Did you recently see a mystery BLACK and WHITE bird in Alaska?
If so, I’m guessing you are trying to identify the species correctly!
Well, you’re in the right place. Below, you will learn about the different BLACK and WHITE birds found in Alaska. I’ve included high-quality pictures and range maps to help you!
Fortunately, many of the black and white birds listed below visit bird feeders, so you have a great chance of attracting them to your yard. If you’re incredibly fortunate, you may even see one at my bird feeding station right now! I have a LIVE high-definition camera watching my bird feeders 24/7. 🙂
22 BLACK and WHITE birds in Alaska:
#1. Dark-eyed Junco
- Junco hyemalis
- Smooth and soft-looking slate gray with a white belly.
- Small pale bill, long tail with white outer feathers.
Dark-eyed Juncos are probably the most common black and white birds in Alaska. A recent estimate sets their population around 630 million.
You can easily identify these sparrows by how smooth their feathers look. It appears like they would be as soft as a chinchilla to touch. 🙂
Dark-eyed Junco Range Map
This species is found in pine and mixed-coniferous forests when they breed, but in winter, they are in fields, parks, woodlands, and backyards. Dark-eyed Juncos like to visit feeders in the winter, but ONLY ON THE GROUND, where they consume fallen seeds.
#2. Black-capped Chickadee
- Poecile atricapillus
These black and white birds are one of the most beloved species in Alaska, and it’s easy to see why! Black-capped Chickadees are often described as “cute.” They are tiny, with an oversized head that features a black cap and bib.
Naturally, look for them in open deciduous forests, thickets, and cottonwood groves. They also adapt easily to the presence of people and are common to see in backyards and parks.
Black-capped Chickadee Range Map
In fact, once you set up a new bird feeder, chickadees will likely be the first birds to visit, as they are curious about anything new in their territory. The best foods to use are sunflower seeds, peanuts, and suet. Their small size and athletic ability mean these birds can use just about any type of feeder!
#3. Downy Woodpecker
- Dryobates pubescens
- A shorter bill that is relatively small compared to other woodpecker species.
- White bellies, with a mostly black back that features streaks and spots of white.
- Male birds have a distinctive red spot on the back of their head.
Downy Woodpeckers are one of the most common black and white birds in Alaska!
Naturally, they are seen in deciduous woods that have a water source nearby. But these birds have adapted well to human development and are commonly observed in suburban backyards, parks, orchards, and cemeteries.
Downy Woodpecker Range Map
Luckily, this black and white species is easy to draw to your backyard. The best foods to use are suet, sunflower seeds, and peanuts (including peanut butter). You may even spot them drinking sugar water from your hummingbird feeders! If you use suet products to attract woodpeckers, use a specialized suet bird feeder.
#4. Hairy Woodpecker
- Dryobates villosus
- Their bodies are black and white overall with a long, chisel-like bill.
- Male birds can be identified by a red patch on their heads, which females lack.
These black and white birds are common in Alaska in mature forests, suburban backyards, urban parks, swamps, orchards, and even cemeteries. Appearance-wise, Hairy Woodpeckers have been compared to soldiers, as they have cleanly striped heads and an erect, straight-backed posture while on trees.
Hairy Woodpecker Range Map
Hairy Woodpeckers can be tricky to identify because they look almost identical to Downy Woodpeckers! These two birds are confusing to many people and present a problem when figuring out the correct species.
Here are 3 ways to differentiate Hairy vs. Downy Woodpeckers:
- Hairy Woodpeckers are larger and measure 9 – 11 inches long, which is about the same size as an American Robin. A Downy is smaller and only measures 6 – 7 inches in length, slightly bigger than a House Sparrow.
- Looking at the size of their bills in relation to their head is my FAVORITE way to tell these woodpeckers apart. Downys have a tiny bill, which measures a bit less than half the length of their head, while Hairys have a bill almost the same length as their head.
Outer tail feathers:
- If all else fails, try to get a good look at their outer tail feathers. Hairys will be completely white, while Downys are spotted black.
*Just a warning that almost all species of woodpeckers are black and white. So if the bird you saw was a woodpecker but NOT a Downy or Hairy, check out the below article for additional help.* 🙂
#5. Snow Bunting
- Plectrophenax nivalis
- Round bodied with a short thick conical bill.
- Breeding males are almost all white, with black on the back.
- Females and non-breeding males are white but have brown-streaked backs and brownish heads.
