Minnesota is a bird lover’s paradise, and it is home to a variety of birds with beautiful colors and unique characteristics.
Among many other birds, black birds are just as visually striking as white birds, and the state of Minnesota is home to 17 distinct species of black birds. Each of these species possesses its own distinctive characteristics and traits.
If you’re interested in birdwatching or just curious about the feathered friends around you, this guide is a must-read! We’ll show you how to identify each species of black bird in Minnesota with stunning photos and detailed descriptions.
So, get ready to spread your wings and discover the diverse world of black birds in Minnesota!
- 1 – Red-winged Blackbird
- 2 – Turkey Vulture
- 3 – Common Grackle
- 4 – American Crow
- 5 – Common Raven
- 6 – Brown-headed Cowbird
- 7 – European Starling
- 8 – Rusty Blackbird
- 9 – Brewer’s Blackbird
- 10 – Orchard Oriole
- 11 – Hairy Woodpecker
- 12 – American Coot
- 13 – Eastern Towhee
- 14 – Bobolink
- 15 – Yellow-headed Blackbird
- 16 – Common Loon
- 17 – Pileated Woodpecker
- Summary of Information about White Birds in Minnesota!
1 – Red-winged Blackbird
Quick Identification Guide of Red-winged Blackbird
- Size: 7 to 9 inches long with a wingspan of 12 to 15 inches.
- Body Color: Black with bright red and yellow epaulets on the male’s shoulders.
- Bill: Short and pointed, black in color.
- Legs and Feet: Long and sturdy, black in color.
- Unique Distinguishable Colors or Patterns: Females are a duller brown with heavily streaked underparts, lacking the bright red and yellow epaulets of males.
Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) is a primarily black bird, with a unique touch of bright red and yellow on the male’s shoulders that set them apart from other black bird species.
The females are a duller brown color with heavily streaked underparts, lacking the vibrant colors of the males.
Originating in North America, Red-winged Blackbirds are commonly found throughout Minnesota, inhabiting freshwater and brackish wetlands, as well as fields and meadows.
They feed on a variety of foods, including insects, seeds, and berries.
In Minnesota, they can be seen year-round but are most prevalent during the breeding season in late spring and early summer.
Keep an eye out for these beautiful birds when exploring wetland habitats, as they are a common sight in the area.
2 – Turkey Vulture
Quick Identification Guide of Turkey Vulture
- Size: Large bird with a wingspan of up to 6 feet and a length of 2 to 2.5 feet.
- Body Color: Dark brown to black covert feathers on the body and wings, with a featherless redhead.
- Bill: Long, slender, and hooked, with a pale coloration.
- Legs and Feet: Short and stout, with sharp talons for grasping food.
- Unique Distinguishable Colors or Patterns: The Turkey Vulture has a bald, red head, which is a unique feature of North American birds.
The Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura) is a large bird with a wingspan of up to 6 feet and a dark brown to black coloration on its body and wings.
Its head is featherless, and it has a distinctive red coloration. Both male and female Turkey Vultures have the same appearance.
Originating in North and South America, Turkey Vultures are a common sight in Minnesota during the breeding season from March to September. They can be found in a variety of habitats, including open country, grasslands, and forests.
Turkey Vultures are scavengers, feeding on carrion, and are known to be an essential part of our ecosystem to keep it clean.
Keep an eye out for these soaring birds as they glide through the sky in search of food in the warmer months.
3 – Common Grackle
Quick Identification Guide of Common Grackle
- Size: 11 to 13 inches long with a wingspan of 14 to 18 inches
- Body Color: Iridescent black plumage with a blue-green or purplish sheen on the head and neck
- Bill: Long and slender, with a sharp tip and black coloration
- Legs and Feet: Long and slender, with a black coloration
- Unique Distinguishable Colors or Patterns: The male and female Common Grackles have a similar appearance, with the males being slightly larger and having longer bills.
- Yellow eyes and a keel-shaped tail give it a striking appearance.
The Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula) is a medium-sized bird with iridescent black plumage, with a blue-green or purplish sheen on the head and neck.
