Black is one of the most common colors that appear in bird plumages. But, other than American Crow, how many black birds have you seen in South Carolina? Here’s the complete guide that will help you to identify common as well as rare black birds in South Carolina.
Let me ask you a question, first. How many birds do you know that do not have black color on them? Not many, right? Even many white birds have some black on them. But, we identify birds as black birds if they appear all-black or have black as the prominent color in their plumage.
So, in this article, you will get guides for 13 entirely black birds and mostly black birds (birds that have black as the prominent color).
- Black birds in South Carolina
- More Facts about Black Birds in South Carolina!
Black birds in South Carolina
1. Boat-tailed Grackle
Quick ID guide to Boat-tailed Grackle
- Size and Body Color: Only the adult male Boat-tailed Grackles are black, but females are not. And they are large songbirds with glossy black bodies. The tail is long and boat-shaped. That’s how it got its name. The male average body size is 12 inches.
- Bill: The male Boat-tailed Grackle has a long pointed bill.
- Legs and Feet: The color of the legs and feet of the male Boat-tailed Grackle are a deep, dark brown, or black. And, they are relatively long.
The Boat-tailed Grackle (Quiscalus major) is a striking bird species that are native to the southeastern United States, including South Carolina.
The male Boat-tailed Grackle is particularly distinctive, with a large, iridescent black body and a long, boat-shaped tail. They have a green and purple sheen on the black plumage that gives a quite unique appearance.
But, the female Boat-tailed Grackles look completely different from the males. They have a dull brown color plumage with a much shorter tail. This sexual dimorphism (distinctive difference in male and female birds) is common in many bird species. The main reason for that is males get more vibrant colors and showy features to attract females.
Boat-tailed Grackles can be seen along the coastline of South Carolina throughout the year. But, you can see them most commonly during the spring and summer months.
If you are in South Carolina and looking to see a male Boat-tailed Grackle, watch out for its iridescent black plumage and long, boat-shaped tails.
2. Black Vulture
Quick ID guide to Black Vulture
- Size and Body Color: Black Vultures are large birds having glossy black plumage and a naked head and neck. They have a short tail and white patches on the underside of wing tips. The body length is about 25 inches.
- Bill: Dark color hooked bill. The tip of the bill is bone color.
- Legs and Feet: Short, sturdy legs and feet that are gray in color (but look a bit whitish as well). And they have sharp claws that are adapted for tearing into carrion.
The Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus) is a bird of prey that is native to the Americas. And, they are also known as American Black Vulture.
Glossy black plumage, featherless head and neck, and a short, hooked bill are unique identifiable features of Black Vultures.
They are highly social birds. Generally, Black vultures associate with their closer relatives “Turkey Vultures” as flocks.
And one of the interesting facts about Black Vultures is that their sense of smell is comparatively poor and they mostly tend to follow Turkey Vultures to find dead animals.
The male and female black vultures look alike and do not have any significant differences in appearance.
In South Carolina, you can see Black Vultures year-round in all parts of the state. During the warmer months, they can often be found soaring overhead or roosting in trees.
Black vultures are protected by law, and it is illegal to kill them or disturb their nests.
3. Turkey Vulture
Quick ID guide to Turkey Vulture
- Size and Body Color: The Turkey Vulture is a large raptor with a primarily brown and black body and a featherless red head, neck, and face. When seen from distance, they look black but up close, they have dark brown feathers. The average body size is about 30 inches.
- Bill: The Turkey Vulture has a hooked pale bill that is well-adapted for tearing into carrion.
- Legs and Feet: The legs and feet of the Turkey Vulture are relatively short and sturdy. And they have black talons. Legs and feet are pinkish-red in color and featherless. That helps them to be clean while feeding on carrion.
Turkey Vultures (Cathartes aura) are one of the widespread vultures, native to the Americas. And also they are known for their distinctive appearance, with a primarily black body, a featherless red head, neck, and face, and a hooked pale bill.
There is no significant sexual dimorphism in the Turkey Vulture, so males and females look similar. And the heads of juveniles are not red, it’s ash-gray in color.
You can see Turkey Vultures in all regions of South Carolina throughout the year. But they are most common during the spring and summer months.
These birds are known for their broad, soaring flights and are often seen circling high in the sky, searching for food. They feed primarily on carrion, including dead animals and roadkill, and are an important part of the ecosystem as they help to clean up and recycle dead organic matter.
If you are in South Carolina and looking to see a Turkey Vulture, keep an eye out for their broad, soaring flights and their distinctive black and red appearance.
4. Red-winged Blackbird
Quick ID guide to Red-winged Blackbird
- Size and appearance: The Red-winged Blackbird is a medium-sized bird (~8 inches). The male is black with a glossy iridescent sheen. And they have a distinctive red and yellow patch on their shoulders.
