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33 Black Birds in Texas

black birds in texas
Bronzed/Bronze-brown Cowbird in Starr, Texas: Photo by Suzie McCann

Introduction

From glossy ibises to soaring vultures, a variety of striking black-plumaged birds make their homes in the Lone Star State. Their dark silhouettes stand out dramatically against backdrops of forest, field, and waterways. Let’s explore some top black birds gracing Texas’s diverse landscapes.

Ring-necked Duck (Aythya collaris)

  • Features: Small diving duck with black back, wings and fan-shaped tail. White vertical stripe on side of head. Males have pale gray ring at base of bill. 
  • Locations: Seen on migration and wintering on wetlands, lakes and ponds statewide.  
  • Fun Fact: Breeds in forest lakes. Male makes soft whistling call during courtship displays, throwing head vertically.

Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis

  • Features: The most common diving duck wintering in Texas. Blackish head, breast and rear. White sides. Males show purplish iridescence on head. 
  • Locations: Widespread in winter on lakes, ponds and coastal waters statewide. Breeds across Canada and Alaska.
  • Fun Fact: Flocks gather to forage on submerged plants. Female builds nest in dense marsh vegetation near water.

Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo)

  • Features: Large ground bird with iridescent black plumage showing bronzy green and purple tones in sunlight. Bright red, white and blue head.
  • Locations: Found statewide in open woods, brushlands, chaparral and other habitats.  
  • Fun Fact: Male displays by fanning colorful tail feathers, puffing feathers, dragging wings. Roosts communally. 

Least Grebe (Tachybaptus dominicus)  

  • Features: Very small grebe with black crown and dark gray plumage on neck and flanks. Yellow eyes stand out against black markings. 
  • Locations: Found year-round in freshwater ponds, lakes, marshes and streams across Texas.
  • Fun Fact: Often seen solitary or in pairs. Male has conspicuous breeding displays, crossing bill back and forth while speeding over the water. 

Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps)  

  • Features: Stocky waterbird with dark smudge on bill giving “pied” look. Dusky plumage and secretive nature. Dives when alarmed.
  • Locations: Found year-round on Texas lakes, ponds, wetlands, and slow streams. Nests at water’s edge anchored to emergent vegetation. 
  • Fun Fact: Parents carry chicks on their back. The chick cheeps loudly when hungry. 

Groove-billed Ani (Crotophaga sulcirostris)

  • Features: Lanky black songbird with long tail edged in white. Thick deep grooved bill. Loafing communal roosts. Sometimes walks on ground bobbing head.
  • Locations: Native to the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Found in open brushlands, thickets and woodland edges.  
  • Fun Fact: Groups cooperate in nesting, laying eggs in a single nest, and helping brood eggs and raise offspring.

Chimney Swift (Chaetura pelagica)  

  • Features: Cigar-shaped silhouette with tiny feet and large sickle wings enabling nonstop flight to catch airborne insects. Smudgy plumage except white chin patch. 
  • Locations: Nests in chimneys and other structures statewide. Hawks insects above fields, marshes and waterways.
  • Fun Fact: Roosts communally in chimneys and dead hollow trees. Species has declined significantly from habitat losses. 

Common Gallinule (Gallinula galeata)  

  • Features: Plump slate-gray rail with red bill, frontal shield, and legs. White undertail and flank stripes seen during flight. Sometimes walks on aquatic vegetation. 
  • Locations: Found year-round in freshwater marshes and ponds statewide. Secretive unless defending territory. 
  • Fun Fact: Nest is a well-concealed woven cup attached to floating or emergent vegetation. Young leave nest soon after hatching.

American Coot (Fulica americana)

  • Features: Plump sooty-gray waterbird with white bill and frontal shield. Red eyes. Averages larger than the smaller Eurasian coot. Defends water territory. 
  • Locations: Found year-round in ponds, lakes, reservoirs, ditches, slow streams statewide. Gregarious.
  • Fun Fact: Forages while swimming or dives to depths around 20 feet for plant material. May fight over territory using feet and bill.

American Oystercatcher (Haematopus palliatus)   

  • Features: Large shorebird with black head, neck wings and back. Pink legs and eyes. Long orange bill used for prying open bivalves to eat. 
  • Locations: Found year-round along the Texas Gulf coastline beaches and bays feeding at the tidal zone. 
  • Fun Fact: Jabs shellfish vigorously to open them or swallows snails whole. The black plumage provides camouflage at night. 

Black Skimmer (Rynchops niger)  

  • Features: Unique tern-like waterbird with black upperparts and white underside. Enormous red and black bill is knife-thin horizontally. Deep wingbeats on crooked wings.
  • Locations: Found along the Texas coast. Nests in exposed sandy beaches and shell piles near bays and lagoons. 
  • Fun Fact: Drags lower mandible through water snapping shut on contact with fish. Breeds in noisy groups. 

Black Tern (Chlidonias niger 

  • Features: Small slender marsh tern. Breeding adult has black plumage overall with gray wings and forked tail. Winter adult is dark gray above and white below.  
  • Locations: Found nesting in marshes statewide and migrating along coast and wetlands.
  • Fun Fact: Graceful flight interspersed with hovers and dives to catch insects and small fish. Nest is anchored vegetation raft.

