Insights on Black Birds in Colorado: A 2024 Comprehensive Guide to Identification

Colorado is home to a remarkable diversity of blackbird species. These visually striking black birds in Colorado can be found across the state in various habitats, from high mountain forests to eastern plains grasslands. Some species like the Red-winged Blackbird are familiar backyard birds, while others like the Yellow-headed Blackbird reside primarily in wetlands.

This article provides an overview of key identification features, habitat preferences, vocalizations, and interesting behaviors of Colorado’s blackbirds. Whether you are a beginning birder looking to learn some of the most common species, or an experienced watcher seeking to expand your knowledge, this guide will aid in identifying these charismatic birds.

Key Traits Differentiating Black Birds of Colorado

There are subtle distinguishing features between the main orange and black birds seen flying through Colorado skies.

Bird SpeciesIdentificationVocalizationsBehavior
American CrowEntirely glossy black plumage
Large size (17-21 inches) with broad wings and fan-shaped tail
Heavy bill
“Caw caw” vocalization and a wide vocabulary of rattles, clicks, and short notesHighly social, omnivorous, expert fliers, known for aerial acrobatics, uses tools to probe for food and make tools
Common RavenGlossy black plumage with shaggy throat feathers
Very large size (24-27 inches); makes crows look small in comparison
Long, diamond-shaped tail
Deep, guttural “croak” and a variety of clicks, gurgles, and long rolling callsFound in various habitats, scavenges on carrion and garbage, highly aerial acrobat, uses tools and solves problems, experiments playfully with objects
Red-winged BlackbirdMale: All black with red and yellow shoulder patches (“epaulets”)
Female: Dark brown streaked in pale brown
Medium size (6.5-9.5 inches) with conical bill
Metallic “konk-la-ree” song and raspy calls. Females make ticking calls.Highly social, omnivorous, expert fliers, known for aerial acrobatics, use tools to probe for food and make tools
Brewer’s BlackbirdMale: Solid black with iridescent sheen and striking yellow eyes
Female: Dark brown overall with slight iridescence and dark eyes
Medium-long tail and slender bill
Variety of musical whistles, gurgles, and metallic sounds. Male’s song is a rich bubbling warble.Found in grasslands, farms, parks, and open woodlands; gregarious, omnivorous, male displays by puffing up plumage and bowing while making vocalizations and fluttering wings
Brown-headed CowbirdMale: Dark iridescent body, pale brown head, and short finch-like bill
Female: Plain grayish-brown overall with faint streaking
Short conical bill; finch-like shape
Fluty, gurgling whistles; males make squeaky “glug-glug” songDoes not build nests; lays eggs in nests of other species, found in open habitats like grasslands, farms, and forest edges, gregarious, forages on the ground for seeds and insects
Yellow-headed BlackbirdMale: Striking yellow head/breast and glossy black body
Female: Drab dark brown with faint streaking
Large conical bill for eating insects and grains
Found in marshes, wet meadows, and fields; highly territorial male defends nest sites, omnivorous, and gregarious in winter forming large flocksNests in marshes and wet meadows in dense colonies, highly social, forages in large flocks flying in undulating V-formations over habitat, omnivorous
Rusty BlackbirdHarsh rattling calls; the male’s song is scratchy and buzzingWith creaky squawks and gurgling trills; the male’s song is melodic warblingBreeds in coniferous and deciduous wooded wetlands, winters along wooded streams and floodplains, highly sociable, forming large flocks in migration and winter
Great-tailed GrackleVery long, keel-shaped tail making up half their length
Male: Black with iridescent purple-blue sheen
Female: Smaller and dark brown
Yellow eyes; long, stout bill
Harsh, squeaky calls; males make loud whistles and squealsFound at marshes, lakesides, parks, farms, and urban areas with open water, opportunistic feeder, gregarious, forms large, noisy flocks numbering hundreds of birds, male displays by puffing up plumage, fanning tail, bowing, and vocalizing
