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34 Black Birds in Alabama

black birds in alabama
Anhinga in Mobile, Alabama: Photo by Hayley Keevan

Introduction

Alabama, known for its rich biodiversity, is home to a variety of stunning bird species. Among them are the captivating black birds in Alabama that add a touch of mystery and elegance to the state’s landscapes. In this blog post, we’ll delve into the world of black birds in Alabama, exploring their unique features, locations, and fun facts.

Black Birds in Alabama

Greater White-fronted Goose (Anser albifrons)

  • Features: The Greater White-fronted Goose boasts a black-speckled belly and wings, with a distinctive white front and black bill. They are medium-sized waterfowl with a wingspan of up to 56 inches.
  • Locations: During migration, these geese can be found in a variety of habitats, including agricultural fields, wetlands, and lakeshores across Alabama. They prefer open areas with access to water for feeding and resting.
  • Fun Fact: Greater White-fronted Geese are known for their loud, honking calls, which can be heard from great distances as they fly overhead. These calls are used for communication within flocks and during migration.

American Black Duck (Anas rubripes)

  • Features: The American Black Duck is named for its dark plumage, which appears black from a distance but reveals subtle shades of brown and purple up close. They have a distinctive yellowish bill with a dark spot at the base.
  • Locations: These ducks inhabit freshwater and saltwater marshes, ponds, and estuaries throughout Alabama, particularly during the winter months. They are often found in shallow wetlands with dense vegetation for cover.
  • Fun Fact: American Black Ducks are known for their shy and elusive nature, often hiding in dense vegetation to avoid predators. They are skilled at blending into their surroundings, making them difficult to spot.

Ring-necked Duck (Aythya collaris)

  • Features: The male Ring-necked Duck is adorned with glossy black plumage, a purplish-black head, and a distinctive white ring around its bill. Females are more subdued, with brownish-black plumage and a less pronounced ring.
  • Locations: Ring-necked Ducks can be found in freshwater habitats such as lakes, ponds, and marshes across Alabama, particularly during migration and winter. They prefer areas with abundant submerged vegetation for feeding.
  • Fun Fact: Despite their name, the white ring around the bill of Ring-necked Ducks is often not visible in the field, making identification challenging. They are often identified by their distinctive call, a soft “ring-a-ding.”

Greater Scaup (Aythya marila)

  • Features: The Greater Scaup, also known as the “Bluebill,” is a medium-sized diving duck with dark plumage, a bluish-purple sheen, and a rounded head. Males have a black head, while females have a brownish head with a white band at the base of the bill.
  • Locations: Greater Scaup can be found in coastal waters, bays, and large lakes across Alabama during the winter months. They are often seen diving for food in deeper waters.
  • Fun Fact: During courtship displays, male Greater Scaup bob their heads and make distinctive whistling calls to attract females. These displays are accompanied by elaborate wing-flapping and head-tossing movements.

Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis)

  • Features: Similar in appearance to the Greater Scaup, the Lesser Scaup is slightly smaller with a more rounded head and a purplish sheen on its dark plumage. Males have a black head, while females have a brownish head with a white band at the base of the bill.
  • Locations: Lesser Scaup can be found in a variety of freshwater habitats, including lakes, ponds, and marshes, across Alabama during migration and winter. They are often found in large flocks with other diving duck species.
  • Fun Fact: Lesser Scaup are known for their synchronized diving behavior, often diving simultaneously in large groups to forage for food. They can remain submerged for up to 25 seconds while feeding.

Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo)

  • Features: The Wild Turkey is a large, ground-dwelling bird with dark plumage, a bare head, and a distinctive fan-shaped tail. Males, known as toms or gobblers, have iridescent feathers and long, dangling appendages called wattles and snoods.
  • Locations: Wild Turkeys inhabit a variety of forested habitats, including hardwood forests, pine forests, and swamps, across Alabama. They are often found in areas with dense vegetation and open clearings for foraging.
  • Fun Fact: Wild Turkeys have excellent vision and can see in color, allowing them to detect predators from a distance. They are also highly vocal birds, known for their distinctive gobbling calls during the breeding season.

Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps)

  • Features: The Pied-billed Grebe is a small, stocky water bird with dark plumage, a stubby bill, and a distinctive black ring around its bill. During breeding season, adults have a brownish back and sides with a black throat and face.
  • Locations: Pied-billed Grebes can be found in freshwater habitats such as lakes, ponds, and marshes across Alabama year-round. They prefer quiet, shallow waters with plenty of vegetation for cover.
  • Fun Fact: Pied-billed Grebes are known for their unique courtship displays, which involve elaborate head-bobbing and bill-raising movements. They are also excellent swimmers and divers, using their feet to propel themselves underwater in search of food.

Chimney Swift (Chaetura pelagica)

  • Features: The Chimney Swift is a small, cigar-shaped bird with dark plumage, a short, forked tail, and long, pointed wings. They have a distinctive rapid, jerky flight pattern and a twittering call.
  • Locations: Chimney Swifts inhabit a variety of open habitats, including forests, fields, and urban areas, across Alabama during the breeding season. They are often seen darting in and out of chimneys and other structures in search of insects.
  • Fun Fact: Chimney Swifts are one of the few bird species capable of sustained flight without landing, even sleeping on the wing during migration. They are also known for their unique roosting behavior, often forming large communal roosts in chimneys and other tall structures.

Common Gallinule (Gallinula galeata)

  • Features: Formerly known as the Common Moorhen, the Common Gallinule is a medium-sized rail with dark plumage, a red bill with a yellow tip, and a white streak on its flanks.
  • Locations: Common Gallinules can be found in freshwater habitats such as marshes, ponds, and swamps across Alabama. They are often found in dense vegetation near the water’s edge, where they can feed on aquatic plants and invertebrates.
  • Fun Fact: Common Gallinules have large feet with long toes, which allow them to walk on floating vegetation without sinking. They are also skilled swimmers, using their wings to help propel themselves through the water.

American Coot (Fulica americana)

  • Features: The American Coot is a medium-sized water bird with dark plumage, a white bill, and distinctive lobed toes. They have a rounded body shape and a short tail.
  • Locations: American Coots can be found in a variety of freshwater habitats, including lakes, ponds, and marshes, across Alabama year-round. They are often seen in large flocks, feeding on aquatic plants and invertebrates.
  • Fun Fact: American Coots are known for their aggressive behavior, often chasing away other birds from their territory. They are also skilled divers, using their lobed toes to propel themselves underwater in search of food.

Black Skimmer (Rynchops niger)

  • Features: The Black Skimmer is a medium-sized tern with dark plumage, a long, slender bill, and distinctive black and white markings on its wings.
  • Locations: Black Skimmers can be found along the coastlines and estuaries of Alabama, particularly during the breeding season. They prefer sandy beaches and mudflats for nesting and foraging.
  • Fun Fact: Black Skimmers are unique among terns in that they have a specialized feeding technique known as “skimming.” They fly low over the water with their lower bill submerged, skimming the surface to catch small fish and crustaceans.

Black Tern (Chlidonias niger)

  • Features: The Black Tern is a small tern with dark plumage, a slender body, and long, slender wings. They have a distinctive black cap and white underparts.
  • Locations: Black Terns can be found in freshwater habitats such as lakes, ponds, and marshes across Alabama during migration and breeding season. They prefer areas with emergent vegetation for nesting and foraging.
  • Fun Fact: Black Terns are known for their graceful flight and acrobatic maneuvers, often hovering over the water’s surface to catch insects and small fish. They are also highly vocal birds, known for their distinctive “kree” calls during the breeding season.

Magnificent Frigatebird (Fregata magnificens)

  • Features: The Magnificent Frigatebird is a large seabird with black plumage, a long, deeply forked tail, and distinctive elongated wings. Males have a bright red throat pouch, which they inflate during courtship displays.
  • Locations: Magnificent Frigatebirds can be found along the coastlines and offshore waters of Alabama, particularly during the breeding season. They are often seen soaring high above the water, using their long wings to glide effortlessly on thermal air currents.
  • Fun Fact: Magnificent Frigatebirds are known for their kleptoparasitic behavior, stealing food from other seabirds in mid-air. They are also highly adapted for life at sea, with long, slender wings and a streamlined body shape.

