There are 109 different blackbird species found across the globe, distributed among 30 genera. Only three species of blackbirds have blue heads – including common grackles, black oropendolas, and shiny cowbirds.
However, many other black-colored birds possess distinctive blue feathers on their heads.
This article will talk about 18 black birds with blue heads, a brief description, identification, and some interesting facts!
List of Blackbirds with Blue Heads
Scientific Name: Progne subis
Weight: 1.6-2.1 oz (45-60g)
Wingspan: 15-16 inches (38-40cm)
The purple martin is one of the largest North American swallows found across North and South America. It is a pretty fast and agile bird that can reach speeds of 40 mph.
In flight, the purple martin has a forked tail and curved, pointed wings characteristic of members of the swallow family. These blackbirds are sexually dimorphic, so males and females look different from one another.
Purple martins have black feathers, although they appear blue, purple, and even green in different lighting. This is because the feathers are iridescent. They refract light differently, causing them to appear in different colors, depending on the angle at which the light hits.
Females are much lighter in color than males, with cream undersides, necks, and steel grey backs. They only have iridescent blue feathers on the tops of their wings.
Purple martins are insectivorous and hunt using a technique known as “hawking.” This means that they hunt insects in flight, using their agility and speed to their advantage.
Interestingly, purple martins exhibit delayed plumage maturation and take two years to fully display adult colors.
Scientific Name: Ptilonorhynchus violaceus
Weight: 6-10 oz (170-290g)
Wingspan: 18-20 inches (45-50cm)
The satin bowerbird belongs to the family of bowerbirds endemic to Australia. Satin bowerbirds have a distinctive iridescent black and blue plumage similar to purple martins.
They also have bright violet eyes and a pale blue-white bill. Female and young male satin bowerbirds are an olive-brown color, with cream bellies with brown markings.
Like purple martins, satin bowerbirds exhibit delayed plumage maturation, taking roughly seven years to develop their adult look. The name “bowerbird” comes from the extravagant courtship ritual the male performs to attract a mate.
The male bowerbird builds a nest, or “bower,” for his prospective mate out of sticks and leaves. He then decorates the bower with brightly colored objects, such as blue parrot feathers, shells, blue flowers, and man-made objects, such as clothes pegs or straws. He keeps the nest in pristine condition for the duration of the breeding season.
It is believed that satin bowerbirds have a preference for blue objects because blue accentuates the color of the male’s plumage. Male bowerbirds also attempt to attract females by performing energetic “dances” and giving them “gifts.”
Another unique courtship adaptation is mimicry. Male satin bowerbirds can mimic sounds they hear in order to impress females. These sounds include songs of other species of birds and occasionally man-made sounds, such as truck engines.
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Scientific Name: Cyanerpes lucidus
Weight: 0.3 oz (11g)
Wingspan: 3.9 inches (10cm)
The shining honeycreeper is a small tropical black bird with a blue head and chest found in Central and South America.
Males are bright violet-blue with black wings and throats, and they have vibrant yellow legs and long, curved, black beaks. Females are leaf-green, with turquoise-blue heads and pale undersides.
As is the case with many sexually dimorphic bird species, juvenile males resemble adult females.
These brightly colored little birds live in the rainforest canopy and feed on insects, fruit, and nectar. They access the nectar with their curved bills.
Interestingly, they are quite active bird species. Both males and females produce melodic songs, usually in duets.
Scientific Name: Tangara cyanicollis
Weight: 0.6 oz (17g)
Wingspan: 5 inches (13cm)
The blue-necked tanager is a relative of the shining honeycreeper found throughout South America. Unlike their honeycreeper cousins, blue-necked tanager males and females are virtually identical.
Both have a bright blue head, jet-black collar and back, turquoise or green wings, rump, and lower belly. They have a finch-like black beak, black eye mask, and dark legs.
Blue-necked tanagers feed primarily on fruit and flower blossoms. They can often be seen hanging upside-down from branches to pluck hard-to-reach berries.
These birds are also pretty agile flyers, capable of catching insects mid-flight or swooping down to pick them off leaves.
Blue-necked tanagers are known to be friendly, sociable birds, tolerant of other species around their feeding grounds. Families of blue-necked tanagers often gather in communal groups and frequently feed and care for each other’s young.
Scientific Name: Quiscalus quiscula
Weight: 2.6-5 oz (74-142g)
Wingspan: 14-18 inches (35-45cm)
These blackbirds with blue heads are found throughout North America. They are slightly longer and more slender compared to other blackbirds.
Another, more obvious difference is their coloration. Common grackle males are black with highly iridescent feathers, which appear purple and green on their wings and back and blue and violet on their heads and chest.
Females are smaller than males and have notably shorter tails. Their plumage is lighter and less iridescent, appearing more brown, with dark, glossy wings.
Both males and females have pale yellow eyes and dark beaks. Juveniles look similar to females, apart from their eyes, which are dark brown.
