10 Popular Black and White Birds in Colorado (Ultimate Guide + Pictures)

Black and white birds abound in this colorful Centennial State. That’s why it can prove challenging to tell bandit-masked songbirds apart or distinguish between several kinds of black and white ducks bobbing up and down in a body of water. The good news is that our guide will help you start identifying the next strange black and white bird that you spot in Colorado.

Take your pick from a wide range of warblers, woodpeckers, and water birds when it comes to black and white birds in Colorado. This state has a unique variety of birds that aren’t commonly seen in many other places across the United States, so if you’re an avid birdwatcher or someone who just likes to put a name to a face, identifying a new bird is important.  

Black and White Birds in Colorado

Just scroll through this list of 10 popular black and white birds in Colorado to get started.

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1. Mountain Chickadee

  • Scientific name: Poecile gambeli
  • Diet: Insectivore and frugivore
  • Habitat: Conifer forests
  • Lifespan: 2 to 3 years
  • Size: 5 inches
  • Weight: Less than 1 ounce
  • Wingspan: 7 inches

These bold little black and white songbirds have black circles around their eyes and a black throat and bib. Their cheeks and chests are powdery grayish-white with black splotches and their wings have gray tones.

While you can find this bird throughout the year in western and south-central Colorado, that doesn’t mean that it’s easy to see. That’s because Mountain Chickadees stick to the high treetops in thick evergreen forests where it can be hard to spot them. You might hear their “Phoebe” or “chick-a-dee-dee” call when they are mating, chasing rivals, or hoping to eat insects, berries, or seeds.

2. Black-Capped Chickadee

  • Scientific name: Poecile atricapillus
  • Diet: Insectivore, frugivore, and invertivore
  • Habitat: Conifer, deciduous, alder, and willow trees
  • Lifespan: 2 or 3 years
  • Size: 6 inches
  • Weight: About 4 ounces
  • Wingspan: 8 inches

Like its relative, the Mountain Chickadee, the Black-Capped Chickadee makes its home year-round in parts of the state. Unlike its cousin, the Black-Capped Chickadee has more white feathers on its round, little body. This contrasts with its distinct black cap and bold white cheek marks.

These birds prefer deciduous woods mixed with evergreens, cottonwood groves, backyards, and parks. They love everything from bugs and snails to sunflower seeds, berries, peanuts, and suet.

3. Downy Woodpecker

  • Scientific name: Dryobates pubescens
  • Diet: Insectivore
  • Habitat: Orchards, woods, and backyards
  • Lifespan: 2 to 3 years
  • Size: 7 inches
  • Weight: About 1 ounce
  • Wingspan: 11 inches 

Downies are some of the smallest woodpeckers seen in Colorado. You can identify it by its miniature sharp bill and the vivid crimson cap atop its head. A Downy Woodpecker has soft-looking feathers that are dotted and streaked with black and white markings.  

In Colorado, it’s common to spot their distinct hammering sound before you spot one of these birds clinging to a tree trunk. They are attracted to shady spots such as orchards and tree-lined yards with lots of mature trees.

4. Bonaparte’s Gull

  • Scientific name: Chroicocephalus philadelphia
  • Diet: Insectivore and carnivore
  • Habitat: Rivers, inland lakes, lagoons, and evergreen forests
  • Lifespan: 10 years
  • Size: 11 to 15 inches
  • Weight: 6 to 8 ounces
  • Wingspan: 30 to 33 inches

This chunky gull looks like a tern with a jet-black head, slim, curved bill, white eye rings, and white plumage that morphs into a gray rear with black and white tail feathers.

Bonaparte’s Gulls migrate throughout most parts of Colorado in the autumn after breeding in northern Canada. Look for these birds from July to November, when you’re most likely to spot them flying over the state or stopping to hunt for insects and fish.

5. Black Necked Stilt

  • Scientific name: Himantopus mexicanus
  • Diet: Primarily carnivore
  • Habitat: Lakes, ponds, and swamps
  • Lifespan: Up to 10 years
  • Size: About 14 inches
  • Weight: Up to 5 ounces
  • Wingspan: Around 28 inches

This sometimes-aggressive water bird has tall slender, pink-colored legs topped by a white belly with black upperparts. You can identify them by their red eyes that are ringed with white circles and needle-sharp beaks.

