15 Blackbirds With Blue Heads (Examples + Photos)

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Blackbirds, or Icterids, are a family of small to medium-sized, often colorful, New World passerine birds. Almost all species of blackbirds have black plumage; some blackbirds also have the added color blue on their heads. 

When talking about blackbirds, the International Ornithological Committee (IOC) recognizes 109 species. Out of those 109 blackbird species, only 3 of them have blue heads. Those are the black oropendola, the shiny cowbird, and the common grackle. 

Other black-colored birds that have blue heads are purple sunbirds, purple martins, rooks, tree swallows, Asian fairy-bluebirds, blue-black grassquits, satin bowerbirds, blue-black grosbeaks, shining honeycreepers, blue buntings, blue-black kingfishers, and brown sicklebills

Blackbirds With Blue Heads

blackbirds with blue heads list and photos collage

Common Grackle

common blackbird grackle

Scientific name: Quiscalus quiscula
Lifespan: 17-22 years
Wingspan: 14-18 in
Head Color: Blue-green
Native to: North America

The common grackle, the most famous of the blackbirds with blue head plumage, is a medium-sized songbird found in large numbers throughout North America. 

It is easy to recognize by its long, keel-shaped tail, dark beak, yellow eyes, and (in males) glossy black plumage with a sheen blue-green head color

Common grackles have a population of over 70 million individuals and can be found in wet, open woodlands, marshes, as well as suburbs, parks, and agricultural fields. 

They are short-distance migrants that breed across North America east of the Rocky Mountains.

Common grackles are omnivores and feed on insects, minnows, frogs, eggs, berries, seeds, and grain.

They will let ants crawl up their bodies and clean them from parasites. If no ants are available, grackles will use lemons, walnut juice, and mothballs for that purpose.

In several US countries, including Texas, it is illegal to kill grackles.

Black Oropendola

black oropendula
John Gerrard Keulemans, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Scientific name: Psarocolius guatimozinus
Lifespan: 20 years
Wingspan: n/a
Head Color: Indigo blue
Native to: South America

The black oropendola is a large bird, member of the family Icteridae (New World blackbirds). It is found in the subtropical and tropical lowland forests of Colombia and Panama. 

It has an overall black plumage, dark brown back and wings, and dark blue, indigo-colored head. Black oropendola has an orange-tipped beak with a large patch of blue skin at the base. Males and females look pretty much the same. 

Black oropendolas are omnivores that feed on insects, small vertebrates, and fruit. They nest colonially, where over 20 birds might build their nest in one tree. Black oropendola’s eggs are pale pink.

Shiny Cowbird

shiny cowbird

Scientific name: Molothrus bonariensis
Lifespan: n/a
Wingspan: 11 in
Head Color: Glossy purple-blue
Native to: South America

The shiny cowbirds are sleek-looking medium-sized birds; females closely resemble the brown-headed cowbirds. They are common in the Caribbean and South America and can be found around livestock, in semiopen and open grassy areas. Shiny cowbirds can be also found in Southern Florida, although it is uncommon.

Shiny Cowbird males have glossy violet blue-black plumage, greenish-blue wings and tails, and a pointy blackish bill.

These birds are brood parasites that will lay their eggs in another bird’s nest and rely on it to rear their chicks.

Male shiny cowbirds are very aggressive towards other birds and their own kind – this includes behaviors like the “head-forwards threat”, “bill-tilt display”, physical breast-to-breast contacts, and chasings.

They are omnivores that feed on insects and seeds.

Purple Sunbird

purple sunbird

Scientific name: Cinnyris asiaticus
Lifespan: 15-20 years
Wingspan: n/a
Head Color: Metallic blue
Native to: Southeast Asia

The purple sunbird is a small nectar-feeding bird that can be found in South and Southeast Asia. It displays sexual dimorphism – males and females look different.

The breeding purple sunbird male has a plumage that may appear all black (in low light) or dark metallic blue or purplish-black in better light conditions. The head has a mostly metallic blue and purple color. 

Females are olive above, yellowish below, and have a thin yellow supercilium above the eye that looks like an eyebrow.

Read More: Birds That Look Like They Have Eyebrows

These beautiful birds are omnivores and feed on nectar, insects, spiders, and the flesh of fruits and berries. Purple sunbirds are fast flyers and can take nectar by hovering like a hummingbird.

Purple Martin

purple martin

Scientific name: Progne subis
Lifespan: 5-7 years
Wingspan: 15 in
Head Color: Dark blue
Native to: North America

Purple Martin is the largest swallow in North America. It has a slightly hooked bill, short and forked tail, and long, tapered wings.

Adult males are dark overall with a purplish-blue shimmer visible at close range. Depending on the light and angle, their head color may appear to be royal blue, navy blue, deep purple, or even green.