Both male and female Common Grackles have a similar appearance, with the males being slightly larger and having longer bills.
Originating in North America, Common Grackles can be found in a variety of habitats, including urban areas, suburban parks, and rural farmlands.
They are opportunistic feeders, with a diet consisting of insects, fruits, seeds, and small vertebrates.
In Minnesota, they can be seen year-round, with a higher population during the breeding season from April to July. Keep an eye out for these glossy black birds as they forage for food and socialize in flocks.
It’s a near-threatened species due to habitat loss because of land clearance for development.
4 – American Crow
Quick Identification Guide of American Crow
- Size: 17 to 21 inches long with a wingspan of 36 to 39 inches
- Body Color: Glossy black plumage with a slight purple or blue iridescence in the sunlight
- Bill: Strong and curved, with a black coloration
- Legs and Feet: Strong and black in coloration
The American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos) is a large, all-black bird with glossy black plumage and a slight purple or blue iridescence in the sunlight. It has a strong and curved black bill and strong black legs and feet.
There are no unique distinguishable colors or patterns on its body, but it can be distinguished from the similar-looking Common Raven by its smaller size, fan-shaped tail, and unique call; a higher-pitched caw.
Originating in North America, the American Crow can be found in a variety of habitats, including woodlands, open fields, and urban areas.
They are omnivores, with a diet consisting of insects, small vertebrates, fruits, and carrion.
In Minnesota, they can be seen year-round, with a higher population during the breeding season from March to June.
Listen for their distinctive caw and keep an eye out for these intelligent and adaptable birds as they forage for food and fly in groups known as “murders”.
5 – Common Raven
Quick Identification Guide of Common Raven
- Size: 24 to 27 inches long with a wingspan of 46 to 56 inches.
- Body Color: Glossy black plumage with a shaggy throat and chest feathers.
- Bill: Large and curved, with a black coloration.
- Legs and Feet: Strong and black in coloration.
- Unique Distinguishable Colors or Patterns: The Common Raven can be distinguished from the similar-looking American Crow by its larger size, wedge-shaped tail, and deeper croak call.
The Common Raven (Corvus corax) is a large, all-black bird with glossy black plumage and shaggy throat and chest feathers.
They can be distinguished from the similar-looking American Crow by its larger size, wedge-shaped tail, and by the call; a deeper croak.
The Common Raven is a highly intelligent and adaptable bird. And, we can find them in a variety of habitats, including forests, tundra, and urban areas.
They are omnivores, with a diet consisting of insects, small mammals, carrion, and plant material.
In Minnesota, you can see Common Ravens year-round, with a higher population during the breeding season from February to May.
Listen for their deep croak and keep an eye out for these majestic and intelligent birds as they soar through the skies and display their aerial acrobatics.
6 – Brown-headed Cowbird
Quick Identification Guide of Brown-headed Cowbird
- Size: Around 7 to 8 inches in length.
- Body color: The male is entirely black except for the brown head and neck, while the female is brown with a buffy belly.
- Unique distinguishable colors or patterns: Male has a glossy black body, and the female has a noticeably smaller head and bill than males.
- Bill: Short, conical, and grayish in color.
- Legs and feet: Dark gray to black.
The Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater) is a common, yet controversial, bird found in Minnesota and throughout North America.
This bird is one of the best-known brood parasites, meaning it lays its eggs in other bird species’ nests instead of building its own.
Brown-headed Cowbirds are typically found in open fields, agricultural lands, and forest edges, and they can be seen year-round in Minnesota.
Their diet mainly consists of seeds and insects, but they also feed on small fruits and berries.
While some people appreciate the Brown-headed Cowbird for its unique behavior and appearance, others see it as a threat to native bird populations (due to its brood parasitism).
Regardless of one’s opinion, this species is undoubtedly an interesting and important part of Minnesota’s avian diversity.
7 – European Starling
Quick Identification Guide of European Starling
- Size: Medium-sized bird, about 7-9 inches in length.
- Body Color: Mostly black with the iridescent green and purple sheen in the breeding season, duller brownish-black in the non-breeding season.
