Last Updated on May 3, 2023 by Lily Aldrin
Hello there! If you’re a bird enthusiast in Massachusetts or just curious about the local birdlife, you might be interested to learn about the 13 types of black birds that call this state home.
From the common to the rare, these birds are fascinating creatures that are worth getting to know.
So, let’s dive in and explore the diverse world of black birds in Massachusetts!
Types of Black Birds in Massachusetts
1. American Crows
Despite its name, the American Crow is not related to true crows.
It’s a raven, but the “American Crow” name has been around for quite some time.
Although all black, this bird’s plumage is glossy.
The bill is similarly dark and has a hook design.
Males tend to have a higher sheen than females.
The American Crow matures sexually between the ages of two and four.
Some of the “children” will remain with the “family” for many years and assist in raising the “children” of the following year.
They build their nests high up in evergreen trees.
The nest will be constructed by both the male and female using huge twigs and lined with pine needles.
It is a sizable nest, measuring 16 inches in diameter and 7 to 11 inches in depth.
The 3 to 8 eggs they deposit are typically blue-green, having gray and brown markings at both ends.
From twenty to forty days, the young stay in the nest after an incubation period of 17 to 20 days.
The American Crow is opportunistic in its diet, eating everything from seeds and nuts to worms and even mice.
Moreover, they will steal and consume the eggs of other birds, such as jays, sparrows, robins, eiders, and loons.
Indeed, they’ll consume everything, even trash from the curbside or the landfill.
The American crow is a common sight across the country, yet its size varies depending on where in the country you are.
Unlike their west coast counterparts, eastern crows are present across Massachusetts all year round.
The American Crow is a tiny bird with huge feet that lives in Florida.
Western crows, long assumed to be an entirely separate species, are smaller and have a lower sound.
They are prevalent in many different types of landscapes, including open fields, yards, forests, parking lots, and even cities and towns.
2. Fish Crow
The fish crow is a huge, heavy-billed blackbird.
The irises are yellow, and the legs are dark gray.
Blackbirds range in size from medium to giant, just below the American Crow in terms of size.
The group claims that throughout the winter, Fish Crows congregate in “huge flocks” in landfills.
Nesting on a tree, the fish crow will lay anywhere from 3 to 4 eggs.
Chicks need another four to five weeks to fully grow after hatching from eggs, which takes around two weeks.
Fish Crows are omnivores that snack on various foods, including small rodents, insects, snakes, frogs, berries, and lizards.
Typical of the Eastern Coast generally and the coastal regions of Massachusetts specifically.
It sounds like it’s quite cold is the best way to distinguish the Fish Crow from the American Crow.
Their caw sounds like the standard crow “Caw,” but with a slightly nasal tone, making it easy to identify them.
Another way to tell whether a bird is a Fish Crow is by whether or not it sits on a wire.
3. Common Raven
A raven’s body is pure black, and its long, wedge-shaped tail, long, thin wings, and big beak set it apart from other birds.
They tower above the American Crow and the Fish Crow.
The raven is an acrobatic flier that, at times, mimics the appearance of a hawk in the air.
The “caw” they make is more of a croak, and they additionally clack their bills harshly and loudly.
A common raven is a powerful predator. Crows, among other birds, are known to harass and pursue them frequently.
The common raven is a bird that often nests in tree stumps and on tall structures.
There is no food that a raven will not eat. Everything edible that they find, they will consume.
They eat just about everything, from mice to herons to eggs to carrion.
Ravens, or Common Ravens, may be seen almost everywhere.
They are common in rural settings, on fields, and even in certain suburban areas since they are used to human presence and hence pose no threat.
Common Ravens are often seen in unexpected places, such as dumpsters and landfills behind shops.
4. Red Winged Blackbird
One kind of giant blackbird, the male red-winged blackbird, has white underparts and bright red wings.
Long, curved wings and an orange-red shoulder band characterize this creature.
Yet, not all of these blackbirds possess red wings.
They might also have epaulets in bright colors like yellow or orange on their wings.
The female red-winged blackbird has brown streaks and tiger-like stripes across its body.
While red-winged blackbirds are typically nocturnal, they have been seen to appear near artificial light sources at night.
