We’ve done this before, with the Top Ten White Birds, and thought it would be fun to do it a second time. It is our humble opinion based on our small vault of bird knowledge that these are the top ten black birds.
Here they are in no particular order:
1. American Crow – Since it is the year of the crow, this smart corvid is our top black bird. They are obvious and loud, and sometimes an alert to a large hawk or owl. They are usually easy to find and entertaining to watch, though not everyone loves them as much as we do.
Although their current numbers are strong, some fear a decrease in population due to the West Nile Virus. This has spurred us to try and record all future sightings on eBird in an attempt to help count and track American Crow numbers.
2. Boat-tailed Grackle – This blackbird with a very large, long tail is found exclusively along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts of the United States. The small range does not keep it from being one of the most beautiful black birds in North America.
Even though their range is so small, they have unique eye colors depending on where they live. This is a must-see for any birder visiting the southeast area of the United States.
Grackles along the Atlantic coast north of Florida have straw-colored eyes. Florida birds have dark eyes. Grackles west of Florida to eastern Louisiana have light eyes, but those further west have dark ones. – Cornell Lab of Ornithology
3. Double-crested Cormorant – This is the most numerous and widespread of the North American cormorants and their numbers have risen greatly. Unfortunately, this has caused conflicts with humans, especially concerning fisheries.
The Double-crested Cormorant dries its feathers by holding them out, as it is not well waterproofed.
4. Black Tern – Another common Horicon Marsh bird, this tern is fascinating to watch as it hovers over the marsh.
The Black Tern is very social. It breeds in loose colonies and usually forages, roosts,and migrates in flocks of a few to more than 100 birds, occasionally up to tens of thousands. – Cornell Lab of Ornithology
5. Anhinga – The Anhinga is a very graceful bird sometimes called the Snake Bird because it immerses in water with the exception of its snake-like head. They can actually soar in the air similar to a Turkey Vulture for long periods of time.
6. Common Raven – This is the largest songbird and can be found worldwide. It’s range does not cover Northern Illinois, however, so we have to travel to see one. It was disappearing quickly from the northeast, but now is reoccupying territory.
The Common Raven is an acrobatic flier. It frequently is seen to make rolls and somersaults in the air. It has even been observed flying upside down for as far as one kilometer (0.62 mi). – Cornell Lab of Ornithology
7. American Coot – It swims like a duck, it looks like a duck, it eats like a duck, it must be a rail! As one niece described this swimming non-duck, it is “small and cute”. They are abundant and another fun species to watch as it dives and forages.
Although it swims like a duck, the American Coot does not have webbed feet like a duck. Instead of having all the toes connected by webs, each coot toe has lobes on the sides of each segment. – Cornell Lab of Ornithology
8. Phainopepla – Only found in the southwestern United States and Mexico, it is truly a unique species. The Phainopepla breeds twice in one year, but in two different habitats – desert and woodland. They can mimic other bird species and get all the water they need from eating berries.
The Phainopepla rarely drinks water, even though research indicates that it loses about 95 percent of its body mass in water per day. Instead, it gets the water it needs from its diet of mistletoe. – Cornell Lab of Ornithology
9. Turkey Vulture – This great scavenger really cleans up. Even though it can throw up toxic digestive fluids at predators and defecates on its own legs to cool off, this large bird looks graceful and beautiful while soaring in the air. Around here, we find them in small groups, roosting in trees in the early morning and sometimes even hang out throughout the winter months.
10. Black Oystercatcher – This bird is definitely on the “to see” list for the Birdfreak Team. It’s most prominent feature is the bright red bill. Their range is quite small along the west coast, far, far, from here.