13 Brown and Black Birds (Identification)

The world of birds is a fascinating one, and brown and black birds are some of the most interesting species to explore. There are many varieties of these types of birds across the globe with unique adaptations that allow them to survive in their habitats.

 From great coucal to black-headed cowbirds, they come in all shapes and sizes. These birds, while seemingly plain at first glance, offer a unique beauty and grace when observed closely.  Here is a list of birds with black and brown bodies. 

List of Brown and Black Birds

1. Greater Coucal 

Greater Coucal 

Great coucals are stunning. Also known as crow pheasant, this bird is found across India and Southeast Asia.


 With its black plumage and distinctive red eyes, the greater coucal is characterized by its loud “oop-oop” call that can be heard from far distances. The wings are brown. Note the long tail. 

An adult coucal measures about 18.8 inches in length, slightly larger than a prairie falcon. 

Habitat & Breeding: 

The species is a member of the cuckoo family and typically frequents gardens as well as other urban spaces. Their diet is made up of caterpillars, snails and insects. They also steal and eat other birds’ eggs. 

When can you see coucals? This brown and black bird is most active in the morning. And, if you are interested in their breeding habits, we recommend you visit their natural habitat from June to September. 

They are monogamous and construct a dome-shaped cup. They typically raise 2-4 babies each season. 

2. Brown-headed Cowbird 

Brown-headed Cowbird 

Perhaps the best known black and brown birds, brown-headed cowbirds are unmistakable. They are migratory birds, found in different parts of North America in different seasons. 


It is a sexually dimorphic species. The male cowbird is a medium-sized that is identified by its distinctive brown head and black body that can be easily identified by even novice birders. A female cowbird is a pale brown with a slightly streaked belly. 

When it comes to size, males are slightly larger. They range 7.5-8.7 inches while females are 6,3 to 7.9 inches. Males also have a longer wingspan; about 14.2 inches and females 12.6 to 15 inches. 

Both sexes have gorgeous dark eyes and canonical bills. 

Habitat & Breeding: 

Where can you find these black and brown birds? Depending with the season, there are plenty of places you can watch  these birds. 

During winter you can find them in Florida and parts of the Southern US and also Mexico. During other non-breeding months, their range ranges from parts of Maine, covering most of the central region then up to parts of Washington. 

During their breeding season, brown-headed cowbirds migrate to the northern United States. Speaking of breeding, during this period cowbirds lay their eggs in nests of house finches and redstarts. Yes, they are brood parasites. 

This means they prey on the nests of other birds and let the hosts raise their babies. Brown-headed cowbirds eat beetles and grasshoppers. Also, females raid other birds’ nests to steal eggs. 

3. Spotted Towhee 

Spotted Towhee 

What is a brown black and white bird? If you’ve come across a bird with this plumage, you most likely saw a spotted towhee. 


 With its distinctive black head, back and wings, this small bird is an impressive beauty. Notice the white spots on the back and wings. Its belly is white while its flanks have a beautiful brown hue. 

Females are the same color though duller. Juveniles look like females. How big are spotted towhees? They average 6.7 to 8.3 inches with a wingspan of up to 11 inches. Note the long black tail. 

Another way you can identify these brown and black birds is by their call; “mew” like call while the songs are interesting ‘drink-your-tea” notes. 

4. Brown Thrasher 

Brown Thrasher 

Endemic to the eastern United States, the brown thrasher is a common black and brown bird that is difficult to spot because it prefers to stay hidden in shrubs. 


This species of bird can easily be identified based on its size, color, and distinct song. The brown thrasher stands at an average length of 10 inches and is mostly brown above and white below with black spots. Its tail and bill are long. Note the slight curve on the dull-colored bill. 

They also have a distinctive white and black wingbars which helps to distinguish them from other birds. The male and female brown thrashers look quite similar, however males usually have brighter colors than females. 

When it comes to songs, it can be somewhat hard to distinguish this thrasher. This is because, like catbirds, brown thrashers are able to mimic other birds’ songs, making identification by songs hard. 

Habitat & Breeding 

Brown thrashers winter and breed in some eastern states. When breeding, these brown and black birds prefer to build nests on low branches. They raise 2 clutches of 2-6 babies. They are known to visit feeders. 