Common grackles have a highly varied diet, partly due to their intelligence and opportunistic nature. Their diet consists of insects, seeds, grains, fruit, and just about anything else they can find.
These blackbirds with blue heads have been known to decimate entire fields of corn, follow plows to scavenge dead mice, fish for minnows, eat eggs and chicks of other birds, hunt frogs, lizards, and other small animals, steal food from other birds, and even pick leeches off the legs of other animals.
They are nothing if not resourceful!
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Scientific Name: Tachycineta bicolor
Weight: 0.6-0.9 oz (17-25g)
Wingspan: 11.8-13.8 inches (30-35cm)
Tree swallows possess striking plumage, with iridescent blue-green upperparts and sharply contrasting clean, white underparts.
Both males and females possess this coloration, though females can be a little duller. Found throughout North and Central America, tree swallows are relatively common and widespread.
Like other members of the swallow family, migrating tree swallows form massive flocks of hundreds of thousands of individuals.
The birds can be seen gathering above a roost site roughly an hour before sundown, swarming in an enormous, undulating tornado of birds. The swallows break off from the flock in small groups, dropping to the roost until all are finally settled.
Tree swallows are fast, agile flyers that feed on flying insects, which they catch and eat mid-flight. Unlike most other swallows, tree swallows also eat berries, which allows them to survive colder winters than most.
This is why they can be found further north during the winter months than any other member of the swallow family.
Scientific Name: Malurus cyaneus
Weight: 0.2-0.4 oz (8-13g)
Wingspan: 4.7-6.2 inches (12-16cm)
The superb fairy-wren is endemic to south-eastern Australia, Tasmania, and coastal islands.
Males of the species have bright blue heads with black markings and deep blue throats. Their bellies are pale greyish-white, and their wings and tails are blue.
Females are pale brown, with paler brown undersides and an orange patch around the eye. Juveniles are almost indistinguishable from adult females, apart from a subtle green sheen to the feathers, which the females possess and the chicks do not.
Superb fairy-wrens are insectivorous and feed mainly on the ground.
Although they pair for life, superb fairy-wrens are among the most unfaithful and promiscuous of all bird species. The male frequently leaves the nest and his young to go and mate with other females, during which time other males come to mate with his partner.
Females can be courted by up to 13 males per hour. Breeding pairs frequently care for other birds’ young, as no one is ever sure of the parentage.
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Scientific Name: Passerina cyanea
Weight: 0.5 oz (14g)
Wingspan: 7-9 inches (17.5-23cm)
Also referred to as blue buntings, indigo buntings are tiny migratory birds that live in woodland edges and thickets.
Indigo buntings are actually more of a cobalt blue than indigo. Their heads and wings are, indeed, indigo, and darker than the rest of their bodies.
Only males exhibit this coloration, and only during the breeding season. The rest of the year, they are brown. Females and juveniles are brown throughout the year.
These North American songbirds migrate to South America during the winter. Indigo buntings eat a diet of insects, seeds, berries, buds, and spiders.
During the breeding season, only the females build nests and care for the young. Males only feed their chicks if their mate is incubating a second clutch of eggs.
Scientific Name: Cyanoptila cyanomelana
Weight: 0.9 oz (25g)
Wingspan: 6 inches (15cm)
The blue-and-white flycatcher, sometimes known as the Japanese flycatcher, is found across Asia.
These migratory songbirds, as their name suggests, catch flies. In fact, they are entirely insectivorous and eat a variety of flying insects.
Male blue-and-white flycatchers are deep, iridescent blue, with darker heads and wings. Their bellies are greyish-white, and their eyes, beaks, and legs are black.
Juvenile males are brown with blue wings, distinguishing them from females, which are entirely brown.
Like other members of the flycatcher family, blue-and-white flycatchers are slender birds with short, pointed bills. They are also agile flyers, making them very well-equipped for catching insects.
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Scientific Name: Casuarius casuarius
Weight: 120-167 lb (55-76kg)
Height: 5.5 feet (1.6m)
The southern cassowary, also known as the Australian cassowary, is one of only three living species of the cassowary. Cassowaries are ratites, an old group of birds with a unique breastbone structure that makes them unable to fly.
Ratites, therefore, have tiny wings compared to the rest of their bodies, and southern cassowaries are no exception. Other members of the ratite family are ostriches, emus, kiwis, and rheas.
Southern cassowaries have a rather unique appearance, resembling a cross between an oversized chicken, some kind of prehistoric raptor, and a black feather duster. They have large, round bodies without visible wings, covered in long, black, fur-like feathers. They also have large, powerful, grey legs and feet and a disproportionately small head.
The head is topped with a hard, grey crest, or “casque,” and equipped with a long, pointed beak. Both head and neck are bald, and the skin is bright blue. The back of the neck and wattles at the bottom of the throat are scarlet.
Males and females are very similar in appearance. However, females tend to be larger and more vibrantly colored, which is unusual for most bird species.