- Unique Distinguishable Colors or Patterns: Yellow bill in the breeding season, dark in non-breeding season; long, pointed triangular shape; black legs and feet.
- Male/Female Identification: Both male and female European Starlings have black plumage.
The European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) is a common bird found throughout Europe, Asia, and North Africa. This bird was introduced to North America in the late 1800s and has since become a common resident across the continent, including in Minnesota.
These birds are highly adaptable and can be found in a variety of habitats, including urban areas, farmland, and open fields. They are omnivorous and feed on insects, fruits, seeds, and small vertebrates.
European Starlings can be seen in Minnesota year-round, but are most commonly observed during the breeding season in the spring and summer months.
They are known for their striking black plumage with iridescent green and purple sheen, as well as their melodious singing.
Despite being considered a nuisance by some due to their large flocks and tendency to damage crops, the European Starling remains a beloved and fascinating bird species in Minnesota.
8 – Rusty Blackbird
Quick Identification Guide of Rusty Blackbird
- Size: Medium-sized bird, about 8-9 inches in length.
- Body Color: Mainly black with rusty brown feathers on the head, neck, and back.
- Unique Distinguishable Colors or Patterns of Other Body Parts: Yellow eyes, black legs, and feet, and a thin, pointed bill.
- Male/Female Identification: Both male and female Rusty Blackbirds have similar plumage, with the males having slightly darker and more iridescent black feathers.
The Rusty Blackbird (Euphagus carolinus) is a migratory bird species that breed in the boreal forests of North America. And it winters in the southeastern United States.
These birds prefer to nest near wetlands, streams, and bogs and are known to be particularly sensitive to habitat degradation and loss. And now they are being considered as vulnerable to extinction.
Their diet consists mainly of insects, seeds, and berries, and they are known to forage in shallow water or on the ground.
In Minnesota, Rusty Blackbirds are commonly seen during their migration period in the spring and fall months, with a few individuals occasionally overwintering in the state.
Despite their beauty and importance as an indicator species for wetland health, Rusty Blackbirds are considered a species of conservation concern due to their declining populations.
9 – Brewer’s Blackbird
Quick Identification Guide of Brewer’s Blackbird
- Size: Medium-sized bird, around 9.5-10.5 inches long.
- Body color: Males are mostly black with a purplish sheen, while females are a duller gray-brown color.
- Unique distinguishable colors or patterns: Both males and females have bright yellow eyes and a short, pointed bill that is dark gray. Legs and feet are also dark gray.
The Brewer’s Blackbird (Euphagus cyanocephalus), also known as the Brewer’s Grackle, is a common bird species found throughout much of North America. This bird’s breeding range extends from Alaska and Canada down to northern Mexico.
They can also be found year-round in parts of the United States, including Minnesota. Brewer’s Blackbirds can be seen in a variety of habitats, including fields, meadows, and marshes.
During the breeding season, males can be seen performing elaborate courtship displays, puffing up their feathers, and singing to attract mates.
They are omnivorous birds that feed on seeds, insects, and small invertebrates.
Keep an eye out for these distinctive birds with their bright yellow eyes and short, pointed bills when exploring Minnesota’s natural areas.
10 – Orchard Oriole
Quick Identification Guide of Orchard Oriole
- Size: Small-sized bird, around 6.5-7 inches long.
- Body color: Males have bright orange plumage on their chest, belly, and rump, with black wings, back, and head. Females are mostly yellow-green with some black on the wings and tail.
- Unique distinguishable colors or patterns of other body parts: Both males and females have dark eyes and a pointed bill that is slightly curved. Legs and feet are grayish.
The Orchard Oriole (Icterus spurius) is a small songbird that breeds in eastern North America and winters in Central and South America.
This bird species is known for its striking plumage, with males sporting bright orange feathers on their chest, belly, and rump, and females showing off a more muted yellow-green coloring.
Orchard Orioles can be found in a variety of habitats, including orchards, gardens, and woodland edges. They love to live among shaded trees and bushes.
They are primarily insectivorous but also eat fruit and nectar during the breeding season.
