25 Species of Birds with Black Heads (with Photos)

Birds with black heads are common throughout North America. You’re apt to find a wide range of birds with this kind of coloration, anything from songbirds to scavengers can have black feathers on their heads. Some birds are completely black, while others just have black patches on their head and cheeks. 

They can be found anywhere from the southwestern deserts to the chilly coasts off New England, and even in your backyard. 

25 Species of Birds with Black Heads

Black is a fairly common color in the bird world, and there are many more than just 25 species with black on their heads! We chose a variety of different types of birds for our list to give you a sample of the many species you may see in North America. 

1. American Oystercatcher

Image: Ramos Keith, USFWS | pixino.com

Scientific name: Haematopus palliatus

The American oystercatcher is a distinguished and easily-spotted shorebird. Found along the Gulf and East coast, this shellfish-eater stalks along the beach at low tide, where it can find the best oysters and clams stranded by the waves. 

Both sexes share golden eyes, a red beak, and a black head. Some juveniles have a black tip on their otherwise orange beak. 


2. Arctic Tern

arctic tern
Arctic Tern | image by Gregory Smith via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Scientific name: Sterna paradisaea

This small tern is entirely white and gray except for the black patch of feathers on its face and head. This hood, which just covers its eyes, is present on both males and females. 

Arctic terns spend the breeding season in northern Canada and Alaska. They migrate south to Antarctica in one of the longest migrations known to spend the winter. Unusually long-lived, some have lived to be over 30 years old. 


3. Acorn Woodpecker 

Acorn Woodpecker |
Image: pixabay.com

Scientific name: Melanerpes formicivorus

The acorn woodpecker often looks perpetually surprised, thanks to its wide eye with a bright yellow iris. This black, white, and red woodpecker inhabits the Pacific coast of California and Oregon, as well as some of the southwest into Mexico. 

Acorn woodpeckers have a black head, interrupted in the middle by a white band. They congregate in groups where they hide away acorns and have complex social rituals. Their call sounds like waka-waka-waka. 


4. Baltimore Oriole

baltimore oriole
Image: 4Me2Design | pixabay.com

Scientific name: Icterus galbula

The male Baltimore oriole is mostly a bright red-orange, except for his black head and wings. Females are dusky yellow-orange with gray wings and lack the dark head of the males. 

Look for them in the eastern United States. They migrate south into Florida and Mexico during colder weather. 

Unlike other songbirds, Baltimore orioles prefer fruit or nectar to seeds. They can be persuaded to come to your backyard with fresh offerings of jam or fruit. 


5. Black Vulture

black vulture head | image: Everglades National Park

Scientific name: Coragyps atratus

Unlike other birds that have black heads because of the color of their feathers, black vultures have black skin on their heads. They have evolved to have heads devoid of feathers because of their diet – already dead prey. Because their head often gets bloody while tearing prey apart, it’s easier to keep clean without feathers.

Native to the Southeast and Mexico, Black Vultures can be spotted near roadkill or other vultures. Interestingly, they don’t have a very good sense of smell. Instead, they follow other vultures to find meals. 


6. Black-capped Chickadee

Image: Avia5 | pixabay.com

Scientific name: Poecile atricapillus

Males and females have a black cap on their heads, as well as a black chin patch. They are gregarious and curious and can hang nearly upside-down to grab seeds from branches. Look for this endearing songbird in the northern United States and most of Canada. 

It’s very easy to attract black-capped chickadees to feeders. They are game for almost any kind of feeder and will feast on sunflower seeds, mixed seeds and suet. 


7. Black Phoebe 

Black Phoebe |USFWS Pacific SW Flickr

Scientific name: Sayornis nigricans

The black phoebe is a delicate songbird that makes its home along California’s coast, Mexico, and parts of South America. They don’t mind people and are comfortable in suburban areas. 

This flycatcher prefers to look for prey on perches near water. Both males and females have a sooty black head and creamy white belly. They are resourceful and use nearby mud to make their nests. 


8. Common Loon 

Scientific name: Gavia immer

Common loons are birds of lakes and coasts. They don’t discriminate between salt and freshwater, so they can be found on both east and west coasts, as well as inland. In summer they mostly head to Canada to breed, but can also be found in the Great Lakes and in lakes of New England. In the winter, they spend more time on the coasts.

