There are quite a few black birds in Florida. These include water birds, songbirds and even vultures. Florida’s warm weather, position in the Gulf of Mexico and proximity to the Caribbean, Central America and Northern South America make it a unique spot to see migratory birds and birds that seek warm weather in the winter. In this article we will specifically look at bird species with predominantly black plumage, and give you some tips on how to tell apart similar looking species.
20 Black Birds in Florida
Scientific Name: Anhinga anhinga
Anhingas are a type of aquatic bird found most commonly in shallow, sheltered freshwater environments with trees, tall grasses and shrubs, such as mangroves, wetlands, swamps, and lagoons. Anhingas can be found year-round throughout Florida.
These birds are distinguished by their black bodies with white wing accents, and long snake-like necks. They often swim through the water with only their long neck showing above the surface, giving them the nickname “snake bird”. They have a second nickname, “water turkey”, due to their long turkey-like tail feathers. Anhingas can reach a length of 3 feet and a wingspan of 3.7 feet.
Their main diet is fish, which they catch by slowly swimming underwater, then stabbing them with their sharp bill. Despite all the time they spend in the water, they do not have waterproof feathers like ducks. After they are done swimming, they will stand on the shore and stretch out both wings to dry.
2. Double-crested Cormorant
Scientific name: Nannopterum auritum
The Double-crested Cormorant is a large waterbird species found throughout much of North America. They have a long, slender body shape with dark feathers, orange skin around the base of their beak, a bright blue eye, and beak that ends in a small hook. During the breeding season they grow two prominent tufts of black feathers on either side of their head (double-crested).
The Double-crested Cormorant is a highly adaptable species, found in a range of aquatic habitats, including freshwater lakes, rivers, and marshes, as well as saltwater estuaries and coastal areas. They are excellent swimmers and divers, and they use their webbed feet to propel themselves through the water as they hunt for fish and other aquatic prey. They are also known for their unique behavior of holding their wings out to dry after swimming, similar to the Anhinga, which gives them a distinctive silhouette when perching.
They eat fish and sometimes insects, crustaceans or amphibians. They are also known for their aggressive interactions with other birds and have been known to steal prey from other birds, including ospreys and bald eagles. They remain year-round in most of Florida, but may only be present during the winter months in the panhandle.
3. Magnificent Frigatebird
Scientific name: Fregata magnificens
The Magnificent Frigatebird is a large seabird with a wingspan of up to 7.5 feet. They are found along islands and coasts in tropical and subtropical regions of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. So in Florida, head to the beaches to spot them flying over the water. Most of coastal Florida can see them any time of year, but populations can be a little larger during the breeding seasons in the Keys and southern half of the state.
They spend most of their time soaring high in the sky, using their long and slender wings to stay aloft. They can cruise for hours and barely have to flap their wings. Their size, long slender wings and forked tail make them a fairly easy silhouette to distinguish when flying.
The Magnificent Frigatebird is a highly skilled hunter and forager, known for its ability to snatch fish and other prey from the ocean’s surface with its hooked bill. They are also known to steal food from other seabirds, such as gulls and terns, by harassing them in midair until they drop their catch. The Frigatebird’s diet primarily consists of fish, squid, and other small marine animals, which they capture while flying low over the water.
Males are all black, and a visible red throat sac during the breeding season. Females are black with a white patch on their chest. Despite their impressive appearance, Magnificent Frigatebirds are not immune to threats, and their populations have declined in some areas due to habitat loss, hunting, and pollution.
4. Black Skimmer
Scientific name: Rynchops niger
Black Skimmers are mostly found in coastal regions, including beaches, sandbars, estuaries, and lagoons. They are year-round residents in Florida. These birds have unique physical characteristics, including their long wingspan, black upper parts, and white underparts. However, their most unique feature is their long, narrow bills that are sharply edged, and the lower mandible is longer than the upper one.
They breed in colonies, and they typically lay three to four eggs in a scrape on the beach. They have adapted to living near humans and are often seen near piers and marinas, where fishing activities provide them with easy access to food.
