9 Types Of Black Birds In Florida (ID Guide In 2024)

Last updated on March 13th, 2024 at 04:12 pm

Encountered black birds in Florida and wondering about their species? Florida’s diverse avian population includes numerous black or partially black species, making identification tricky.

Florida’s warm climate and strategic location attract migratory birds and those seeking winter warmth from the Caribbean, Central America, and Northern South America—blackbirds, notorious for their seed and grain consumption, present agricultural difficulties. Florida hosts 19 out of 25 New World Blackbird species in North America, including Blackbirds, Snail Kite, Meadowlarks, Anhinga, Grackles, and Laughing Gulls. This article will focus on predominantly black-plumaged bird species and provide tips for distinguishing similar-looking species.

Black Birds In Florida (Highlights)

  • In Florida, blackbird species such as the Common Grackle, Red-winged Blackbird, Brewer’s Blackbird, Rusty Blackbird, and Yellow-headed Blackbird are commonly found.
  • Each species of blackbird exhibits distinct physical characteristics, habitat preferences, and feeding behaviors.
  • Conservation initiatives are crucial to safeguard the habitats and populations of blackbirds, particularly those facing declines.
  • A 2013 study revealed that urban lighting prompts blackbirds residing in cities to breed earlier compared to their rural counterparts.

9 Types Of Black Birds In Florida

1. Swallow-Tailed Kite: Florida’s Majestic Marvel

Black Birds In Florida
  • Scientific Name: Elanoides forficatus
  • Average Weight: 0.68 – 1.31 lb
  • Wingspan: 44 – 53 inches
  • Appearance: Large, black body, tapered wings, white-coloured head
  • Best Time to See Them in Florida: Early March

The Swallow-tailed Kite is easily identifiable by its long, pointed wings, white head and underparts, black back, and deeply forked tail.

With striking black and white feathers, including a white head and belly contrasted against black wings, tails, and backs, Swallow-tailed Kites also sport tiny, hooked black beaks and eyes. They primarily feed on insects, amphibians, reptiles, and nestling birds, often hovering over water bodies to hunt. Their diet also includes snails, which inspired their scientific name, “Rostrhamus sociabilis plumbeus,” meaning “friendly snail kite.”

Do You know: During the breeding season, multiple pairs of Swallow-tailed Kites may nest in nearby trees, with nonbreeding birds lingering in the vicinity. Males may bring food and nesting materials to females, although females usually reject these offerings.

2. Laughing Gull: Florida’s Iconic Beach Companion

Black Birds In Florida
  • Scientific Name: Leucophaeus atricilla
  • Average Weight: 0.45 – 0.81 lb
  • Wingspan: 39 – 43 inches
  • Appearance: Medium-sized, long wings, elongated legs, greyish-black hood
  • Best Time to See Them in Florida: November – December

The Laughing Gull’s laughter echoes along Florida’s 663 miles of beaches, where they reside. With medium-sized bodies, elongated wings, and elegant strides, they present a picturesque sight along the Atlantic seacoasts. Their encounters are common around docks, parking lots, and beaches, where they display raucous calls. Found in mud bars, sandy shores, and parking lots, these gulls are easily accessible to Floridians and visitors. During the breeding season, they forage at night, searching for food along the beach and hovering to catch insects around lights.

Do You know: Nest colonies in the northeastern United States were nearly wiped out by egg and plume hunters in the late 19th century. However, populations have rebounded in the last century thanks to protection efforts. The oldest recorded Laughing Gull lived to be at least 22 years old before being killed in Maine in 2009, where it had been banded in 1987.

3. Snail Kite: Florida’s Unique Raptor

Black Birds In Florida
  • Scientific Name: Rostrhamus sociabilis
  • Average Weight: 0.68 – 1.25 lb
  • Wingspan: 39 – 47 inches
  • Appearance: Medium-sized, paddle-like wings, broad tail, blackish-grey body
  • Best Time to See Them in Florida: February – August

The Snail Kite, a member of the Accipitridae family, is a medium-sized raptor found in Florida. With hooked bills, long tails, and broad 47-inch wings, they primarily hunt apple snails near water bodies. Males have yellow beaks with gray tips, and black tails with white edges, while females have brown feathers with white faces. With only around 1,000 left, they are federally protected. Specializing in feeding on a specific type of snail in freshwater marshes, they breed exclusively in Florida, primarily in the Everglades.

