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Field Guide to Black Birds

Many kinds of black birds are common in North America. How many can you find in your area?

Crow Family

Photo by Laura Erickson

Photo by Laura Erickson

American Crow

Common Raven

Look for these features to be sure your bird is in the CROW FAMILY:

  • Huge body
  • In flight, you can count the wingbeats, and the primary wing feathers stick out like fingers
  • Black feathers, bill, and eyes

To tell whether your bird is a crow or a raven, listen to its voice. Ravens "croak;" crows "caw." Click on the photos to see other differences.


Starling Family

Copyright by the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology

Copyright by the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology

European Starling

European Starling

Look for these features to be sure your bird is a STARLING:

  • Short tail
  • Yellowish bill
  • Tiny flecks on the plumage (not always visible)
  • Black eyes
  • In flight, the wing beats are much too fast to count, and the wings appear pointed and triangular


Blackbird Family

Copyright by the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology

Brown-headed Cowbirds

Copyright by the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology

Copyright by the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology

Common Grackle

Common Grackles

Copyright by the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology

Copyright by Ann Cook

Yellow-headed Blackbird

Red-winged Blackbird

Other Possibilities: Brewer's Blackbird, Rusty Blackbird

Look at these features to be sure your bird is in the BLACKBIRD FAMILY:

  • Medium or long tail
  • Black bill
  • Black or yellow eyes
  • Wingbeats too fast to count, wings rounded


Try This: Field Guide Research
Look up these black birds in a field guide. See what other species belong to their families. Does the field guide give other hints to help you identify them?

Try This! Journaling Questions

  • If you could classify birds any way you wanted, would you place these black birds in three different families or all in the same one? Why or why not?
  • Do you like the way birds are organized in your field guide? How would you change the book's organization if you were a field guide author? What would you keep the same?

 

 
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