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13 Big Black Birds in Ohio

big black birds in ohio
American Crow in Licking, Ohio: Photo by Brad Imhoff

Introduction

Ohio, with its diverse landscapes and rich ecosystems, is home to a variety of impressive black birds that captivate birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts alike. Join us as we embark on a journey through the Buckeye State to discover the fascinating world of the big black birds in Ohio.

American Black Duck (Anas rubripes)

  • Features: The American Black Duck is a large dabbling duck with predominantly black plumage, a pale gray head, and a distinctive purplish-blue speculum.
  • Locations: Throughout Ohio’s wetlands, marshes, and shallow lakes, American Black Ducks can be spotted foraging for aquatic plants, seeds, and invertebrates.
  • Fun Fact: American Black Ducks are known for their elusive nature and are often found in the company of other dabbling duck species, such as Mallards and Northern Pintails.

Ring-necked Duck (Aythya collaris)

  • Features: The Ring-necked Duck is characterized by its glossy black plumage, striking white markings, and, as its name suggests, a subtle chestnut-colored ring around its neck.
  • Locations: During migration, Ring-necked Ducks can be spotted in Ohio’s lakes, ponds, and marshes, where they forage for aquatic vegetation and invertebrates.
  • Fun Fact: Despite its name, the chestnut-colored ring on the Ring-necked Duck’s neck is often not visible, leading to its misidentification in the field.

Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis)

  • Features: The Lesser Scaup sports a sleek black head, white sides, and a distinctive blue bill. During the breeding season, males develop a noticeable greenish sheen on their heads.
  • Locations: Lakes and reservoirs throughout Ohio serve as important habitats for Lesser Scaups, especially during migration and winter months.
  • Fun Fact: Lesser Scaups are skilled divers, capable of plunging to impressive depths in search of aquatic prey, including mollusks and aquatic plants.

Greater Scaup (Aythya marila)

  • Features: Similar in appearance to the Lesser Scaup, the Greater Scaup is slightly larger and has a more rounded head. Males display a glossy black head with a noticeable green sheen.
  • Locations: While less common than Lesser Scaups, Greater Scaups can still be found in Ohio’s lakes and coastal areas during migration and winter.
  • Fun Fact: Greater Scaups are known for their synchronized courtship displays, which involve elaborate head-bobbing and vocalizations to attract mates.

Surf Scoter (Melanitta perspicillata)

  • Features: The Surf Scoter is a striking sea duck with entirely black plumage, a bold white patch on its forehead, and distinctive orange, white, and black markings on its bill.
  • Locations: Along Ohio’s Lake Erie shoreline, particularly during migration and winter, Surf Scoters can be observed diving for mollusks and crustaceans.
  • Fun Fact: Surf Scoters are strong swimmers and divers, using their powerful wings and webbed feet to propel themselves underwater in search of prey.

White-winged Scoter (Melanitta deglandi)

  • Features: The White-winged Scoter is a large sea duck with predominantly black plumage, a bold white patch on its wings, and a distinctive orange bill.
  • Locations: While less common than Surf Scoters, White-winged Scoters can still be found along Ohio’s Lake Erie shoreline during migration and winter.
  • Fun Fact: White-winged Scoters are known for their striking courtship displays, which involve synchronized swimming and vocalizations to attract mates.

Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo)

  • Features: The Wild Turkey is a large, ground-dwelling bird with predominantly black plumage, iridescent feathers, and a distinctive fleshy wattle known as a snood.
  • Locations: Throughout Ohio’s woodlands and forests, Wild Turkeys can be encountered foraging for acorns, seeds, and insects, especially in the early morning and late afternoon.
  • Fun Fact: Despite their large size, Wild Turkeys are surprisingly agile fliers, capable of reaching speeds of up to 55 miles per hour in short bursts.

American Coot (Fulica americana)

  • Features: The American Coot, often mistaken for a duck, boasts predominantly black plumage, a distinctive white bill, and conspicuous red eyes.
  • Locations: Throughout Ohio’s lakes, ponds, and marshes, American Coots can be observed foraging for aquatic plants and invertebrates in shallow water.
  • Fun Fact: American Coots are highly social birds, often forming large flocks during migration and winter months, where they engage in synchronized swimming and foraging behaviors.

Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus)

  • Features: The Double-crested Cormorant is a large, aquatic bird with dark plumage, a long, slender neck, and distinctive tufts of feathers on its head during the breeding season.
  • Locations: Lakes, rivers, and coastal areas throughout Ohio provide essential habitat for Double-crested Cormorants, where they can be observed diving for fish.
  • Fun Fact: Despite their somewhat ungainly appearance on land, Double-crested Cormorants are graceful and agile swimmers, using their webbed feet to propel themselves underwater.

Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)

  • Features: The Turkey Vulture is a large scavenging bird with predominantly black plumage, a featherless red head and neck, and a distinctive V-shaped silhouette in flight.
  • Locations: Throughout Ohio, Turkey Vultures can be spotted soaring high in the sky, riding thermal updrafts in search of carrion and other food sources.
  • Fun Fact: Turkey Vultures have highly developed olfactory senses, allowing them to detect the scent of decaying flesh from great distances, making them efficient scavengers.

Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus)

  • Features: The Black Vulture is a medium-sized scavenging bird with entirely black plumage, a featherless black head, and a short, hooked beak.
  • Locations: Like their Turkey Vulture counterparts, Black Vultures can be observed soaring over Ohio’s landscapes in search of carrion and other food sources.
  • Fun Fact: Black Vultures often follow Turkey Vultures to locate food, relying on their keen eyesight and sense of smell to pinpoint potential meals.

Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus)

  • Features: The Pileated Woodpecker is a large woodpecker with predominantly black plumage, a distinctive red crest, and bold white stripes on its face and neck.
  • Locations: Throughout Ohio’s mature forests and woodlands, Pileated Woodpeckers can be heard hammering away at dead trees in search of insects and larvae.
  • Fun Fact: Pileated Woodpeckers are powerful excavators, capable of creating large, rectangular-shaped holes in trees while foraging for food and creating nesting cavities.

American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)

  • Features: The American Crow is a familiar sight in Ohio, with glossy black plumage, a distinctive cawing call, and remarkable intelligence.
  • Locations: Throughout urban, suburban, and rural areas in Ohio, American Crows can be found foraging for food, nesting in trees, and socializing in large flocks.
  • Fun Fact: American Crows are highly adaptable birds, capable of thriving in a wide range of habitats, from dense forests to city parks and agricultural fields.

Threats and Conservation

While many of Ohio’s black birds are adaptable and resilient, they still face various threats to their populations. Habitat loss and fragmentation, primarily due to urbanization, agriculture, and deforestation, pose significant challenges to these species. Additionally, collisions with vehicles, power lines, and buildings contribute to mortality rates, especially among species like the American Crow and Turkey Vulture, which frequently forage in urban and suburban areas.

Conservation efforts aimed at preserving and restoring critical habitats are essential for safeguarding Ohio’s black bird populations. Initiatives such as wetland restoration projects, forest conservation programs, and urban green space planning can help mitigate habitat loss and provide vital resources for these species.

Citizen Science Opportunities

Ohio’s birdwatching community plays a crucial role in monitoring and conserving black bird populations across the state. By participating in citizen science initiatives, individuals can contribute valuable data that inform conservation efforts and shape management strategies. Here are some ways bird enthusiasts can get involved:

1. eBird: Record bird sightings and contribute to a global database of bird observations, helping scientists track population trends and distribution patterns.

2. Bird Surveys: Participate in local bird surveys, such as the Christmas Bird Count and the Great Backyard Bird Count, to collect data on black bird abundance and diversity.

3. Habitat Restoration: Volunteer for habitat restoration projects focused on preserving wetlands, woodlands, and other critical habitats for big black birds in Ohio.

4. Education and Outreach: Raise awareness about the importance of bird conservation through educational programs, public outreach events, and advocacy efforts.

By engaging in citizen science and conservation activities, individuals can make a meaningful impact on the protection of big black birds in Ohio for future generations to enjoy.

Conclusion

Ohio’s black birds, with their striking plumage, diverse behaviors, and ecological significance, enrich the natural landscapes of the state. From the graceful flight of Turkey Vultures to the rhythmic drumming of Pileated Woodpeckers, these avian residents embody the beauty and resilience the big black birds in Ohio and some of the state’s great wildlife. As stewards of the environment, it is our collective responsibility to conserve and protect these magnificent creatures, ensuring that they continue to thrive in the Buckeye State for years to come.