Females are grayer with shine on the crown and back.

Purple martins will typically build their nests out of straw, twigs, and pine needles. They are very social and colonial birds – the largest roosting colony ever discovered had over 700,000 birds!

Purple martins are carnivores (insectivores) that feed on fire ants, bugs, flies, butterflies, dragonflies, grasshoppers, crickets, moths, wasps, bees, cicadas, spiders, and termites.

They are also excellent flyers that can reach flight speeds of over 40 mph.

It is a summer resident in Pennsylvania – check our article about other blue-colored birds in Pa.


black rook bird with indigo blue head

Scientific name: Corvus frugilegus
Lifespan: 6 years
Wingspan: 32-39 in
Head Color: Dark blue and bluish-purple
Native to: Eurasia and New Zealand

Highly social and quite intelligent, a rook is a large, gregarious, black-feathered bird that has for centuries been considered a bird of both good and bad omen. 

The black feathers of the head, neck, and shoulders are dense and silky and will have a blue or bluish-purple sheen in bright sunlight. 

The rook is similar in size to the crow but tends to stay away from cities and towns. They mate for life, and both sexes will build the nest of twigs, sticks, dry grass, and dead leaves. Rooks are omnivores and feed on earthworms, small lizards, frogs, bird eggs, and seeds.

Tree Swallow

tree swallows

Scientific name: Tachycineta bicolor
Lifespan: 3 years
Wingspan: 12-14 in
Head Color: Metallic greenish-blue
Native to: the United States and Canada

Tree swallows are small migratory songbirds with long, pointed wings and short, squared, or slightly notched tails. Not entirely black, these birds still have almost metallic greenish-blue back and head, together with a white throat, breast, and belly. 

Tree swallows breed in the United States and Canada – they begin migrating south in July and August to western Mexico and Central America. They are social animals with flocks of thousands of birds. Tree swallows are omnivores that feed on insects, mollusks, spiders, and occasionally on fruit, berries, and seeds.

You can see them in Florida, Tennessee, Kansas, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee, and similar. If you want to see them in person and take good photos of them with your phone, make sure to bring a good phone lens made especially for bird photography.

Asian Fairy-bluebird

asian fairy bluebird
Ltshears – Trisha M Shears, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Scientific name: Irena puella
Lifespan: n/a
Wingspan: n/a
Head Color: Intense azure blue
Native to: Southern Asia

The Asian fairy-bluebird or Asian blue-backed fairy bluebird is a medium-sized tree-dwelling bird found in forests across tropical southern Asia. This beautiful bird has a strong black bill and legs, and bright red eyes. 

Males have a brilliant blue back while females have a duller turquoise one. The head has the same color as the sky – at times intense blue and at times azure and very bright.

Asian fairy-bluebirds live in pairs or small groups and will hide their nest in the densest and most humid areas of the forest. They are known to use green moss to camouflage their nest and the young.

These blue-headed birds are omnivores that mostly feed on fruits, nectar from flowers, and some insects.

Blue-black Grassquit

blue black grassquit
Dario Sanches from São Paulo, Brasil, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons (edited)

Scientific name: Volatinia jacarina
Lifespan: 12 years
Wingspan: n/a
Head Color: Glossy blue-black
Native to: Central and South America

The Blue-black Grassquit is a small black bird native to Central and South America. Males have black plumage on tails and wings, and glossy dark blue heads and backs. Females have brown upperparts.

These grassquits can be found in the fields, farmland, and other open grassy areas.

Blue-back grassquit is an omnivore that feeds mainly on seeds, often of the tall grasses on roadsides, but also on small insects.

They are monogamous birds that mate for life – males are known to carry out extended jumping display rituals during the mating season, which gives rise to the local name “johnny jump-up”. 

Satin Bowerbird

satin bowerbird

Scientific name: Ptilonorhynchus violaceus
Lifespan: 8-9 years (up to 26 years)
Wingspan: 18-20 in
Head Color: Violet-blue
Native to: Australia

Satin bowerbird is a medium-sized bowerbird native to eastern Australia. Adult males have an entirely dark glossy blue-purple color with a short pale bill and bright violet eyes. 

Many ornithologists consider satin bowerbirds as one of the most advanced since they use tools and mix “paint” to color the walls of their bower (nest-like structure). 

Males will create and decorate these structures with attention-getting items. The females will then tour many of these local bowers, assessing both structure and suitor before selecting a mate.

The competition for bower decoration is fierce – many males will steal items from other bowers to improve their own. 

If a female finds a bower she likes, she enters its bower, but the mating ritual isn’t over. The male will then need to perform a dance for her while holding a favorite trinket in his beak. These birds for some reason prefer blue-colored items as decoration.

