Top 10 Black Birds

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.

American Crow

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.

Double-crested Cormorant

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.

Anhinga

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

American Coot

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.

Turkey Vulture

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.

20 thoughts on “Top 10 Black Birds

  1. down here we have cool black birds too…we got the melodius blackbird which has a cool song, the great tailed grackle (similar to the boat tailed grackle) and the bronzed cowbird and the red winged blackbird….cool birds

  2. Interesting list-I’ve been admiring crows lately.-It’s very interesting to liten to them communicate with each other.-They often surprise me with their odd vocalizations.The DC Cormorants, Turkey Vultures, and Common Ravens are three others that I’m familiar with.-American Coot I’ve only seen a couple of times and the others I haven’t seen.

  3. Daniel – There are so many cool birds where you live, where would we begin? 🙂

    Larry – We had a warmer day that melted much of our snow recently, and the crows grouped up in a nearby golf course. They were so fun to watch, so social with each other!

    Mon@rch – These are so fun to write, we are thinking of doing a few more!

    The Zen Birdfeeder – Your yard rocks! 😉

  4. Awesome list! I love anhingas (although I’ve never seen one, personally. I’d thought they were primarily S. American residents.) Did you leave red-winged blackbirds off on purpose? I learned today that they may be the most prolific birds in the US. Black vultures are pretty cool, too (although I’d put turkey vulture above them, too.)

  5. Lana – Yes we left off Red-winged Blackbirds for a reason (they will be featured as a top 10 Blackbird, as in the family) 😉

    Ken – Drool… Black Rosy-Finch would be a life bird and definitely is a cool black bird!!

  6. does anyone know what very large (5′ wingspan) black bird would be in Floorida & new jersey? I cannot find anything similiar!

  7. I live in Marietta, Cobb County, Georgia near Atlanta. The other day I saw what appeared to be a crow or some type of large black bird that was solid black and had white legs and feet. I have been unable to find any information on this bird. I would be appreciative to gather more information on this bird. Thanks!

  8. Jo Anne – Hard to say but it could be a crow or similar bird with lighter legs/feet that appear white in certain lighting or have lighter legs than normal. Was it really large like a Black Vulture… I think they have lighter legs.

  9. I also am trying identify a l larger black bird with a white face, orange legs and very large white feet. I some them in a park in London, England. they were larger than a large pigeon.
    Their feet had 3 large wide “toes” I have not been able to find a picture of them except the ones I took. Can anyone help me? thanks

  10. Maybe you can help me identify a large mostly black bird. There were 2 young birds that had brown necks and head with black running through the brown. They were the size(not shape) of a female wild turkey. They were near a wooded area near the street. I scared them to get them off the road ,they flew up in a tree. Thanks

  11. Jane – I am sorry to say I do not know what kind of bird you saw. Size can be deceptive and if they seemed to be young birds the molt/feather pattern could be difficult to ID if it is different from the parent. Could it be some sort of other “game” bird?

  12. Can you help me identify a Blackbird I saw over memorial day weekend in northern Minnesota near Lake Itasca the Mississippi River source. I was kayaking Next to the shore and I saw what looked like a regular blackbird take off Next to me and fly ahead of me twice. it was the size of a crow but it had bright red orange feet. I double checked the second time I saw it to make sure they were the feet not something It was carrying. It did not appear to be a duck or Cormorant.

  13. Michelle – could it have been a European Starling? I am not aware of too many birds with red feet that would be crow-sized (although starlings are smaller than crows, but they do show red feet sometimes). Just a guess.

  14. by far the biggest bird I’ve ever seen at least 6 foot wingspan very blackbird had no Crane like legs.. no long Beak was turkey Buzzard ish but at least twice the size of anything in this area… Lee Massachusetts we have had a very long nasty winter at first I thought it was a magnificent frigatebird I saw no red on the throat or white though…

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