The typical nesting location for red-winged blackbirds is a marshland or other wet area; however, these birds have additionally been seen constructing their nests on flat rooftops as well as chimneys.
Their nest materials include twigs, hair, and grasses. Horsehair, finer grass, and rootlets are used as lining.
The female will lay anywhere from four to six eggs bluish-green in hue.
They are mostly white but are covered with purple, black, and brown specks.
For roughly 12 days, both parents serve as an incubator.
After fifteen days, the babies are ready to go out on their own.
Insects and seeds, such as wheat, maize, and other grains, are common foods for them.
They also consume berries that grow on trees and bushes, such as wild grape, honeysuckle, elderberry, and mulberry.
Being a migratory species, the red-winged blackbird leaves Massachusetts in the autumn and returns in the early spring.
These may be found in a lot of American gardens.
They like the reeds of coastlines and marshes, although lakes are also a typical habitat for them.
Red-winged blackbirds are harbingers of spring for those of us who live in coastal areas.
5. Rusty Blackbird
A rusty blackbird that is only a little bigger and leaner than a Red-winged Blackbird, with a longer tail and thinner beak.
The Rusty Blackbird always has a bright yellow eye, making it easy to spot.
The nests are located in trees and bushes close to bodies of water.
They begin with grasses and twigs, then add a covering of decaying, damp leaves and plants that, once dried, provide the nest with a solid foundation.
Although insects and certain other plant matter make up the bulk of the Rusty Blackbird’s diet, the species has been known to assault and consume other birds.
You may find Rusty Blackbirds in swamps, marshes, and bogs.
They will go into waist-deep water to get to insects, and they may be seen at the margins of wetlands rummaging among decaying leaves.
Rusty Blackbirds, unlike most other species of blackbirds, like to congregate in considerably smaller groups.
The population of the Rusty Blackbird has been decreasing at an alarming rate in recent years throughout the United States.
6. Yellow-Headed Blackbird
The huge blackbird possesses a thick frame, a massive head, and a long, conical beak.
The males of this species are mostly black, with bright yellow heads and chests.
During the flight, the white spot on their wings stands out as a narrow stripe.
The females are dark brown overall, with a yellowish face and neck.
Young males look like a mashup of a male and a female, with a light brown body, yellow breasts, and brown streaks on the head.
Nests of the Yellow-headed Blackbird are always placed above water, even in the shallowest of wetlands and marshes.
With the help of bulrushes, cattails, and reeds, they create a cup-shaped nest large enough to accommodate anywhere from two to five eggs.
The small Marsh Wren, along with gulls, Common Grackles, and American Bitterns, is a major predator of Yellow-headed Blackbird eggs.
Blackbirds rely on seeds for food throughout the year, but during the summertime, they mostly eat insects.
Several species have been seen turning over stones in search of sustenance.
During the nonbreeding months, Yellow-headed Blackbirds may be seen roving through meadows, prairies, and farms in search of food, namely the seeds of crops like maize, sunflowers, and small grains.
During the mating season, they go to shallow wetlands, wetland areas, and reedy lakes.
The smaller Red-winged Blackbirds and Marsh Wrens will be displaced from prime breeding areas in the marsh.
There are 100,000-year-old Yellow-headed Blackbird fossils from New Mexico, California, and Utah.
7. Brewer’s Blackbird
Male Brewers, also called blackbirds, are medium size and have all-black feathers.
Their heads shine with a purple-blue iridescence, their bodies are shiny green, and their eyes are light blue.
The sunshine makes them pop even more. In direct sunlight, the dark blue, glossy black, and bright green plumage shine and sparkle.
The females are a dark gray color with dark eyes and a little blue-green iridescence across their bodies, although it is much less evident than on the males.
While Brewer’s blackbirds often nest in trees, they have been seen to construct nests on the ground among tall grasses.
The nest is a large cup shaped out of twigs, grass, pine needles, and soft grass and covered with animal fur.
Typically, insects and seeds make up the bulk of a Brewer’s Blackbird’s diet.
They become bored easily, so they go on a berry hunt every summer.