Anhinga (Anhinga anhinga)

  • Features: The Anhinga, also known as the “Snakebird,” is a large water bird with dark plumage, a long, slender neck, and a sharply pointed bill. They have a distinctive habit of swimming with only their neck and head above the water, resembling a snake.
  • Locations: Anhingas can be found in freshwater habitats such as swamps, lakes, and rivers across Alabama. They are often seen perched on branches overhanging the water, where they can easily dive for fish.
  • Fun Fact: Anhingas have specialized adaptations for underwater hunting, including a long, flexible neck and sharp, serrated bill. They use their powerful legs and webbed feet to propel themselves through the water in pursuit of prey.

Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus)

  • Features: The Double-crested Cormorant is a large, fish-eating bird with dark plumage, a long, slender neck, and a distinctive double crest of feathers on its head. They have a long, hooked bill and webbed feet for swimming.
  • Locations: Double-crested Cormorants can be found in a variety of aquatic habitats, including lakes, rivers, and coastal waters, across Alabama year-round. They are often seen perched on rocks or logs near the water’s edge, where they sun themselves to dry their wings.
  • Fun Fact: Double-crested Cormorants are skilled divers, capable of swimming underwater for extended periods in search of fish. They often hunt cooperatively in large groups, herding schools of fish into shallow water before diving to catch them.

Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus)

  • Features: The Black Vulture is a large scavenging bird with black plumage, a featherless head, and a short, hooked bill. They have broad wings and a distinctive white patch at the base of their primaries.
  • Locations: Black Vultures can be found in a variety of habitats, including forests, fields, and urban areas, across Alabama year-round. They are often seen soaring high in the sky, searching for carrion and other food sources.
  • Fun Fact: Black Vultures have a highly developed sense of smell, allowing them to locate carrion from great distances. They are often seen congregating in large groups at feeding sites, where they compete for access to food.

Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)

  • Features: The Turkey Vulture is a large scavenging bird with dark plumage, a featherless red head, and a long, hooked bill. They have broad wings and a distinctive V-shaped silhouette in flight.
  • Locations: Turkey Vultures can be found in a variety of habitats, including forests, fields, and open areas, across Alabama year-round. They are often seen soaring on thermal air currents, scanning the ground below for carrion.
  • Fun Fact: Turkey Vultures have a highly developed sense of smell, allowing them to locate carrion even when it is hidden from view. They are important scavengers, helping to clean up carcasses and prevent the spread of disease.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius)

  • Features: The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is a medium-sized woodpecker with black and white plumage, a red crown, and a distinctive yellow belly. They have a long, chisel-like bill and a habit of drilling rows of small holes in trees to feed on sap.
  • Locations: Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers can be found in a variety of forested habitats, including hardwood forests, pine forests, and mixed woodlands, across Alabama year-round. They are often seen foraging on tree trunks and branches in search of insects and sap.
  • Fun Fact: Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers are unique among woodpeckers in their feeding habits, relying heavily on tree sap as a food source. They are also known to feed on the insects that are attracted to the sap, making them important contributors to ecosystem health.

Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus)

  • Features: The Pileated Woodpecker is the largest woodpecker in North America, with black plumage, a striking red crest, and white stripes on its face. They have a powerful, chisel-like bill and a distinctive undulating flight pattern.
  • Locations: Pileated Woodpeckers can be found in mature forests and wooded areas across Alabama year-round. They are often heard before they are seen, with their loud drumming and vocal calls echoing through the forest.
  • Fun Fact: Pileated Woodpeckers are skilled excavators, capable of digging large rectangular holes in dead trees in search of insects and grubs. Their nesting cavities provide important habitat for a variety of other bird species.

Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus)

  • Features: The Peregrine Falcon is a large raptor with dark plumage, a barred belly, and a distinctive dark “moustache” mark on its face. They have long, pointed wings and a powerful, hooked bill for capturing prey.
  • Locations: Peregrine Falcons can be found in a variety of habitats, including cliffs, tall buildings, and open landscapes, across Alabama during migration and winter. They are often seen hunting for prey in open areas with abundant bird populations.
  • Fun Fact: Peregrine Falcons are among the fastest animals on Earth, capable of reaching speeds of over 240 miles per hour in a steep dive called a “stoop.” They use their speed and agility to catch birds in mid-air, striking them with their powerful talons.

Eastern Phoebe (Sayornis phoebe)

  • Features: The Eastern Phoebe is a small, drab-colored bird with dark plumage, a pale belly, and a distinctive white throat and underparts. They have a habit of wagging their tails up and down while perched.
  • Locations: Eastern Phoebes can be found in a variety of habitats, including woodlands, fields, and urban areas, across Alabama year-round. They are often seen perched on branches or wires, where they wait patiently for insects to fly by.
  • Fun Fact: Eastern Phoebes are known for their distinctive “phoebe” call, which gives them their name. They are also highly adaptable birds, often nesting in man-made structures such as buildings and bridges.

Eastern Kingbird (Tyrannus tyrannus)

  • Features: The Eastern Kingbird is a medium-sized songbird with dark plumage, a white belly, and a distinctive white band at the tip of its tail. They have a small, hooked bill and a habit of perching in open areas to hunt for insects.
  • Locations: Eastern Kingbirds can be found in a variety of habitats, including open woodlands, fields, and wetlands, across Alabama during the breeding season. They are often seen perched on fence posts and wires, where they scan for flying insects.
  • Fun Fact: Eastern Kingbirds are highly territorial birds, often aggressively defending their nesting sites from intruders. They are known to mob larger birds and even humans if they perceive a threat to their young.

American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)

  • Features: The American Crow is a large, all-black bird with a stout bill, a squared-off tail, and a distinctive cawing call. They have a wide range of vocalizations, including calls for communication and alarm.
  • Locations: American Crows can be found in a variety of habitats, including forests, fields, and urban areas, across Alabama year-round. They are often seen foraging for food in groups, scavenging on carrion and other organic matter.
  • Fun Fact: American Crows are highly intelligent birds, capable of problem-solving and tool use. They are also highly adaptable, able to thrive in a wide range of environments and habitats.

Fish Crow (Corvus ossifragus)

  • Features: The Fish Crow is a smaller, slimmer version of the American Crow, with similar black plumage and a distinctive nasal call. They are often indistinguishable from American Crows in the field.
  • Locations: Fish Crows can be found in a variety of habitats, including coastal areas, wetlands, and urban areas, across Alabama year-round. They are often seen foraging for food along shorelines and in marshy areas.
  • Fun Fact: Fish Crows are named for their habit of feeding on fish, which they catch by wading in shallow water or scavenging along the shoreline. They are also known to eat a variety of other food items, including insects, small mammals, and carrion.

Common Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)

  • Features: The Common Starling is a medium-sized songbird with dark plumage, a short, squared-off tail, and a distinctive speckled appearance in the breeding season. They have a variety of vocalizations, including mimicry of other bird species.
  • Locations: Common Starlings can be found in a variety of habitats, including urban areas, fields, and woodlands, across Alabama year-round. They are often seen in large flocks, foraging for food on the ground and in trees.
  • Fun Fact: Common Starlings are highly adaptable birds, capable of thriving in a wide range of environments and habitats. They are also skilled mimics, able to imitate the calls of other bird species as well as human-made sounds.

Bobolink (Dolichonyx oryzivorus)

  • Features: The Bobolink is a small songbird with dark plumage, a buff-colored back, and a distinctive white patch on its wings. Males have a striking black-and-white breeding plumage with a straw-colored crown.
  • Locations: Bobolinks can be found in grasslands, meadows, and agricultural fields across Alabama during the breeding season. They are often seen perched on fence posts and grass stalks, where they sing their bubbly, tinkling song.
  • Fun Fact: Bobolinks are long-distance migrants, traveling thousands of miles between their breeding grounds in North America and their wintering grounds in South America. They are known for their aerial acrobatics and bubbling flight displays during the breeding season.

Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)

  • Features: The Red-winged Blackbird is a medium-sized songbird with glossy black plumage, a bright red shoulder patch, and a distinctive conical bill. Males have a striking black-and-red breeding plumage, while females are more subdued with streaked brown plumage.
  • Locations: Red-winged Blackbirds can be found in a variety of habitats, including marshes, wetlands, and agricultural fields, across Alabama year-round. They are often seen perched on cattails and other emergent vegetation, where they sing their distinctive “conk-la-ree” song.
  • Fun Fact: Red-winged Blackbirds are highly territorial birds, often aggressively defending their nesting territories from intruders. They are known to mob larger birds and even humans if they perceive a threat to their young.

Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater)

  • Features: The Brown-headed Cowbird is a medium-sized songbird with glossy black plumage, a brown head, and a distinctive conical bill. They have a habit of following large mammals and other birds to feed on insects and seeds disturbed by their movement.
  • Locations: Brown-headed Cowbirds can be found in a variety of habitats, including grasslands, forests, and urban areas, across Alabama year-round. They are often seen foraging on the ground in mixed-species flocks.
  • Fun Fact: Brown-headed Cowbirds are brood parasites, laying their eggs in the nests of other bird species and leaving them to be raised by unwitting foster parents. They are known to parasitize a wide range of bird species, including songbirds, raptors, and waterfowl.

Rusty Blackbird (Euphagus carolinus)

  • Features: The Rusty Blackbird is a medium-sized songbird with glossy black plumage, a rusty-brown crown, and pale yellow eyes. They have a distinctive “rusty” appearance, particularly in breeding plumage.
  • Locations: Rusty Blackbirds can be found in a variety of wetland habitats, including swamps, bogs, and marshes, across Alabama during migration and winter. They are often seen foraging for food in shallow water and mudflats.
  • Fun Fact: Rusty Blackbirds are one of the most rapidly declining bird species in North America, with populations declining by more than 90% since the 1960s. Habitat loss and degradation, along with pollution and climate change, are believed to be major factors in their decline.

Brewer’s Blackbird (Euphagus cyanocephalus)

  • Features: The Brewer’s Blackbird is a medium-sized songbird with glossy black plumage, a dark eye, and a distinctive purple iridescence in the breeding season. They have a stout bill and a habit of foraging on the ground in open areas.
  • Locations: Brewer’s Blackbirds can be found in a variety of habitats, including grasslands, agricultural fields, and urban areas, across Alabama year-round. They are often seen in large flocks, foraging for food on the ground and in trees.
  • Fun Fact: Brewer’s Blackbirds are highly social birds, often forming large flocks outside of the breeding season. They are known for their cooperative foraging behavior, with individuals sharing information about food sources and predators.

Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula)

  • Features: The Common Grackle is a medium-sized songbird with iridescent black plumage, a long tail, and a distinctive yellow eye. They have a long, slender bill and a habit of foraging for food on the ground and in trees.
  • Locations: Common Grackles can be found in a variety of habitats, including woodlands, wetlands, and urban areas, across Alabama year-round. They are often seen in large flocks, foraging for food in fields and along roadsides.
  • Fun Fact: Common Grackles are highly adaptable birds, capable of thriving in a wide range of environments and habitats. They are known for their loud, raucous calls and aggressive behavior, particularly during the breeding season.

Boat-tailed Grackle (Quiscalus major)

  • Features: The Boat-tailed Grackle is a large songbird with iridescent black plumage, a long, keel-shaped tail, and a distinctive iridescent blue or purple sheen in the breeding season. They have a long, slender bill and a habit of foraging for food on the ground and in trees.
  • Locations: Boat-tailed Grackles can be found in a variety of coastal habitats, including marshes, wetlands, and estuaries, across Alabama year-round. They are often seen foraging for food in shallow water and mudflats.
  • Fun Fact: Boat-tailed Grackles are known for their distinctive vocalizations, including a variety of whistles, clicks, and rattles. They are also skilled mimics, able to imitate the calls of other bird species as well as human-made sounds.