In Minnesota, Orchard Orioles can be spotted during the breeding season from late April through July, and can be seen in the southeastern part of the state.
Keep an eye out for the male’s black wings and back and the distinctive pointed bill on both males and females when trying to spot this colorful bird.
11 – Hairy Woodpecker
Quick Identification Guide of Hairy Woodpecker
- Size: Medium-sized bird, around 8.5-10.5 inches long.
- Body color: Black and white striped back and wings, with a white belly. Males have a red patch on the back of their heads whereas females lack that.
- Unique distinguishable colors or patterns: Both males and females have a long, straight bill that is longer than their head and a stiff tail that helps them climb trees.
- Both males and females have black and white striped feathers on their back and wings.
The Hairy Woodpecker (Dryobates villosus) is a common and widespread woodpecker species found throughout much of North America.
Hairy Woodpeckers can be found in a variety of habitats, including forests, woodlands, and suburban areas. This woodpecker is well adapted for climbing and pecking.
They are omnivorous birds that feed on insects, nuts, and fruit, and can often be seen drilling into tree trunks in search of food.
In Minnesota, Hairy Woodpeckers can be seen year-round, and are particularly active during the breeding season from April to July.
Keep an eye out for these acrobatic birds with their long, straight bills and stiff tails when exploring Minnesota’s natural areas. Especially during the breeding you will be able to hear the unique begging calls of the chicks.
12 – American Coot
Quick Identification Guide of American Coot
- Size: Medium-sized bird, around 12-15 inches long with a wingspan of 23-25 inches.
- Body color: Black body with a white beak and frontal shield (a fleshy, colored patch on their forehead) and red iris.
- Unique distinguishable colors or patterns of other body parts: Coots have unique lobed toes, which help them swim and dive for food. Their bills are short and rounded.
- Both males and females have black bodies, white beaks, and frontal shields.
The American Coot (Fulica americana), also known simply as the Coot, is a common waterbird found throughout much of North America.
Coots are primarily found in freshwater habitats such as marshes, ponds, and lakes, where they feed on aquatic vegetation, insects, and small fish.
They are excellent swimmers and divers, with unique lobed toes that help them propel themselves through the water.
In Minnesota, American Coots can be seen year-round in suitable wetland habitats, although they are more common during the fall and winter migration periods.
Keep an eye out for these distinctive water birds with their short, rounded bills and lobed toes when exploring Minnesota’s wetland areas.
13 – Eastern Towhee
Quick Identification Guide of Eastern Towhee
- Size: Medium-sized bird, around 7-9 inches long with a wingspan of 8-11 inches.
- Body color: Males have a black head, back, and tail (tail feathers with white tips), with rusty red sides and a white belly. Females have a similar pattern but with a brownish-gray head instead of black.
- Unique distinguishable colors or patterns: Towhees have distinctive white wing patches that are visible when they fly. Their bills are short, thick, and conical, perfect for cracking open seeds.
The Eastern Towhee (Pipilo erythrophthalmus) is a distinctive and colorful bird found throughout much of the eastern United States, including Minnesota belonging to the Sparrow family.
Towhees are primarily found in brushy habitats, including woodland edges, overgrown fields, and hedgerows. They are ground foragers, using their thick, conical bills to crack open seeds and eat insects.
In Minnesota, Eastern Towhees can be found in suitable habitats from late April to early October during the breeding season.
Keep an ear out for their distinctive “drink-your-tea” call and an eye out for their striking plumage when exploring Minnesota’s brushy habitats.
14 – Bobolink
Quick Identification Guide of Bobolink
- Site: Bobolinks are small birds, about 6-8 inches (16-18 cm) in length with a wingspan of about 10 inches (25-29 cm).
- Body color: Male bobolinks are black underneath and have a white back with blackish wings, while females have a brownish back and streaked breasts.
- During the breeding season, males have a unique black and white pattern on their heads, with a white nape, and a buff-colored patch on the back of their neck.
- Both males and females have short, conical bills, and pinkish-brown legs and feet.
Bobolink (Dolichonyx oryzivorus) is a migratory bird species that breed in North America (including Minnesota), from southern Canada to the central United States.