These charming black and white birds are a delight to see in Alaska!
But since Snow Buntings choose frigid locations high in the Arctic to breed, your best chance to find them is in winter in open fields along the roadside.
Snow Bunting Range Map
Even in summer, Snow Buntings have to work hard to keep their hatchlings warm enough to survive. They build their nests in the deep cracks of rocks and use a thick fur lining to protect the eggs. They never really leave the nest, ensuring it stays warm, and the male comes and feeds the mother every fifteen minutes.
#6. Common Loon
- Gavia immer
- Long bodies with a strong, thick, dagger-like bill. They sit low in the water.
- Breeding adults have a black head and a black and white checkerboard back.
- Non-breeding adults are much duller and have a uniformly grayish back and head.
Common Loons are one of my FAVORITE black and white birds in Alaska.
These gorgeous waterbirds are strong and fast swimmers and routinely catch fish in high-speed underwater chases. In fact, they have even adapted solid bones (most bird bones are hollow), which makes it easier to dive since they are less buoyant.
Common Loon Range Map
To help prevent other birds from stealing their food, Common Loons typically swallow their prize while still underwater. And to ensure the slippery fish doesn’t escape once caught, loons have rear-facing projections inside their mouth that sink in and provide a tight grip.
One of my favorite things about these black and white birds is the wonderful, eerie sounds they make. Listen for a repertoire of vocalizations, which all signify something. LISTEN BELOW!
For example, their tremolo calls are used when alarmed. Yodeling is given by males to announce their territories. And their famous haunting wail calls help mated pairs locate each other.
#7. Common Goldeneye
- Bucephala clangula
How to identify:
- Males have a dark green head, a bright yellow eye, and a distinctive white cheek patch. The body is mostly white with a black back and rump.
- Females have a brown head, a short dark bill with a yellow tip at the end, and a pale yellow eye. Look for their white neck collar and grayish bodies.
Common Goldeneyes are expert diving ducks. These birds can stay underwater for up to a minute as they search for their prey, which includes aquatic invertebrates, fish, fish eggs, along with seeds and tubers from submerged vegetation.
Luckily, their population has remained strong and stable. One of their biggest threats is that they are cavity nesters and rely upon forestry practices that don’t cut down dead trees. Many dedicated people have put up nest boxes in their breeding range to help provide more good nesting spots.
Common Goldeneye Range Map
Hunters commonly refer to the Common Goldeneye as the “whistler” because of their wings’ distinctive whistling noises when flying.
*Just a warning that various other ducks in Alaska are black and white, but the Common Goldeneye is the ONLY one on this list. So if the bird you saw was a duck but NOT a Common Goldeneye, check out the below article for additional help.* 🙂
#8. Blackpoll Warbler
- Setophaga striata
- Their coloring is black, white, and gray.
- A black cap, white cheeks, and gray-barred wings are typical.
The Blackpoll Warbler’s song is so high-pitched it’s sometimes called nature’s hearing test! The fast, chipping song can easily be confused for an insect. It lasts about three seconds and sounds like “tsit tsit TSIT TSIT tsit tsit.”
Blackpoll Warblers travel huge distances between their breeding grounds and their winter habitat for such small birds. They can fly nonstop for up to three days over the ocean to their winter home in South America!
This migration takes a combination of endurance, food stores, and prevailing wind that pushes them toward their destination. It’s truly an incredible feat!
To help this little black and white bird with its annual trip, consider planting native trees or bushes that the warblers can use as a resting and foraging stop.
#9. Black-billed Magpie
- Pica hudsonia
- A large black and white bird with a long tail.
- In the right light, you can see beautiful blue iridescent feathers on the wings and tail.
It’s hard to miss these black and white birds in southern Alaska!
Black-billed Magpies demand your attention. They are very social, noisy, and comfortable living amongst people and are commonly seen in smaller towns. Naturally, they live in open grasslands and plains and tend to avoid dense forests.
Black-billed Magpie Range Map
Being part of the corvid family, which also includes jays and crows, Black-billed Magpies are incredibly intelligent. One interesting behavior is that they seem to have funerals when they discover a deceased magpie. Individual birds will begin calling loudly to attract more magpies, eventually having as many as 40 birds gathered for 10-15 minutes before flying away silently.
Which of these BLACK and WHITE birds have you seen before in Alaska?
Leave a COMMENT below. Make sure you tell us WHERE you saw the bird. 🙂