When hunting for food, Black Skimmers typically fly low over the water’s surface, with their lower bill submerged, and they use their sensitive nerves in the lower mandible to detect fish and other prey. Once they detect prey, they snap their bill shut, catching the prey in a swift motion. Their unique feeding behavior is fun to watch for bird and nature enthusiasts. Black Skimmers are also known for their distinctive vocalizations, including barking, chattering, and screaming, which they use for communication and social interaction.
5. Common Gallinule
Scientific Name: Gallinula galeata
The Common Gallinule is a stocky waterbird found from the U.S. down through South America. They like freshwater and brackish marshes, lakes and ponds that have both open-water and areas of floating vegetation. They remain throughout Florida all year.
Common gallinules eat flower seeds, vegetation and insects they take from the waters surface. They can also use their long toes to flip over floating leaves and plants to find snails.
They have a dark body with bright red beak and forehead, and greenish-yellow legs and feet. Their toes are extra long and lobed, but not webbed. This makes it easier for them to walk on top of aquatic vegetation like lily pads, and to not sink in soft mud.
6. American Coot
Scientific name: Fulica americana
The American Coot has a round “chicken-like” body of all black feathers. They bear a strong resemblance to the Gallinule mentioned above, but with slightly different coloring. Their dark red eye almost blends in with their plumage, but their white beak stands out.
Coots are not ducks and don’t have webbed feet. Instead, they have long, lobed toes that help them walk around aquatic vegetation at the waters edge. Lobed toes can fan out in the water to aid in swimming, but also make it easier for coots to walk on land without waddling like a duck.
You can find these coots around ponds, lakes, swamps and other freshwater wetlands. For breeding they prefer vegetated shoreline with some shallow water along the edge for wading. During winter, they can often be found hanging out with mixed groups of ducks. Most of Florida will only see them during the non-breeding months, but in the southern tip of the state they remain year-round.
7. Black Vulture
Scientific name: Coragyps atratus
The Black Vulture is darker than the Turkey Vulture, and sports and gray skinned face with hooked beak. 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.
Interestingly, they don’t have a very good sense of smell. Instead, they tend to follow Turkey Vultures to find food, since that species has a more keen sense of smell. They are quite social and remain together in family groups. Parents will continue to feed their young for months after they’ve left the nest, and relatives will share food with each other.
Black Vultures remain year-round throughout Florida.
8. American Crow
Scientific name: Corvus brachyrhynchos
The American Crow is a common bird species found throughout most of North America. They are a medium-sized bird, known for their distinctive all black plumage. They are year-round residents throughout all of Florida.
American crows are omnivores, meaning they consume a wide range of plant and animal-based foods. They are opportunistic feeders, scavenging on carrion, insects, and small mammals, as well as eating fruits, seeds, and crops. Crows are also known to raid the nests of other birds, consuming eggs and nestlings.
Their diet varies depending on the season and habitat, but they are adaptable and can thrive in a variety of environments, including urban areas, suburban neighborhoods, forests, and grasslands. American crows are highly intelligent and have been observed using tools to access food, such as using sticks to probe for insects in tree bark. They gather together in groups, especially in the winter, and can be quite noisy with their cawing calls.
9. Fish Crow
Scientific name: Corvus ossifragus
Fish crows are medium-sized birds that very closely resemble the American crow, but have a few distinguishing features. Fish crows have a slightly smaller body size and a more slender bill. Their call also sounds different. It is a more hoarse and nasal sounding, and their “caw-caw” is often doubled up.
Fish crows are primarily found along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States, where they inhabit coastal marshes, swamps, and wetlands. They are also found inland along rivers and streams. They can be found throughout Florida and remain year-round.
Fish crows have a varied diet, consisting of fish, shellfish, insects, small mammals, bird eggs, and carrion. They are known for their ability to crack open hard-shelled prey, such as crabs and clams, using their strong bills. Since they are often found near water, their diet tends to include more aquatic species and seafood than American crows.
Like the American Crow, Fish Crows are highly social and often seen in large groups. They are also known to be opportunistic, stealing food from other birds and even raiding nests for eggs and young.
10. Smooth-billed Ani
Scientific name: Crotophaga ani
The Smooth-billed Ani is a medium-sized bird with a black body and long tail. They have a thick beak with a prominent ridge on the top that somewhat resembles a parrot.