- Bill: The bill is conical and slightly curved. That is ideal for cracking seeds and eating insects.
- Legs and Feet: The legs and feet are dark and strong, allowing the bird to perch on reeds and branches.
The Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) is a species of passerine bird that can be found throughout North America. One of the most recognizable features of the male Red-winged Blackbird is its red and yellow wing patches.
They spread their wings to display this bright-colored shoulder patch during courtship displays and territorial disputes. The female, on the other hand, is brownish-black with streaked underparts.
The Red-winged Blackbirds are strong fliers. They are capable of covering long distances during migration.
In South Carolina, Red-winged Blackbirds can be seen in a variety of habitats including marshes, wetlands, agricultural fields, and suburban areas. Although they are year-round birds in all parts of South Carolina, they are most commonly seen during the breeding season which typically runs from March to August.
Red-winged Blackbirds are omnivores, feeding on both plant and animal matter. They are known to consume insects, seeds, grains, and fruits. They are highly social birds and form large flocks, especially during migration and in the winter months.
So, Red-winged Blackbird is a common and easily recognizable bird species in South Carolina. You will easily identify them with their distinctive red and yellow shoulder patches.
5-6. American Crow and Fish Crow (Two species, but look similar)
Quick ID guide to American Crow
- Size and Body Color: The American Crow is a medium-sized bird (~18 inches). Their bodies are entirely black with a glossy iridescent sheen.
- Bill: The bill is strong, thick, and slightly hooked at the tip, with a black coloration.
- Legs and Feet: The legs and feet are black and relatively short, with strong talons.
Quick ID guide to Fish Crow
- Size and Body Color: The Fish Crow is slightly smaller than American Crow (~14 inches). But, the body looks similar in both having entirely black feathers with a glossy iridescent sheen.
- Bill: The bill of the Fish Crow is slightly smaller and thinner than that of the American Crow, with a black coloration.
- Legs and Feet: The legs and feet of the Fish Crow are black and relatively short, with strong talons.
The most notable difference between the American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos) and the Fish Crow (Corvus ossifragus) is the call. Fish Crows have a distinctive, nasal “caw-caw” call. And the call of the American Crow is a more traditional “caw”.
Additionally, American Crows are more widespread and can be found in a wider variety of habitats, but Fish Crows are found more commonly along the coast and in wetland habitats.
But, in some areas, the two species overlap, and you may find it difficult to distinguish them. You need to pay attention to the unique calls and other features to correctly identify them.
Even though American Crows are larger in size compared to Fish Crows, it will not help much to ID them separately in the field. And, there is no significant sexual dimorphism in either species, so males and females look similar.
Both species can be seen in South Carolina throughout the year, but are most common during the spring and summer months. And, American Crows can be seen in all regions of South Carolina, while Fish Crows are more concentrated towards coastal and central regions.
7. Common Raven
Quick ID guide to Common Raven
- Size and body color: The Common Raven is one of the largest birds (~25 inches) in the corvid family (crow family). Its body is primarily black, with a glossy, iridescent sheen in the sunlight. It has a large, wedge-shaped tail.
- Bill: The bill is large and curved, with a hooked tip. It is black and slightly thick. It allows the bird to easily manipulate its food.
- Legs and feet: The legs and feet of the Common Raven are long and sturdy, with a black color that matches its bill. The feet are strong and equipped with sharp claws, allowing the bird to cling to tree branches and other structures.
The Common Raven (Corvus corax) is a large, powerful bird that is easily recognizable by its distinctive features. They are primarily black in color and have wedge-shaped tails and long, powerful wings that allow them to soar through the air with ease.
Both male and female Common Ravens look similar and do not have any distinguishable differences in appearance.
Common Ravens usually do not associate with crows and they can most commonly be seen as pairs. During the breeding season, they act territorial. In winter, they can be seen feeding carcasses or other food in groups most often.
Common Ravens are known for their intelligence and ability to adapt to a variety of habitats. So, their habitats vary from wooded areas, and forests to urban set-ups.
Even though crows are common in South Carolina, Common ravens occur less frequently. The best place to look for them in South Carolina is near the northwest border of the state.
8. Common Grackle
Quick ID guide to Common Grackle
- Size and body color: The Common Grackle is a medium-sized bird (~12 inches), slightly smaller than a crow. It has a glossy, iridescent black body with a long, keel-shaped tail. Male grackles have a metallic purple sheen, while female grackles have a more muted brownish-black color.
- Bill: The bill of the Common Grackle is heavy and conical. It is usually black and slightly curved.
- Legs and feet: The legs and feet of the Common Grackle are long and slender, with a black color that matches its bill. The toes are relatively long and sharp, adapted for perching on trees and other structures. The feet are also used for foraging for food, allowing the bird to easily grasp and manipulate its prey.
