9 Types of Blackbirds in Alaska! (ID Guide)

Did you see a BLACK bird in Alaska?

Types of black birds in Alaska

I’m guessing you need help figuring out which species you saw with black feathers. Well, you’ve come to the right place! To help you make an identification, I have included several photographs of each species and detailed range maps.

9 BIRDS THAT ARE BLACK IN Alaska:

If you’re lucky, you may be able to see blackbirds at my bird feeding station right now! I have a LIVE high-definition camera watching my feeders 24/7. 🙂


#1. Red-winged Blackbird

  • Agelaius phoeniceus

Types of black birds in Alaska

  • Males are all black, except for a bright red and yellow patch on their shoulders.
  • Females are brown and heavily streaked. There is a bit of yellow around their bill.
  • Both sexes have a conical bill and are commonly seen sitting on cattails or perched high in a tree overlooking their territory.

During the breeding season, these blackbirds are almost exclusively found in Alaska in marshes and other wet areas. Females build nests between dense grass-like vegetation, such as cattails, sedges, and bulrushes. Males aggressively defend the nest against intruders, and I have even been attacked by Red-winged Blackbirds while walking near the swamp in my backyard!

Red-winged Blackbird Range Map

red winged blackbird range map

During the non-breeding season, Red-winged Blackbirds spend much of their time in grasslands, farm fields, and pastures looking for weedy seeds to eat. It’s common for them to be found in large flocks that feature various other blackbird species, such as grackles, cowbirds, and starlings.

Red-winged Blackbirds are easy to identify by their sounds! If you visit a wetland or marsh in the spring, you are almost guaranteed to hear males singing and displaying, trying to attract a mate. Listen for a rich, musical song that lasts about one second and sounds like “conk-la-ree!”


#2. European Starling

  • Sturnus vulgaris

Types of black birds in Alaska

  • A common blackbird in Alaska, they are about the size of an American Robin. Their plumage is black and appears to be shiny.
  • Breeding adults are darker black and have a green-purple tint.
  • In winter, starlings lose their glossiness, their beaks become darker, and they develop white spots over their bodies.

European Starlings are incredibly common in Alaska!

But did you know these birds are an invasive species? Back in 1890, one hundred starlings were brought over from Europe and released in New York City’s Central Park. The man responsible (Eugene Schieffelin) had a mission to introduce all of the birds mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays in North America.

European Starling Range Map

starling range map

The rest is history as starlings easily conquered the continent, along the way out-competing many of our beautiful native birds. Their ability to adapt to human development and eat almost anything is uncanny to virtually no other species.

Here’s something amazing about these blackbirds:

It’s the magical way they travel in flocks, called murmurations. Check out the video below because it’s mesmerizing. 🙂

YouTube video

#3. Downy Woodpecker

  • Dryobates pubescens

Types of black birds in Alaska

These white and black woodpeckers are common in Alaska!

You probably recognize them, as they are seen in many yards visiting bird feeders.

Downy Woodpecker Range Map

This woodpecker species is easy to attract. 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, use a specialized suet bird feeder.

Once you know what to listen for, my guess is that you will start hearing Downy Woodpeckers everywhere you go. Their calls resemble a high-pitched whinnying sound that descends in pitch towards the end.

YouTube video

Press PLAY above to hear a Downy Woodpecker!


#4. Dark-eyed Junco

  • Junco hyemalis

Types of black birds in Alaska

Dark-eyed Juncos are one of the most common birds in North America. You can easily identify them by their smooth greyish-black feathers. Or look for a white flash from their tail feathers as they fly away.

Dark-eyed Junco Range Map

dark eyed junco range map

This species is found in pine and mixed-coniferous forests when they breed, but in winter, they are seen in fields, parks, woodlands, and backyards.

Dark-eyed Juncos have earned the nickname “Snowbirds” or “Winter birds” because they only appear in winter in many parts of their range.

