How many grey birds with black heads can you name? Recently, a friend and fellow bird watcher quizzed me. Off the top of my head I could only think of the gray catbird. It is a common bird where I live.
But I challenged myself to learn about at least 10 more birds with these unique plumage and ended up with the list below. So, fellow bird watchers, let’s get learning.
- 1. Gray Catbird
- 2. Black-capped chickadees
- 3. White-breasted Nuthatch
- 4. Dark-Eyed Junco
- 5. Carolina Chickadee
- 6. Bridled Titmouse
- 7. Black-faced Cuckooshrike
- 8. Black Phoebe
- 9. Marsh Tit
- 10. Hooded cuckooshrike
- 11. Red-Breasted Nuthatch
- 12. Western Jackdaw
- 13. White-Crowned Sparrow
- 14. Black-Tailed Gnatcatcher
- 15. White Wagtail
- 16. Mountain Chickadee
1. Gray Catbird
Of course the gray catbird is the first bird on our list of gray birds with black heads. It is a member of the thrush family and is closely related to the northern mockingbird.
The adult gray catbird is about 9-10 inches long with a wingspan of about 12 inches. The upperparts are gray with black wings and the underparts are pale gray. The tail is long and black with a cinnamon undertail. The bill is black and the legs are dark gray. The female is similar to the male.
The gray catbird is found in woods and thickets throughout much of eastern North America. It breeds from southern Canada to northern Florida and west to Wisconsin, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas.
The nest is built in a tree or shrub usually 5-15 feet above the ground. The female lays 3-5 eggs which hatch in 12-14 days.
2. Black-capped chickadees
Black-capped chickadees are small, sprightly birds that you can easily attract to your yard. They are acrobatic foragers, often hanging upside down from branches in search of food. Chickadees are very curious birds, and will often approach humans cautiously to investigate.
These birds have a gray back, black throat and cap which gives them their name and white cheeks. The wings are black with pale edges.
These little birds are year-round residents of North America, and can be found in forests, woodlands, and even urban parks. Black-capped chickadees are not shy about coming to backyard bird feeders, where they will eat sunflower seeds, peanuts, and suet.
Chickadees are social birds, living in small flocks throughout the year. In wintertime, these flocks can include other small songbirds such as nuthatches and titmice.
3. White-breasted Nuthatch
Another small gray bird with black head is the white-breasted nuthatch. It favors woodlands across North America.
An adult is about 5.1-5.5 inches and boasts of a span of up to 10 inches. It boasts of a cap that stretches from the front of its head to the neck. The back is gray and black while the underparts are white. Notice the rusty undertail coverts.
How did the white-breasted nuthatch get its name?This bird species gets its name from the habit of wedging nuts into cracks in tree bark, then using its strong bill to crack them open.
The White-breasted Nuthatch is an acrobatic bird that can easily move up, down, and around trees. It has a stout bill that it uses to pry open seeds and nuts.
The White-breasted Nuthatch is an important part of the ecosystem because it helps disperse seeds throughout the forest. This little bird has a big impact on the health of the forest!
4. Dark-Eyed Junco
Junco Hyemalis or the dark-eyed junco is another North American grey bird with black head. This bird is in the New world sparrow family, which includes other birds such as song sparrow and lark bunting.
It is the best known and most widespread junco. How can you identify this bird? These bird species have slate gray plumage above, paler below with dark wings. Note that the Oregon junco has different plumage. It has a black head and dark brown below.
All juncos have white outer tail feathers, brown-gray legs and a short pinkish bill. These birds are about 5.5 inches in length with a span of up to 9.3 inches.
It is common throughout Alaska and Canada, and it can be found in the northeastern, southeastern, and southwestern United States. The dark-eyed junco is a ground-dwelling bird that nests in trees or on the ground. You’ll find them hopping around trees, looking for seeds, but will also take berries.
During nesting season, a pair of junco’s will raise 3-6 babies that stay in the nest for about two weeks. Their songs consist of up to 23 notes that are sung for about 2 seconds.
5. Carolina Chickadee
Averaging 4 inches, the Carolina Chickadee is one of the smallest birds in the tit family. It’s smaller than a house sparrow.
The Carolina chickadee is a small, sprightly bird that is found in woods and forests throughout the southeastern United States. These little birds are most easily identified by their black cap and bib, white cheeks, and gray body. It has a wingspan of up to 7.9 inches.
