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34 Black Birds in Minnesota

black birds in minnesota
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker in Lake Elmo Regional Park, Minnesota: Photo by Karl Wirth

Introduction

Minnesota’s diverse landscapes, from expansive wetlands to lush forests, provide habitat for a remarkable variety of bird species, including many with striking black plumage. In this blog post, we’ll delve into the world of black birds in Minnesota, highlighting their unique features, behaviors, and the importance of conservation efforts to protect their habitats.

Greater White-fronted Goose (Anser albifrons)

  • Features: The Greater White-fronted Goose is a medium-sized waterfowl with black barring on its belly and breast, a grayish-brown body, and distinctive white patches on its face. They have a pink bill with a black tip and pink legs.
  • Locations: During migration, Greater White-fronted Geese can be found in wetlands, marshes, and agricultural fields across Minnesota. They breed in the Arctic tundra and winter in southern states and Mexico.
  • Fun Fact: Greater White-fronted Geese are known for their distinctive “yelping” calls, which can be heard as they fly overhead in V-shaped formations during migration.

American Black Duck (Anas rubripes)

  • Features: The American Black Duck is a medium-sized dabbling duck with dark brown plumage, a pale face, and a distinctive bright yellow bill. They have a slightly lighter belly and chest compared to their dark back and wings.
  • Locations: American Black Ducks can be found in freshwater wetlands, rivers, and lakes across Minnesota during migration and winter. They breed in the boreal forests of Canada and the northeastern United States.
  • Fun Fact: American Black Ducks are closely related to Mallards and often hybridize with them, making identification challenging in some cases.

Ring-necked Duck (Aythya collaris)

  • Features: The Ring-necked Duck is a small diving duck with black plumage, a distinctive white ring around its bill, and a purple iridescence on its head. They have a grayish back and a white belly.
  • Locations: Ring-necked Ducks can be found in freshwater lakes, ponds, and marshes across Minnesota during migration and winter. They breed in boreal forests and marshes of Canada and the northern United States.
  • Fun Fact: Despite its name, the white ring around the Ring-necked Duck’s bill is often not visible in the field and can be difficult to see.

Greater Scaup (Aythya marila)

  • Features: The Greater Scaup is a medium to large diving duck with black plumage, a distinctive blue bill, and bright yellow eyes. They have white sides and a dark head that contrasts with their pale back.
  • Locations: Greater Scaup can be found in large lakes, rivers, and coastal waters across Minnesota during migration and winter. They breed in the tundra and boreal forests of the Arctic.
  • Fun Fact: Greater Scaup are often seen in large flocks, particularly during migration, where they gather in open water to feed on aquatic vegetation and invertebrates.

Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis)

  • Features: The Lesser Scaup is a small to medium-sized diving duck with black plumage, a distinctive blue bill, and bright yellow eyes. They have a white stripe on their wings that is visible in flight.
  • Locations: Lesser Scaup can be found in a variety of freshwater habitats, including lakes, ponds, and marshes, across Minnesota during migration and winter. They breed in the boreal forests and prairie pothole regions of Canada and the northern United States.
  • Fun Fact: Lesser Scaup are agile divers and can reach depths of up to 20 feet underwater in search of food.

Surf Scoter (Melanitta perspicillata)

  • Features: The Surf Scoter is a large sea duck with black plumage, a distinctive orange, white, and black bill, and white patches on its head and neck. They have a white stripe on their wings in flight.
  • Locations: Surf Scoters can be found along the coastlines of Minnesota’s Great Lakes during migration and winter. They breed in the boreal forests of Canada and Alaska.
  • Fun Fact: Surf Scoters are known for their habit of “surfing” in the waves, where they dive underwater to feed on mollusks and crustaceans.

White-winged Scoter (Melanitta deglandi)

  • Features: The White-winged Scoter is a large sea duck with black plumage, a distinctive white patch on its wings, and a bright yellow knob at the base of its bill. They have a white patch on their forehead and cheek.
  • Locations: White-winged Scoters can be found along the coastlines of Minnesota’s Great Lakes during migration and winter. They breed in the boreal forests of Canada and Alaska.
  • Fun Fact: White-winged Scoters are powerful divers and can reach depths of up to 30 feet underwater in search of food.

Black Scoter (Melanitta americana)

  • Features: The Black Scoter is a medium-sized sea duck with black plumage, a distinctive orange bill, and a white patch on its forehead. They have a pale cheek and a white patch on their nape.
  • Locations: Black Scoters can be found along the coastlines of Minnesota’s Great Lakes during migration and winter. They breed in the boreal forests of Canada and Alaska.
  • Fun Fact: Black Scoters are known for their distinctive “whistling” calls, which can be heard as they fly overhead in small flocks.

Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo)

  • Features: The Wild Turkey is a large game bird with dark plumage, a bare, warty head, and a long, fan-shaped tail. Males have iridescent feathers on their body and a distinctive beard hanging from their chest.
  • Locations: Wild Turkeys can be found in forests, woodlands, and grasslands across Minnesota, where they forage for acorns, seeds, and insects. They are also commonly seen in suburban and rural areas.
  • Fun Fact: Wild Turkeys are skilled runners and fliers, capable of reaching speeds of up to 25 miles per hour on the ground and flying short distances at speeds of up to 55 miles per hour.

Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps)

  • Features: The Pied-billed Grebe is a small diving bird with black and brown plumage, a distinctive white ring around its bill, and a short, stubby tail. They have a thick neck and a rounded head.
  • Locations: Pied-billed Grebes can be found in freshwater lakes, ponds, and marshes across Minnesota, where they dive underwater to feed on fish, crustaceans, and insects.
  • Fun Fact: Pied-billed Grebes are excellent swimmers and divers, using their wings to propel themselves underwater in search of food.

Chimney Swift (Chaetura pelagica)

  • Features: The Chimney Swift is a small, agile bird with dark plumage, a cigar-shaped body, and long, pointed wings. They have a short, stubby tail and a wide, gaping mouth.
  • Locations: Chimney Swifts can be found in urban and suburban areas across Minnesota during the breeding season, where they roost and nest in chimneys and other tall structures.
  • Fun Fact: Chimney Swifts are known for their distinctive “chittering” calls, which can be heard as they fly overhead in small flocks.

Common Gallinule (Gallinula galeata)

  • Features: The Common Gallinule is a medium-sized waterbird with dark plumage, a bright red bill, and a distinctive white stripe on its side. They have long legs and toes adapted for walking on floating vegetation.
  • Locations: Common Gallinules can be found in freshwater marshes, wetlands, and ponds across Minnesota during the breeding season. They are also known to frequent rice fields and agricultural areas.
  • Fun Fact: Common Gallinules are skilled swimmers and divers, using their long toes to navigate through dense vegetation in search of food.

American Coot (Fulica americana)

  • Features: The American Coot is a medium-sized waterbird with dark plumage, a white bill, and distinctive lobed toes. They have a rounded body and a short, stubby tail.
  • Locations: American Coots can be found in freshwater lakes, ponds, and marshes across Minnesota, where they forage for aquatic plants, insects, and small fish.
  • Fun Fact: American Coots are highly social birds and are often seen in large flocks, particularly during migration and winter.

Black Tern (Chlidonias niger)

  • Features: The Black Tern is a small, agile bird with dark plumage, a white belly, and a distinctive black cap. They have long, slender wings and a forked tail.
  • Locations: Black Terns can be found in freshwater marshes, wetlands, and lakes across Minnesota during the breeding season. They migrate to coastal areas and estuaries in winter.
  • Fun Fact: Black Terns are known for their graceful aerial acrobatics, swooping and diving over the water in pursuit of insects and small fish.

Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus)

  • Features: The Double-crested Cormorant is a large waterbird with dark plumage, a long, hooked bill, and distinctive crests on its head. They have a long neck and a slender body.
  • Locations: Double-crested Cormorants can be found in freshwater and saltwater habitats across Minnesota, where they forage for fish, crustaceans, and other aquatic prey.
  • Fun Fact: Double-crested Cormorants are skilled divers, capable of swimming underwater for extended periods in search of food.

Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)

  • Features: The Turkey Vulture is a large scavenging bird with dark plumage, a featherless red head, and a distinctive V-shaped silhouette in flight. They have broad wings and a long, narrow tail.
  • Locations: Turkey Vultures can be found in a variety of habitats, including forests, grasslands, and urban areas, across Minnesota. They are often seen soaring high in the sky, searching for carrion.
  • Fun Fact: Turkey Vultures have highly developed olfactory senses, allowing them to detect the scent of decaying flesh from great distances.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius)

  • Features: The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is a small woodpecker with black and white plumage, a red crown, and a distinctive yellow wash on its belly. They have a long, chisel-shaped bill and a habit of tapping on trees to extract sap.
  • Locations: Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers can be found in deciduous forests, woodlands, and parks across Minnesota, where they forage for insects and sap.
  • Fun Fact: Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers create “sap wells” by drilling small holes in tree bark, which attract insects and provide a valuable food source.

Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus)

  • Features: The Pileated Woodpecker is a large woodpecker with black plumage, a red crest, and a white stripe on its face. They have a long, chisel-shaped bill and a habit of excavating large holes in trees.
  • Locations: Pileated Woodpeckers can be found in mature forests and wooded areas across Minnesota, where they forage for insects, larvae, and sap.
  • Fun Fact: Pileated Woodpeckers are skilled excavators and can create nesting cavities up to 2 feet deep in dead or decaying trees.

Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus)

  • Features: The Peregrine Falcon is a medium-sized raptor with dark plumage, a distinctive black “moustache” mark on its face, and a white underside with dark bars. They have long, pointed wings and a slender, tapered body.
  • Locations: Peregrine Falcons can be found in urban areas and cliffs along rivers and lakeshores across Minnesota, where they hunt for birds in flight.
  • Fun Fact: Peregrine Falcons are one of the fastest birds in the world, capable of reaching speeds of up to 240 miles per hour in a steep dive, or “stoop.”

Eastern Phoebe (Sayornis phoebe)

  • Features: The Eastern Phoebe is a small flycatcher with dark plumage, a pale belly, and a distinctive white throat and underparts. They have a habit of wagging their tails up and down.
  • Locations: Eastern Phoebes can be found in a variety of habitats, including woodlands, parks, and suburban areas, across Minnesota during migration and breeding season.
  • Fun Fact: Eastern Phoebes are named for their distinctive “fee-bee” call, which can be heard as they perch on branches and fences.

Eastern Kingbird (Tyrannus tyrannus)

  • Features: The Eastern Kingbird is a medium-sized flycatcher with dark plumage, a white belly, and a distinctive white band on its tail. They have a habit of aggressively defending their territory against larger birds.
  • Locations: Eastern Kingbirds can be found in open woodlands, fields, and urban areas across Minnesota during the breeding season.
  • Fun Fact: Eastern Kingbirds are known for their aggressive behavior towards larger birds, including crows, hawks, and even humans, which they perceive as threats to their nests.

Black-billed Magpie (Pica hudsonia)

  • Features: The Black-billed Magpie is a large, striking bird with black and white plumage, a long, black tail, and a distinctive black bill. They have a habit of collecting shiny objects and incorporating them into their nests.
  • Locations: Black-billed Magpies can be found in open woodlands, grasslands, and urban areas across Minnesota, where they forage for insects, seeds, and small mammals.
  • Fun Fact: Black-billed Magpies are highly intelligent birds and are known for their complex vocalizations and social behaviors, including cooperative breeding and mobbing predators.

American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)

  • Features: The American Crow is a large, all-black bird with a stout bill, a distinctive square tail, and a glossy plumage. They have a habit of forming large flocks and foraging for food in urban and rural areas.
  • Locations: American Crows can be found in a wide range of habitats, including forests, fields, and suburban areas, across Minnesota.
  • Fun Fact: American Crows are highly adaptable birds and are known for their problem-solving abilities and complex social behaviors.

Northern Raven (Corvus corax)

  • Features: The Northern Raven is a large, all-black bird with a thick bill, a shaggy throat, and a wedge-shaped tail. They have a deep, croaking call and are known for their intelligence and curiosity.
  • Locations: Northern Ravens can be found in forests, tundra, and coastal areas across northern Minnesota, where they forage for carrion and small mammals.
  • Fun Fact: Northern Ravens are highly intelligent birds and are known for their playful behaviors, including sliding down snowbanks and engaging in aerial acrobatics.

Common Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)

  • Features: The Common Starling is a medium-sized songbird with dark plumage, a short tail, and a distinctive iridescent sheen. They have a habit of forming large flocks and mimicking the calls of other bird species.
  • Locations: Common Starlings can be found in urban and suburban areas across Minnesota, where they forage for insects, fruits, and seeds.
  • Fun Fact: Common Starlings are skilled mimics and can imitate a wide range of sounds, including human speech, car alarms, and other bird species.

Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis)

  • Features: The Dark-eyed Junco is a small sparrow with dark plumage, a pale belly, and a distinctive white belly. They have a habit of foraging for seeds and insects on the ground.
  • Locations: Dark-eyed Juncos can be found in forests, woodlands, and suburban areas across Minnesota during the winter months.
  • Fun Fact: Dark-eyed Juncos are known for their distinctive “trilling” calls, which can be heard as they forage for food on the ground.

Bobolink (Dolichonyx oryzivorus)

  • Features: The Bobolink is a small songbird with black and white plumage, a buff-colored head, and a distinctive yellow patch on its back. They have a habit of foraging for seeds and insects in grasslands and meadows.
  • Locations: Bobolinks can be found in grasslands, meadows, and agricultural fields across Minnesota during the breeding season.
  • Fun Fact: Bobolinks are known for their distinctive “bubbling” song, which is often described as sounding like a musical trill.

Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)

  • Features: The Red-winged Blackbird is a medium-sized songbird with glossy black plumage, bright red shoulder patches, and a distinctive yellow wing bar. They have a habit of foraging for seeds and insects in wetlands and marshes.
  • Locations: Red-winged Blackbirds can be found in wetlands, marshes, and agricultural fields across Minnesota during the breeding season.
  • Fun Fact: Red-winged Blackbirds are highly territorial birds and are known for their aggressive behaviors towards intruders, including dive-bombing and vocal displays.

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 white patch on its wings. They have a habit of laying their eggs in the nests of other bird species.
  • Locations: Brown-headed Cowbirds can be found in a wide range of habitats, including forests, grasslands, and urban areas, across Minnesota.
  • Fun Fact: Brown-headed Cowbirds are brood parasites, meaning they lay their eggs in the nests of other bird species and rely on them to raise their young.

Rusty Blackbird (Euphagus carolinus)

  • Features: The Rusty Blackbird is a medium-sized songbird with glossy black plumage, rusty-colored edges on its feathers, and a distinctive yellow eye. They have a habit of foraging for insects and aquatic prey in wetlands and marshes.
  • Locations: Rusty Blackbirds can be found in wetlands, marshes, and wooded areas across Minnesota during migration and winter.
  • Fun Fact: Rusty Blackbirds are declining in numbers across their range due to habitat loss and degradation of wetland habitats.

Brewer’s Blackbird (Euphagus cyanocephalus)

  • Features: The Brewer’s Blackbird is a medium-sized songbird with glossy black plumage, a bright yellow eye, and a distinctive purple iridescence on its head. They have a habit of foraging for seeds and insects in open habitats.
  • Locations: Brewer’s Blackbirds can be found in a wide range of habitats, including grasslands, agricultural fields, and urban areas, across Minnesota.
  • Fun Fact: Brewer’s Blackbirds are highly social birds and are often seen in large flocks, particularly during migration and winter.

Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula)

  • Features: The Common Grackle is a medium-sized songbird with iridescent black plumage, a long tail, and bright yellow eyes. They have a distinctive keel-shaped tail and a habit of foraging for seeds and insects in open habitats.
  • Locations: Common Grackles can be found in a wide range of habitats, including woodlands, wetlands, and urban areas, across Minnesota.
  • Fun Fact: Common Grackles are highly adaptable birds and are known for their aggressive behaviors towards other bird species, particularly at bird feeders.

Black-and-white Warbler (Mniotilta varia)

  • Features: The Black-and-white Warbler is a small songbird with black and white plumage, bold black stripes on its head and back, and a distinctive white belly. They have a habit of foraging for insects on tree trunks and branches.
  • Locations: Black-and-white Warblers can be found in deciduous forests, woodlands, and parks across Minnesota during migration and breeding season.
  • Fun Fact: Black-and-white Warblers are known for their distinctive “creeping” behavior, where they move along tree trunks and branches in search of insects.

Blackpoll Warbler (Setophaga striata)

  • Features: The Blackpoll Warbler is a small songbird with black and white plumage, bold black streaks on its sides, and a distinctive white patch on its wing. They have a habit of foraging for insects in the canopy of trees.
  • Locations: Blackpoll Warblers can be found in boreal forests, woodlands, and parks across Minnesota during migration and breeding season.
  • Fun Fact: Blackpoll Warblers are one of the longest migrators of all songbirds, traveling up to 12,000 miles round trip from their breeding grounds in the boreal forests of Canada to their wintering grounds in South America.

Threats and Conservation

While many of the black birds mentioned in this post are common and widespread, others face significant threats to their populations. Habitat loss, pollution, climate change, and collisions with man-made structures are among the primary threats facing birds in Minnesota and beyond. Conservation efforts, including habitat restoration, land protection, and public awareness campaigns, are essential for ensuring the continued survival of these species for future generations to enjoy.

Citizen Science

Citizen science plays a crucial role in monitoring bird populations and identifying trends over time. Birdwatchers and amateur ornithologists across Minnesota can contribute valuable data to scientific research projects through initiatives such as the Great Backyard Bird Count, eBird, and the Minnesota Ornithologists’ Union. By participating in citizen science programs, individuals can help inform conservation efforts and contribute to our understanding of the natural world.

Conclusion

The diverse array of black birds found in Minnesota highlights the richness and complexity of our natural world. From majestic waterfowl to agile songbirds, each species plays a unique role in its ecosystem and contributes to the beauty and diversity of our landscapes. By learning about these birds and supporting conservation efforts, we can ensure that future generations have the opportunity to experience the wonder of Minnesota’s avian life.