European StarlingMale: Black with green iridescent sheen; yellow eyes
Female/immature: Dark gray-brown overall with pale yellow eyes
Medium-sized with a long tail and slender bill
Omnivorous diet includes insects, fruit, nectar, grains, garbage<br>Opportunistic nesters in cavities, crevices, birdhouses, and manmade structures
Common GrackleMale: Black with iridescent purple-bronze on head and body
Female: Smaller with dark brown body and paler brown head
Pale yellow eye; long, thick bill
Harsh, squeaking calls and screams; males make various creaking and gurgling soundsFound in cities, farms, suburbs, parks, and countryside; highly adaptable
Forms enormous flocks called “murmurations” numbering thousands of birds
Gregarious and social; roosts communally often with other blackbird species
Boat-tailed GrackleVery long, wide tail shaped like a boat rudder; tail half its body length
Male: Black with iridescent purple to blue sheen
Female: Smaller and dark brown; juveniles are pale brown
Huge bill stout at base; yellow eyes
Harsh squeaks and squeals; males make piercing whistles and clucksFound in urban parks, suburban neighborhoods, farms, and marshes; omnivorous, forms noisy flocks that aggressively chase other birds from feeders
Eastern MeadowlarkBlack upperparts with white outer tail feathers
Bright yellow underparts with black “V” on the breast
Medium-sized with a conical bill shaped for probing
Males have a loud, melodic, fluty whistle song; calls include chatterings and sharps.Inhabits coastal marshes, mangroves, and saltwater habitats, forms large, noisy colonies; feeds on aquatic prey like fish, frogs, and crustaceans, and also eats grains
Western MeadowlarkFound in open grassy areas like meadows, fields, and prairies, makes nests on the ground hidden in dense vegetation, forages on the ground eating insects and seeds, sings from elevated perches like fence posts and utility wiresMales sing loud, rich, warbling songs; calls include chatterings and whistlesUpperparts brown streaked with black; underparts bright yellow
Black breast band with a central pale yellow crescent
White outer tail feathers visible in flight
Tricolored BlackbirdConstant chattering; males make noisy squeaks, checks, and gurglesFavors native grasslands, fields, meadows, and farms; makes well-hidden nests on the ground in dense grasses, forages on seeds and insects probed from the groundNests in extremely dense colonies near water; up to 250,000+ birds, swarms wetlands in massive flocks darting acrobatically in unison, gregarious in all seasons forming huge nomadic flocks
Red-naped SapsuckerBlack upperparts with white stripe down back; black wings with white bars
Male: Bright red forehead and throat
White below with black breast patch and white rump
Barking and squealing calls; males make loud, ringing drumrollsDrills rows of small sap wells in tree bark as a food source, found in mountain forests, nests in tree cavities, males and females may both tend nest sites, feeds on sap, cambium, insects
Black-capped ChickadeeMale: Black with bright red lesser wing covert forming red patch on wing
Female: Blackish-brown streaked below with hints of red in wings
Medium-sized with a conical bill
“Chick-a-dee-dee” call; also high-pitched whistles and garglingFound in forests, woodlands, and parks; acrobatic foragers hang upside-down and hover while gleaning insects, social, and travel in small flocks that roam territories
Mountain ChickadeeBlack cap, white cheeks, black bib; gray upperparts, buff underparts
Thicker bill than Black-capped; longer tail
Faster, buzzier rendition of chickadee-dee-dee callsBlack cap and throat; white cheeks and face
Gray upperparts; buff-colored underparts
Tiny and round with a short tail and stubby bill
Clark’s NutcrackerPale gray overall with black wings and tail and white patches
Very long, two-tone bill; pale grayish body; black legs
