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29 Black Birds in Oklahoma

black birds in oklahoma
Red-winged Blackbirds in Sequoyah, Oklahoma: Photo by Noah Strycker


From diminutive grebes to soaring vultures, there is a variety of black birds in Oklahoma. Their dark silhouettes stand out dramatically against backdrops of forest, field, and wetland. Let’s explore some top black birds gracing the Sooner State’s diverse landscapes.

Ring-necked Duck (Aythya collaris)  

  • Features: Small diving duck with black head, neck, back, and fan-shaped tail. Obvious white vertical stripe along head sides. Male’s bill shows pale band near tip during breeding season. 
  • Locations: Seen primarily during spring migration and winter on lakes, reservoirs, and ponds statewide. Breeds in the northern U.S. and Canada.
  • Fun Fact: Male makes soft whistling vocalization during courtship displays, leaning head back parallel to back. 

Greater Scaup (Aythya marila)

  • Features: Stocky diving duck with black head, breast, belly and rear. Speckled gray back and flanks. White sides. Large bill has a blue hue with black nail.  
  • Locations: Winter visitor mainly on larger bodies of water across northern Oklahoma. Migrates from subarctic breeding areas. 
  • Fun Fact: Male makes screaming “scaup” mating call during displays, snapping head straight up vertically. 

Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis)  

  • Features: A miniature lookalike version of the greater scaup. Glossy purple head and white crescent at base of black bill. Black breast and rear with pale gray back/sides. 
  • Locations: Widespread wintering visitor on Oklahoma’s lakes, ponds and reservoirs. Breeds in Alaska and Canada’s far northern forests. 
  • Fun Fact: Gregarious in large diving duck rafts filtering pond vegetation. Male’s faint whistling call given during displays.

Surf Scoter (Melanitta perspicillata 

  • Features: Plump seaduck with black head, shiny black back and wings. White patches at back of head and forehead. Hefty multicolored bill. 
  • Locations: Rare winter visitor to the Great Salt Plains Reservoir and other large lakes in northern Oklahoma.  
  • Fun Fact: Males give piercing whistles during courtship, holding head erect then turning sideways. Eats mussels and other mollusks.

White-winged Scoter (Melanitta deglandi

  • Features: Bulky black duck with rounded head shape. Male has white crescent before eye and white secondary wing patch. Orange bill with black tip. Brown female. 
  • Locations: Uncommon winter visitor on largest reservoirs across northern Oklahoma. Breeds on wooded taiga lakes.
  • Fun Fact: Male emits a shrill catlike wailing call and raises crest during breeding displays. The scientific name honors French anatomist Félix Degland. 

Black Scoter (Melanitta americana)  

  • Features: Largest North American “scoter” duck with huge colorful bill. Males entirely black with swollen forehead and yellow-orange basal knob on bill. Females dark brown.
  • Locations: Rare winter visitor to the Great Salt Plains reservoir and Lake Keystone area after migrating from Canadian boreal forest breeding grounds.  
  • Fun Fact: Males make a soft, whistling “ticka” call during courtship displays. Known to hybridize with other scoter species where ranges overlap.

Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo)

  • Features: Very large ground bird adorned with iridescent black plumage revealing brilliant bronze, purple, green and gold highlights when hit by sunlight. Bright red, white and blue head decorates these fairly cautious birds. 
  • Locations: Found statewide in forests, brushy areas and clearings foraging on the ground often in small flocks. 
  • Fun Fact: Male wild turkeys puff themselves up, fan and drag wings to create noise, plus flare intricate tail feathers to impress hens. 

Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps)   

  • Features: Stocky waterbird with chicken-like conical white bill boldly banded in black giving a pied look. Dusky plumage. Secretive nature except when territorial. Adept at quickly diving rather than flush when alarmed.
  • Locations: Found year-round in Oklahoma’s marshes, lakes, reservoirs, ponds and slow streams among emergent vegetation like cattails, reeds and water lilies. 
  • Fun Fact: Parents tenderly carry stripe-headed black and brown chicks on their back, allowing the young to safely ride jockey-style for several weeks after hatching. 

Common Gallinule (Gallinula galeata)  

  • Features: Plump slate-gray rail with red bill, frontal shield, and yellow legs. White undertail exposed in flight. Secretive unless defending territory. Sometimes walks atop floating vegetation.
  • Locations: Found year-round in Oklahoma’s freshwater marshes, ponds, lakes, streams and ditches containing ample lush emergent shoreline vegetation. 
  • Fun Fact: Nest is a large woven cup anchored securely to wetland plants just above waterline near protective cover allowing good visibility of approaching threats. 