Brewer’s blackbirds were observed following agricultural equipment around to check what had been dug up when foraging in farmland and shallow water.
Brewer’s blackbirds are very uncommon in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts; however, sightings have occurred lately in the Bristol and Hampshire regions.
A Brewer’s Blackbird is similar to a Common Grackle.
In what ways are they distinct, and how can you tell them apart? Consider the heads and the tails.
The Common Grackle is a bigger bird with a long tail and a wider beak than the House Sparrow.
Furthermore, the Brewer’s Blackbirds and male Common Grackles possess a similar purple shine on their heads.
Adults reproducing Male Bobolinks are black all over except for the nape of their necks, which are a creamy tint, and their backs, tails, and shoulders, which are covered with white patterns.
Even while in flight, the rump patch may be easily seen.
The female Bobolink is a buffy bird having brown wing stripes, a pink beak, and a white nape.
Bobolinks are distinguished from sparrows by their pale nape, curved wings, and distinct behavior, especially in females and non-breeding males.
Ground-nesting bobolinks are common.
They remove the area of any plants and dig a hollow in the mud to make a nest in the soil when conditions are just right.
They start by lining it with twigs and dried grass and then fill it with softer grass later.
Normally, bobolinks consume just seeds, but during the mating season, they supplement their diet with insects to provide more protein for their developing chick.
Spiders are among the insects that make up their diet, along with oats, cereals, farmed and wild rice, and seeds.
The Bobolink is most at home in wide-open spaces like meadows, tallgrass prairies, fallow fields, hayfields, and reed beds.
9. Common Grackle
All members of the family Blackbirds, of which the Common Grackle is a subspecies, possess iridescent plumage (usually dark blue or purple).
Grackles are sometimes confused with crows; however, the former is considerably smaller and may be identified by their longer tails and sleeker black plumage.
Their eyes are golden, and they’re bigger than a robin.
Throughout the summer, it’s common to see them in big groups.
Together, they construct nests at least three feet off the ground in shrubs and trees.
The female chooses the nest site and does most of the nest building, while the male does assist.
They lay anything from one to seven spotted brown eggs, which might be a pearly gray, a pale blue, or a dark brown.
Young birds typically remain in the nest for 11 to 17 days after hatching, with incubation lasting 10 to 15 days.
Between one and two broods per year are typical for the common grown.
In certain areas, grackles are called “possum hawks” since they are known to attack and eat the eggs of ground-nesting birds such as pheasants, quail, and grouse.
Grackles consume a wide variety of foods, including fruit, insects, grains, and seeds.
They frequent garden bird feeders, where they eat a variety of grains and seeds.
The grackle is a very clever bird that has been seen using its beak to probe under rocks in seek of invertebrates.
They may also be found in agricultural areas, where they feast on maize and rice kernels.
Grackles are widespread in the United States, inhabiting a wide variety of habitats, including backyards, parks, forests, and open fields.
These birds have adapted to city life, finding many sources of food and water.
Grackles have a large repertoire of calls, including rattling noises and whistles.
10. Boat-tailed Grackle
An enormous black bird with deep-set eyes and a long, slender tail.
The Boat-tailed Grackle lives along the shore.
The male is completely black with a glossy blue-black iridescence, whereas the females are noticeably smaller and more of a rich reddish brown.
They have the appearance of a wholly distinct species yet share only their very long tail.
The nests of Boat-tailed Grackles are built high enough on cattails, reeds, and long grass near wetlands to protect the young from flooding and predators.
The Boat-tailed Grackle does not have a refined palate.
They eat a variety of animals, including crabs, mollusks, arthropods, and reptiles, and they aren’t beyond scavenging scraps from people, pets, and other birds.
The Boat-tailed Grackle is a seasonal resident of the Massachusetts coast, arriving in the spring and leaving in the fall.
They inhabit the whole Atlantic coastline and can’t be located too far from the sea (except in Florida).
11. Brown-Headed Cowbird
Short-tailed, stocky, and sporting dark eyes, blackbirds have strong bills and tails.
Male adults have iridescent brown on top of a glossy black body.
The females are lighter in color overall, but their bellies are brown with bright stripes.
The Brown-headed Cowbird lays her eggs directly in a tree without any construction.