Harsh, rattling calls; also softer clicking notesInhabits high-elevation pine forests, uses bill to hammer and crack open seeds and nuts, caches up to 98,000 seeds per season in thousands of hiding spots, relies on amazing spatial memory to recover caches under snow
Black-billed MagpieBlack head with white shoulders; black body with long blue-green iridescent tail
Yellow eyes; black scimitar-like bill; black legs
Juveniles have less iridescence and shorter tails
Varied harsh calls like rattles, squawks, and gurgles; also quiet warblingFound in montane coniferous forests, acrobatic foragers, travels in small flocks within winter territories, cavity nesters using old woodpecker holes or stumps
Yellow-billed MagpieBlack hood, white shoulders, blue-green body with long tail
Large yellow bill with black tip; yellow fleshy eye ring
Juveniles have less iridescence and shorter tails
Harsh squawks and rattling calls; also softly warbling notesRusty cap, black eye line, and gray face
Bill is small and conical; black legs; a long black tail
Breast unmarked; white belly; brownish wings
Chipping SparrowFound in open woods, ranches, parks, rural areas with scattered trees, builds large, domed nests high in trees, very social and intelligent, scavenges on carrion, and preys on eggs, nestlings, rodentsLoud, sweet, trilling series of chips; call is a dry “chip”Found in yards, parks, open woods, forest edges, nests low in conifers or shrubs; forages on ground and low in trees eating insects and seeds
Dark-eyed JuncoGray hood, white belly, and pink-brown sides; whitish outer tail feathers
Bill conical; eyes dark brown; legs flesh-colored
Found only in California’s Central Valley and nearby foothills, builds large, domed nests high in trees, is gregarious and social, forages on the ground for insects, and seeds; also eats carrion, eggsMelodic drill; calls include metallic chips and tinkling notes
Black Rosy-FinchWinters in open woodlands, suburbs, parks, and yards, bounces along ground picking seeds and insects, and forms social flocks that forage over wide areasHigh thin twitters; male’s song warbled high-pitched notesBreeds on remote cliffs and mountain tops, forages on ground in alpine tundra, gregarious in all seasons forming large nomadic winter flocks
Black ScoterPelagic; found far offshore when not breeding; wary of boats/humans
Makes nests on the ground near northern lakes and ponds
Forms enormous “rafts” of thousands in migration and winter
Feeds by diving underwater for mollusks, crustaceans, and aquatic insects
Black TernMales black and brown with rosy-red forehead, cheeks, and undertail
Females lack red but have extensive brown streaking
Medium-sized with a short notched tail and pointed bill
Harsh, rasping calls; twittering notes at coloniesDark gray above and black below with white rump
Blackcap and short black legs; gray tail deeply forked
Bill thin and straight; wings long and narrow
Black-crowned Night-HeronFound along marshes, lakes, and rivers; roosts in trees during the day, most active at night feeding on fish, crustaceans, and insects, nests in groups along inland waterways and coastsHarsh quacks and squawksFound near marshes, lakes, rivers; roosts and nests on floating vegetation, plunges from air into the water to catch small fish and insects, breeds in dense colonies of up to 2000 pairs in protected wetlands
Black GuillemotBlack plumage with big white wing patches in summer
Thin straight bill; red feet; white-edged tail
In winter lacks wing patches, becoming all black
Purring “arrr” calls at breeding sitesNests along rocky northern coastlines in crevices or under boulders swim underwater propelled by wings; can dive over 200 feet, forage on fish and invertebrates, winter farther south along coasts and offshore
Black-throated Gray WarblerBlackcap and back contrast with white cheeks and light gray body
Eyes are red; legs yellow-green
Short neck; chunky posture; large head
Repetitive, buzzy trilling song; sharp “seet” callFound in pine and oak forests of the west, hops along branches picking insects, male sings from high exposed perches, nests low in trees and shrubs