5. White-throated Sparrow 

White-throated Sparrow

The white-throated sparrow is a North American bird that can be found throughout the continent. And with a lifespan of up to 15 years, it is one of the longest living passerine birds. 


With its distinctive yellow lores, white throat, and black and white striped head patterns, this bird is easy to identify once you learn its features. To help you remember what to look for when trying to spot a white-throated sparrow in your backyard or on a nature walk, here are other key identification tips.

 First, they have an overall grayish brown color with black streaks running down the upper parts of their body. The most recognizable feature of the species is its bright yellow lores that frame its eye and contrast against its plain face. Additionally, this brown and black bird is about 6.3-7.1 inches and spans about 8.5 inches. 

Habitat & Breeding: 

White-throated sparrows breed in some parts of the United States and most of Canada. They prefer deciduous and coniferous forests but will also visit parks and backyards. Like most sparrows, these birds are versatile breeders. 

They can raise two clutches which need a 12-day nestling period. These seed-eating birds will also eat insects during summer months and prefer visiting feeders with sunflower seeds and millet. 

6. Eastern Towhee 

Eastern Towhee

Did you know the Eastern towhee and the spotted towhee interbreed, producing uniquely colored babies? The eastern towhee is closely related to the towhee above and share some key characteristics. 


The Eastern towhee is slightly larger than the white-throated sparrow above but smaller than a robin; about 8 inches long. This species exhibits sexual dimorphism with the male having an all-black back, tail and head, white belly and brown flanks. 

Instead of spots they have white patches on their wings. They also have stunning red eyes. Female eastern towhees are dark brown above with rusty sides and a white belly. Note the canonical bills. 

Habitat & Breeding: 

This medium-size bird with brown and black feathers can be found in open forests, woodland edges, thickets and gardens on the eastern part of the continent. Its loud, ringing “drink-your-tea” call is a signature of the species throughout its range.

When can you see eastern towhee babies? Nesting starts in spring. They typically construct their nesting place on the ground. They raise up to three clutches. 

7. Black-throated Finch 

Black-throated Finch 


Finches are beautiful and the black-throated finch is no exception. These birds are endangered and are endemic to Australia’s east coast. 


The Black-throated finch is a medium-sized seedeater that can easily be identified by its gray head and black throat as well as black bib. Other features include a brown body with white undertail and black tail. Notice the red legs. 

Habitat & Breeding: 

They are usually seen in small flocks, about 30 birds, foraging on the ground for seeds or ants and spiders. Nesting occurs from September to January and in some places it may last to February. Its population is down to 800 birds. 

8. Chestnut-winged Cuckoo 

 Chestnut-winged Cuckoo 


Common in Southeast Asia, the chestnut-winged cuckoo has very distinctive features.


This bird grows to about 18 inches, about the same length as a peregrine falcon. It has a slender body that is mostly gray-black on its back, brown wings and throat and whitish below. They have a noticeable crest. Notice the long thin tail. 

Habitat & Breeding: 

This species, also known as red-winged crested cuckoo, is typically seen singly but may form foraging flocks. 

This species is a brood parasite, meaning that it lays its eggs in the nests of other birds, mostly Garrulax laughingthrushes, who then raise its young for it. As such, it is rarely seen except during breeding season when males can be heard calling from treetops in search of female mates. 

During this time, they can sometimes be spotted perched on branches or flying through the air with their wings spread wide to display their colors more prominently.

9. Black-bellied Whistling Duck

Black-bellied Whistling Duck

You may know this bird by its former name, the black-bellied tree duck. This small duck is one of the most striking brown and black water birds. 


Black-bellied whistling ducks are an elusive species of waterfowl that can be difficult to spot. Although they inhabit the southern United States, their plumage helps them blend in perfectly with their marshland habitats. But there are a few distinguishing features to help identify them during your next bird watching expedition.

At first glance, black-bellied whistling ducks resemble geese with their long necks and brownish gray plumage. However, they have bright red bills contrasting the black feathers on their bellies and white eyerings that give away its true identity. In flight, this species will often make loud whistling noises similar to those heard from a whistle toy, which is how it gets its name.

