7 Types of Black Birds in California

Last Updated on March 22, 2023 by Lily Aldrin

Blackbirds are one of the birds that are abundantly found in California.

Some of these blackbirds are notorious for their aggressive nature, as they are often considered hostile to little songbirds.

Out of the various blackbirds in California, some of them are below. 

Red Winged BlackbirdRed Winged Blackbird
Brown-Headed CowbirdBrown-Headed Cowbird
Brewers BlackbirdBrewers Blackbird
Yellow-Headed BlackbirdYellow-Headed Blackbird
Great-Tailed GrackleGreat-Tailed Grackle
Bronzed CowbirdBronzed Cowbird
Tricolored BlackbirdTricolored Blackbird

Types of Black Birds in California

1. Red Winged Blackbird

Red-Winged Blackbird

The scientific name for this bird is Agelaius phoeniceus.

They have a length of about 6.7 – 9.1 inches and weigh approximately 32 – 77 grams, and have a wingspan of about 12.2 – 15.8 inches.

They have black, acutely pointed bills and medium-length tails. Male adults are shiny black and have red shoulder patches with yellow borders.

Male juveniles have feathers with orange edges and occasionally golden shoulders.

Females have pale breasts and brow streaks and are dull brown with dark striations.

Habitat & Food

Red-winged Blackbirds stay in moist areas during the breeding season, such as rice fields and freshwater or saltwater marshes.

Additionally, they may reproduce in drier areas, such as sedge meadows and alfalfa fields.

In summer, this bird loves insects like flies, moths, dragonflies, and butterflies but will eat whatever it can find, including snails, frogs, worms, spiders, and eggs.

Its diet changes to include plants and seeds like corn and wheat during the winter.

Three or four eggs with accents of black, brown, and purple are frequently laid by a female red-winged blackbird during one clutch.

2. Brown-Headed Cowbird

Brown-headed Cowbird

The scientific name for this bird is Molothrus, and it has a length of about 6.3 – 7.9 inches and weighs approximately 38 – 45 grams, and has a wingspan of about 12.6 – 15 inches.

The brown-headed cowbird has a black body and a dark brown head.

The juvenile can be a pale grey color or a mix of black and brown, while the females have a pale grey body and head with a light-colored throat, and the female juvenile is lighter grey than adults with soft breast stripes. 


Cowbirds favor any relatively open space with abundant insect life. Thus, they are often found on farms and in barnyards, as well as by roadsides and the edges of wooded areas.

From Vermont in the north to Virginia in the south and west, the brown-headed cowbird spends the entire year there.

In general, only during the breeding season are cowbirds found north of this band, and only during the winter months are they found south of it.

Brown-headed Cowbirds eat largely grass and weed seeds as well as some grains from crops. 


About 25% of a cowbird’s diet consists of insects like grasshoppers and beetles, which are frequently grabbed as cows and horses agitate them into motion.

Cowbird females need a lot of calcium since they deposit so many eggs.

They consume snail shells and occasionally eggs retrieved from nests they have visited to sate their hunger.

The other eggs in the nest may be rolled out as the baby cowbirds hatch. Their nesting period lasts between 8 and 13 days.

There are 1 – 7 eggs in the clutch, and the incubation period lasts for roughly 10 – 12 days.

3. Brewers Blackbird

Brewer’s Blackbird

The Brewer’s blackbird has the scientific name Euphagus cyanocephalus.

It has a length of about 8.3 – 9.8 inches and weighs approximately 60 – 86 grams, and has a wingspan of 14.6 inches.

During the breeding season, adult male Brewer’s Blackbirds have iridescent, purple-green plumage on top of their black bodies.

Males who are not breeding or in their first year are brownish-black and exhibit less iridescence during the breeding season than mature males.

Yellow eyes are present in males of all colors. Brown eyes and dingy gray-brown skin characterize females.

They have long wings and tails and are very thin birds. 


The Brewer’s blackbird is a granivorous insectivore.

They occasionally consume berries as well. They grab insects in flight or when foraging on the ground as they are seeking prey.

They either consume their prey whole when they catch insects or pin it with their foot so they can consume it piece by piece.

It enjoys residing in farmyards, farms, and prairies.

It typically lays three to five gray eggs with dark brown markings in a nest made of coarse grass and twigs that are either built in a tree or on the ground, strengthened with mud, and lined with fine grass and hair.

4. Yellow-Headed Blackbird

Yellow Headed Blackbird

The scientific name for this bird is Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus Yellow-headed blackbirds have a long tail, a sturdy body, and a huge head with a sharply pointed bill.

Males have white spots where their wings bend and are mostly black with yellow heads and chests.

Males and young females typically have a duller golden head and are gray-brown in color. 

The average bird’s wingspan is 15 inches (38 centimeters), and both male and female birds reach lengths of 8 to 10 inches (20 to 25 cm).