They inhabit grassy fields and meadows during the breeding season and agricultural fields during migration and in winter.
Bobolinks are known for their distinctive songs, which are often described as bubbly or metallic.
Bobolinks are omnivores, feeding on seeds, insects, and occasionally fruits.
In Minnesota, bobolinks can be seen from late April to early October, making their presence known with their bubbly songs in open grasslands and meadows.
Despite being considered a species of “Least Concern” by the IUCN, bobolink populations have been in decline due to habitat loss and intensive agriculture.
15 – Yellow-headed Blackbird
Quick Identification Guide of Yellow-headed Blackbird
- Size: Yellow-headed Blackbirds are medium-sized birds, about 8.3-10.2 inches (20-25 cm) in length with a wingspan of about 16.5-17.3 inches (35-40 cm).
- Body color: Male Yellow-headed Blackbirds have a bright yellow head and chest, with a black body and wings. Females are mostly blackish brown with streaked underparts and a yellowish head.
- Both sexes have a conical bill, black legs and feet, and distinctive white patches on their wings.
The Yellow-headed Blackbird (Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus) is a bird species native to North America.
Yellow-headed Blackbirds inhabit marshes and wetlands during the breeding season, where they build their nests and lay eggs. They are omnivores, feeding on seeds, insects, and occasionally small mammals.
In Minnesota, Yellow-headed Blackbirds can be seen from mid-May to mid-August in marshes and wetlands, but can also be found in agricultural fields during migration and in winter.
While they are not considered threatened, Yellow-headed Blackbirds have been impacted by habitat loss and degradation, especially due to wetland draining and conversion to agriculture.
Keep an eye out for it when you take a walk along the reedbeds (especially in prairie wetlands) in a wetland during the breeding season.
16 – Common Loon
Quick Identification Guide of Common Loon
- Size: Large waterbird, about 28-36 inches in length and 8-12 pounds in weight.
- Body color: Black head and neck, with a distinctive white-and-black striped collar. The back is black with white spots, and the belly is white.
- Unique distinguishable colors or patterns: The eyes are red and the bill is black, long, and pointed. The legs and feet are dark gray.
- Male or female: Both males and females have the same plumage, with a black head and neck.
The Common Loon (Gavia immer) is a large waterbird native to North America. It can be found in lakes and ponds in the northern United States and Canada, including the state of Minnesota.
Loons are diving birds and are adapted for swimming and fishing underwater. They have a distinctive appearance with their black head and neck, white collar, and striking red eyes.
Their haunting and beautiful calls are also a well-known feature of the northern wilderness. Loons primarily feed on fish, which they catch by diving underwater.
They are also known for their incredible swimming and diving abilities, with the ability to stay underwater for several minutes at a time.
In Minnesota, the best time to see Common Loons is during the summer months, from May to September.
They can be observed in lakes and ponds throughout the state, particularly in the northern regions.
The Common Loon is a beloved symbol of the northern wilderness and an important species for conservation efforts in the region.
You won’t miss its well-known distinctive and haunting vocalization if you are at the right place.
17 – Pileated Woodpecker
Quick Identification Guide of Pileated Woodpecker
- Size: Large woodpecker, about 16-19 inches in length and 8-12 ounces in weight.
- Body color: Black with white stripes on the face and neck. The wings are black with white spots, and the underside of the wings is white.
- Unique distinguishable colors or patterns: The head is mostly red, with a crest that can be raised or lowered.
- Bill: long and chisel-shaped for excavating wood
- Legs and feet: Gray in color
The Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) is a large and striking bird found in forests across North America.
They are also known for their impressive excavation skills, with a long, chisel-shaped bill that allows them to excavate deep into trees in search of insects and larvae.
Pileated Woodpeckers are found in mature forests, where they nest in cavities in trees. Because of their excavation skills, this bird is considered a keystone species because it provides nest halls for many other animals including mammals.
They primarily feed on insects and other invertebrates found in dead or dying trees, but will also eat fruit and nuts when available.
