"Black" Birds

There are an amazing number of birds that are black in "color." Or at least mostly or partly black. They are in every form of birdlife, in all sizes, shapes and structures. Some, as in the "true Blackbirds," the males are largely black and the females are brown and streaked.

Since there is a good chance you'll see something that looks to have lots of black on it at KMHRP, we've grouped most of them together here to help you identify what you've seen.

There are only a few black waterbirds here though; the lovable Coot, the prehistoric Cormorant, and the delicate long legged, half black and white Stilt. Easy to figure them out. Here they are. "Black" Water Birds

The beloved Coot

Double-crested Cormorant

Blacknecked Stilt

Black Brant
(an accidental sea goose)

"Black" Land Birds Many black land bird species have iridescent (reflected) colors such as blue, green, or even purple, when they turn just right with the sun coming over your shoulder. Some of the pictures here try to show some of that ... but the light source has to be in proper relation to the observer to see these beautiful hues, otherwise they just look black.They may also reflect silver, which was a reaffirmation when seen, according to the Castaneda "Teachings of Don Juan" about Yaqui culture and wisdom.

There is a group of birds correctly called Blackbirds, but not all birds that are black are blackbirds proper. Crows and Ravens are not blackbirds, but they are all black birds. They are "Corvids", a family that contains the Jays, Magpies, and Nutcrackers, besides Crows and Ravens.

True Blackbirds (Icteridae) include the Grackles, Blackbirds (Red-wing, etc.), Bobolink, the parasitic nesting Cowbirds, and the stunningly beautiful Orioles! Think of Orioles as "tree blackbirds" ... the males are half black and either orange or yellow. Orioles are common and easy to see at KMHRP, spring to fall.

Crows and Ravens are the two largish black "land birds" often seen at KMHRP. Crows are much smaller with square to rounded tails and call "caw caw," whilst larger Ravens have wedge shaped tails and< call a deep croaking "rock" call.


Crows (on wire), larger Ravens
(on crossbar), and Red-tailed Hawk (with prey)
on lower left crossbar.


Grackles are between Crows and Blackbirds in size. They arrived at KMHRP only recently. They began occurring every winter only since 1990. They only began breeding since 1995! They nest in the tules, and in the Palms. They can be nest predators to other native species nesting in the tules and marsh. The males make incredible number of amazing unearthly noises! Over 150 were counted roosting at the site on the Dec. 2002 Bird Count.

Female Great-tailed Grackle

Male Great-tailed Grackle

Male Great-tailed Grackle

Blackbirds are a notch down from Grackles in size and include the beautiful and well-known Red-winged Blackbird, and the rare and declining lookalike Tricolored Blackbird. Both are tule marsh nesters. The Brewer's Blackbird is a bird of lawns and often ornamental trees.

Brewer's Blackbird pair (female left)

Red-winged Blackbird, male

Red-winged Blackbird

Tricolored Blackbird, male

Tricolored Blackbird, juveniles

Tricolored Blackbird, ad. female (in front)
typical worn nesting (June) plumage

Yellow-headed Blackbird in Tules (or Bulrush)

Orioles are stunningly beautiful common nesters at KMHRP April to August. The Bullock's is a bird of willow riparian, and the Hooded nests in Palms, but uses the willows heavily. Both have large intricate woven hanging nests. Both take their young into the tules after fledging.

Bullock's Oriole, male
(Black crown and eyeline, big white wingpatch)

Bullock's Oriole, male

Hooded Oriole, male - females are green
(Nests in palms, feeds mostly in willows)

Cowbirds are a problem at the park. They are parasitic nesters, laying their eggs in the nests of other (usually smaller) birds. The victim raises the Cowbird young, which pushes the smaller young out of the nest! They prey heavily on Song Sparrows, Common Yellowthroats, California Towhee, and other species at the park.

Brown-headed Cowbird, male facing away

There are still a few "black birds" you might see at KMHRP not on this page. The large soaring Turkey Vulture and several dark morph hawks can appear nearly all black. Then there is the crested slim Phainopepla, and a Chimney Swift may appear all dark too. Starling, and few others also would qualify for inclusion here ... I'll find acceptable images of them to put up eventually!

Here's one last very common mostly black bird ...

Black Phoebe, a type of flycatcher
I once counted one eating 50 flies per hour