Avian species exist in a variety of colors and shades, from vibrant red to drab brown. Black and white are among the most common plumage colors for birds and this article lists a handful of some of the birds which display them.
Despite sharing a similarity in plumage morphology, these birds are all very diverse. From diet to behavior to size, these species are all unique and fascinating.
- Black and White Birds Identification List
- Small Black and White Birds
- Large Black and White Birds
- Black and White Backyard Birds
- Black and White Birds of Prey
- Black and White Songbirds
- Black and White Warbler
- Black and White Waterfowl
- Types of Black and White Markings
Black and White Birds Identification List
In some species, such as the snow goose, white is the dominant plumage color. However, others, such as the American coot, are primarily black.
Many of the species on this list are a combination of both black and white. These colors can be clearly divided as with the black-capped chickadee, or mottled together, like the black and white warbler.
Small Black and White Birds
Scientific Name: Poecile atricapillus
Black-capped chickadees have a black cap and throat that are contrasted by bright white cheeks. Their back, wings, and tail are slate gray whilst their belly is a paler gray.
Gathering in flocks, they forage predominantly for insects which make up about 90% of their diet.
Black-capped chickadees occupy deciduous forests and dense woodlands, but also venture into urban regions.
Carolina chickadees look almost identical to black-capped chickadees, with the subtle difference being the lack of white wing edges. Likewise, these small birds average just above 4 inches in length.
Insects are their main food source, which they glean from trees and foliage. They also consume plant matter when animal sources are rare.
Forests and woodlands are their favored habitat, but they can also be found in more open and urban areas.
Scientific Name: Dryobates pubescens
Downy woodpeckers are the smallest woodpecker species in North America, averaging around 6 inches in length.
Underneath they are white, and they have black and white checkerboard patterns wings and back. Males also boast a vibrant red patch on the back of their heads.
Insects make up most of their diet, which they excavate from wood with their bill. They also consume plant material and are frequent visitors to bird feeders, consuming suet and sunflower seeds.
They live in open woodlands across most of the United States.
Scientific Name: Sitta carolinensis
White-breasted nuthatches have a grey back and wings streaked with black. They have a black cap and a white face and belly. These small birds average around 5 inches in length.
So-called because they wedge nuts into the tree bark and break them with their sharp bill to “hatch” the seeds out.
White-breasted nuthatches are commonly found in mature, deciduous woods across North America, apart from cool and arid regions.
Scientific Name: Himantopus mexicanus
Despite their long legs, these birds are actually small-bodied. Their black and white plumage is contrasted by their pink legs.
Using their long bill, they probe the sand of shallow waters in search of tiny, aquatic invertebrates to consume. They seldom swim, but rather wade through the water using their stilt-like legs.
Black-necked stilts inhabit marshes and shallow wetlands across the shorelines of the United States.
Large Black and White Birds
Scientific Name: Haematopus longirostris
American oystercatcher’s black upper parts are contrasted by their pure white underside. They have vibrant orange eyes, legs, and long, thick bills.
Using their long bill they probe the sandy ground in search of mollusks to smash open. They use their bill to snip the muscle of the bivalve to open the shell.
American oystercatchers inhabit shorelines with sandy beaches or salt marshes. They have a small range along the shores of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Gulf Coasts of the Americas.
Scientific Name: Pica hudsonia
Black-billed magpies are fairly large, stocky birds with long tails. Their plumage is white and iridescent black.
Being omnivores, they will feast on virtually anything from fruit to mammals to carrion. They are an intelligent and social species, often gathering in flocks to forage or mob a raptor.
Both urban and rural locations provide habitats for these birds. They can be found in Northwest America.
Scientific Name: Thalasseus maximus
Royal terns are fairly large and stocky seabirds. They are mainly gray with a black crown and vibrant yellow bill.
Being seabirds, their diet is primarily small fish, which they catch by diving into the water.
Coastal marine waters are the habitat for this bird. They are found along the coasts of Central and South America.
Scientific Name: Mycteria americana
Wood storks are large birds reaching 45 inches in length. They have elongated bills and stilt-like legs. They are mainly white with black flight feathers and a bald, scaly head.
Fish and aquatic organisms make up their diet, which they obtain by using their bill to probe the wet sand.
Being wading birds, they reside in wetland habitats such as marshes. They are distributed mainly in South America.
Scientific Name: Rynchops niger
Black skimmers have long wings and an oversized, orange bill tipped with black. They are black above and white underneath.
Being coastal waterbirds, they feed mainly on fish alongside other aquatic organisms. They catch their prey by skimming their bill through the water.
Black skimmers inhabit shorelines across South America.
Black and White Backyard Birds
Scientific Name: Melanerpes formicivorus
Acorn woodpeckers are mainly black with a white belly and a striking red cap. The red cap is slightly smaller in females.
Acorns are their favorite food, which they will forage in groups and wedge into holes they have excavated into tree bark. They are also frequent visitors to backyard feeders.
Acorn woodpeckers inhabit open woodlands across their small range in Southwest America.
Scientific Name: Dryobates scalaris
So-called due to their black and white ladder marking along their back feathers. Males also have bright red caps.
