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Calling all bird watchers of Maryland! While vibrantly colorful birds usually catch people’s eyes, Maryland is home to many fascinating black birds. These birds have interesting personalities and can be observed to learn more about bird behavior.
While about two dozen black birds are found across North America, 10 black birds are commonly seen within the Maryland borders. This article goes over some details about those birds, so you are equipped with knowledge for your next birdwatching adventure!
|Size:||17 to 21 inches|
The American crow is found in every county in Maryland. These glossy black birds are often viewed as pests, as they will feed on crops without hesitation. Heard of a scarecrow? Well, scarecrows were designed to deter crows from fields. However, the American crow is a very intelligent bird. They are also social creatures as well, often found flocking together in large groups (called a murder). American crows use this group dynamic to their advantage; they can chase off predators and nest warmly together in the winter months.
|Size:||22 to 27 inches|
|Range:||Chesapeake area, western Maryland|
Naturally, the common raven needs to be on this list of black birds found in Maryland because of the famous poem by Baltimore resident Edgar Allen Poe, “The Raven”. Ravens often get a bad rap because of their physical features and imposing vocalization. However, ravens are incredibly intelligent. They have been known to use sticks to play games with other ravens and perform aerial acrobatics for fun. In the wild, ravens can live to around 13 years; however, a captive raven lived almost 80 years old!
Ravens are often confused with crows. The easiest ways to tell them apart is by the physical size (ravens are larger) and the tail feather length (ravens have longer tail feathers). Ravens will often travel in pairs, while crows are often found in groups.
|Size:||11 to 13.4 inches|
The common grackle is a lanky black bird, recognized for its long tail feathers. Males have iridescent feathers, usually a combination of greenish blues and copper. If you are able to observe them in the right light, they are really magnificent! Females do not have the same coloring and are usually far less iridescent. Common grackles are found throughout Maryland but are more commonly seen in rural farmland, wooded areas, and swampy regions. These birds will bully smaller birds when feeding and fly in large flocks.
|Size:||2 to 14.6 inches|
The noisy boat-tailed grackle tends to live nearer to the Chesapeake Bay as compared to the common grackle, which are found all over Maryland. This is due to their preferred diet, consisting of crabs, mussels, shrimp, frogs, snails, and small fish. However, boat-tailed grackle males share the same iridescent color on their feathers. Females are mostly brown. Boat-tailed grackles are also aggressive and can be risky feeders. They have been known to steal food from larger birds!
The brown-headed cowbird is a stocky black bird that is recognized by its brown head (on a male), hence its name! The female will have plain brown feathers. This species is a brood parasite common around all of Maryland. A brood parasite will lay their eggs in another species’ nest, letting that species raise their young. This means that brown-headed cowbirds do not build nests to have young, but they will select a nest among 220 other species of birds in which to lay their eggs.
People can set out bird feeders that will attract these brown-headed cowbirds; however, some people deem these birds as a nuisance. As they are brood parasites, they can destroy the eggs in other song birds’ nests so they can lay their eggs. This can affect the birds who frequent your backyard.
|Size:||5 to 8 inches|
|Range:||Farmlands across Maryland|
While not all black or dark in color, the Baltimore oriole makes the list because they belong in the Icteridae family, the New World blackbirds. The Baltimore oriole is Maryland’s state bird because its plumage matches the colors of the state flag. While these birds can be sighted across Maryland, you have a better chance of seeing them near farmland. Fruit is the preferred fruit of this bird!
|Size:||3 to 9.8 inches|
|Range:||Swampy areas across Maryland|
The swamp-loving rusty blackbird can be recognized by their glossy black feathers that change to a rusty brown in the winter months. Females maintain a brown-gray plumage with hints of rusty brown on their wing tips. Both sexes have striking pale eyes that stand out in contrast to their dark feathers. These birds will travel in small flocks, often mixing with common grackles.
|Size:||3 to 10.2 inches|
|Range:||Rare sightings in Chesapeake area|
While the yellow-headed blackbird is considered an accidental bird in Maryland, there have been sightings in marsh areas of Maryland, namely around the Chesapeake area. As you can tell by the name, this blackbird has a vibrant yellow-colored head that a birdwatcher can easily spot at a distance. However, people have noted that the song of the yellow-headed blackbird is horrible to listen to. Good thing that they are physically beautiful!
|Range:||Throughout Maryland in the summer|
The red-winged blackbird can be found all over Maryland in the summer but is more commonly seen in rural areas near bodies of water. The males have a bright red and yellow patch on their wings that stands out among their glossy black plumage. Feathers on the female are brown and patterned. Male red-winged blackbirds like to be the center of attention and will showboat at any given time. Females tend to avoid the spotlight.
|Range:||Rare sightings in Maryland|
Another accidental species in Maryland, Brewer’s blackbirds could, technically, be spotted in various places in the state. They will feed in fields, parks, farms, and even roadsides. Like the common grackle, male Brewer’s blackbirds look all black but have an iridescent hue to them when caught in the right light. Females have browner feathers.
There you have it! This article described 10 black birds of Maryland. Although people are more prone to watch out for the more colorful birds when out in nature, do not forget about the black birds. These birds have interesting behavior patterns and physical features that make them stand out. Happy birdwatching!
Featured Image Credit: JackBulmer, Pixabay
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Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.
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