Smooth-billed Anis are omnivorous and feed on a variety of insects, fruits, and small lizards. They are known to forage on the ground and in trees, often in groups of up to a dozen birds. They often build communal nests in thorny trees, and multiple females will lay their eggs in the same nest, which can result in up to 36 eggs! Both males and females participate in incubating the eggs and caring for the young.
Their main range consists of Central/South American and the Caribbean. One fairly populous in Florida, they have been declining in the state since the 1970’s and are harder to find today. Researchers believe the decrease in Florida is mainly due to landscape changes and pesticide use. Look for them in central and southern parts of the state, in wet, shrubby, and thorny habitat.
11. Eastern Kingbird
Scientific name: Tyrannus tyrannus
The Eastern Kingbird is a medium-sized, migratory songbird found in North America. They are almost a perfect half and half of black and white, with a black head, back and tail and white throat, chest and belly. Recognize them from the back by their white-tipped tail. They have a crown of yellow, red or orange feathers on top of their head, but it is almost always concealed.
Eastern Kingbirds are known for their aggressive behavior in defending their territory, even chasing off hawks or herons many times their size! They often perch on high branches, fences or power lines, and will swoop down to dive-bomb any perceived threats. No wonder they earned their scientific name tyrannus (tyrant)!
Their diet consists mainly of insects, including flies, bees, wasps, and grasshoppers, which they catch while flying. They also eat some fruits, berries, and seeds. Eastern Kingbirds are found in open habitats such as fields, meadows, and edges of woodlands. Look for them across Florida during the spring and summer months.
Scientific name: Dolichonyx oryzivorus
Bobolinks are small, migratory birds that can be found stopping-over in Florida during spring and fall migration. During breeding season, males have mainly black plumage with white accents and a yellow patch at the back of their head. Females are mottled brown and yellow. After the breeding season, males will lose their black coloring and molt into brown streaks like the females.
Bobolinks are primarily granivorous, feeding on a variety of seeds, especially during the breeding season. They are typically found in grasslands and meadows, where they forage for seeds and insects. Males have a distinctive, bubbly song, and are known for their aerial displays, flying up into the air and singing while hovering.
13. Red-winged Blackbird
Scientific Name: Agelaius phoeniceus
Among the most abundant birds in all of North America, male Red-winged Blackbirds are unmistakable due to their red and yellow “shoulders” that stand out against their black bodies. They can flash these colors prominently, or fold them up until only two colored lines are visible. The females of this species however, look quite different and are mostly brown with light streaks.
They love to frequent pond and marsh habitats with cattails and reeds. Standing water with vegetation are important areas for them for finding insects and nesting. They often choose to build their nests low to the ground among tall wetland vegetation. In the summer, look for males perching a top cattails at the waters edge, singing their loud “conk-la-lee” song. These blackbirds are found throughout Florida year-round.
14. Brown-headed Cowbird
Scientific name: Molothrus ater
Brown-headed cowbirds are often lumped into the “blackbirds” category not only due to the color of the males, but also because they travel in large flocks (sometimes mixed with actual blackbirds) and can mob bird feeders. Males have an iridescent black body with dark brown head. Females are an all-over lighter brown.
Preferring woodland edges, thickets and fields, forest fragmentation from human development has actually helped them expand their range, and they often do well in residential areas. They can be found year-round throughout northern Florida, but mainly only during the non-breeding months in southern Florida.
Unfortunately, cowbirds are “nest parasites” and lay their eggs in the nests of other birds, reducing the other species numbers. Sometimes they sneak in and lay one egg among the others, sometimes they kick other eggs out of the nest to make room for their own. Many birds do not recognize the imposter egg and will raise the chick as their own.
15. Shiny Cowbird
Scientific name: Molothrus bonariensis
The shiny cowbird is native to South America but has established populations in the Caribbean and Florida. The males have glossy purple-black feathers, while females have dark brown feathers with a lighter-colored throat and belly.
Their diet consists mainly of insects, but they also consume fruits, grains, seeds, and small vertebrates. They are known to be brood parasites, meaning females lay their eggs in other bird species’ nests and let those birds raise their young. It is hard to determine where or how often they are breeding in Florida because their young look nearly identical to the more widespread Brown-headed Cowbird.