Using their strong bill, they drill holes into tree bark to extract insects and their larvae, which they will consume. They often visit backyard feeders in search of seeds and mealworms.
Ladder-backed woodpeckers reside in desert habitats across South America.
Scientific Name: Pheucticus ludovicianus
Rose-breasted grosbeaks show sexual dimorphism. The head, back, wings, and tail of birds are black and white, which contrasts with their bright red chest. Conversely, females lack a red chest and have dark brown upper parts.
Both sexes have a thick, stout bill that is specialized for consuming nuts and seeds. As such, they are frequent visitors to backyard feeders. These birds also glean arthropods from among vegetation.
Rose-breasted grosbeaks are long-distance migrants, flying from their breeding ground in North or Central America to far South over the winter.
Scientific Name: Coccyzus erythropthalmus
Black-billed cuckoos are brown above and white underneath, with a red ring around the eye.
Large insects make up most of this bird’s diet, which they glean from the foliage. Although not garden birds themselves, they parasitize the nests of some garden bird species, such as robins and dunnocks.
Adults frequent dense woodlands and forests throughout Northeast America. They can often be heard making their iconic ‘cuckoo’ sound before they are spotted.
Black and White Birds of Prey
Scientific Name: Pandion haliaetus
The osprey is a large raptor with dark brown upper parts and mainly white underparts. They have a white head which is broken up by two brown lines which run through the eye.
Fish make up 99% of their diet, which they snatch from near the surface of the water with their talons.
The osprey can be found almost anywhere with shallow waters rich with fish, such as lagoons, lakes, and reservoirs. They have a vast geographical range, spanning from Alaska to Mexico.
Scientific Name: Accipiter gentilis
Northern goshawk’s upper parts are gray-brown whilst their underparts are white and heavily barred. Their dark head is contrasted by white eyebrow-like strips.
Anything from birds to mammals to carrion makes up this raptor’s diet. They swoop down from perches to grab their prey.
Northern goshawks frequent large and mature forests. These birds breed across North and Central America though some may migrate further South during the winter.
Black and White Songbirds
Black and White Warbler
Scientific Name: Mniotilta varia
Bold black and white stripes decorate this bird’s plumage. They produce a squeaky song, indicating the arrival of spring.
Insects make up the majority of their diet, which they forage for among foliage.
Residing in forest habitats, they are found across Central and Eastern North America.
Scientific Name: Sayornis nigricans
Black phoebes are brown-gray with darker heads and pale bellies. They can often be heard producing sharp, shrill calls.
Arthropods constitute virtually their entire diet, which they obtain through flycatching or snatching from the surface of a body of water.
Black phoebes reside in open habitats near bodies of water across Western America.
Scientific Name: Setophaga striata
Males have black caps and streaked black and white plumage. Females lack the cap and are brown overall. They produce a very high-pitched song.
Insects are their main food source, which they glean from shrubs and branches.
Blackpoll warblers live in boreal forests across North America. They migrate South to winter.
Scientific Name: Setophaga coronate
Also known as the myrtle warbler, they are mainly grey with white patches underneath. They have flashes of yellow on their face, side, and rump.
Yellow-rumped warblers glean insects and their larvae from the canopies of the trees.
Yellow-rumped warblers breed in mature forests in Western America and migrate South to more open habitats over the winter.
Black and White Waterfowl
Scientific Name: Fulica americana
The American coot is plump and black with a rounded white bill. Despite being a water bird, they do not have webbed feet.
Almost entirely herbivorous, they consume mainly aquatic plants such as algae and water lilies. They inhabit freshwater wetlands including ponds and lakes.
American coots are found throughout North, Central, and South America.
Scientific Name: Gavia immer
Also known as the Great Northern Loon/Diver, this black and white duck has a checkerboard pattern body. Its head is entirely black.
Fish are their main food source which they catch using their powerful diving ability.
Common loons inhabit very clear lakes and ponds across most of America, except very far South.
Scientific Name: Cygnus olor
Elegant yet aggressive, these waterfowl adorn a snow-white plumage that is contrasted by a bright orange beak, outlined in black.
Mainly herbivorous, mute swans consume aquatic vegetation but will also feast on some animal prey such as snails and insects.
Mute swans can be found in a variety of wetland habitats across Eurasia and North America.
Scientific Name: Anser caerulescens
Snow geese exhibit two morphs; the white morph in which their plumage is almost entirely white and the blue morph in which their plumage is dark blue except for a white face.
The snow goose is herbivorous, feasting on both aquatic and terrestrial plants.
The most abundant waterfowl in North America, are found in lakes and ponds throughout the continent.
Types of Black and White Markings
The black and white coloration of feathers can occur in a variety of patterns.
Speckled markings are those which are uneven, irregular, and somewhat random in appearance. For example, the chest of an acorn woodpecker shows a black and white speckled pattern.
Spotted markings are patterns that resemble clearly defined spots of circles. An example of spotted plumage is demonstrated by the common loon, exhibiting bold white circles against black plumage.
Striped markings are defined by bars that can be either vertical, horizontal, or diagonal. For example, the osprey has brown and white stripes running along its tail and wing feathers.
White Wings or Tail
The tail or wing feathers and entirely white, such as those seen in the mute swan.