In Minnesota, Pileated Woodpeckers can be seen throughout the year in mature forests, but are most easily spotted in the spring and summer months when they are breeding and active.
Their striking appearance and impressive excavation skills make them a favorite among birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts alike.
Summary of Information about White Birds in Minnesota!
The following table summarizes the best times of the year and the best regions in Minnesota to see the above-listed black birds. And, for actual sightings and range data of all the listed white birds, you can refer to valuable resources such as eBird and All About Birds.
In addition, you can refer to this table to get information on these birds such as the length, wingspan, and food preferences as well.
|White Birds in Minnesota||Place and time of the year to see them in Minnesota||Length||Wingspan||Food|
|Red-winged Blackbird||Central and South regions – year-roundNorthwest and northeast regions – breeding||About 6.5 – 9 inches||About 12 – 16 inches||Omnivores – Seeds, grains, fruits, and insects.|
|Turkey Vulture||All regions – breeding||About 25 – 32 inches||About 66 – 70 inches||They favor fresh carrion. But, tend to eat decaying carcasses, and human garbage as well.|
|Common Grackle||Close to the southern border – year-round|
Rest of the state – breeding
|About 11-13.5 inches||About 14-18 inches||Omnivores – crops (such as corn), insects, minnows, eggs, berries, grains, seeds, and sometimes even small birds.|
|American Crow||Central and South regions – year-roundNorthwest and northeast regions – breeding||About 16-21 inches||About 33.5-39.5 inches||Omnivores – seeds, fruits, berries, carrion, trash, discarded food.|
|Common Raven||Central and north regions – year-round||About 22-27 inches||About 45-47 inches||Omnivores – small mammals, fruits, berries, carrion, trash, discarded food|
|Brown-headed Cowbird||All regions – breeding||About 7.5-8.7 inches||About 14.2 inches||Omnivores – Seeds, grains, and insects (grasshoppers, beetles, caterpillars)|
|European Starling||All regions – year-round||About 7.9-9.1 inches||About 12-16 inches||Omnivores – Insects, fruits, seeds, and small vertebrates like lizards and mice|
|Rusty Blackbird||All regions – migration||About 8.3-9.8 inches||About 14.6 inches||Omnivores – Insects, fruits, seeds, and small vertebrates|
|Brewer’s Blackbird||North and Central regions – breedingSouthern regions – migration||About 8-10 inches||About 14.6 inches||Omnivores – Insects, fruits, seeds, berries|
|Orchard Oriole||West border, and southern regions – breeding||About 5.9 – 7.1 inches||About 9.8 inches||Primarily insectivorous, but also eat fruit, nectar|
|Hairy Woodpecker||All regions – year-round||About 7-10 inches||About 13-16 inches||Omnivores – insects, nuts, and fruit|
|American Coot||All regions – breeding||About 15-17 inches||About 12-25 inches||Aquatic vegetation, insects, and small fish|
|Eastern Towhee||Northeastern – breedingSouthern and western regions – migration||About 6.8-8.2 inches||About 7.9-11.0 inches||Seeds, fruits, and wide range of invertebrates|
|Bobolink||All regions – breeding||About 5.9-8.3 inches||About 10.6 inches||Omnivores – seeds grains, insects|
|Yellow-headed Blackbird||All regions (except northeast) – breeding||About 8.3-10.2 inches||About 16.5-17.3 inches||Aquatic insects during breeding and grains and weed seeds during non-breeding|
|Common Loon||Northwest and northeast regions – breedingRest of the state – migration||About 26.0-35.8 inches||About 40.9-51.6 inches||Primarily fish|
|Pileated Woodpecker||Insects, carpenter ants and wood boring beetle larvae, wild fruits, and nuts||About 15.8-19.3 inches||About 26.0-29.5 inches||Aquatic insects during breeding and grains and weed seeds during non-breeding|
Now, it’s time to explore!
I am sure you have added several of listed 17 black birds to your list and hopefully guide provided in this article will help you to ID them in your next birding adventure.
Let us know how many listed black birds you have already seen before.
And, If you had rare sightings of any other black bird in Minnesota, please share details with other birders in the comment section.
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