Habitat & Breeding: 

These ducks are monogamous. They nest in hollow trees but can also nest in nest boxes and abandoned buildings. These black and brown birds are great breeders raising between 30-36 chicks each nesting season. 

10. Black-headed Grosbeak 

Black-headed Grosbeak 

Another brown bird with black head you should know is the black-headed grosbeak. They are long distance migrants moving between Mexico and Western United States. 


Black-headed grosbeaks are a medium-sized finch found in western North America. The male’s plumage is mostly brown-black with white patches on the wings. Females have a striped head with a dark brown back, light brown chest and whitish belly. 

This species can be identified by its canonical bill and robin-like call. 

Habitat & Breeding:

Does this bird with brown body and black head visit backyards? These grosbeaks prefer sunflower seeds, so place a few feeders strategically to attract them. 

In the wild, this bird species prefers coniferous forests for nesting, but during the winter it will move to more open areas of forest or even gardens in some instances. Its diet consists mainly of beetles, figs, berries, seeds, and other plant material like buds from trees. 

11. Common Myna 

Common Myna

Common in Hawaii, common mynas are yellow-billed birds that are an interesting species to watch for new birders and a nuisance to residents. 

Habitat & Breeding: 

The common myna is one of the most easily identified bird species in the world. This small, brown and black feathered bird is about 9 inches long. 

It has a yellow bill and bare yellowish skin around its eyes. It also has a noticeable white undertail. 

Habitat & Breeding: 

They have a tendency to live near humans. Common mynas are also found in grassland, scrubland, rainforest and even some agricultural zones.

These invasive species are monogamous. They are not known to build nests, instead they use old nests of parakeets and woodpeckers. Mynas eat crustaceans, small mammals, and reptiles. 

12. Orchard Oriole 

Orchard orioles are sexually dimorphic. And to attract them to your backyard, we recommend you place fruit jelly or orange slices on an accessible place. 


These black headed brown birds are about 5.9-7.1 inches in length. Males have a black head and upper back, brown lower back and underparts and a round black tail. Wings are black.

Female orchard orioles are greenish yellow and pale bill.

Habitat & Breeding: 

This migratory species is commonly seen in the eastern regions of North America during spring and summer months. 

They raise one or two broods. Orchard orioles love nectar and fruit and live for about 11 years. 

13. Eurasian Hoopoe 

Eurasian Hoopoe 

Eurasian hoopoe are stunning! They are constantly moving between Europe, Asia and Africa. 


Eurasian hoopoes are recognizable for their colorful crest with black tips and distinctive white-barred wings and tail. 

They are a medium sized bird, about 9.8-12.6 inches in length, with a wingspan of 17-19 inches. Note the long, curved bill. 

Habitat & Breeding: 

Eurasian hoopoes prefer grasslands, savannahs, and heathland. Common diet includes cicadas, beetles, locusts, and crickets. They practice seasonal monogamy; a pairs lasts only one mating season. 

14. Australian Shelduck

Australian Shelduck

The Australian Shelduck is a large and striking waterfowl species found in the wetlands of Australia. It’s also known as a mountain duck and chestnut-breasted shelduck. 


This bird has an impressive appearance, boasting of brown neck feathers and distinctive dull black body. There are noticeable white eyerings and green patches on the wings. Notice the thick black bill. 

 Habitat & Breeding: 

They consume saltbush, molluscs and crustaceans. During mating, they lay 8-15 eggs. They occur in Southern Australia. 


Are there brown and black birds? 

Common brown and black birds include:

  • Brown-headed cowbirds
  • Spotted towhees 
  • Eastern towhees 
  • Eurasian hoopoes 
  • Greater coucals 
  • Black-headed grosbeak

What is a small brown bird with a black mask? 

Cedar waxwings have a very noticeable black mask. Its head and back are brownish, a yellowish belly and gray wings. 

What is a black bird with a brown head and neck? 

The brown-headed cowbird is the most common black bodied bird with a brown head. It’s a common bird in North America wintering in the south and breeding in the north.  

What bird resembles robins but with black head? 

Orchard orioles look like robins from afar. But robins have a brownish-gray back while orioles have black backs.  Also robins are about two inches longer than orchard orioles. 




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