Black-and-white Warbler (Mniotilta varia)

  • Features: The Black-and-white Warbler is a small, boldly patterned warbler with black-and-white striped plumage, a long, slender bill, and a habit of creeping along branches and tree trunks in search of insects.
  • Locations: Black-and-white Warblers can be found in a variety of forested habitats, including deciduous forests, mixed woodlands, and swampy areas, across Alabama during migration and breeding season.
  • Fun Fact: Black-and-white Warblers are unique among warblers in their foraging behavior, resembling a nuthatch or creeper as they move along branches and tree trunks. They are also known for their distinctive high-pitched song, which sounds like a squeaky wheel.

Blackpoll Warbler (Setophaga striata)

  • Features: The Blackpoll Warbler is a small, drab-colored warbler with streaked plumage, a pale belly, and a distinctive black cap. Males have a faint streaking on their sides and flanks.
  • Locations: Blackpoll Warblers can be found in a variety of forested habitats, including coniferous forests, mixed woodlands, and boreal forests, across Alabama during migration.
  • Fun Fact: Blackpoll Warblers are long-distance migrants, traveling thousands of miles between their breeding grounds in North America and their wintering grounds in South America. They are known for their remarkable endurance, undertaking one of the longest non-stop flights of any songbird during migration.

Threats and Conservation

While many of these black-colored birds in Alabama are adaptable and widely distributed, they still face various threats to their populations. Habitat loss and degradation due to urbanization, agriculture, and deforestation pose significant challenges to their survival. Pollution, including water pollution and pesticide use, can also impact their food sources and nesting sites. Additionally, climate change is altering habitats and migration patterns, affecting the availability of resources and increasing the frequency of extreme weather events.

Conservation efforts are essential to protect these birds and their habitats. Conservation organizations, government agencies, and local communities work together to preserve and restore critical habitats, implement sustainable land management practices, and raise awareness about the importance of biodiversity and ecosystem health. Monitoring populations, conducting research, and implementing conservation measures are key strategies to ensure the long-term survival of these iconic birds.

Citizen Science Opportunities

Birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts in Alabama can contribute to conservation efforts through citizen science initiatives. By participating in bird monitoring programs and research projects, individuals can help collect valuable data on bird populations, migration patterns, and habitat use. Here are some citizen science opportunities available in Alabama:

1. eBird: Birdwatchers can submit their bird sightings to eBird, a global database of bird observations managed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Audubon. These data help scientists track bird populations and distribution patterns over time.

2. Breeding Bird Atlases: Volunteers can participate in breeding bird atlasing projects to survey bird populations during the breeding season and document breeding behaviors, such as nesting and territoriality. These data are used to create atlases and inform conservation efforts.

3. Nest Box Monitoring: Setting up and monitoring nest boxes can provide valuable information on bird breeding success and population trends. Volunteers can install nest boxes in their yards or local parks and monitor them regularly during the breeding season.

4. Bird Banding: Bird banding programs involve capturing, marking, and releasing birds with uniquely numbered bands to track their movements and survival rates. Trained volunteers assist researchers in banding operations and data collection.

5. Seasonal Bird Counts: Participating in seasonal bird counts, such as the Christmas Bird Count and the Great Backyard Bird Count, allows birdwatchers to contribute to large-scale surveys of bird populations and distribution.

6. Educational Outreach: Sharing knowledge and enthusiasm for birds through educational outreach activities, such as birding walks, workshops, and presentations, can inspire others to appreciate and protect local bird species.

By engaging in citizen science and conservation efforts, individuals can make a meaningful contribution to bird conservation and help ensure a brighter future for black-colored birds and other wildlife in Alabama. Together, we can protect and preserve the natural heritage of our state for generations to come.

Conclusion

Alabama’s diverse array of black-colored birds adds richness to the state’s natural landscapes and ecosystems. Despite facing threats such as habitat loss and climate change, collaborative conservation efforts offer hope for their protection. By valuing and conserving these iconic species, we can preserve Alabama’s natural heritage for future generations to enjoy. Let us continue to appreciate and safeguard the beauty and importance of black-colored birds in Alabama’s environment.