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The state of Colorado is filled with some of the most incredible outdoor spots. Along with this is a diverse variety of wildlife, birds included. Whether you’re looking in the backyard or out in forested areas, there are many birds to watch. In this article, we’re looking at 10 types of blackbirds that are commonly seen in Colorado.
|Scientific name:||Corvus brachyrhynchos|
|Length:||15.8–20.9 inches (in)|
The American crow is one of those birds that’s a common one that comes to mind when someone envisions what a blackbird looks like. They are larger birds, about double the size of a blue jay, and their plumage is black and glossy. The only real variation to their color is when they molt, then their feathers have a brownish or scaly look to them.
These crows are social birds. It’s not uncommon to see them in massive flocks of thousands of birds. Another interesting thing about crows is their innate curiosity and problem-solving ability. That and their aggression can scare away much larger birds, such as hawks or owls.
|Scientific name:||Corvus corax|
Ravens are another common bird to discuss when talking about blackbirds. Many people get ravens and crows mixed up due to having similar all-black bodies, including their beaks, legs, and eyes. However, size-wise they are very different. A raven is much less bulky than a crow, but they are usually almost twice the size.
The other way you can typically tell these two black birds apart is that ravens aren’t as social. In most cases, you won’t find them in large flocks unless they are swarming on a food source such as a garbage dump.
|Scientific name:||Sturnus vulgaris|
The European starling isn’t native to Colorado, but you’ll still find them there. They are a small bird, around the size of an American robin. From a distance, their feathers look entirely black. But as you get closer, you’ll see they have a purplish-green iridescent hue contrasting with their yellow beaks. During winter, their plumage is mostly brown with white spots.
Being fairly social birds, it’s common to see European starlings in large, mixed groups. They’re also common to see perched in hordes high on telephone lines. They won’t let you miss them with their loud whirs and whistles.
|Scientific name:||Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus|
The yellow-headed blackbird is not quite as large as a crow. However, as far as blackbirds go, they are a decent size. Based on their shape and size, it would be pretty easy to mistake a male for a crow if it wasn’t for their yellow head, throat, and chest. Except for a white patch on their wings, their bodies are black, including their legs and beak.
They aren’t overly social birds. However, they do breed in small colonies. During the breeding season, a single male will usually mate with several females. The exception to their socialization is during the winter. That’s when you’ll see them forming massive mixed flocks and feeding on grain in farmer’s fields.
|Scientific name:||Dolichonyx oryzivorus|
Bobolinks are a small bird, roughly the size of a robin. While not technically a blackbird, they are closely related, and breeding males live out this reputation. Most of the male’s body is black, except for its back and rump, which are white. They also usually have a warm yellow nape.
During the spring, it’s not uncommon to see male bobolinks putting on flying displays close to the ground. Other than that, these birds usually like to stay hidden. You can find them hopping through long grass and brush, foraging for food.
|Scientific name:||Agelaius phoeniceus|
For their size, the red-winged blackbird is kind of humorous to look at. They are fairly small, but they have puffy chests and round heads. They are aptly named for their all-black bodies, including feet and beak, except for bright red patches on each wing. Sometimes, they also have a little bit of pale yellow or white mixed into the patches.
Between males and females, they behave quite differently. Males love attention and will perch high, singing their songs for the whole world to hear. In contrast, the females typically prefer to stay lower, hidden by vegetation, while they look for food.
|Scientific name:||Euphagus cyanocephalus|
Brewer’s blackbirds are another relatively small blackbird. They have a similar glossy black color, like a crow or raven. One significant difference in color they have is their yellow eyes. Also, females have mostly brown plumage with some black mixed in.
Because of their long, slender legs, these blackbirds have a unique walk, almost like a chicken. You’ll commonly find them in open spaces like parks or even busy streets. Another interesting thing about these birds is how they fly; you’ll see them rising and falling as they go.
|Scientific name:||Molothrus ater|
The brown-headed cowbird is one of the smaller blackbirds you’ll find in Colorado. If you’re not paying attention, you may even mistake the immature males and the females for finches. But the males are a glossy black color contrasted by a dark brown head. It’s dark enough that unless you’re looking at them up close, they will look entirely black.
You can find brown-headed cowbirds in many different areas. Some of their favorite places are open habitats, such as residential yards, parks, pastures, or fields. They spend a lot of time on the ground feeding, and the males strut their stuff to the females on the ground. Other than that, they typically perch high, away from any danger.
|Scientific name:||Quiscalus quiscula|
The common grackle isn’t quite the size of a crow or raven, but they are bigger than the red-winged blackbird. They are slender, almost lanky birds with long tails and legs. This effect is magnified while flying because of the dramatic proportion difference between their tails and wings.
From a distance, a common grackle simply looks like a blackbird. However, as you get closer, you’ll notice the contrast of their glossy purple head with their iridescent, bronze-colored body. Males and females are mostly the same color, but the females tend to be a bit less glossy.
|Scientific name:||Euphagus carolinus|
Another aptly named blackbird is the rusty blackbird. They are a similar size to the common grackle, but they have a more slender beak and shorter tail. Their name comes from the male’s winter coloration: the feathers get a rusty color to their edges. But during the breeding season, the male is glossy black, similar to the crow.
A female rusty blackbird also has characteristic rusty edges on its feathers. But their overall body color is more of a grayish brown. During the winter, it’s common to see these birds in mixed flocks with other Colorado blackbirds, such as the European starling, red-winged blackbirds, or the common grackle.
None of these blackbirds is particularly rare or hard to find, and most stick out significantly from other birds they may be flocking with. Now that you’ve seen ten of the common types of blackbirds in Colorado, which one do you want to go and find first?
Featured Image Credit: JackBulmer, Pixabay
Shea Cummings is a passionate content writer who believes that the power of words is immeasurable. He leverages years of experience in various trades such as carpentry, photography, and electrical to bring his articles to life. His goal is to provide his readers with information that delights and informs. When he's not writing you can find him spending time in the outdoors or playing some Minecraft on the Xbox with his wife and two sons.
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