American Coot (Fulica americana)

  • Features: Plump chicken-like waterbird with sooty black plumage and white bill/frontal shield. Red eyes. Large lobed toes facilitate walking on floating vegetation while finding plant food and small animals. Defends territory aggressively. Gregarious outside breeding season. 
  • Locations: Found year-round in Oklahoma on ponds, lakes, reservoirs, ditches and slow streams. Often seen in small to large concentrated rafts. 
  • Fun Fact: Forages while walking in shallows or tips forward to grab aquatic plants and prey items. Known for occasional violent fights using feet to antagonize and sometimes drown adversaries. 

Black Tern (Chlidonias niger)  

  • Features: Small, slender marsh tern. Alternates slow graceful wing beats with fast dips and acrobatic twists. Breeding adult has sharp contrast with dark gray back/wings and black head/underparts. Winter adult has dark gray back blending into pale face and underparts.  
  • Locations: Found nesting semi-colonially in flooded reed marshes. More widespread in migration across Oklahoma. 
  • Fun Fact: Male feeds female elaborate offerings of small fish during courtship. The nest’s anchored floating vegetation raft rises and falls with water levels.

Anhinga (Anhinga anhinga)   

  • Features: Large slender waterbird with long coiled neck and pointed bill resembling a cormorant. Male has powder blue-gray plumage and bolder white cheek stripe. Female browner overall. 
  • Locations: Found near quiet open waters like wooded swamps and ponds year-round in southern Oklahoma. Ranges farther north during summer. 
  • Fun Fact: Swims slowly low across surface with just neck and head visible while stealthily stalking small fish to spear, then surfaces to flip catch into throat hatch. Often seen perched streamside with wings spread drying flight feathers.

Double-crested Cormorant (Nannopterum auritum)  

  • Features: Large aquatic bird with black feathering. Bright orange facial skin. Shaggy double head crests sport white plumes during breeding season. Hooked bill for grasping slippery fish. 
  • Locations: Found year-round in Oklahoma on lakes, rivers, ponds and coastlines. Seen solitary or in flocks often observed standing wings outstretched to dry.
  • Fun Fact: After diving and pursuing fish underwater, the waterlogged cormorant often stands with wings lifted to dry its feathers and re-oxygenate tissues. Makes grunting sounds.

Neotropic Cormorant (Nannopterum brasilianum)  

  • Features: Smaller relative of the double-crested cormorant without obvious thin white head plumes. Greenish facial skin. Long slender decurved black bill. 
  • Locations: Found year-round along the Oklahoma Gulf coast and farther inland along streams, lakes and ponds. Nests alongside the larger double-crested.
  • Fun Fact: Diet almost exclusively fish caught by swimming and plunge-diving with quick underwater wings propulsion. Often seen roosting beside double-crested cormorants on platforms and snags. 

Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus)  

  • Features: Large broad-winged black raptor with gray undersides on short fanned tail. Wrinkled black head and bill. Helps locate carrion by sight more than turkey vulture. Graceful on updrafts.
  • Locations: Increasingly common statewide as year-round resident scavenger. Roosts and nests colonially in trees, structures, caves and crevices. 
  • Fun Fact: Soars gracefully for hours using updrafts without flapping. Regurgitates smelly green fluid when nervous or threatened. Urine stream cools bird on hot days.

Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)  

  • Features: Large brownish mostly featherless-headed raptor with pale silvery wing edges visible in flight. Deeply forked tail. Keen sense of smell aids locating carrion while soaring low over roads and fields. 
  • Locations: Common statewide as year-round resident scavenger. Roosts communally in secluded groves and hides. 
  • Fun Fact: Specialized nasal turbinates allow turkey vultures to detect ethyl mercaptan gas emitted as animals decay. Soars with wings in a slight dihedral.

Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus)   

  • Features: Crow-sized woodpecker adorned with entirely black plumage save for bold bright red crest on its head. Also shows broad white stripes down each cheek below the eye contrasting black cap. Powerful solid bill makes rectangular excavations in dead trees when hunting carpenter ants and beetle larvae or constructing nest and roost holes up high. Loud rattling calls announce their presence. 
  • Locations: Found year-round in dense mature forests with ample stands of dead and dying trees for nesting and feeding needs across eastern Oklahoma. 
  • Fun Fact: Prizes carpenter ants highly but also consumes wood-boring beetle larvae, fruits, seeds and berries. Uses special stiff tail feathers to brace against tree bark while excavating with jackhammer bill strikes.

Eastern Phoebe (Sayornis phoebe)   

  • Features: Small tyrant flycatcher with black head and wings above contrasting clean white throat and muted gray-brown underparts. Constantly pumps tail down and fans while upright perching. Territorially defensive. 
  • Locations: Found year-round in eastern Oklahoma near buildings, bridges and structures attracting flying insect prey. Winters farther south down to Panama.
  • Fun Fact: An early migratory returner in Mid-March from southern climes. Song sounds like chip burr. Nest resembles open shelf platform made of mud with moss cladding. 

Eastern Kingbird (Tyrannus tyrannus)  

  • Features: Black and white medium flycatcher with black crest, wings, tail and dark gray back contrasting a white throat patch and pale gray underparts. Notched black tail shows flashy white outer tail feather tips in flight. 
  • Locations: Breeding summer resident across Oklahoma’s pastures, parks, orchards and open country. Winters each year in South American forests and savannas.  
  • Fun Fact: Fearlessly defends eggs and young from attempted nest predations including dive-bombing birds of prey and crows while calling loudly in determined aggression.

American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)   

  • Features: Entirely glossy black passerine showing violet and blue iridescence in direct sunlight. Broad rounded wings designed for maneuverability. Intelligent and very adaptable generalist. Bold strident cacophony of caws broadcast their presence.
  • Locations: Found year-round statewide across open country habitats containing groves, scattered tall trees, wooded parks, suburbs and urban areas. Shows seasonal nomadic movement dynamics.
  • Fun Fact: Highly adaptable and one of the most intelligent bird species that can use tools, recognize faces, mimic sounds, solve puzzles and form long term memories. 

Fish Crow (Corvus ossifragus)  

  • Features: Smaller relative of familiar American crow restricted to Atlantic and Gulf coasts. More nasal, hoarse “caah” vocalization. Gray undertail coverts visible in flight. 
  • Locations: Locally fairly common along river and creek drainages statewide. Intergrades with American crows elsewhere across range boundaries. 
  • Fun Fact: Closely tied to aquatic riverine habitats more than American crows. Competes aggressively with other birds over food in open areas. Opportunistic diet dominated by aquatic prey like fish, frogs, mollusks and crustaceans.  

Chihuahuan Raven (Corvus cryptoleucus)  

  • Features: Medium-sized raven with shaggy throat feathers or “hackles” giving a bearded look. Less glossy black plumage showing slight purple iridescence in sunlight. Long graduated tail and thick bill. Croaking vocals. 
  • Locations: Found year-round in western Trans Pecos region across arid open habitats like desert scrub, juniper savanna, grasslands and ranchland.
  • Fun Fact: Forages widely eating fruit, seeds, garbage, insects, lizards, bird eggs and carrion. Breeds earliest among North American corvids—by January most years—with nest placement in rock crevices, caves, trees and abandoned buildings. 

Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)   

  • Features: Medium blackbird with conspicuous red and yellow shoulder patches or “epaulets.” Female is streaked darker brown overall with buff stripes and inconspicuous warm patches. Polygynous mating habits.
  • Locations: Abundant year-round resident statewide across ponds, lakes, marshes, wet fields, ditches and roadsides. Huge communal winter night roosts form in wetlands. 
  • Fun Fact: Aggressively defending nesting territory against potential egg and nestling predators like crows, grackles, and snakes using distraction displays and mobbing to lure danger away from vulnerable nest sites. 

Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater)  

  • Features: Stocky blackbird with subtle glossy iridescence. Male has dark brown head and neck. Female is gray-brown overall with pale throat. Forages following grazing animals.  
  • Locations: Found statewide grasslands through suburbs where they parasitize songbird nests to raise own young. Flocks number 300+ individuals during winter.
  • Fun Fact: Female lays dozen eggs per breeding season in other smaller host songbirds’ nests who raise cowbirds often at expense of their own young. Love it or hate it, this successful obligate brood parasite seems here for good.  