Do You know: Biologists in Florida have meticulously studied Snail Kite nest success since 1968. In drought years like 1974, only 17% of nests were successful, while nearly 90% succeeded in years with stable water levels ideal for apple snails. On average, around 40% of nests produce fledglings in Florida over the decades.

READ ALSO: Quiet Animals

4. White-Crowned Pigeon: Florida’s Enigmatic Avian Resident

Black Birds In Florida
  • Scientific Name: Patagioenas leucocephala
  • Average Weight: 0.33 – 0.66 lb
  • Wingspan: 19 – 23 inches
  • Appearance: Large-sized, dark body with a contrasting head, iridescent greenish scalloping
  • Best Time to See Them in Florida: June – August

The White-Crowned Pigeon (Patagioenas leucocephala) is a striking bird with a large, entirely blackish-grey body and a contrasting whitish cap. Found in South Florida’s mangrove keys and wooded islands, they sport iridescent green scallops on their nape. While primarily a Caribbean species, they are commonly found in Florida’s southernmost regions, particularly the Everglades and Keys. Preferring densely forested areas with berry bushes and fruit-bearing trees, they tend to stay high in the foliage, making them challenging to spot. Although they have a shy disposition, observers can spot them in small flocks or pairs during flight, where they soar for up to 30 miles.

Do You know: Many pigeons and doves are strong fliers. While the ground speed of the White-Crowned Pigeon hasn’t been formally documented, it’s been reported to surpass the speed of a fast motorboat.

5. Red-Cockaded Woodpecker: Florida’s Endangered Icon

Red-Cockaded Woodpecker was entering its nest with food.
  • Scientific Name: Leuconotopicus borealis
  • Average Weight: 0.08 – 0.12 lb
  • Wingspan: 13 – 16 inches
  • Appearance: Straight and short bill, black-white bars, tiny red streak
  • Best Time to See Them in Florida: April – July

The Red-Cockaded Woodpecker, an endangered species native to the southeastern United States, is small and primarily black and white with distinctive black crowns, white facial spots, and strong cheek stripes. Males have a subtle red streak on their cockade. Logging and other human activities impact their habitat, leading to their endangered status, as it encompasses open pine forests and savannas. These woodpeckers forage in groups and emit distinctive calls, including a high-pitched “peek” and a moderate “churr.” Spotting and hearing them is significant for bird enthusiasts in Florida, representing the state’s biodiversity and conservation efforts. However, they face habitat loss due to disappearing pine forests.

Do You know: A family of Red-Cockaded Woodpeckers excavates multiple cavities within their territory, taking two years or more to complete one. During the night, the breeding male settles in the newest, sap-rich cavity, where it lays and incubates the eggs.

6. Boat-Tailed Grackle: Florida’s Coastal Showstopper

Boat-Tailed Grackle is singing on top of the tinny.
  • Scientific Name: Quiscalus major
  • Average Weight: 0.36 – 0.55 lb
  • Wingspan: 15 – 20 inches
  • Appearance: Lengthy tail, glossy black body, dark-colored eyes, pointy bill.
  • Best Time to See Them in Florida: February – September

Boat-tailed Grackles, large glossy blackbirds with keel-shaped tails, are common along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, especially in Florida. Active in the morning and evening, they forage for insects and engage in playful pursuits. Males display iridescent black plumage with purple and blue hues, yellow eyes, and distinctive boat-shaped tails during courtship. Females are golden brown with dark wings. Breeding in saltwater marshes, they frequent beaches, beach towns, and urban areas, scavenging for food in large social flocks. Boat-tailed Grackles are year-round residents throughout most of Florida, favoring coastal areas in the panhandle.

Do You know: The Boat-tailed Grackle was formally described in 1819 by the French ornithologist Louis Jean Pierre Vieillot, based on a specimen collected in New Orleans, Louisiana.

7. Smooth-Billed Ani: Florida’s Enigmatic Avian Resident

Smooth-Billed Ani is sitting on the rock and eating the beech.
  • Scientific Name: Crotophaga ani
  • Average Weight: 0.15 lb
  • Wingspan: 16 – 18 inches
  • Appearance: Shiny black body, thick neck, long tail.
  • Best Time to See Them in Florida: March – April

The Smooth-billed Ani is a medium-sized bird with a black body, a long tail, and a thick beak resembling a parrot. Omnivorous, they feed on insects, fruits, and small lizards, foraging on the ground and in trees in groups. They build communal nests in thorny trees, where multiple females lay eggs, resulting in up to 36 eggs per nest. Males and females share incubation and caring for the young. Found mainly in Central/South America and the Caribbean, they were once common in Florida but have declined due to landscape changes and pesticide use since the 1970s. Look for them in central and southern parts of the state, in wet, shrubby, and thorny habitats.