These birds are omnivores, meaning they consume both plant and animal diets.


They frequently graze on the ground in search of seeds, grains, nuts, grasshoppers, and spiders. In the summer, they primarily eat water insects, but in the winter, they devour seeds. 

They group together in flocks and alternate eating at the front of the flock as they consume leftover grain and wild plant seeds in agricultural fields.

Three to five greenish-white eggs with dark markings are laid by the female yellow-headed blackbird.

The chicks are altricial, and the incubation process takes 11–13 days. Within 9 to 12 days of hatching, they become independent.

Both parents feed them while they are in the nest. The chicks regurgitate food throughout the first four days after birth, at least in part.

5. Great-Tailed Grackle

Great-tailed Grackle

The scientific name for this bird is Quiscalus mexicanus.

It has a length of about 15 – 18 inches and weighs approximately 203 – 265 grams.

The bodies of males are all black with bluish-purple iridescence. They also feature a long, tapered tail that folds into a characteristic keel form, yellow eyes, long black legs, and a strong black bill.

The size of females is almost half that of males; they have a body coloration of greyish brown, a neck color of buff, yellow eyes, a lighter eyebrow, and a shorter tail.

Juveniles have the dark brown, striped underparts and dark eyes of the female.


Great-tailed Year-round, grackles consume plant matter, including fruits and grains like corn, sorghum, and oats.

Females may consume up to 80% of animal stuff during the summer and early fall, making up half or more of their diet.

Grasshoppers, beetles, spiders, and bees are among the prey. 

The rim of the hefty cup is anchored to upright twigs or small branches by females who also weave in weeds, rushes, bark strips, and other plants.

Ribbons, flagging tape, feathers, and string are examples of weaving materials in addition to plastic strips and bags. 

She adds a soft inner layer of fine grasses to the nest cup after lining it with mud or cow dung.

The female will produce 4 to 7 pale greenish brown eggs with black markings.

The eggs will take about 13 to 14 days to hatch, and after that, the young will leave the nest in about 12 to 16 days.

6. Bronzed Cowbird

Bronzed Cowbird
Credits – All About Birds

The scientific name for this bird is Molothrus aeneus.

It has a length of about 7.9 inches and weighs approximately 64.9 – 73.9 grams, and has a wingspan of about 13 inches

Males have an overall coloration of brownish-black with a blue sheen on their wings and tail. 

During the breeding season, the eyes are bright red; however, for the remainder of the year, they gradually turn brown.

Females have light stripes on their grayish-brown skin. Although they have red eyes, they have considerably duller and less obvious red eyes than males. 


Insects and seeds. The annual diet consists largely of discarded grain and seeds, especially those from weeds and grasses. Occasional consumer of berries.

Also consumes snails, spiders, beetles, flies, caterpillars, and other insects. 

Snails may be vital as a calcium source, while females are egg-laying. Unmarked, light blue-green. The average number of eggs laid by a female over the course of several weeks may be close to one.

The female cowbird may pierce eggs already in the nest as she is laying them.

7. Tricolored Blackbird

Tricolored Blackbird

The scientific name for this back bird is Agelaius tricolor.

It has a length of about 7.1 – 9.4 inches and weighs approximately 40 – 75 grams, and has a wingspan of about 10.2 – 13.0 inches.

It resembles the red-winged blackbird a lot. Male who is completely glossy black with a red shoulder patch that is white, not yellow, edged. 

Female, larger and darker than any other sparrow, with dark brown streaks. Unlike the female Red-winged Blackbird, it lacks warm tones in its plumage.

Note the comparatively slender, pointed bill in both sexes.


Mostly seeds and insects. Feeds on a variety of insects, particularly in the summer, such as grasshoppers, beetles, caterpillars, and spiders.

Eats a lot of discarded grain as well as grass and weed seeds, especially in the fall and winter.

It usually lays 4, but occasionally 3-5, 2-6. Pale blue-green with dense purple, brown, and black patterns at the bigger end.

It takes a female around 11 days to incubate.


Blackbirds are one of the most abundantly found birds in California, and they have a bad reputation as they often attack little songbirds.

Apart from that, these birds have almost the same coloration but have a good variation in their sizes, the Great-tailed grackle being the heaviest and largest among all the black birds found in California.

When it comes to their diet, many items of their common, and some are different as well.


What is the scientific name for the Great-tailed grackle?

The scientific name for the Great-tailed grackle is Quiscalus mexicanus.

Which black bird is the largest?

The largest blackbird is a Great-tailed grackle.

What are some black birds notorious for?

Some black birds are notorious for attacking little songbirds.

About Lily Aldrin

I am Lily Aldrin. I attended Cornell University, where I obtained my degree to become an Ornithologist so I could pursue my love of these magnificent creatures in and out of their natural habitats.

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