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9 Large Black Birds in Colorado

large black birds in colorado big black birds in colorado
Wild Turkey in Larimer, Colorado: Photo by Denny Swaby

Introduction

With its sweeping open landscapes, the Centennial State provides ideal habitat for a range of large black-colored birds in Colorado from the stately wild turkey to soaring turkey vultures. Size helps these dark-hued birds stay warm in cold weather and regulate heat in sunny conditions. Let’s explore some of the largest and most remarkable black birds to observe in Colorado. 

Greater White-fronted Goose (Anser albifrons)

  • Features: A large grayish goose with black belly barring and white face blaze. Orange legs/bill. Laughing calls. 
  • Locations: Winters on eastern plains wetlands, breeding on the arctic tundra. Migrates in large flocks. 
  • Fun Fact: Forages in fields for shoots, grains and leaves. Named for prominent white front blaze patch.

Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo)

  • Features: One of the most iconic big black birds in Colorado, with iridescent bronze to black plumage. Long legs adapted for running. Males sport red, blue, white color on bare heads. 
  • Locations: Found in woodlands across most of Colorado after reintroductions. Largely absent from high elevations. 
  • Fun Fact: Omnivorous; eats acorns, grains, fruits, seeds, and insects. Roosts in trees but nests on the ground. Young can fly short distances soon after hatching. 

Sage Grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus

  • Features: Male is the largest North American grouse, mottled gray and black with spiky tail feathers. Prominent yellow air sacs on chest. Performs elaborate mating displays.
  • Locations: Sagebrush plains and grasslands of western Colorado. Threatened due to habitat loss. 
  • Fun Fact: Males gather on traditional mating grounds called leks each spring and compete for mates with ritualized displays and pops.

Dusky Grouse (Dendragapus obscurus

  • Features: Chicken-like upland gamebird with gray body, reddish tail, yellow eye comb. Males make low hooting sounds to attract females.  
  • Locations: Year-round resident of coniferous forests across Colorado. Often seen on ground scratching through litter. 
  • Fun Fact: Chicks leave nest with mother shortly after hatching. Diet includes conifer needles and buds in winter, seeds and insects in summer. 

Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus

  • Features: Large waterbird with black plumage and bright orange facial skin. Breeding adults have noticeably double head crests. A swift flier.
  • Locations: Found year-round along rivers, lakes, reservoirs across Colorado. Nests colonially in trees.
  • Fun Fact: Catches fish by diving from the surface. Often seen standing with wings outstretched to dry.

Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)

  • Features: One of Colorado’s largest soaring birds with 5-6 foot wingspan. Adults dark brown with red heads. Juveniles have gray heads. 
  • Locations: Summer resident across Colorado, migrating in large flocks. Roosts on cliffs and in trees.
  • Fun Fact: Scavenger that uses incredible sense of smell to find carrion. Soars gracefully for hours without flapping.

American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos

  • Features: All black with heavy bill. Broad wings and square-shaped tail create distinctive silhouette. Common, wide-ranging species. 
  • Locations: Year-round resident in diverse habitats from forests to grasslands to cities across Colorado.
  • Fun Fact: Highly intelligent and social. Uses tools to probe for food. Forms large communal winter roosts. 

Chihuahuan Raven (Corvus cryptoleucus)

  • Features: Medium-large corvid with long tail and bill. Glossy black plumage with shaggy throat hackles. Soars but also flies with quicker wingbeats.
  • Locations: Year-round in Colorado’s southern deserts into grasslands and pine-juniper forests. 
  • Fun Fact: More omnivorous than other North American ravens. Feeds on the ground and caches food in hiding places.

Northern Raven (Corvus corax)

  • Features: The largest songbird in Colorado. Glossy black with thick neck and shaggy throat feathers. Wedge-shaped tail and broad wings.
  • Locations: Occurs year-round across diverse habitats from deserts to mountains. Highly adaptable. 
  • Fun Fact: Mates for life. Works cooperatively to raise young. Intelligent and playful. Excellent aerial acrobat. 

Threats and Conservation 

Habitat loss, human conflicts, and climate change effects threaten some large black bird populations in Colorado. Conservation of open spaces and game management assists the grouse species. Responsible energy development helps protect sensitive areas. Careful wetland management benefits waterbirds, while corvid intelligence allows them to adapt readily to human presence. 

Citizen Science

Checklists submitted to eBird provide valuable data on distributions and abundance. Grouse lek surveys help monitor populations. The Christmas Bird Count documents overwintering raven and crow numbers. Nest cams give insight into nesting ecology. Ongoing observations aid future conservation.

Conclusion

With their imposing size and dark plumage, these remarkable species command attention in Colorado’s varied habitats. Some are declining and face ongoing threats. Birders can assist by recording sightings and advocating for continued habitat protections. With luck and thoughtful stewardship, these large black birds will grace Colorado for generations to come.