5 Small Birds with Black Head and Orange Breast

Whether you see them tugging earthworms out of the ground or spot them caroling away on treetops, there are several small birds with black heads and orange breasts that you might not be able to identify or tell apart.

These birds can show similarities not only in the color of their plumage but also in the shape of their bills, size, diet, and habitat.

Below, I’m going to cover 5 of the most interesting small birds with orange breasts and black caps. When describing the plumage of these birds, I’ll be describing that of the male bird of the species, which is usually more colorful than the female.

Black-Headed Grosbeak

With an orange cinnamon breast, a black head, and black wings with white markings, the Black-headed Grosbeak is a compact-looking songbird. The bird features a conical beak that’s thick at the base.

The female is missing the black color both from its wings and head. Instead, the wings and head of the female Grosbeak are brown.

This songbird can be spotted gleaning in the foliage of trees, where it feeds on seeds and insects.

It prefers mixed woodlands with a thick understory but can be found in diverse habitats including thickets along desert streams, but also backyards and parks.

Black-headed Grosbeaks spend their breeding season in Western America and migrate to Central America for the winter. Incidentally, this is also where monarch butterflies spend the winter.

Monarch butterflies are toxic to most birds, except for the Black-headed Grosbeak, which is one of the very few predators of the monarch butterfly.

Besides butterflies, the Black-headed Grosbeak feeds on other insects it finds in the foliage of trees. While insects make up most of their diet, they also feed on various seeds.

Their strong beaks are adept at shucking sunflower seeds, which they particularly enjoy sampling at bird feeders.

American Robin

With a beautiful cinnamon orange breast and a black-hooded head, the American Robin is popular not only for its beautiful appearance but also its cheery singing in early spring.

American robins will venture to towns and cities, but they feel most comfortable in mountain forests and open woodlands.

As a ground forager, it’s not uncommon to spot the American robin tugging earthworms out of the ground. Apart from soft-bodied invertebrates and other insects, these birds will feed on fruits and berries, and honeysuckle to the point of becoming intoxicated.

Even though the American Robin is viewed often as the messenger of spring, many American Robins will actually spend the winter in their breeding grounds.

During the breeding season, pairs can produce 2-3 broods. The female builds the nest at least 5 feet above the ground in a dense bush or a tree. The female lays 3-5 light-blue eggs, which are then incubated by the female.

The eggs are preyed upon by several other birds including blue jays, ravens, crows, grackles and other predatory birds. But squirrels and snakes are also a threat.

Although their population is threatened by predators, climate change and severe weather, the population trend is stable with an estimated 370 million individuals across North America.


A more elusive bird than the ones I described so far, the Bullfinch is another iconic small bird with a black head and an orange breast.

The orange plumage of the Bullfinch is particularly noteworthy – it’s none of that brownish orange we see in other birds, this orange has a pinkish tone that’s very unique to the bullfinch. The shape of the bill is thick and rounded.

Other colors in the plumage are the dark black head, the black and gray wings of the bullfinch, and a white rump patch that’s mainly seen only in flight.

The Bullfinch can be found in most of Europe and temperate regions of Asia. They prefer to stay away from densely populated areas and choose the peace and quiet of mixed woodlands and forest edges or the dense hedgerows of farmlands.

Bullfinches eat a diet that’s rich in fresh tree buds and shoots in spring and berries and seeds in the rest of the year.

Insects are only fed to juvenile bullfinches, while the adult bullfinch will only inadvertently eat them.

Bullfinches don’t usually visit bird feeders. However, if your property is close to a forest or you have an orchard, bullfinches may visit your garden, especially if you leave out sunflower seeds or hearts, which they seem to enjoy.

Orchard Oriole

With a straight, sharp bill that’s black and a black head, the Orchard Oriole has a chestnut orange breast and chestnut orange patches on its wings. It’s smaller than a robin with a length of only 5.9-7.1 inches.

During the breeding season, you can spot the Orchard oriole in eastern and southern Canada. The bird prefers open woodlands, river edges, or pastures with scattered trees.

True to their name, Orchard orioles will visit orchards, where they will feed on fruits. They usually forage for insects and berries, and drink nectar from flowers.

You can easily attract them to your backyard by putting out orange slices or jelly. They’ll even visit hummingbird feeders.

Baltimore Oriole

Larger than the Orchard Oriole, the Baltimore Oriole features a flame orange belly with a black head lack wings with white wing bars.

Like the Orchard oriole, the Baltimore oriole feeds on insects, fruits, berries, and nectar. They seek out only ripe fruit and prefer dark berries.

You can easily attract these birds to your backyard by putting out oranges cut in half or planting fruit trees, raspberry shrubs, or nectar-bearing flowers.

You can spot the Baltimore oriole in open woodlands, forest edges, orchards, and stands of trees along rivers. They also don’t shy away from parks and backyards, especially when lured with food.


As you can see, orange is a well-represented color among small bird species. Many of these birds can be mistaken for each other but once you learn their peculiarities – size, beak shape, differences in color – you’ll learn to identify them.

To me, the easiest to identify is the Bullfinch because of its bull-shaped neck and the peculiar tone of orange that’s hard to forget.

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