These birds are usually observed wading in marshy spots or lakes with shallow water. While they can get territorial and chase people off by kicking their legs and flapping their wings, they also put on a usually dramatic display during mating season.

6. Northern Goshawk

Accipiter gentilis

  • Scientific name: Accipiter gentilis
  • Diet: Carnivore
  • Habitat: Old-growth mixed deciduous and conifer woods
  • Lifespan: 6 years
  • Size: 18 to 25 inches
  • Weight: 1 to 3 pounds
  • Wingspan: 4o to 47 inches

These imposing black and white raptors are a sight to behold in western and central Colorado where you might spot them in mountain forest areas that contain aspen, ponderosa, and lodgepole pines. L

Known as a “true hawk”, this massive bird has a black head, white eyebrow lines, cheeks, throats, chests, and stomachs. The back is a bluish-gray-black color. 

7. Clark’s Nutcracker

  • Scientific name: Nucifraga columbiana
  • Diet: Omnivore
  • Habitat: Remote tree lines at high elevation
  • Lifespan: 17 years
  • Size: 10 to 12 inches
  • Weight: 4 to 6 ounces
  • Wingspan: 24 inches

This bird is as big as a Blue Jay and is found year-round in the central and western parts of the state. These black and white birds have grayish bodies and pale heads with black eyes, black beaks, black wings, and a white underside to the tail.

They are found in remote, coniferous woods at high elevations such as 3,000 to 12,000 feet. They can look like woodpeckers when flying but have a loud, grating “kraak” cry during flight. These interesting omnivores consume anything from pine nuts and berries to insects, bird eggs, and even carrion and other birds’ young.

8. Barrow’s Goldeneye

  • Scientific name: Bucephala islandica
  • Diet: Aquatic invertivore
  • Habitat: High alpine and subalpine waters such as lakes, ponds, and sloughs at high elevation.
  • Lifespan: 18 years
  • Size: 19 inches
  • Weight: 2 pounds
  • Wingspan: 28 to 30 inches

A Barrow’s Goldeneye is a dramatic black and white duck. Its striking patterns include a soft black head, yellow eyes with white rings and a white undereye patch, and a white neck and belly. The back, wings, and tail are coal black, while the wings have unique dashes and dabs of white markings. Look for the small, black scooped bill.

This bird winters through in northwest Colorado where they live in lakes near high forests and consume aquatic vegetation, crustaceans, and insects. Their lifespan makes them one of the oldest-living duck species.

9. Bufflehead

  • Scientific name: Bucephala albeola
  • Diet: Mostly aquatic insectivore and invertivore
  • Habitat: Rivers, ponds, and lakes near open, mixed forests or burned groves
  • Lifespan: 2 to 3 years
  • Size: 13 to 16 inches
  • Weight: 10 to 20 ounces
  • Wingspan: 24 inches 

This small sea duck has a sleek, black head with iridescent green and magenta washes of color, a white body with a black back, and a large white patch covering the back of its head.

Bufflehead is a small sea duck with a glossy black-green head, black back, white body, and a large white patch at the back of the head. This black and white bird spends winter in most parts of Colorado. 

The omnivorous and monogamous Bufflehead spends most of its time under the water hunting for insects and crustaceans in sheltered inland coves and ponds.

10. White-Throated Swift

  • Scientific name: Aeronautes saxatalis
  • Diet:  Insectivore
  • Habitat: Rocks and cliff ledges
  • Lifespan: 10 years
  • Size: 7 inches
  • Weight: 1 to 3 ounces
  • Wingspan: 14 inches

These large black and white Swifts have strong, thick bodies and wide wings that curve in a scimitar shape during flight. 

As social birds, they often fly and roost in large flocks near rock faces and cliff ledges where they roost, nest, and sleep. These avian acrobats feed by twisting and diving to catch insects in mid-flight.

Final Thoughts

Whether you spot a large duck, a perched predator, or a small songbird, Colorado’s black and white avian wildlife is fascinating to watch.

If you want to identify more birds in the U.S., check out our other guides to a variety of bird colors and sizes across America.