Carolina chickadees are not only cute, but they are also interesting birds with a variety of behaviors that set them apart from other birds. For example, Carolina chickadees have been known to use tools, such as pine needles, to help them extract food from bark crevices.
Chickadees are also interesting because of their social behavior; they often form lifelong bonds with their mates and live in family groups. If you’re lucky enough to spot a Carolina chickadee, you’re sure to be charmed by these little birds!
Related Read: Check some common birds of Ohio
6. Bridled Titmouse
The bridled titmouse is a small songbird that is found in Arizona and New Mexico. It’s a member of the tit family that includes other gray birds like the tufted titmouse.
This gray bird with black head is easily identifiable with its striped white and black head, black throat, gray body and white belly.
Note the tuft of feathers on its head, which resembles that of a tufted titmouse. On average, the adult is 4.5-5 inches in length.
Bridled titmouse is a very active bird and is often seen hopping around on tree branches in search of food. The bird feeds on insects. You’ll notice them moving rapidly between trees, looking for the insects.
They prefer riparian woodlands and pine-oak forests. During the breeding season, the female will lay up to 8 eggs that need two weeks of incubation. The bridled titmouse is known for its nasal calls.
7. Black-faced Cuckooshrike
Long and slender, the black-faced cuckooshrike is an Australian bird species that can be seen in national parks as well as in cities. They are fairly common and easily recognizable.
The most distinguishing feature of this bird is its black face. The Black-faced cuckooshrike is a medium sized bird that measures about 13 inches in length. This bird has a black face with the rest of the head being gray, gray back and breast, and white undertail.
The Black-faced cuckooshrike diet consists mainly of insects, which they catch in mid-air. It also loves other invertebrates. These birds are often seen perching on branches or flying from tree to tree in search of food.
Black-faced cuckooshrikes are found in many different habitats including forests, woodlands, and even urban areas. Their call is a sharp ‘ ‘creeack” note. Breeding season starts from August through February.
8. Black Phoebe
Black phoebes are mostly found in the Southern United States all the way to South America. Their plumage is determined by their location.
Black phoebes of the US are white below and dark gray above. Black phoebes of North America have a dark gray-black head, slaty grey back and wings with white edges. They are all about 6.3 inches with black bibs. Their feet are also black and black tail.
Black phoebe or the Sayornis nigricans is a small passerine bird in the tyrant flycatcher family. It is a permanent resident in most of its breeding range, although northern birds may move south during the winter months.
Black phoebes prefer insects, but they also feed their babies fish. They can live up to 8 years. During nesting season, the male will pick a few locations suitable for building the nest and the female makes the final decision.
9. Marsh Tit
A Marsh tit is a small, stocky bird with a black cap. It is found in wet woodlands and marshes across Europe and Asia. The Marsh tit is a non-migratory bird, meaning it spends its entire life in one place.
Males and females have the same unique coloring. Both are about 4.5 inches and a span of 7.5 inches. They have a noticeable black cap and white cheeks.The rest of the body is brownish-gray. Note the smaller dark bill.
How long can marsh tit live? Up to 11 years in the wild. The Marsh tit is a very shy bird and is often hard to spot. When it is seen, it is usually alone or in pairs. This bird feeds on insects, spiders, and small mammals. In winter, they favor berries and nuts.
The Marsh tit nests in tree holes or nest boxes. Their calls include sharp “tsiptsip” and “pitchu” notes.
10. Hooded cuckooshrike
Hooded cuckooshrike is a member of the cuckoo-shrike family. It favors tropical forests of New Guinea.
Like their relative that we looked at above, this bird is also long and slender. It has gray upperparts with black tipped wings, black head and paler below. The legs and feet are black.
The hooded cuckooshrike feeds on insects, berries, and fruits. It catches insects in flight or gleans them from leaves. The diet also includes fruits such as figs and bananas. These gray birds with black heads nest in trees or bushes.
11. Red-Breasted Nuthatch
Quiet and bold, Red-breasted nuthatches are small, acrobatic birds that are a joy to watch on a birdfeeder. These little guys are fascinating to watch as they hang upside down and eat their meals.
Red-breasted nuthatches boast of a blue-gray back, black head with prominent white patches or eyebrows, and a rusty underpart which gives them their name. The adult female has similar coloring but is paler.