Breeding season birds have deep black heads and a vertically striped black and white collar. Their long slender bill, and how low their body sits in the water, makes their silhouette easy to distinguish from most ducks and waterfowl.


9. Bobolink 

Male Bobolink | image by USFWS Midwest Region via Flickr

Scientific name: Dolichonyx oryzivorus

Male bobolinks have dramatic coloring on their heads. The front is jet black, but the back of the head is light yellow. Females, which are yellow and brown, have little in common with the male’s breeding plumage.  

In North America, you can find bobolinks in the northern United States. They migrate to South America from the Great Plains and Northeast each year. 


10. Rose-breasted Grosbeak 

Male rose-breasted grosbeaks eating from our platform feeder

Scientific name: Pheucticus ludovicianus 

Native to the Northeast and the northern Great Plains, the male rose-breasted grosbeak stands out for his bright red breast patch among black and white feathers. His head is entirely black. 

Females are more subtle, with entirely brown and white striped plumage. Their sweet song is famous for sounding like that of a a very happy robin. 


11. American Robin 

image: Pixabay.com

Scientific name: Turdus migratorius

It’s practically impossible to miss an American robin. They live throughout most of the United States year-round, while some of the population migrates seasonally between Canada and Mexico. 

Males and females look the same. Both have a black head, gray back and wings, and orange breast. They adapt well to human infrastructure and it’s common to see them pecking around in a yard for worms after a rain. 


12. Black Scoter 

black scoter
Black Scoter | image by Becky Matsubara via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Melanitta americana

The black scoter male is entirely black except for a bright orange ‘knob’ at the base of his bill. Females are dusky brown, but they have a black cap on their heads. 

They are native to saltwater coasts and can be found along the Pacific coast north into Alaska, as well as the Gulf and East coast north into Canada. They breed in western Alaska and the eastern coastlines of Canada. 


13. Black-billed Magpie 

Image: Tom Koerner/ USFWS Mountain-Prairie

Scientific name:  Pica hudsonia 

Relative to the highly intelligent crow, the black-billed magpie sports a long tail and dark black head. Males and females are talkative and like to sit in visible places. Their long tail feathers help them stand out even more. 

These western birds are well-adapted to humans and don’t mind suburban areas. Attract a few  to your yard by offering platform bird feeders, which can accommodate larger birds. 


14. Canada Goose 

two canadian geese
Canada Geese | image by: birdfeederhub.com

Scientific name:  Branta canadensis

The flying V-formations of Canada geese are easy to spot during the fall and spring, when they migrate north and south. This large goose is easy to recognize. It has a brown body, black tail and legs, and black neck and head with a white chinstrap. 

Both males and females look the same, and you’re more likely to hear them before you see them, especially during fall and spring! With their loud “honk”, they are common in parks with ponds.


15. Lesser Goldfinch 

male lesser goldfinch
Lesser Goldfinch (male) | image by Gregory Smith via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Scientific name:  Spinus psaltria 

Lesser goldfinches have yellow undersides and black backs, but the degree of coverage varies depending on their location. Birds east of the Rocky Mountains are completely yellow underneath and black up top, while birds on the Pacific coast have only a black head patch and wings. 

Entice some to visit your yard by offering nyjer seed one of their favorite snacks. 


16. American Goldfinch 

Scientific name:  Spinus tristis 

Found in backyard gardens and bird feeder setups across North America, the American goldfinch is one of the most popular songbirds on the continent. During the breeding season, the male’s cheerful yellow plumage is divided up by black wings, tail, and a black patch on its head. 

Females are yellow and black too, but they lack the black head patch that is so characteristic of the male goldfinch. Attract them with nyjer seed and seed producing flowers. 


17. Black-throated Gray Warbler

black throated gray warbler
Black-throated Gray Warbler | image by Patricia Ware via Flickr

Scientific name:  Setophaga nigrescens

Identify the black-throated gray warbler by way of its black-and-white striped head. Males have more defined stripes, but both sexes sport a black patch over the eye, chin, crown. They also share a small yellow dot right in front of the eye. 

