’re also commonly seen on the ground, especially under plants, where they feed on insects, seeds, fruits, nectar, and even reptiles.
Cactus wrens get their name from their tendency to nest in large cacti and native plants.
However, cactus wrens are also extremely adaptable. They adjust to living in urban environments easily. And, many have been spotted waiting for cars to park, at which point they pick insects out of radiator grills.
23. Cackling Goose
Scientific Name: Branta hutchinsii
The cackling goose is a medium-sized goose that’s extremely similar in appearance to the Canada goose. In fact, it was thought to be a smaller subspecies of the Canada Goose until 2004, when it was split into its own species.
The cackling goose is normally about 15-30% smaller than the Canada Goose. In addition, it’s native to the full of the United States and Canada.
Like other geese, cackling geese primarily eat plants and seeds. They’re prominent in grain fields during winter migration.
However, they may also be opportunistic feeders and will eat insects, crustaceans, and other small living things they can grab while swimming.
24. Chestnut-backed Sparrow-lark
Scientific Name: Eremopterix leucotis
Chestnut-backed Sparrow-larks are small birds native to open grasslands and savannahs. At just over 4 inches in length, they’re one of the smallest larks.
Here, males and females are distinctive, with the male featuring a dark underbelly and head with bright chestnut wings and back. The female has a white underbelly, gray head, and dark brown wings and back.
These birds live in tall grassland and flock to recently burned areas. Here, they build a nest and lay a single egg per season.
In addition, they’re native to the African continent, south of the Saraha.
25. Copper Seedeater
Scientific Name: Sporophia bouvreuil
Copper seedeaters are small birds found in Brazil and Suriname. Here, it dwells in dry savannah where it eats seeds and grains.
Seedeaters are also facing population decline, as they’re illegally trapped for the pet trade, and the grasslands where they live are more and more often used for agriculture instead.
These tiny birds can also be quite striking. Most feature a tan or rusty underbelly and neck with dark black markings on the wings, head, and tail.
Females are more muted and may be yellowish with gray wings and beaks.
26. Compact Weaver
Scientific Name: Ploceus superciliosus
The compact weaver is a weaver bird native to the African continent, where it’s found in subtropical or tropical lowland grasslands. Here, this bird weaves dense nests on hummocks and hills, laying eggs after the flooding season.
Compact weavers are bright yellow birds with black faces and beaks and black markings on the tail.
Often, they can be seen alone throughout the year. However, during mating season, they nest together in larger colonies, where a single colony can include hundreds of nests built close together.
These birds, however, do not share incubating responsibilities.
27. Comoros Green Pigeon
Scientific Name: Treron griveaudi
The Comoros Green Pigeon is a bright green pigeon endemic to the island of Mwali in Comoros.
This pigeon is one of a number of brightly colored Columbidae, and also one of the rarest. In fact, with a population of fewer than 2,500 adults, the bird is endangered.
However, its olive green body, dark gray wings, and bright red under-tail feathers make the Comoros Green Pigeon very striking.
While you’re unlikely to ever see one outside of a zoo, these birds blend extremely well with trees and greenery, making them quite hard to spot in foliage even in zoo environments.
28. Cotton Pygmy Goose
Scientific Name: Nettapus coromandelianus
The cotton pygmy goose is a perching duck, native to Australia, Asia, and the African continent.
Like other waterfowl, these birds spend most of their time on lakes and other freshwater, where they dive for food and safety from predators.
In addition, with some individuals measuring no more than 10 inches from beak to tail, they can be the smallest waterfowl.
The Cotton Pygmy goose is gray with dark wings.
Males have iridescent green on the tops of their wings and dark feathers on the undersides and tips of the wing. Females are normally white with brown and gray speckling and brown wings.
29. Cream-Eyed Bulbul
Scientific Name: Pycnonotus pseudosimplex
The cream-eyed bulbul is a bird endemic to Borneo. It’s also unique for its white eyes, which can be quite striking against its brown feathers and cream belly.
These birds are also increasingly rare, as they only live in high-altitude, old-growth forests. However, they were long thought to be a color variation of the more common cream-vented bulbul.
30. Cliff Swallow
Scientific Name: Petrochelidon pyrrhonota
The Cliff Swallow is a brightly colored swallow native to the Americas. These birds migrate to South America during the winter and return to the United States and Canada for breeding.
Here, they’re well known for their bright coloration, with red markings across the back, contrasting with a white underbelly and dark wings.
In addition, cliff swallows build tube-shaped mud nests on cliffs. They’re also extremely social breeders. Key breeding sites may have over 2,000 nests built close together, often on top of each other.
Cliff swallows also build on bridges and other man-made constructions.
31. Colima Warbler
Scientific Name: Leiothylpis crissalis
The Colima Warbler is a warbler native to the mountains of the Americas, where it’s mostly found in the Sierra Madre, Occidental, Oriental, and Chisos Mountains.
These birds are normally under 5 inches in length. In addition, they’re dark gray or brownish, with a white belly, which allows them to blend in very well with the mountains and rocks they live in.
Unlike many other warblers, the Colima Warbler nests on the ground. These nests are hidden in rocks, where they lay 2-4 eggs per year.
32. Collared Inca
Scientific Name: Coeligena torquata
The collared Inca is a hummingbird native to South America. It’s also famous for a bright white collar or neck on both the male and the female.
However, the male is jet black except for the ruff. On the other hand, the female is bright green with a spotted beak. For this reason, someone not familiar with the birds may mistake the two for separate species.
Collared Incas are pollinators because they move pollen from flower to flower as they feed. In addition, they may feed on insects and arthropods feeding on plants they frequent.
33. Crimson-backed Sunbird
Scientific Name: Leptocoma minima
The crimson-backed sunbird is a nectarivorous bird endemic to the Western Ghats.
It features a curved beak that allows it to insert deep into flowers to steal nectar – and often functions as a pollinator at the same time. In addition, at just 3 inches in length, they’re one of the smallest sunbirds.
While very similar to hummingbirds, sunbirds are larger and have a much shorter and thicker beaks. However, they share bright, jeweled, and metallic feathers.
Crimson-backed sunbirds feature bright green caps, with purple necks, red ruffs, and bright green bodies.
34. Comb Duck
Scientific Name: Sarkidiornis sylvicola
The comb duck is a striking black and white duck with a thick comb on its bill. These ducks are native to wetlands in South America, meaning it’s unlikely you’ll ever see one outside of a zoo.
In addition, they feature striking black and white speckles on the head and neck. Females also lack the comb – leading them to be mistaken for other kinds of ducks.
However, with a length of up to 30 inches, comb ducks are one of the largest true ducks. Only some geese are larger.
In addition, while beautiful, comb ducks are considered a pest in much of South America. That’s because they graze by dabbing their heads underwater, eating soft, young vegetation. In the wetlands of South America, that’s often cultivated rice.