Baby cassowaries are yellow with black stripes when they hatch and lack a casque, which grows as they age. The eggs of the southern cassowary are entirely green and usually laid in batches of 2 or 3.
Cassowaries produce a loud, booming call, parts of which are too deep for humans to hear and can be heard over large distances. It is believed that the cassowary’s casque serves to amplify its call. Yet, it may simply be a display of the bird’s dominance and health.
Scientific Name: Molothrus bonariensis
Weight: 1-1.4 oz (30-40g)
Wingspan: 12 inches (30cm)
Another member of the blackbird family, the shiny cowbird, is a relative of the common grackle and shares a similar appearance.
Male shiny cowbirds have glossy, iridescent black plumage, which shines shades of purple, blue and green in a different light. Females are brown, but their feathers nonetheless have a glossy sheen.
Shiny cowbirds are much smaller than common grackles, with a stockier build and more compact body.
The shiny cowbird is what is known as an obligate brood parasite. This means that they are incapable of raising their own young. Instead, females lay their eggs in the nests of other birds in the hopes that the host mothers will care for them.
This strategy has varying success rates, with some host mothers rejecting the egg and abandoning the nest and others caring for the cowbird chicks as if they were their own.
The shiny cowbird was originally endemic to South America but has made its way north into the US in recent decades. Their diet consists of seeds, grains, fruit, and insects.
Scientific Name: Cinnyris asiaticus
Weight: 0.1 oz (4-5g)
Wingspan: 3.9 inches (10cm)
The purple sunbird is a small member of the sunbird family, a group of birds that feed predominantly on nectar.
Sunbirds, in general, are slender-built, with long, downward-curving bills and tubular tongues, which enable them to access the nectar. Besides the nectar, these blackbirds with blue heads are omnivores and feed on insects and fruits.
Purple sunbirds are sexually dimorphic, with males being more flamboyantly colored, especially during the breeding season. Breeding males have a highly iridescent, glossy, black plumage, which appears blue and purple in the light.
Outside the breeding season, male purple sunbirds have a very different appearance. Their underparts are bright yellow, and their upper parts are light yellow-brown.
Females look similar to males outside the breeding season but are paler and less vibrant in color.
Purple sunbirds can be found in South and Southeast Asia and parts of the Arabian Peninsula.
Scientific Name: Psarocolius guatimozinus
Weight: 8-18 oz (230-520g)
Wingspan: 15-18 inches (38-45cm)
The black oropendola is a medium-sized blackbird with a blue head endemic to the forests of Columbia and Panama. Males and females are very similar in appearance, though males are slightly larger.
As their name suggests, black oropendolas are mostly black, with bright yellow tails and russet-brown wings. Their heads and necks are iridescent, with a blueish sheen.
These birds have a sharply pointed, black bill with an orange or yellow patch on the tip and forehead. In addition, they also have distinctive patches of bright blue skin visible on their cheeks and behind their eyes.
Relatively little is known about the behavior of these elusive birds. Still, it is believed that they live colonially, in groups of around 20 birds, and feed on a diet of insects, small animals, fruit, and possibly, nectar.
Scientific Name: Volatinia jacarina
Weight: 0.3 oz (9g)
Wingspan: 3.9 inches (10cm)
The blue-black grassquit is a small member of the tanager family, a relative of the shining honeycreeper.
Blue-black grassquits possess a deep, indigo blue plumage, with slightly darker wings and tails. Their feathers are glossy and iridescent and sometimes appear to have a greenish or violet sheen.
They have black eyes and paler greyish bills and legs. Females of the species tend to be olive-brown, with slightly lighter underparts.
The blue-black grassquit is found from southern North America to Central and South America and is known in some parts as “Johnny Jump-up.”
This is because of the energetic courtship displays of the males, in which they leap several times their own height into the air repeatedly for several minutes at a time to draw the attention of the females.
This behavior demonstrates the male’s strength and vitality, making him a more attractive prospect to any potential mates.
More Examples of Black Birds with Blue Heads
- Blue-black Grosbeaks
- Blue-black Kingfishers
- Brown Sicklebills
Examples of black-colored birds with blue heads include shiny cowbirds, common grackles, black oropendolas, purple martins, satin bowerbirds, and indigo buntings, among others.
Interestingly, blue color feathers are different than any other color. No living bird species are capable of synthesizing the color blue from pigments. Blue feathers only appear blue because of their molecular structure, which affects how light waves interact with them.
In other words, blue feathers only “appear” blue but actually contain no blue pigment.
So, why is this? Beautiful blue plumage doesn’t say much about a bird’s diet or health, so what is it for? Scientists speculate that it may be for the most obvious reason: because it is beautiful.
Birds, like humans, may simply find one another attractive for reasons which are merely skin (or feather) deep. Whatever the reason, blackbirds with blue heads are undeniably gorgeous flying creatures.
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