Compared to typical blackbirds, Common Grackles (Quiscalus quiscula) look larger due to their stretched appearance due to their long tails and legs.
And, their toes are relatively long and sharp, adapted for perching on trees and other structures. The feet are also used for foraging for food, allowing the bird to easily grasp and manipulate its prey.
While they can be aggressive in their pursuit of food, they are also known to be social birds, often forming large flocks in the winter months.
Common Grackles can often be seen in open habitats, including parks, agricultural fields, and wetlands.
In South Carolina, they can be seen throughout the year in all regions of the state.
9. Brown-headed Cowbird
Quick ID guide to Brown-headed Cowbird
- Size and body color: Brown-headed Cowbird is a medium-sized bird (~8 inches) with a glossy black body and brown head. Unique features include a distinctive conical bill and a slightly rounded tail.
- Bill: conical, stout black bill.
- Legs and feet: sturdy and black, adapted for perching and walking on the ground.
The Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater) is a medium-sized bird that can be easily identified by its glossy black body and brown head. Males and females are not exactly the same in appearance since females are brownish in color overall.
And, Brown-headed Cowbirds do not make their own nests and females lay eggs in nests of other birds and abandon their young to foster by host birds.
Brown-headed Cowbirds can be found in South Carolina throughout the year. And they are known for their nomadic behavior, following herds of cattle to feed on insects that are stirred up by the cattle’s movement.
These birds are often seen in open fields, pastures, and along roadsides, where they perch on trees, poles, and fences to search for food.
10. European Starling
Quick ID guide to European Starling
- Size and Body Color: European Starlings are about 8 inches long. And they have a stocky build with short tails. Their body color is iridescent black with a metallic sheen that can appear green or purple in the right light. They have white spots on their wings that are visible in flight.
- Bill: The bill is yellow (breeding) and dark (non-breeding). And it is fairly long and pointed, giving the bird a sharp, almost menacing appearance.
- Legs and Feet: European Starlings have relatively long legs and pointed blackish-brown feet. Their toes are strong and adapted for perching on branches or other surfaces.
The European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) is also known as the Common Starling. And it is a medium-sized bird that is well-known for its distinctive, iridescent black plumage and a sharp, pointed bill.
This bird is common throughout much of Europe, as well as parts of Asia. They have been introduced to
Male and female European Starlings look very similar, with both having the same black plumage and yellow bill.
Regarding habitat and diet, European Starlings are very adaptable and can be found in a wide range of environments, including farmland, urban areas, and woodlands. They primarily feed on insects, but will also eat fruits, seeds, and small vertebrates like lizards and mice.
You can see European Starlings in all regions of South Carolina year-round, with the highest numbers present during the winter months. They can be found in a variety of habitats throughout the state, from coastal marshes and woodlands to urban areas and farmland.
11. Rusty Blackbird
Quick ID guide to Rusty Blackbird
- Size and Body Color: Rusty Blackbirds are medium-sized birds, about 8-9 inches long, with a stocky build. They have a shorter tail than Common Grackle. Their plumage is mostly black, but in good light, it shows rusty or olive-colored feather edges that give the bird a mottled appearance.
- Bill: The bill of the Rusty Blackbird is short and pointed, and dark in color. It is relatively small compared to other blackbird species.
- Legs and Feet: Rusty Blackbirds have dark-colored legs and feet. Their toes are relatively short and adapted for perching on branches or other surfaces.
The Rusty Blackbird (Euphagus carolinus) is a unique species of blackbird that is native to the wetlands and boreal forests of North America. This bird is considered to be one of the rarest blackbirds in North America, and populations have declined by over 90% in the past few decades. And it is considered a bird vulnerable to extinction.
Breeding male Rusty Blackbirds are black with a greenish sheen. And, during the non-breeding season, they turn dark brown with rusty feather edges. Females look more brownish in color.
Rusty Blackbirds are primarily found in wetland habitats, such as bogs and swamps, and during migration, they can also be found in wooded areas. Their diet consists mainly of insects and other invertebrates, but they also eat seeds and fruit.
In South Carolina, Rusty Blackbirds are a rare winter visitor, usually spotted from late October to early March. They are most commonly found in the lowlands of the coastal plain, and in particular, in areas with wetlands, such as freshwater ponds and marshes.
Due to their declining population, they are considered a priority species for conservation efforts.
12. Brewer’s Blackbird
Quick ID guide to Brewer’s Blackbird
- Size and Body Color: Brewer’s Blackbirds are medium-sized birds, about 7-10 inches long, with a stocky build and a long, slightly notched tail. Their plumage is mostly black with a purplish-blue iridescence. And, the head may appear glossy green or purple in good light. Females have a slightly browner appearance than males.
- Bill: The bill is pointed, and it is black in color.