Magnificent Frigatebird (Fregata magnificens)  

  • Features: Huge seabird with slender wings, deeply forked tail and hooked bill. Adult males all black. Females and juveniles have white bellies and heads. 
  • Locations: Found along Texas Gulf coast beaches, shorelines and fishing vessels. Nests colonially in bushes and mangroves on coastal islands.
  • Fun Fact: Soars high over ocean then swoops to force other birds to regurgitate food. Males inflate red gular sac in courtship. 

Anhinga (Anhinga anhinga)  

  • Features: Large waterbird with long serpentine neck and dagger-like bill for spearing slippery fish. Male has black plumage with silver wing linings. Female browner neck.
  • Locations: Found year-round near lakes, ponds, slow rivers across Texas. Often seen sunning with wings spread to dry plumes. 
  • Fun Fact: Swims low with only neck and head above water. Can stay submerged for extended periods while hunting before surfacing. 

Double-crested Cormorant (Nannopterum auritum)  

  • Features: Large slender black waterbird with orange facial skin. Shaggy crest only prominent during breeding season. Hooked bill for catching fish. 
  • Locations: Found year-round along the Texas coasts, rivers, reservoirs, lakes and ponds. Nests colonially on islands and cliffs.
  • Fun Fact: After diving and catching fish, cormorants often stand with wings spread out to dry. Young hatch helpless but grow quickly. 

Neotropic Cormorant (Nannopterum brasilianum)  

  • Features: Smaller relative of the double-crested cormorant without shaggy crest. Greenish facial skin. Long slender hooked black bill. 
  • Locations: Found year-round along the Texas coast and farther inland along streams, lakes and ponds. 
  • Fun Fact: Diet almost exclusively fish caught by pursuit diving underwater. Often roosts in groups by standing on pilings or snags. 

Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus)  

  • Features: Large broad-winged black raptor with gray undersides on short fanned tail. Small bare black head and bill. 
  • Locations: Increasingly common statewide as scavenger. Roosts and nests colonially in trees, structures, caves and crevices.
  • Fun Fact: Soars gracefully without flapping. Regurgitates when nervous or threatened. Sensitive bare head helps regulate body temperature.  

Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura 

  • Features: Large brownish raptor with featherless red head and pale gray underwings visible in flight. Silhouetted dihedral pattern. Keen sense of smell to find carrion.
  • Locations: Abundant statewide as year-round resident and seasonal migrant. Roosts communally in trees and structures. 
  • Fun Fact: Soars gracefully for hours while hunting by smell. One of few raptors with highly developed olfactory abilities.  

Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus)  

  • Features: Crow-sized woodpecker that is all black save bright red crest on head. Bold white stripes down face stand out. Makes rectangular excavations in trees for nest holes. 
  • Locations: Found year-round in mature forests across Texas. Requires standing dead trees for nesting and roosting. 
  • Fun Fact: Uses long sticky tongue to catch wood-boring insects like carpenter ants inside dead trees. Also eats various fruits, berries and seeds. 

Black Phoebe (Sayornis nigricans)  

  • Features: Small flycatcher with black head, wings and tail, contrasting pale gray underparts. Often bobs tail and flicks wings two times when perching.  
  • Locations: Found year-round in west Texas to south Texas along rocky hillside creeks and canyon streams.
  • Fun Fact: Nest is an open cup of grass, moss, feathers, hair and mud fixed on rock overhangs or building eaves. 

Eastern Phoebe (Sayornis phoebe)  

  • Features: Small flycatcher with black head and back contrasting white throat. Constant tail wags. Perches waiting to catch flying insects. Makes “phoebe” call. 
  • Locations: Found year-round in eastern Texas near buildings and bridges. Returns early in spring to nesting sites. Winters along Gulf coast.
  • Fun Fact: Nest resembles an open shelf lined with grass and moss. Rarely seen far from a suitable mud source to affix nest.  

Eastern Kingbird (Tyrannus tyrannus)  

  • Features: Black and white flycatcher with black head and wings, dark gray back and white throat and belly. Black tail has pale outer tail feather tips. 
  • Locations: Found breeding summer-fall in open country with scattered perches statewide.  Winters in South America. 
  • Fun Fact: Fiercely territorial defender, driving off crows and hawks. Sallies out to catch flying insect prey. 

American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)  

  • Features: All black passerine with thick neck, legs and heavy bill. Broad rounded wings. Intelligent and highly adaptable generalist.  
  • Locations: Found year-round across Texas in diverse open habitats with scattered trees. Changes roosting behavior seasonally.
  • Fun Fact: Omnivorous opportunist eating almost anything edible. Family groupings may cooperate to harass or prey on roosting colonies and nests.

Chihuahuan Raven (Corvus cryptoleucus 

  • Features: Medium-sized raven with flowing graduated tail and thick bill. Glossy black plumage has purple iridescence when fresh. Croaking and hoarse calls. 
  • Locations: Found year-round in the Trans Pecos western region of Texas in arid open habitats like desert and juniper savanna. 
  • Fun Fact: Feeds mainly on insects but takes eggs, berries, carrion and food waste. Nest of sticks lined with hair in rock crevice or tree.  