Small black birds in Colorado

Colorado is home to a variety of small black birds that frequent backyards, woodlands, and mountain forests across the state. Species like the Red-winged Blackbird, Common Grackle, and Brown-headed Cowbird are familiar small blackbirds of fields and marshes. Chickadees and nuthatches represent tiny black birds of mountain forests. American Dippers are compact black birds of rushing mountain streams. Whether in urban areas or remote wilderness, attentive birdwatchers can observe a diversity of small black birds that call Colorado home.

Large black birds in Colorado

Several large black bird species inhabit Colorado’s varied ecosystems. The iconic Common Raven, larger than its relative the American Crow, soars on mountain thermals and frequents remote forests and deserts. Male Ring-necked Pheasants introduced from Asia, with their iridescent black bodies and long tails, are a common sight strutting across eastern plains grasslands. Wetlands host Red-tailed Black Hawks, a large soaring raptor marked by black upperparts contrasting its white-barred underparts. Large black-wading birds like Great Blue Herons can be found along the state’s riparian corridors as well.

Big black birds in Colorado

With its expansive habitats from mountains to plains, Colorado is home to a variety of big black bird species. The Common Raven, bigger than its American Crow cousin, is a falcon-sized black bird of remote forests and wild areas. Male Wild Turkeys sport iridescent black feathers and fan impressive tails as they strut in open woodlands. Wetlands host large Red-winged Blackbirds with striking red shoulder patches flickering in territorial displays. Along waterways, big black-wading birds like Great Blue Herons stand sentinel as they hunt for fish. From high deserts to eastern prairies, Colorado’s landscapes host many sizable blackbird species.

Common black birds in Colorado

Several blackbird species can be readily found across much of Colorado. The Red-winged Blackbird is a very common sight in marshes and fields statewide. American Crows and Common Ravens frequent both rural and urban areas. Male Ring-necked Pheasants introduced from Asia are a familiar sight on grasslands. European Starlings abundantly occupy cities, suburbs, and countryside. American Dippers inhabit mountain streams year-round. Brewer’s and Red-winged Blackbirds form massive winter flocks. With patient observation, birders can become familiar with Colorado’s most common blackbirds.

Comparing Nesting and Feeding Habits

In addition to visual traits, being aware of nesting and feeding behaviors can further assist in identifying mystery orange and black birds:


  • Bullock’s orioles weave pendulous nests on high tree limbs
  • Red-winged blackbirds nest among cattails in marshes
  • Western tanagers build cups in conifers
  • Scott’s orioles nest in protected areas like tree cavities


  • Bullock’s orioles eat insects, fruit, and nectar
  • Red-winged blackbirds eat insects, grains and seeds
  • Western tanagers primarily eat insects
  • Scott’s orioles eat insects and nectar

Spotting orange flashes in nests in water reeds indicates red-winged blackbirds while seeing them pluck tent caterpillars from trees is more characteristic of Bullock’s orioles. Clues like habitat and food preferences accompany visual identification.

Tips for Spotting and Identifying the Birds

Certain tips can help you spot an orange and black mystery bird again and confirm the species:

  • Learn the unique songs and calls of each bird
  • Note specific location and habitat where seen
  • Identify time of year and migratory status
  • Observe behavior like feeding, nesting, and interactions
  • Take photos documenting field marks and colors
  • Record distinguishing traits like size, beak shape, etc
  • Consult Sound ID and Bird Guide mobile apps

Arming yourself with all these clues enables confidently determine what orange and black bird just darted across your sightline.

Top Areas to Spot Featured Black Birds

Given range maps and habitat preferences, below are the top Colorado sites for sighting these species:

Bullock’s Oriole: Montane forests, riparian corridors and open woodlands. Try spots like Rocky Mountain National Park.

Red-Winged Blackbird: Wetlands near cattails and protected pools. Check areas like Bluestem Pond Open Space.

Western Tanager: Conifer and mixed forests. Attempt mountain regions like Mesa Verde National Park.

Scott’s Oriole: Arid shrublands, canyon country, and juniper stands search locations like the Colorado National Monument.

Targeting these distinct ecosystems increases your chance of adding one of these orange and black beauties to your life list!