Males sing a two-second loud, trilling song that can carry hundreds of feet away. In addition, both sexes also sing softer songs that are a mixture of warbles, trills, and whistles.


#5. Double-crested Cormorant

  • Nannopterum auritum

double crested cormorant

Double-crested Cormorants look incredibly unique, with many people thinking they appear to be a cross between a loon and a goose. These expert divers eat almost exclusively fish, which they catch underwater with their perfectly adapted hooked bills.

Double-crested Cormorant Range Map

double crested cormorant range map

One of the BEST ways to find these large black birds in Alaska is to look for them on land with their wings spread out. Double-crested Cormorants don’t have waterproof feathers, so after swimming, they have to dry them.

Large colonies of these birds gather in trees near water, where they all build their nests in a small cluster of trees. Unfortunately, there can be so many birds so close together that their poop ends up killing the trees!

Double-crested Cormorants emit unique, deep guttural grunts, which I think sound more like a large walrus than a bird. Listen below!


#6. Common Raven

  • Corvus corax

common raven

  • Large bird that is completely black, including its eyes and bill.
  • The bill is hefty and thick.
  • In flight, look for their wedge-shaped tail.

Ravens are one of the SMARTEST birds in Alaska!

For example, one study has shown that they are drawn to gunshots during hunting season to investigate the carcass but ignore other loud noises that don’t lead to food, such as air horns or car alarms.

Common Raven Range Map

Since they are so smart and adaptable, Common Ravens are found in many habitats. Look for them living near the edges of towns, especially in landfills that supply an endless amount of food. But ravens also have no problem living far away from civilization.

Common Ravens are impressive vocalists who make many different types of calls, from harsh grating calls to shrill alarm sounds. But the most common sound in the wild is a gurgling croak that rises in pitch.

Interestingly, they can mimic the sounds of many other bird species and even humans if raised in captivity.


#7. Rusty Blackbird

  • Euphagus carolinus

  • Medium-sized blackbirds with slightly curved, slender bills.
  • Breeding males are entirely glossy black. Non-breeding males are a duller black but with rusty-brown edging on their plumage.
  • Females appear rusty colored or brown. Look for a pale eyebrow that contrasts against the black feathers around their eye.

Rusty Blackbirds pose a concerning mystery to scientists.

In Alaska, they have declined dramatically (~85%) over the past 40 years, and no one knows why! The problem with studying these blackbirds is that they breed in Canada’s far northern boreal forests, where not many people are around to observe their behavior.

Rusty Blackbird Range Map

Their preferred habitats are wet forests, marshes, pond edges, and swamps. Many of these areas have been drained and converted to agricultural uses, which may contribute to the loss of Rusty Blackbirds.

It’s also thought that the severe hunting of beavers over the past century has eliminated many smaller ponds, which are also another natural home used by these blackbirds.


#8. Black-billed Magpie

  • Pica hudsonia

large black and white birds

  • 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 bold white and black birds in 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, 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.


#9. Steller’s Jay

  • Cyanocitta stelleri

steller's jay pic

  • Larger bird with a black head, rounded wings, and a long tail.
  • A tall black crest on the crown of the head helps identify them.
  • Both sexes are half black and blue on their wings, belly, and tail.

You will find this bold blue and black bird in evergreen forests in Alaska. Steller’s Jays often visit parks, campgrounds, and picnic areas.

Steller’s Jay Range Map

stellers jay range map

This jay species is very intelligent, bold, and noisy. You can attract them to your feeders by providing peanuts, larger seeds, and suet. Steller’s Jays are often nest robbers. They have even been known to attack or kill small adult birds like nuthatches or juncos.

Males and sometimes females have calls that sound like “shaack, shaack, shaack,” shooka, shooka.” Listen below.


Learn more about other birds in Alaska!


Which of these blackbirds have you seen before in Alaska?

Leave a comment below!

The range maps below were generously shared with permission from The Birds of The World, published by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. I use their site often to learn new information about birds!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *