7 Small Black Backyard Birds

They’re small, they’re black, and they’re in your backyard – singing, feeding, or even setting up nests.

They’re the small black birds that visit your garden, searching for food or stocking up on seeds from your bird feeders.

Some might even look similar, others are entirely unique in their plumage, body or beak shape.

If you want help identifying them, in this article I will discuss 7 of the small backyard birds you might notice around your feeders or perched up in your shrubbery or trees.

Brewer’s Blackbird

With a full body and all-around black plumage, the Brewer’s Blackbird has a length of 8.3-9.8 in (21-25 cm) and a weight of 2.1-3.0 oz (60-86 g).

Its all-black plumage may make you think you’re looking at a Common Blackbird, but its black bead and plump body will help you identify it as the Brewer’s Blackbird.

While male adult birds are completely black, immature males and adult females look like a washed-out version, with a lighter, brown and gray plumage.

The only colors in the blackbird are the blue sheen on the head and a green iridescence on the body. Apart from these, Brewer’s Blackbirds also have a yellow eye.

These birds can be seen feeding on the open ground in parks or grasslands, lawns, meadows, riversides, golf courses or even busy streets.

They’re often perceived as pests because of their appetite for grains and seeds, however, their appetite for insects makes them more of a farmer’s friend than a foe.

Because their role has often been misunderstood, Brewer’s Blackbirds were often poisoned, shot or trapped in agricultural areas despite being excellent at stopping insect pest outbreaks.

Because they’re quick to notice new food sources, they can help curb crop infestations with weevils, cutworms, termites, grasshoppers, and tent caterpillars.

European Starling

The European Starling is another blackbird that will grace you with their presence in your backyard. With spotted black plumage that shines with green, blue and violet iridescence, this bird is easy to identify and hard to mistake for another.

Boisterous and noisy, European Starlings travel in large groups and feed on fields, lawns, sidewalks, and feel quite at home near human settlements.

When Starlings travel in large groups, they form what is called a murmuration, when thousands of starlings flock together in hypnotizing and fluid movements.

The murmuration has the role of keeping avian predators like the peregrine falcon away. The large number of birds, even so small as the starling, is intimidating to most predators.

The murmuration can last anywhere from 5 to 45 minutes and it’s usually suddenly dispersed, which is an interesting sight on its own too.

The diet of the European Starling is varied, although insects make up most of it. When available, the starling will feed on flies, beetles, grasshoppers, caterpillars, earthworms, and even spiders and snails.

In autumn when insects are no longer available in such abundance, the European Starling will feed on a variety of berries, fruits, and seeds.

Common Blackbird

Elegant with its glossy black plumage and slender body, the Common Blackbird is a songbird that you can often see in urban areas. Their habitat is quite varied though and they can also inhabit mountainous areas, open woodlands, cultivated areas, forests and forest edges.

They feed mainly on the ground foraging the leaf litter for invertebrates. When insects are not available, the Common Blackbird will seek out fruits and berries in trees and bushes.

Their omnivorous diet and ability to inhabit a wide variety of habitats make this bird a highly adaptable one.

You can often see them at bird feeders as well, where they won’t shy away from bullying other birds if need be.

As for their breeding habits, Common Blackbirds mate for life. Because of this, breeding can start very early in the season, often as early as February. Their mating songs are quite beautiful and can often be heard at dawn.

Both the male and the female are engaged in caring for their young, especially when all four of the eggs laid hatch.

Blackbird chicks leave the nest when they’re just 13-14 days old, however, both parents will continue to feed them in the dense vegetation for two or three more weeks.

Black Phoebe

Objectively a cute bird and possibly my favorite from this list, the Black Phoebe is a small black bird with a large head, straight and thin bill, and a plump body. While the upper body and head are black and dark gray, the belly of the bird is clean white.

One reason why the head of the Black Phoebe may seem slightly larger is because of the slight peak the feathers form at the rear of the crown.

Not technically a backyard bird – not unless there’s a source of water on your property – the Black Phoebe can be seen near sources of water such as along streams, rivers, lakes, and even the Pacific Ocean. They’ll even hang around cattle tanks swooping up insects.

You won’t see the Black Phoebe feeding at bird feeders, although you might attract them with mealworms.

But if you have a pond or a stream on your property, they’ll come for the insects they can catch alongside the water source.

They build mud nests, so they welcome any source of water and mud. They feed insects to their young, but sometimes they’ll snatch minnows from ponds and feed them to their nestlings.

Downy Woodpecker

Active, small and a familiar sight in backyards, the Downy Woodpecker features black and white plumage and a flaming red spot on its crest.

They’re eager visitors to bird feeders with suet being their favorite treat. But they’re just as eager to feed on black sunflower seeds, peanuts, chunky peanut butter and millet.

When not feeding at bird feeders, they’re prolific at foraging for insects in the bark of trees.

Their straight, chisel-like bill offers them a competitive advantage compared to the larger Hairy Woodpecker whose bill is thicker, preventing it from reaching in all the nooks and crannies.

While not completely dark, Downy Woodpeckers of the West are much darker with little white coloring in their plumage compared to their eastern counterparts.

While they have a competitive edge when it comes to reaching insects living on or in the stems of weeds, they’re at a disadvantage when it comes to avian predators that can easily hunt them because of their small size.

Downy Woodpeckers are preyed upon by the American Kestrel, Cooper’s Hawk, and the Sharp Shinned Hawk. Squirrels and black rat snakes will also prey upon their eggs and nestlings.

This woodpecker feeds on enormous quantities of insects, as much as 75% of its diet being made up entirely of insects.

Because of their voracious appetites for insects especially wood-boring beetles and other insects that are a threat to cultivated fruits, their presence is viewed as beneficial in fruit growing operations.

Black-capped Chickadee

A small bird with a round, plumb body and relatively large head, the Black-capped Chickadee is another common presence at bird feeders and in backyards.

They’ll feed on sunflower seeds, shelled peanuts, peanut butter and suet. You can offer them seeds in a variety of feeders including tube, tray, and even hopper ones.

When not at bird feeders, the Black-capped Chickadee will feed on caterpillars and other insects and invertebrates including some spiders and snails.

Seeds and berries are also part of their diet, especially with the changes in seasons when insects are no longer available.

They’re not afraid of humans and will readily use nest boxes and visit all sorts of feeders including window feeders.

Apart from setting up feeders in your garden, you can also create a hospitable habitat for nesting by planting birch trees, alder, and willow trees.

This chickadee is resourceful with seeds, making reserves of seeds by hiding them in various different locations. Luckily, they’re not forgetful being able to remember thousands of hiding places.

Several other birds such as warbles, nuthatches, downy woodpeckers associate with chickadee flocks making use of their ability to quickly find and identify new food sources.

They also learn to listen to and react to chickadee alarm sounds even when they don’t have similar warning sounds themselves.


Now that I’ve given you a glimpse into the intricate little lives of the small black birds that visit your backyard, you can look at them with different – and more knowing – eyes.

While my list is in no way exhaustive of the birds that may wander into your garden, it’s a quick primer on the diet, nesting habits, and feeding preferences of some of the most common black backyard birds.

Not all are entirely black either – some spots or sheens of color can be observed here and there. Especially that there are variations within the same species based on their geographical location.

If any of these birds have piqued your interest, you can use the information I’ve given on them to create a more hospitable environment for them either by planting native shrubs and trees or placing out seeds they seem to prefer most.

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