Key Takeaways on Identifying Black Birds in Colorado

In summary, key points for identifying mystery sightings:

  • Consider size, beak shape, plumage patterns, markings, range maps, and behaviors
  • Bullock’s orioles sport orange bodies with black wings found in mountain forests
  • Red-winged blackbirds wear bright shoulder patches and nest in wetland reeds
  • Western tanagers flash yellow and red in coniferous areas
  • Scott’s orioles contain yellow bodies in dry, scrubby desert terrain

So solving orange and black bird mysteries relies on noting field marks plus information like timeframes, habits, and representative ranges across Colorado’s diverse ecosystems from mountains to marshes. Armed with these clues, you can confidently deduce species identity. That flash of orange and black will soon represent another feathered friend added to your life list rather than an unknown enigma zipping through tree branches.


Whether glimpsing a vast winter murmuration of European Starlings or hearing the song of Western Meadowlarks floating over the prairie, blackbirds provide some of the most captivating wildlife encounters across Colorado. This guide covers only a selection of the many species found, from flashy Red-winged Blackbirds to reclusive Rusty Blackbirds of northern wooded wetlands. Birders can continue expanding their identification skills and knowledge to appreciate more of the diversity these birds display. When observing blackbirds, pay attention to vocalizations, flocking behavior, habitat preferences, and other characteristics that aid identification. With practice, birdwatchers can go from seeing “just another blackbird” to recognizing the unique traits of each charismatic species.

Frequently Asked Questions About Black Birds in Colorado

What is the big black bird in Colorado?

The largest black bird commonly seen in Colorado is the Common Raven. An iconic bird of western wildlands, the Common Raven is much larger than American Crows with thicker necks, shaggy throat feathers, wedge-shaped tails, and massive bills. Ravens tend to live in wilder areas away from civilization.

Does Colorado have crows or ravens?

Colorado has both crows and ravens. The small, highly adaptable American Crow is found widely across the state, especially in towns, suburbs, and agricultural areas. The larger Common Raven occupies wilder natural areas like mountains, forests, shrublands, and deserts. Tell them apart by size, vocalizations, tail shape, and habitat.

What is the most common bird in Colorado?

Some of the most commonly seen birds across Colorado include the American Robin, Black-billed Magpie, European Starling, House Finch, Dark-eyed Junco, Red-winged Blackbird, and Common Grackle. These species adapt well to human landscapes.

What are all black birds called?

There is no single name that covers all blackbird species. Some common all-black or mostly-black birds in Colorado include:

  • American Crow
  • Common Raven
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Brewer’s Blackbird
  • Brown-headed Cowbird
  • Yellow-headed Blackbird
  • Great-tailed Grackle
  • European Starling
  • Common Grackle

These species belong to the family Icteridae, also called the blackbird family, which includes many familiar black avian species.

What is the best way to identify an unfamiliar bird species I spot?

Make a note of key characteristics like colors, markings, size, beak shape, behaviors, location details, and habitat. Photos help documentation too. Consider range maps for possible species. Review bird ID guides to connect clues and confirm species.

What orange and black bird spotted in Colorado is the rarest species?

The Scott’s oriole has the most limited breeding range confined to small southwestern parts of the state. Its extreme habitat specificity also makes it harder to find compared to the other orange and black birds more widespread across diverse areas.

Do any orange and black birds found in Colorado migrate?

The Bullock’s oriole and western tanager migrate to wintering grounds in Mexico and the southwestern US while the red-winged blackbird and Scott’s oriole remain year-round residents in Colorado and surrounding regions.

What time of year am I most likely to see the different oranges and blackbirds?

The migratory Bullock’s oriole and western tanager arrive in Colorado in spring to breed over summer. Resident red-winged blackbirds and Scott’s orioles frequent the state spring through fall as well with potential year-round sightings.

Are any of the orange and black birds unique to Colorado?

No, all four species occupy broader ranges beyond Colorado alone. However, several do reach distribution edges within certain parts of Colorado, like the Scott’s oriole in limited southwest border areas. Habitat specificities also concentrate densities.

About the Author: Hudaibia

My name is Hudaibia with the profound passion for our feathered friends. Birds have captivated my heart and mind since childhood. Now I share my avian devotion through my website,