There are quite a few black birds in Texas. These include water birds, songbirds and even vultures. Being such a large state, it’s no surprise that Texas provides many different habitats to support a huge variety of bird species. Being along the Gulf coast and the border with Mexico put Texas in a unique position with in the U.S. to get visiting tropical species. In this article we will specifically look at bird species with predominantly black plumage.
26 Black Birds in Texas
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. Because of this, Anhingas are mostly found in eastern Texas.
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. Most only spend the fall and winter in Texas, and will migrate out of the state in spring.
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, Pacific, and Indian Oceans. So in Texas, head to the beaches of the Gulf Coast to spot them. 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 Texas. 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.
These birds 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 spend the breeding season in the eastern half of Texas and can be found year-round along the coast. They like freshwater and brackish marshes, lakes and ponds that have both open-water and areas of floating vegetation.
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. They are fairly common year-round across Texas. 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.
7. Black Vulture
Scientific name: Coragyps atratus
The Black Vulture is darker than the other vulture species in Texas, 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 in Texas, mainly in the eastern half of the state.
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 in Texas, although are less commonly found in the western part of the state.
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. Tamaulipas Crow
Scientific name: Corvus imparatus
The Tamaulipas crow is a species with a very limited range, native to northeastern Mexico, particularly the state of Tamaulipas. They prefer desert scrub and bushland habitat, occurring near farms, small towns and villages. It is a small crow with glossy black feathers and a distinctive rounded head. They occasionally cross the border into southern Texas, and have been observed at the Brownsville landfill scavenging for food with Chihuahuan Ravens.
10. Chihuahuan Raven
Scientific name: Corvus cryptoleucus
The Chihuahuan Raven, also known as the American Raven or Desert Raven, is a commonly found in the arid regions of the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. They seem to be more adept at surviving in the desert southwest than the more common American Crow or Common Raven. In Texas, find them in the western half of the state.
These birds are known for their distinctive glossy black feathers and their thick beaks that are designed to crack open tough seeds and nuts. They have a prominent shaggy throat that sometimes displays white feathers.
In terms of diet, the Chihuahuan Raven is an omnivore, eating everything from seeds, nuts, and insects to small mammals, reptiles, and carrion. They are particularly fond of prickly pear cactus fruit, which they will extract using their strong beaks. These birds are often seen scavenging on roadkill, and they have also been known to steal food from other birds and mammals.
11. Common Raven
Scientific name: Corvus corax
The Common Raven is a large, all-black bird with a distinctive wedge-shaped tail and a thick bill. It is a highly intelligent and adaptable species, found in a variety of habitats, from forests to deserts, and from sea level to high mountain peaks. They are found year-round in western Texas like the Chihuahuan Raven, but are larger.
The Common Raven is known for its complex social behavior, including its ability to communicate through a range of vocalizations, body language, and gestures. These birds are also known for their impressive problem-solving skills, memory, and ability to use tools. Ravens and crows can be hard to tell apart, so check out this article for some tips on what to look out for.
Common ravens are omnivores, feeding on a wide range of food items, including insects, small animals, carrion, seeds, fruit, and even garbage. They are opportunistic feeders, and their diet varies depending on the season and availability of food.
12. Black Phoebe
Scientific name: Sayornis nigricans
The Black Phoebe is a small, slender flycatcher with a distinctive black and white coloration. It has a black head, back, and wings, with a white belly and undertail coverts. The black phoebe has a small, thin bill, and dark eyes. Look for them west of San Antonio, along the states western border.
The Black Phoebe is typically found near water, such as streams, ponds, and marshes, where it can find its preferred prey of insects and other small invertebrates. They strike out from a perch to catch insects in the air, or even small minnows from the surface of the water. Their nests are mud cups lined with plant fibers, attached to a vertical wall with an overhang. Sheltered rock faces, tree hollows, under eaves and bridges are all common nest areas.
13. 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 central and eastern Texas during the spring and summer months.
Scientific name: Phainopepla nitens
Phainopeplas’ silhouettes are very similar to cardinals with their long tails and forehead crests. Male Phainopeplas are completely black from bill to tail, while females are a more medium gray. Most have a dark red eye. Found in the southwestern U.S. and Mexico, look for Pahinopeplas in the spring and summer along the western border of Texas from El Paso south to Big Bend National Park.
They are primarily insectivorous, feeding on a variety of insects, especially during breeding season, but also feeding on fruits and berries throughout the year. They are typically found in arid and semi-arid habitats such as desert scrub, oak woodlands, and riparian areas.