Parasitic female Brown-headed Cowbirds steal nests from other birds and place their eggs there.
Cowbird nestlings are known to be rather aggressive and will often drive other bird species’ eggs and chicks away from the nest if they become too big.
The parasitic hosts care for the Cowbird egg and grow it as their own.
The Brown-headed Cowbird’s food consists mostly of seeds, grass, and invertebrates.
As females hatch multiple eggs in the nests of certain other birds, they supplement the nest’s calcium supply with snails and the eggs of the species they parasitize.
The only places brown cowbirds can’t be found are dense woodlands.
They were named thus because they often foraged amid herds of buffalo and cattle, the animals from which they took their name.
It is not uncommon to see Brown-headed Cowbirds amid winter groups of Red-winged Blackbirds, Common Grackles, and European Starlings.
12. Dark-Eyed Junco
The black-eyed juncos are small, slated, and gray birds that have large, dark eyes and a medium-sized sparrow, identified by its long tail, rounded face, and white underbelly.
There are also white spots on its tail.
The dark-eyed junco is among the most abundant birds across North America, with inhabitants of over 600 million.
On average, the Dark-eyed Junco clutch contains three to six eggs.
The dots on their cream-colored bodies are brown.
It is common for the female to lay her eggs in a hole in a tree or directly on the ground.
The diet of the Dark-eyed Junco consists of various berries, insects, and seeds.
They populate the shrubs and trees.
Feeders attract a lot of juncos.
Everything from sunflower seeds to suet to peanut butter to typical wild bird food will be devoured.
They have no discerning tastes.
Winter is fast approaching when Juncos show around.
During the warmer months of the year, you may see them in Canada and the western highlands.
As winter came, these birds made the long journey north to spend the season.
13. European Starling
The European Starling is comparable in size to a Robin and appears jet-black from afar.
But they take on an iridescent purple-green hue when seen in the flesh.
They possess short tails and a bright yellow beak.
They congregate with other birds, like grackles and blackbirds, in huge groups.
Starlings will utilize it if the nest is high enough, such as in a tree, streetlight, building, or in nesting boxes.
The male will come upon these nests and embellish them with natural materials.
Before depositing anywhere from three to six eggs, females will tend the nest with vegetation.
The eggs will be incubated for around 14 days by both the male and female.
The eggs are a bluish-greenish white in hue. In the nest, the young will remain for roughly three weeks.
The European Starling’s diet consists mostly of insects; however, it also includes fruits.
Apart from insects, they also consume rubbish, honey, and cattle feed.
They’ll also eat out of the tray feeders you provide.
In conclusion, Massachusetts is home to a diverse range of black birds, each with their own unique characteristics and behaviors.
From the iconic American Crow to the elusive Rusty Blackbird, these birds have captured the hearts and imaginations of bird enthusiasts and casual observers alike.
By taking the time to appreciate and learn about these fascinating creatures, we can deepen our understanding of the natural world around us and cultivate a deeper appreciation for the beauty and complexity of the ecosystem we share with them.
So, the next time you’re out and about in Massachusetts, keep your eyes and ears open for these black beauties and take a moment to marvel at their wonder.
Are all black birds in Massachusetts completely black?
No, not all black birds in Massachusetts are completely black. Some, such as the Rusty Blackbird and the Brewer’s Blackbird, have distinctive markings or colors on their bodies.
Where can I spot black birds in Massachusetts?
You can spot black birds in various habitats across Massachusetts, including woodlands, wetlands, and suburban areas. Look for them perching on trees or flying overhead.
What do black birds eat?
Black birds have a varied diet that includes insects, fruits, seeds, and grains.
Are black birds in Massachusetts migratory or year-round residents?
Some black birds in Massachusetts are migratory, while others are year-round residents. For example, the Red-winged Blackbird is a common summer resident, while the American Crow can be found in the state year-round.
Are black birds in Massachusetts important for the ecosystem?
Yes, black birds in Massachusetts are important for the ecosystem. They play a crucial role in controlling insect populations, dispersing seeds, and pollinating flowers. They also serve as prey for larger predators, helping to maintain the balance of the food chain.