Do You know: Related to cuckoos and roadrunners, one distinguishing feature of this group is their “zygodactyl” feet, with two toes pointing forward and two pointing backward.

READ ALSO: Small Birds with Long Legs

8. Common Myna: Florida’s Unconventional Urban Resident

Black Birds In Florida
  • Scientific Name: Acridotheres tristis
  • Average Weight: 0.24 lb
  • Wingspan: 4 – 5 inches
  • Appearance: Blackish-brown body, yellow bill, white patches on wings
  • Best Time to See Them in Florida: Not known

The Common Myna (Acridotheres tristis), though not native to Florida, has established a thriving presence in the state’s suburbs and cities. Despite being non-native, encountering these distinctive birds can be fascinating, especially for those who may never visit their native habitat in Asia. They are abundant in urban areas throughout Florida, including Miami and the Florida Keys.

These large birds have blackish-brown plumage with distinctive whitish patches and wing linings visible during flight. Their bright yellow bill, legs, and eyes make them easily recognizable. When constructing their nests, mynas may incorporate unusual materials such as tissue paper, tin foil, and even snakeskin.

Do You know: Common mynas are fond of grasshoppers, which led to their generic name, Acridotheres, meaning “grasshopper hunter.”

9. Anhinga: The Aquatic Arrow in Florida’s Skies

Anhinga is on the edge of the water with its wings open.
  • Scientific Name: Anhinga anhinga
  • Average Weight: 2.7 lb
  • Wingspan: 45 – 48 inches
  • Appearance: Slender, S-shaped neck, daggerlike bill, black body.
  • Best Time to See Them in Florida: December – January

Anhingas, aquatic birds found in Florida’s shallow freshwater habitats like mangroves and wetlands, are known for their black bodies with white wing accents and long, snake-like necks. Nicknamed “snake birds,” they swim with only their necks above water and possess turkey-like tail feathers, earning them the moniker “water turkey.” Feeding primarily on fish, they hunt underwater by stabbing prey with their sharp bills. Unlike ducks, Anhingas lack waterproof feathers, so they dry their wings by stretching them out on shore after swimming.

Do You know: The name “Anhinga” originates from the Tupi Indians in Brazil, translating to “devil bird” or “evil spirit of the woods.” In 1948, someone shot the oldest recorded Anhinga, which was at least 12 years old, in Louisiana.

Conclusion: A Birding Paradise in the Sunshine State

Florida, the Sunshine State, is a birding paradise with a stunning array of bird species to explore. Whether you’re a seasoned birder or just beginning to discover the joy of birdwatching, Florida beckons with its avian wonders.

In this guide, we’ve delved into some of Florida’s most commonly found species of black-colored birds. From the elegant Swallow-Tailed Kite to the raucous Laughing Gull and the unique Snail Kite, Florida’s birdlife is as diverse as it is captivating.

So, whether you’re strolling along the beaches, exploring the wetlands, or venturing into the dense forests, keep your binoculars ready and your senses tuned. Florida’s black-feathered residents are waiting to be discovered, and each encounter promises a glimpse into the vibrant world of avian wonders.

Pack your birding essentials, prepare for adventure, and embark on a journey to witness the beauty of Florida’s blackbirds. It’s an experience that will leave you in awe of nature’s boundless creativity and the endless wonders of the avian realm.

FAQs

1. When is the best time to spot black birds in Florida?

The ideal time for birdwatching in Florida varies by species, but many blackbirds can be seen year-round. However, early March is a good time to observe the Swallow-Tailed Kite, and November to December is prime for Laughing Gulls.

2. Are these black birds found only in specific regions of Florida?

While many blackbirds are widespread throughout Florida, some species have specific habitats. For example, the Snail Kite is mainly found in the state’s wetlands, while the Boat-Tailed Grackle thrives in coastal regions.

3. What are the blackbirds called in Florida?

The Common Grackle, Red-winged Blackbird, Brewer’s Blackbird, Rusty Blackbird, Yellow-headed Blackbird, Scott’s Oriole, Bobolink, Eastern Meadowlark, and Western Meadowlark are notable species in this region.

4. Are black crows common in Florida?

Crows are a common sight in Florida and can be found in various habitats throughout the state.

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