Are red-breasted nuthatches rare? There are millions of this bird species across North America. And because of its plumage and softer calls, they are not easy to spot. But they are bold. When bird watching, you can approach them for better photos. They won’t fly away.
These birds mate for life and often nest in tree cavities. If you’re lucky enough to have a nest box near your house, you might get to see a red-breasted nuthatch raising its young. Ensure to put a guard on the nesting box to keep out predators.
12. Western Jackdaw
Western jackdaw is a member of the crow family. The name “jackdaw” comes from the Old English word for “daw”, which means blackbird.
Western Jackdaws are smaller than crows about 13-15 inches with a wingspan of about 17 inches. They have a black face and cap, the rest of the body is a dark gray. Notice their stunning yellow eyes, dark feet, and short black bill.
Also known as Eurasian jackdaws, these grey birds with black heads are found in Europe and Asia. In Britain, they are common in towns and cities, but less so in rural areas. They eat a variety of small invertebrates.
They will also take food from bins and gardens. They get their food through probing the ground or pecking. They are gregarious, forming small groups.
13. White-Crowned Sparrow
Have you ever seen a white-crowned sparrow? If not, here are features that’ll help you recognize it during your next birding escapade.
The White-crowned Sparrow is a sparrow native to North America. It is one of the most widespread and abundant sparrows on the continent. The White-crowned Sparrow gets its name from the stripe of white feathers on its head.
Adult White-crowned Sparrows are typically gray and brown, with white stripes on their wings. Note the yellow bill.
The White-crowned Sparrow is a seed eater, and it also feeds on insects. It nests in trees and shrubs, usually close to the ground. The female lays 3 to 5 eggs, which hatch after about 12 days.
14. Black-Tailed Gnatcatcher
Black-tailed Gnatcatchers are a songbird of the Americas.
The adult male has a black cap and tail, whitish breast, grey back, and black wings with white wing bars. The female is similar but has a grey cap. Both sexes have a black bill, long legs, and long toes.
This grey bird with black head breeds in desert scrubs in western North America from Alaska to central Mexico. It builds its nest in a tree or bush, often near water. The nest is an open cup made of moss, lichens, leaves, cobwebs, and down, lined with hair or fine grasses.
It forages for insects in trees and bushes, sometimes catching them in midair. It also eats spiders and other small invertebrates.
15. White Wagtail
Motacilla alba or White Wagtail is a striking bird that is easily recognizable by its long tail that it often wags. They are found in open habitats near water and are commonly seen near farmlands.
These birds are mostly gray with black-white wings and a black cap with a white face. Notice its black throat and dark legs.
The males and females look similar but the males have a slightly longer tail. These birds are about 6.5 inches long with a 8.7 wingspan.
White Wagtails are very active birds and are constantly on the move, foraging for food or chasing after insects. Their diet consists of small invertebrates such as flies, beetles, and spiders.
These birds breed in the spring and summer months and build their nests close to the ground in trees or bushes. The female will lay 4-6 eggs which she will incubate for 12-13 days. Both parents help to feed the young chicks until they are old enough to fend for themselves.
16. Mountain Chickadee
Mountain chickadees are small, sprightly birds known for their distinctive black-and-white plumage and cheerful “chick-a-dee” call.
Energetic and cheerful, these small gray birds with black heads are about 5 inches with a black cap and throat, gray body and white cheeks. Male and female mountain chickadees are the same plumage.
These acrobatic little birds are a common sight in mountain forests across the western United States, where they flit among the branches in search of insects.
Though they are not shy around humans, mountain chickadees can be difficult to spot due to their small size and quick movements. But if you’re lucky enough to catch a glimpse of one of these energetic little birds, you’re sure to be charmed by their playful antics.
Final thoughts on the Grey Bird with Black Head
There are billions of birds across the globe and the US is home to a huge percentage of these birds. If you are looking for a comprehensive list of grey birds with black heads, the list above is perfect for you.
From the black capped chickadees to gray catbirds to lesser known birds of the cuckooshrike family, there are plenty of gray birds with white heads you can attract to your yard or see in your next birding tour.
Hi, my name is Steve. My friend and I started the spanishbirdguides.com to share our passion with other like-minded people. So, if bird watching is your thing, you’ll love this blog. I’ll share what I’ve learnt about both local birds and those found in other parts of the world. Also, I’d love to hear your experiences.