All bowerbirds are frugivores, that mainly feed on the fruits of trees and bushes; occasionally, they eat insects, spiders, and seeds.

Blue-black Grosbeak

blue black grosbeak
Simon Speich, www.speich.net, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons (edited)

Scientific name: Cyanoloxia cyanoides
Lifespan: 6-7 years
Wingspan: 11 in
Head Color: Light blue
Native to: Central and South America

The blue-black grosbeaks are songbirds found in pairs in humid evergreen forests and edges in tropical lowlands. They are sexually dimorphic. Females have dark brown plumage with a slight reddish hue. 

Males have a dark blue plumage with lighter blue eyebrows and shoulder patches on their wings. The forehead also has a lighter shade of blue. Similar to other bluebirds, the blue color is due to the way the light strikes their feathers, it is not pigment coloration.

These birds are omnivores and feed on seeds, fruits, insects, snails, and other small invertebrates. Blue-black grosbeaks will sometimes use a shed snakeskin to build their nests.

Read More: 20+ examples of birds that are white and blue

Shining Honeycreeper

shining honeycreeper

Scientific name: Cyanerpes lucidus
Lifespan: 5-12 years
Wingspan: n/a
Head Color: Intense purple-blue
Native to: Central and South America

The shining honeycreeper is a small warbler-like tanager bird found in humid tropical evergreen forests. The male has a long black decurved bill, black wings, tail, and throat. Its head, back, and underparts are purple-blue. The female has green plumage, a greenish-blue head, and bluish underparts. The legs of both are bright yellow.

Shining honeycreepers are omnivores that feed on nectar, berries, and insects, mainly in the canopy. 

They are very active birds, and males and females will sing in a duet to maintain their bond.

Looking for more blue-headed birds that are not just black? Check this article.

Indigo Bunting

blue indigo bunting

Scientific name: Passerina cyanea
Lifespan: 10 years
Wingspan: 7-9 in
Head Color: Bright and rich blue
Native to: Central and North America

The indigo bunting, also known as blue bunting, is a small seed-eating bird found in dense thickets and woodland edges. It is a migratory bird that travels during the night, using stars to navigate. 

Adult males have a vibrant blue plumage during summer, with slightly richer blue on their heads. During the winter months, they are brown, just like females, only year-round.

Scientists consider indigo buntings as black birds – because of different light angles hitting their feathers, some birds look blue. They are omnivores and feed on insects, seeds, and berries.

A group of buntings is called a “decoration”, “mural”, or “sacrifice”.

Blue-black Kingfisher

blue black kingfisher
Joseph Wolf, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Scientific name: Todiramphus nigrocyaneus
Lifespan: 5-10 years
Wingspan: n/a
Head Color: Blue
Native to: New Guinea

Blue-back kingfisher is a medium-sized kingfisher with a dark blue head (crown), pale blue eyebrows, black face, and pale blue back becoming darker on rump and tail.

It is considered very rare and can be found in Papua New Guinea and adjacent islands Salawati, Batanta, and Yapen. Blue-back kingfisher is carnivorous and feeds on fish or crabs.

Brown Sicklebill

brown sicklebill
markaharper1, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons (edited)

Scientific name: Epimachus meyeri
Lifespan: n/a
Wingspan: n/a
Head Color: Blue-green
Native to: New Guinea

The brown sicklebill is a large, long-tailed bird-of-paradise that is found in the mountain forests of New Guinea. 

Male brown sicklebills have blue-green feathers, black upperparts, brown breasts, and metallic blue-green feathers. Females are mostly brown.

They are omnivores and mostly feed on fruits and anthropods and insects. 

Read More: 30 examples of birds that have orange beaks

Final Thoughts

Blackbirds are a big group of birds that include over 100 species (109 to be precise). Three of those have black plumage and blue color of their heads: common grackle, black oropendola, and shiny cowbird. 

Other birds that are black and have blue heads include purple martins, blue-black grassquits, shiny cowbirds, purple sunbirds, and many others.

We hope you found our list of blackbirds with blue heads interesting, and that you might be able to recognize them next time you go birdwatching. And if you are interested in learning more about black birds that have white spots, check out this article.

P.S. In case you want to copy the entire list. Black-colored birds with blue head plumage:

  • Common Grackle
  • Black Oropendola
  • Shiny Cowbird
  • Purple Sunbird
  • Purple Martin
  • Rook
  • Tree Swallow
  • Asian Fairy-bluebird
  • Blue-black Grassquit
  • Satin Bowerbird
  • Blue-black Grosbeak
  • Shining Honeycreeper
  • Indigo Bunting
  • Blue-black Kingfisher
  • Brown Sicklebill

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