In terms of behavior, Phainopeplas are known for their unique flight pattern, which involves quick, darting movements and acrobatic maneuvers. They are also known for their unique vocalizations, which include a variety of calls and songs. During the breeding season, males can be seen performing aerial displays to attract mates.
Scientific name: Dolichonyx oryzivorus
Bobolinks are small, migratory birds that can be found in Texas during spring and fall migration. Look for them in in the eastern and central parts of the state, particularly in grasslands and prairies. 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.
16. Groove-Billed Ani
Scientific name: Crotophaga sulcirostris
The Groove-billed Ani is a tropical bird found in Texas, Mexico, Central and South America. They are roughly the size of a crow, with a distinctive black body, a long tail that looks slightly shaggy, and a fat, curved bill that has ridges, or grooves, along the length of it. Their diet consists mainly of insects and fruit, and they can often be found foraging on the ground in open habitats such as pastures and savannas.
They have a loud, distinctive call that can be heard from a distance, and they are known for their communal nesting behavior, where multiple pairs will often build their nests in the same tree or shrub. They are also known to be highly communicative with each other, using a range of calls and vocalizations to signal danger or food sources.
In Texas, Groove-billed Anis can be found primarily in the southern part of the state, including the Rio Grande Valley, the Gulf Coast, and the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge. They can also occasionally be seen further north during the summer breeding season.
17. Yellow-headed Blackbird
Scientific name: Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus
It’s hard to mistake the boldly colored yellow-headed blackbird. Males have a black body with bright yellow head and chest. Females are more brown than black, with yellow and brown mottling on the head. These blackbirds like wet areas such as prairie wetlands, mountain meadows, marshes and shallow ponds.
They will nest in the wetland reeds and cattails, then forage for seeds and insects in nearby grasslands, savanna and cropland. Nests are always build directly overhanging water, and sometimes nestlings fall out and have to try and swim to surrounding vegetation.
Yellow-headed blackbirds spend the winter in Mexico and the southwestern U.S., including far western Texas. In the summer they will migrate further north, so look for them throughout the state as they pass through in the spring and fall. Some will stay in the very northwestern tip of the state to breed for the summer.
18. 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 Texas year-round.
19. Bronzed Cowbird
Scientific name: Molothrus aeneus
This dark cowbird gets its name from the slightly bronze sheen you can see on its body feathers in the sunlight. Their wings have an iridescent blue-purple sheen. Females are brown, but both sexes have distinctive red eyes. Just like their relatives the Brown-headed Cowbird, they are also known to lay their eggs in the nests of other birds.
The Bronze Cowbird is much less common in the United States, only crossing the southern border in places like Texas, Arizona and Louisiana. It is believed that they have been able to expand their range further north since the 1950’s due to the increases in agriculture in south Texas. They like open areas including pastures, farm fields, grasslands and golf courses.
Seeds, grains and insects make up most of their diet. They may come to feeders looking for seeds, and often hang around farms and feedlots looking for milo, oats, corn and other grains. Find them year-round in the southern tip of Texas, and during the summer further north up to Dallas.
20. 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 Texas.
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.
21. Rusty Blackbird
Scientific name: Euphagus carolinus
Rusty blackbirds spend their winters throughout much of the eastern half of the United States, including the eastern half of Texas. 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 Texas 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.
22. 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 Texas, they can be found throughout the state during the fall and winter months. Often seen on the ground searching for seeds, or perched in groups along utility lines.
23. 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 Texas, although they are less common along the western border.
24. 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 and aren’t found very far inland. Commonly seen at beach and in beach-side towns, they 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 Texas, Boat-tailed Grackles can be found along the Gulf coast north of Corpus Christi.
25. Great-tailed Grackle
Scientific name: Quiscalus mexicanus
Yet another grackle species with an even flashier tail! Great-tailed Grackles are more western birds, stretching from Louisiana to California. They are larger than Boat-tailed Grackles, with black feathers and a long, keel-shaped tail. Males have glossy black feathers and bright yellow eyes, while females are duller and brown.
Like other grackle species, they are social, gather in large flocks, and can be quite noisy. During the winter huge groups roost together in large trees. These groups can include thousands of birds, up to half a million in the sugarcane fields of the Rio Grande Valley.
Great-tailed Grackles are known for their adaptability and have successfully colonized many new areas, including parts of the southwestern United States where they were previously absent. Considered one of North America’s fastest-expanding species, they were rare in Texas in 1900 and today they are common throughout the state and are pushing even further east.
26. 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 in Texas. 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.
In Texas, European Starlings can be found throughout the state, but are particularly common in urban areas such as Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio. They are also found in agricultural areas and open woodlands.