Northern Raven (Corvus corax)  

  • Features: Massive heavily bill black bird with shaggy throat feathers or “hackles.” Broad rounded tail and wedge-shaped wings. Croaking guttural calls. Intelligent tool user.
  • Locations: Found year-round in western Texas desert mountains and woodlands. Soars high singly or in pairs.
  • Fun Fact: Omnivorous opportunist and scavenger. Mates form monogamous pair bonds. Collects bright objects like metal for nest decoration. 

Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus 

  • Features: Medium blackbird with red and yellow shoulder patches or “epaulets” edged by pale yellow. Females streaked brown. Aggressively defends marsh nesting areas.  
  • Locations: Abundant statewide year-round in marshes, fields, and roadsides. Forms huge winter night roosts. 
  • Fun Fact: Male displays attractively with puffed plumage and song while spreading wing epaulets. Will attack much larger intruders.

Bronzed/Bronze-brown Cowbird (Molothrus aeneus)  

  • Features: Medium-sized blackbird with dark ruby red eyes and slight purple gloss to black males. Females brownish with pale throat. Stout conical bill. Gregarious flocker. 
  • Locations: Found year-round in loose flocks feeding in pastures and fields across southern Texas. Nests occasionally parasitize other birds.
  • Fun Fact: Feeds on ground, mainly on seeds and grain but also insects, spiders. Named for following cattle. Forms huge migratory flocks.  

Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater

  • Features: Medium blackbird with subtle glossy body plumage. Males have darker brown head and neck. Short conical bill for seed eating. Gregarious flock feeder. 
  • Locations: Found year-round across Texas in fields, feedlots, roadsides and open country. Regular nest parasite. 
  • Fun Fact: Females may lay 30+ eggs per season in other birds’ nests for hatching and rearing.

Brewer’s Blackbird (Euphagus cyanocephalus)  

  • Features: Medium-sized blackbird with glossy plumage and yellow eyes. Male has lighter eye and bright yellow at base of bill. Female streaked gray-brown. 
  • Locations: Found year-round in loose flocks feeding on lawns, fields and roadsides across northern to central Texas.
  • Fun Fact: Omnivorous but favors insects especially during breeding period. Male puffs plumage and struts during display singing rambling, sputtering song phrases.  

Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula)  

  • Features: Large lanky blackbird with long keel-shaped tail. Iridescent plumage shows bronze and purple tones. Pale eyes. Sexually dimorphic in size and coloration.   
  • Locations: Found year-round statewide in parks, fields, feedlots, woodland edges and urban areas. Forms massive winter flocks. 
  • Fun Fact: Opportunistic omnivore eating wide variety of foods based on seasonal availability. Male displays by lifting wings to expose bright lining. 

Boat-tailed Grackle (Quiscalus major)  

  • Features: Very large grackle with extra long tapered tail and huge bill. Males iridescent black, females matte brown. More coastal in distribution than other grackles. 
  • Locations: Found year-round along the Texas Gulf coast feeding at fresh and saltwater marshes, tidal flats and beaches. 
  • Fun Fact: Forages on aquatic prey like crabs, fish, eggs and insects in coastal estuaries and beaches. Voice more melodic and less grating than other grackles. 

Great-tailed Grackle (Quiscalus mexicanus)  

  • Features Very large grackle with extremely long black tail and massive pale bill. Plumage dull black with slight dark purple iridescence. Much paler eyes than boat-tailed. 
  • Locations: Found increasingly along riparian areas, feedlots, parks and suburban neighborhoods across Texas except the Panhandle.  
  • Fun Fact: Dramatic recent expansion in Texas linked to availability of grain crops and moist soil for prey. Communal winter flocks number over a million birds along the coast.

Black-and-white Warbler (Mniotilta varia)  

  • Features: Small songbird with bold black and white striped plumage. Constantly fans tail while walking branches probing for insects. High thin buzzy song. 
  • Locations: Found breeding in mature forests across Texas. Winters further south to Panama.
  • Fun Fact: Specialized toe configuration to allow vertical clinging and bark probing. Nests on the ground in leaf litter, rootlets and ferns.

Threats and Conservation

Habitat degradation threatens wetlands and nesting sites. Collisions with buildings and vehicles takes huge toll, especially on migrants. Cats kill millions of fledglings and migrants annually. Climate change disrupts migration timing and threatens coastal nesters. Protecting habitats and bird friendly architecture can reduce impacts.

Citizen Science Opportunities  

Texas birders contribute mightily to knowledge and conservation:

  • Uploading eBird checklists to track populations informs conservation
  • Nest box building and monitoring boosts breeding success 
  • Banding reveals migratory ecology and survivorship 
  • Breeding bird atlasing maps distributions
  • Christmas Bird Counts tally wintering bird populations
  • Education programs inspire future generations about birds

Conclusion

From tiny swifts to massive ravens, Texas sustains incredible black bird diversity. But conservation action is crucial to ensure future generations can continue appreciating everything from grackles to grebes across a rapidly changing landscape.