5 Types of Blackbirds You Should Know

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Not all birds in the blackbird family are the same. Learn about five types of blackbirds you might see across North America.

Types of Blackbirds

The blackbird family (Icteridae) includes many species not called blackbirds, such as orioles, meadowlarks, bobolinks and cowbirds. Other birds, such as crows, ravens and starlings, are also primarily black colored, but are in different bird families. Here are five types of blackbirds that you might spot.

red winged blackbirdCourtesy John Doyle

Red-Winged Blackbird

Male red-winged blackbirds, flashing their scarlet shoulder patches, are common across North America. You can find these birds in a variety of habitats. They’ll adapt to pond edges, weedy ditches or even brushy fields. Some of these birds are probably nesting in just about every county in the Lower 48 states. Their total population is estimated at 130 million to 190 million birds.

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yellow headed blackbirdCourtesy Albert Myran

Yellow-Headed Blackbird

According to Kaufman field guide, yellow-headed blackbirds attract attention with their flashy colors and terrible attempts at singing. The song is described as “a few gurgles followed by a long, strangled buzzing noise.” On the males, a white wing patch is visible in flight. Look for these black and yellow birds in western marshes in summer.

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Rusty Blackbird, types of blackbirdsPaulReevesPhotography/Getty Images

Rusty Blackbird

In fall, you can see the rusty brown plumage (above) that gives this bird its name. The buff colored eyebrow is another key field mark. During other seasons, male rusty blackbirds are a dull black color with yellow eyes. This uncommon (and declining) species is almost always spotted by water. Rusty blackbirds nest around far northern bogs and spend winters in southeastern swamps.

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brewer's blackbirds, types of blackbirdsCourtesy Nidia Y Palomo

Brewer’s Blackbird

Look for these types of blackbirds in the western United States. According to the Kaufman field guide, they are ” very common in open country…near the Pacific coast, and also in cities, walking about on busy sidewalks.” Brewer’s blackbirds resemble grackles but have shorter tails. They are slightly larger than cowbirds. Males have glossy black feathers and white colored eyes.

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Tricolored Blackbird, types of blackbirdsLinda C Smith/Getty Images

Tricolored Blackbird

Head to California if you want to see a tricolored blackbird. It resembles the red-winged blackbird, but is rarer. Their shoulder patch is red and white, not red and yellow. They are very social birds that are frequently seen in large groups.

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Lori Vanover
Lori Vanover is the senior digital editor for Birds & Blooms. She enjoys growing vegetables in containers and raised beds and watching for birds in her backyard.