A common songbird of the forests west of the Rockies, they prefer oak and pine forests, where they are bold and confident as they hop around. 


18. Scotts’s Oriole

Scott’s Oriole (male) | image by Bettina Arrigoni via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name:  Icterus parisorum

The boldly colored Scott’s oriole visits the U.S. southwest during the spring and summer. They enjoy desert habitat, and nest in yuccas, junipers and pinyon pines. They particularly like areas with abundant yucca, which they use to forage for insects and nectar.

Females have a yellowish-gray head, but males sport a dark black head that extends to their chest and upper back. While females are a more olive yellow, males are bright lemon yellow.


19. Great-tailed Grackle 

Great-tailed Grackle | image by Alan Schmierer via Flickr

Scientific name: Quiscalus mexicanus

This large, feisty black bird wants you to know that he is here and ready to party. Great-tailed grackles are gregarious and social. They’re entirely black-feathered from beak to tail. In bright sunlight, their feathers often shine with a blueish tint. This same coloration is present in other common U.S. grackle species such as the common grackle and boat-tailed grackle.  

If you plan to attract grackles to your yard, try to give them a separate feeder. They form large flocks, especially in the evening, and will joyfully scare off other birds. Look for great-tailed grackles in the Southwest and Texas. 


20. American Crow

Scientific name: Corvus brachyrhynchos

Crows are intelligent and adaptable, two traits that help them thrive in human-dominated environments like cities and suburbs. Find them across North America in environments ranging from undisturbed forests to parking decks. 

Both males and females are entirely black-feathered. They shine with a dull iridescence in the sunlight and have strong black beaks. Their larger and also fully black cousins, the common raven, are found in the western United States.


21. Peregrine Falcon

Image: Jasmin777 | Pixabay.com

Scientific name: Falco peregrinus

Peregrine falcons are a success story – these ‘masked’ birds of prey were successfully recovered from near-extinction levels caused by DDT poisoning in the mid 20th century. 

Males and females have a black head and yellow-ringed eyes, creating an effect that sometimes looks like a mask. Spot them mostly on the edges of the continent: the Gulf Coast, Pacific Coast, and Eastern seaboard are all fair game. Breeding colonies are also in the Rocky Mountains. 


22. Crested Caracara 

Scientific name: Caracara plancus

The crested caracara makes its way on this list because of its black crest. Both males and females have this black ‘mohawk’ of feathers. 

Spot the caracara in the southwestern United States. It likes to walk on the ground and can be identified easily because of its crest and bright yellow legs. Even juveniles have the crest; it is brown, but over time, it darkens to black. 


23. Common Black Hawk 

photo by: Fernando Flores | CC 2.0

Scientific name:  Buteogallus anthracinus

This robust hawk makes an impression in the skies of the Southwest United States and south into Mexico and Central America. While they don’t hang around backyards, you may be able to spot one near a river, where they swoop down to grab fish. 

Both males and females are soot-colored, except for a white tail stripe. Their dark black heads match the same color as the rest of their bodies. 


24. Eastern Towhee 

eastern towhee

Scientific name: Pipilo erythrophthalmus

Spot the charcoal-black head of a male Eastern towhee in the eastern United States. It’s easy to spot them in undergrowth if you can’t already hear their ‘chewink’ toned call. Attract them to bird feeders with seeds scattered on the ground. 

Only males sport the black head and back. Females are a dusky brown, but they still share ruddy underparts like the males. Their western counterpart, the spotted towhee, also sports a black head. 


25. Laughing Gull

Image: paulbr75 | pixabay.com

Scientific name: Leucophaeus atricilla

During the breeding season, adults have a fully black head, white patch around the eye and dark red beak. However they undergo quite a change for the winter season, when their head changes to be mostly white with a little gray patch behind the eye and a black beak. 

Laughing gulls are common along the east coast and Gulf of Mexico. You’ll see them at beaches and docks, and are known for their loud laugh-like calls. 

About Anna

Anna is a wildlife biologist who graduated from Texas A&M in 2020. She enjoys feeding, studying, and taking photos of wild birds and hummingbirds. She once worked as the hummingbird department manager at a Wild Birds Unlimited store.