Small black birds with white tail feathers stand out in the bird realm thanks to their display of clashing hues. Birdwatchers and nature lovers alike find these monochromatic mammals fascinating and are often intrigued by their classic plumage. Below we will explore some of the small black birds with white tail feathers you can find in the United States, including where and when to see them.
10 Small Black Birds With White Tail Feathers
While black-and-white is a common color scheme to come across in the wild, not many birds in the U.S. completely fit the bill of being black with a white tail. The first bird we’ll look at, the Eastern Kingbird, best fits this description. However if you are trying to identify a bird you saw, we’ve included 9 others that generally have those characteristics. Hopefully this list will help you pinpoint the bird you are looking for.
1. Eastern Kingbird
Scientific Name: Tyrannus tyrannus
The Eastern kingbird measures about 7 to 9 inches long. Their coloring is split almost in half, black on the top half and white underneath. Their black tail has a distinctive white tip. This bird is most often found in grasslands, farmlands, and wooded areas throughout most of the United States (except for the far west and southwest) during the summer months. They prefer to perch on power lines and exposed branches.
Eastern kingbirds primarily feed on insects, such as beetles, grasshoppers, flies, and various other flying insects. They can sometimes be seen doing aerial acrobatics while catching their prey in mid-flight. While they may not look scary, but they can be quite aggressive and attack anything that comes too close to their nest. They have been given the scientific name tyrannus (tyrant) for this reason!
2. Williamsons Sapsucker
Scientific name: Sphyrapicus thyroideus
Find these attractive woodpeckers in mature mountain forests full of conifer trees in the western U.S. Females have a brown head and their backs are heavily barred black-and-white. Males look completely different, with a glossy black back, yellow belly, two white stripes on their face.
While their tail feathers are mostly black, they do have white on the rump that can extend down onto their upper tail. Like all sapsuckers they mainly feed on tree sap. During the nesting period when they may not want to travel far, a pair will maintain sap wells on 4-6 trees and use those as their main source.
3. Lark Bunting
Scientific name: Calamospiza melanocorys
Lark buntings are larger member of the sparrow family that spend winters in Mexico and Texas, then head north to summer in the grasslands of the Great Plains. These grassland specialists breed amongst wheatgrass, sagebrush and other prairie vegetation, eating a diet of insects and seeds.
While females have a typical streaky brown sparrow look, breeding males sport jet black plumage with a large white wing patch. Their tail doesn’t have much white on it, but it does have white along the top edge at at the tips of the feathers, most visible during flight.
4. Spotted Towhee
Scientific name: Pipilo maculatus
The male Spotted Towhee also makes this list, with it’s black upper-parts that show white wing spots and white corners on their tail. But they aren’t completely back, with a white belly and orange-brown sides. Females are similarly colored, but they are brown instead of black.
Spotted Towhees remain year round in the western U.S., while some move to the middle of the country to breed during the summer. Find them in brushy areas, forest edges, canyon bottoms and even shrubby backyards. They eat mainly insects they find while foraging on the ground such as beetles and weevils.
5. Eastern Towhee
Scientific name: Pipilo erythrophthalmus
We can’t mention the spotted towhee without their cousin, the Eastern Towhee. They have a very similar appearance. Males make it on this list with their black head, back and tail that has white edges. Eastern Towhees forage on the forest floor, picking through leaf litter and hopping back and forth to scrape the ground and dig around for insects and seeds.
Look for them on forest edges, overgrown fields and thickets. Spring and summer hikes in the right habitat will surely be filled with males singing “drink-your-tea”, with the final note being a trill. They remain year-round in the southeast, while many move further north during the breeding season.
Scientific name: Dolichonyx oryzivorus
Bobolinks have an impressive migration, spending the winter in central South America then flying all the way to the northern U.S. to breed in the spring. Females and non-breeding males are attractive yellow and brown birds, but males molt into a stunning “backwards tuxedo” when its time to breed.
If you view them head-on, they are completely black. From behind, you can see the blonde patch at the back of their head, and long white stripe that goes down their back, hidden beneath black and white wings. While their tail is mostly black, their white rump feathers hang down to the top of their tail. This may give their tail a partially white appearance, especially when their wings are folded.
Head to grassy or overgrown fields in the spring to find male bobolinks performing flight displays or perching on grass stems.
7. Dark-eyed Junco
Scientific name: Junco hyemalis
While many of us in the U.S. are used to new species showing up for the spring and summer months, juncos breed in the chilly north, then come down into the U.S. during the winter months. Although some may stay year-round, for many people they are one of the first signs that winter is on its way. Juncos have many different regional feather patterns and colors. But two things remain the same, their small rounded shape and bright white outer tail feathers. These white feathers are more noticeable in flight or when fanned out then when the tail is folded, but you may still notice the white edges.
The junco that best fits the description of “small black bird with white tail feathers” is the slate-colored variety. These juncos have a dark gray upper body, short pink beak and pale white belly. They are most common in the eastern U.S. and Canada.
8. Black-Capped Chickadee
Scientific Name: Poecile atricapillus
The black-capped chickadee is a small bird found throughout the northern half of the U.S. and much of Canada. While they are more of a dark gray bird than black bird, they are so common in backyards and around people that I wanted to include them. They have a black cap and bib, white cheeks, and a pale yellowish belly. Their dark gray wings and tails are accented with white edges.
These birds thrive in various habitats, including mixed woodlands, suburban areas with trees, and deciduous forests. They primarily feed on insects, spiders, and larvae during the warmer months. When winter approaches, these chickadees switch their diet to seeds, small nuts, and berries. Curious and brave birds, they readily visit backyard feeders.
9. Black Phoebe
Scientific Name: Sayornis nigricans
Black Phoebes are small birds primarily seen south of the U.S. border, however they live year-round in western California, western Texas and southern Arizona and New Mexico. They have a dark gray to black head and body with a bright white belly. Their wings and tail have white edging. Similar to other member of the flycatcher family, they have a subtle crest on their heads, and a straight, slim bill. It is common to see these birds wagging their tails up and down when they are perched.
These small birds are commonly found near bodies of water, such as ponds, lakes, and streams. Black Phoebes primarily feed on flying insects, such as bees, dragonflies, and flies, which they catch in midair or snatch from the surface of the water.
10. Black and White Warbler
Scientific Name: Mniotilta varia
The black and white warbler is a small bird that has bold black and white stripes that run vertically along its body. Black-and-white warblers are often easier to spot than most warbler species because they remain lower in trees, creeping along branches and the trunk looking for insects in the crevices of bark.
These warblers breed in the northern forests of North America, from Alaska to Newfoundland in Canada, and south to the Appalachian Mountains in the United States. During the winter months, they can be found in the southern parts of North America, Central America, the Caribbean, and northern South America. They inhabit deciduous and mixed forests, as well as wooded edges and parks, and are often found foraging for insects on tree trunks and branches.