In Florida, Shiny Cowbirds can be found in a variety of habitats, including agricultural fields, suburban areas, and wetlands. They can still be hard to find, but some of the best-known areas are the agricultural and transitional areas between the everglades and cities along the Atlantic coast. They are considered somewhat of an invasive species in Florida and have become a cause for concern due to their impact on native bird species.
16. Rusty Blackbird
Scientific name: Euphagus carolinus
Rusty blackbirds spend their winters throughout much of the eastern half of the United States, including the northern and central parts of Florida. In the spring they head north to boreal forests for the breeding season into Canada and Alaska. This bird is one of North America’s most rapidly declining species with 85% or more of the population disappeared in the last 40 years. Scientists aren’t sure what the cause is, but habitat loss, especially in their wintering grounds, is a possibility.
Breeding males are glossy black, but during the non-breeding season in Florida they become spotted with rusty brown, especially on their head and back. These blackbirds love wet habitat like bogs, marshes, wet woodlands, beaver ponds and pond edges. Their summer diet is mainly insects, and in the winter they rely on acorns, berries and pine seeds.
17. Brewer’s Blackbird
Scientific name: Euphagus cyanocephalus
It’s the male Brewer’s blackbirds that bring this species to our list. They have a glossy black plumage with deep purple or green iridescence that shines in the sunlight, and a bright yellow eye. Males are slightly larger and have a longer tail than females, who are brown. They have a sharp, pointed beak that they use to feed on insects, seeds, and fruits.
These birds are social and often seen in large flocks during the non-breeding season. During the breeding season, males will defend a small territory and mate with multiple females. They build cup-shaped nests made of grass and mud in trees, shrubs, or on the ground.
Brewer’s blackbirds are adaptable and can be found in a variety of habitats, including urban areas, agricultural fields, and grasslands. In Florida, they can be found mainly in the panhandle, but also in the northern half of the state during the fall and winter months. Often seen on the ground searching for seeds, or perched in groups along utility lines.
18. Common Grackle
Scientific name: Quiscalus quiscula
Though to most backyard bird feeders they fall into the bully bird category, grackles are also quite pretty in the right light with their iridescent feathers. They often appear black in color, but in the right light you can see hues of blue, green, brown and purple. With their dark coloring and yellow eye they do look a lot like the Brewer’s blackbird, however they have a heavier beak and a bronze hue to their body.
They sometimes will roost with other types of blackbirds, and appear in massive flocks numbering in the millions of birds. They eat insects, seeds, grains, fruits and even scavenge through garbage. They do well in suburban areas, forest edges, parks, meadows and swamps. Look for them year-round through most of Florida.
19. Boat-tailed Grackle
Scientific name: Quiscalus major
Boat-tailed Grackles are a common bird species found along the Atlantic and Gulf coast. Males have iridescent black feathers with hues of purple and blue, yellow eyes, and a long tail with a distinctive boat-shape they fan out during courtship displays. Females are a golden brown with dark brown wings.
Boat-tailed Grackles breed in saltwater marshes. They are commonly seen at beaches and in beach-side towns, and are also known to scavenge for food in urban areas, such as around outdoor cafes and trash cans. Highly social birds, they often congregate in large flocks, communicating with each other through a variety of calls.
In Florida, Boat-tailed Grackles can be found throughout most of the state all year. In the panhandle, they tend to stick very closely to the coast.
20. European Starling
Scientific name: Sturnus vulgaris
European Starlings are medium-sized, chunky birds with short tails and long, pointed yellow bills. They have glossy black feathers with metallic sheen and white spots during breeding season. Outside of breeding season, their plumage is less vibrant and has a more uniform appearance.
In the United States, European Starlings are an invasive species that were introduced in the late 19th century. They are found throughout the country year-round, including Florida. They are adaptable birds and can be found in a variety of habitats, including urban areas, farmland, and open woodlands.
European Starlings are omnivores and have a diverse diet that includes insects, fruit, and seeds. They are known to forage on the ground and in trees and are often seen in large flocks. They are also social birds and often roost in large flocks during the winter months, mixing with other blackbirds.