Rusty Blackbird (Euphagus carolinus)  

  • Features: Medium blackbird with pale yellow eyes. Male black plumage has slight green gloss when fresh. Female is dark charcoal-brown with pale throat and eye line. White eyes stand out.  
  • Locations: Found during migration and winter in Oklahoma wooded swamps, sloughs, river bottoms and floodplain forests foraging on ground turning over leaves seeking insects, aquatic prey and seeds. Summers breeding in boreal forest wetlands. 
  • Fun Fact: Male sings a pleasing jumbled warbling spring song from high exposed perch interspersing a variety of squeaky notes, whispers, growls and bells. Population declines linked to boreal wetland threats on nesting grounds are ongoing.

Brewer’s Blackbird (Euphagus cyanocephalus)  

  • Features: Medium-sized blackbird with yellow eyes and bill. Male has glossy plumage with lighter blue-gray eye and dull yellow at bill base. Female is dark brown overall with slight streaking.  
  • Locations: Found statewide during migration and winter feeding in flocks on lawns, fields and roadsides. Breeds in loose groups farther north on Great Plains into southern Canada parklands.
  • Fun Fact: Opportunistically feeds on wide variety of seeds, grains, fruit and abundant insects flushed by grazing herds. Male displays by posturing, puffing up head feathers and strutting.

Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula)  

  • Features: Very lanky crow-sized blackbird with extra long keel-shaped tail. Sheen shows iridescent bronze and purple tones. Pale yellow eyes. Female smaller, brown and far duller overall. Gregarious breeders. 
  • Locations: Found year-round statewide occupying most open and rural habitats containing scattered trees like pastures, field edges, parks, suburbs, woodland gaps and mangroves. Forms huge mobile winter flocks.  
  • Fun Fact: Opportunistic omnivorous diet dominated by protein-rich aquatic invertebrates, fruit, seeds and grain depending on what’s seasonally available. Constantly rummages with open bill probing mud or grass to flush hiding morsels. 

Great-tailed Grackle (Quiscalus mexicanus)  

  • Features: Very large grackle with extremely long graduated black tail and massive dagger bill. Plumage black showing slight irridescent blue tones when fresh. Much smaller pale yellowish eye than boat-tailed. 
  • Locations: Increasingly found year-round across Oklahoma towns, suburbs and parks. Scavenges discarded food scraps and disperses weed seeds. Forms dense winter flocks. 
  • Fun Fact: Opportunistic scavenger benefiting from proximity to human food sources and habitat alterations like irrigation. Impressive predator mobbing behavior when threatened, recruiting assistance loudly from jays, mockingbirds and blackbirds. 

Black-and-white Warbler (Mniotilta varia)  

  • Features: Tiny arboreal songbird with distinctly streaked black and white plumage. Constantly fans tail while deliberately walking branches or spiraling tree trunks probing crevices of bark for hidden morsels. High thin buzzy song rings through the trees announcing spring’s return.
  • Locations: Found breeding in mature deciduous and mixed forests statewide before migrating south to wintering territories in Mexico, the Caribbean and Central America.  
  • Fun Fact: Specialized zigzag walking gait and toenail configuration enables hugging rough bark surface to probe cracks for spiders, insect eggs and larvae. Nest is an open cup fixed to earth woven of bark strips, dead ferns and spider silk threads.

Threats and Conservation

Habitat loss threatens essential breeding and migratory stopover sites. Pesticides reduce insect prey populations relied upon by many species. Climate change stands to disrupt migration timing and food chains. Windows and vehicles take a major toll during migrations. Free-roaming cats kill millions of fledglings and ground nesters annually. Protecting wetlands/forests preserves habitats. Reducing external threats through policy and conservation action can stabilize populations.

Citizen Science Opportunities  

Oklahoma birders make valuable contributions:

  • Uploading checklists to eBird tracks regional bird populations over time to inform management 
  • Participating in breeding bird atlasing projects mapping nesting ranges
  • Building nest boxes and monitoring reproduction provides key data 
  • Banding birds reveals survivorship, migratory timing and routes  
  • Compiling annual Christmas Bird Counts of overwintering species
  • Educating others inspires the next generation to value conservation


From tiny grebes to soaring vultures, Oklahoma’s array of black birds contribute unique benefits and fill diverse ecosystem roles. Ensuring adequate habitat protections and monitoring populations through citizen science will help sustain these dark feathered beauties across the prairies, forests and wetlands of the Sooner State.