- Legs and Feet: Brewer’s Blackbirds have relatively long, sturdy legs that are adapted for walking and hopping along the ground. Their feet are black or dark gray. And they have strong, sharp claws for perching on grassy surfaces or foraging on the ground.
Brewer’s Blackbird (Euphagus cyanocephalus) is a medium-sized bird that is native to western North America. This bird is considered a common species and is known for its iridescent black plumage with a purplish-blue sheen.
Brewer’s Blackbirds are primarily found in open habitats such as fields, meadows, and pastures. And also, occur near water sources such as streams, ponds, and wetlands. Their diet consists of insects, seeds, and grains.
In South Carolina, Brewer’s Blackbirds are a rare visitor. And, they are usually seen in the late spring and early fall during the non-breeding season. They are most commonly found in coastal areas, particularly along beaches and in marshes.
Due to their rarity in the state, they are a prized sighting for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts. Despite their common status in the western part of North America, the population of Brewer’s Blackbirds is showing some decline in certain areas, primarily due to habitat loss and degradation.
Quick ID guide to Bobolink
- Size: Bobolinks are small to medium-sized birds, about 6-8 inches long with a wingspan of around 10-13 inches.
- Body color and patterns: Male Bobolinks have a unique black-and-white breeding plumage, with a black head, white back and underparts, and buff-colored nape and flanks. They have a yellowish-buff patch on their nape, and white wing bars. In non-breeding plumage, males resemble females. They are mostly brown with buff-colored underparts. Female Bobolinks have a streaked brownish-black upper body and a buff-colored underbody.
- Bill: Bobolinks have small, conical bills that are pale blue-gray in color.
- Legs and feet: grayish-brown in color.
The Bobolink (Dolichonyx oryzivorus) is a small to medium-sized bird that can be found in grassy meadows and fields across North America during the breeding season.
The males of this species are known for their striking black and white plumage, which they wear during the breeding season to attract mates. In contrast, females have a more subtle, streaky brown plumage.
Bobolinks feed mainly on seeds and insects, and their habitats are often in fields and meadows with tall grasses where they can forage for food and build their nests.
Bobolinks are considered a migratory species and are often seen in South Carolina during the late spring and early summer months, typically from May to July. And, during that period, they can be seen in all parts of the state.
While they were once a common sight in grasslands and hayfields, their populations have been in decline in recent years, making them somewhat rare in some areas.
More Facts about Black Birds in South Carolina!
If you are interested in finding all the black birds listed above, the following table is quite useful for you. It summarizes the best times of the year and the best regions in South Carolina to see each above-listed bird.
Along with that I have given the length, wingspan, and food preferences of those birds as well.
|Black Bird||Place and time of the year to see them in South Carolina||Length||Wingspan||Food|
|Boat-tailed Grackle||Coastline – year-round||about 11-13 inches||about 16-19 inches||Omnivores – Insects, seeds, fruits, and insects. In urban areas – food scraps|
|Black Vulture||All regions – year-round||about 23-27 inches||about 54-59 inches||Dead animals (large mammals). Rarely capture and eat small mammals or birds.|
|Turkey Vulture||All regions – year-round||about 25-32 inches||about 67-70 inches||They favor fresh carrion. But, tend to eat decaying carcasses, and human garbage as well.|
|Red-winged Blackbirds||All regions – year-round|
about 6.5-9 inches
|about 12-16 inches|
Omnivores – Seeds, grains, fruits, and insects.
|American Crow||All regions – year-round||about 16-21 inches||about 33.5-39.5 inches||Omnivores – seeds, fruits, berries, carrion, trash, discarded food.|
|Fish Crow||Coastal and central regions – year-round||about 14.2-15.8 inches||about 33 inches||Omnivores – seeds, fruits, berries, carrion, trash, discarded food.|
|Common Raven||North West border – year-round||about 22-27 inches||about 45-47 inches||Omnivores – small mammals, fruits, berries, carrion, trash, discarded food|
|Common Grackles||All regions – year-round||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.|
|Brown-headed Cowbird||All regions – year-round||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 Blackbirds||All regions – non-breeding||about 8.3-9.8 inches||about 14.6 inches||Omnivores – Insects, fruits, seeds, and small vertebrates|
|Brewer’s Blackbird||Midland and upstate – non-breeding||about 8-10 inches||about 14.6 inches||Omnivores – Insects, fruits, seeds, berries|
|Bobolink||All regions – migration||about 5.9-8.3 inches||about 10.6 inches||Omnivores – seeds grains, insects|
Now, it’s time to explore!
So, I hope you got sufficient information to identify black birds that you can see in South Carolina. You can find more information such as actual sighting and range data of all the listed birds from ebird and allaboutbirds.
Let me know which black birds you saw and please mention any bird that should have made it to this list but I missed.
You may also like to read: