15 Popular Black and White Birds in Illinois (Ultimate Guide + Pictures)

Illinois is home to many delightful black and white bird species. If you’ve spotted a unique black and white bird in the state, this guide will help you identify a bird easier next time.

Some of the most noticeable black and white birds that frequent woods, waterways, roadsides, parks, and backyards in Illinois include Juncos, Black-Capped or Carolina Chickadees, Northern Mockingbirds, Downy Woodpeckers, Snow Buntings, and even the Common Loon.

Check out these 15 popular black and white birds in Illinois with information about size, color, habitat, diet, and much more.

Black and White Birds in Illinois

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1. Black-Capped Chickadee

  • Scientific name: Poecile atricapillus
  • Diet: Mostly insectivore and invertivore. Seasonal fructivore
  • Habitat: Deciduous and mixed evergreen trees, willows, alders, birches, and grove edges
  • Lifespan: 2 years
  • Size: 4 to 6 inches
  • Weight: 4 ounces
  • Wingspan: 7 to 8 inches

One of the cutest species to spot in Illinois is the Black-Capped Chickadee. With tiny bodies and big heads topped with a black bib and cap, they are usually seen in deciduous woods, cottonwoods, thickets, parks, and yards.

They enjoy a range of insects and small invertebrates like snails. In winter, it’s common to see them forage for berries and seeds. You can attract them to your yard by putting out sunflower seeds, suet, and shelled peanuts in a feeder.

2. Downy Woodpecker

  • Scientific name: Dryovates pubescens
  • Diet: Mostly insectivore
  • Habitat: Woods, orchards, rivers, shaded tree areas
  • Lifespan: 1 or 2 years
  • Size: 7 inches
  • Weight: 0.6 to 1 ounce
  • Wingspan: 11 to 12 inches

With short bills, white bellies, and black back feathers streaked and spotted with white markings, Downy Woodpeckers are often seen in Illinois throughout the year. While females have duller feathers, males sport a vivid red patch on the back of their heads.

These birds are frequent visitors to gardens and backyards, especially if bird feeders are full of peanuts or peanut butter, sunflower seeds, and suet. They also love sipping nectar from hummingbird feeders.

3. Dark-Eyed Junco

  • Scientific name: Junco hyemalis
  • Diet: Mostly insectivore and herbivore
  • Habitat: Fields, roads, yard, and parks
  • Lifespan: 3 to 4 years
  • Size: 5 to 7 inches
  • Weight: 0.5 to 1 ounce
  • Wingspan: 7 to 10 inches

You can identify these dark-eyed birds by their fluffy dark gray feathers above a white belly. According to current estimates, the Dark-Eyed Junco population in Illinois hovers around 630 million, which makes them one of the most popular birds that you’ll see in the state.

These birds stick to pine or coniferous woods during the breeding season, but fly around open woods, parks, pastures, and yards to hunt for seeds in the winter. If you want to catch sight of this lovely bird, it will only consume seeds scattered on the ground.

4. White-Breasted Nuthatch

  • Scientific name: Sitta carolinensis
  • Diet: Insectivore and granivore
  • Habitat: Mature-growth deciduous woods
  • Lifespan: 2 years
  • Size: 5 to 6 inches
  • Weight: 0.7 to 1 ounce
  • Wingspan: 8 to 10 inches

An easy way to identify this black and white Illinois bird is to recognize that both males and females look almost exactly the same. These chunky birds have white cheek markings, a black and gray striped back, a short tail and a long, pointed beak. Males wear a black cap on their heads, while females have a paler gray patch.

You can look for these adaptable birds in a variety of places that include forests, parks, graveyards, and backyards that have lots of trees. They are regular visitors to bird feeders that contain suet, peanuts, safflower seeds, sunflower seeds, and mealworms. If you’re lucky, you might hear them give their loud, distinct, and repetitive “yank” call.

5. Northern Mockingbird

  • Scientific name: Mimus polyglottos
  • Diet: Mostly insectivore and invertivore. Seasonal fructivore and herbivore
  • Habitat: Open forests and high canopies
  • Lifespan: 6 years
  • Size: 8 to 11 inches
  • Weight: 1 to 2 ounces
  • Wingspan: 12 to 15 inches

This bold bird sings so loudly, day and night, that it’s hard to miss. A Northern Mockingbird’s black and white body is on full display when it takes flight to reveal striking white patches on its wings and long, slim tail.

You may notice them scaring away other birds by circling them slowly and then flying at them with their wings raised. While they do come to backyards, they almost never eat from the feeders.

6. Carolina Chickadee

  • Scientific name: Poecile carolinensis
  • Diet: Insectivore. Seasonal herbivores and fructivores
  • Habitat: Pine forests or deciduous woods
  • Lifespan: 2 to 3 years
  • Size: 4 to 5 inches
  • Weight: 3 to 4 ounces
  • Wingspan: 6 to 8 inches

These little birds have white cheeks, white bellies, dark gray-black back, and heads topped with a black bib and cap.

They’re often spotted in the southern parts of the state in a variety of places that include woods, swamps, parks, and yards. You can draw these smart and curious birds to your home by filling bird feeders with peanuts, suet, and sunflower seeds.

7. Hairy Woodpecker

  • Scientific name: Dryobates villosus
  • Diet: Mostly insectivore
  • Habitat: Woods, parks, and suburban backyards
  • Lifespan: 3 to 4 years
  • Size: 9 to 12 inches
  • Weight: 2 to 4 ounces
  • Wingspan: 15 inches

It’s easy to confuse this black and white woodpecker with its look-alike relative the Downy Woodpecker.

While both birds have black and white striped heads with a red patch (males) and similar erect posture while drilling for insects on trees, Hairy Woodpeckers are a lot bigger. They also have a long bill shaped like a chisel in contrast to Downy Woodpeckers who have tiny beaks.

A final way to tell these two birds apart is to check their tail feathers. Hairy Woodpeckers have white tails while their smaller cousins have black spotted tails.

These birds are attracted to yards that have lots of mature trees for pecking out insects and may enjoy peanuts and suet in a feeder. 

8. Rose-Breasted Grosbeak

  • Scientific name: Pheucticus ludovicianus
  • Diet: Insectivore, fructivore, and herbivore
  • Habitat: Old fields, roadside thickets, parks, backyards, and gardens
  • Lifespan: 6 years
  • Size: 7 to 9 inches
  • Weight: 1 to 2 ounces
  • Wingspan: 12 to 13 inches

This bird is as big as a Robin and has a thick body with a big, triangular-shaped beak. You can identify males by their black wings and backs and a red patch on their white chest. Females have white eyebrows above a streaky brown body. 

They like overgrown areas and enjoy cracking over sunflower seeds in backyard feeders. Since they are large birds, they tend to use feeders that have trays, platforms, or hoppers instead of tube feeders that don’t offer enough room to perch.

9. Blackpoll Warbler


  • Scientific name: Setophaga striata
  • Diet: Insectivore
  • Habitat: Evergreen forests, mixed woods, and willow groves
  • Lifespan: 4 years
  • Size: 5 to 6 inches
  • Weight: 0.4 ounce
  • Wingspan: 8 to 10 inches

A Blackpoll Warbler brings dramatic black, white, and gray coloring to the Illinois landscape. Their cheeks are white, gray wing-bars, and they wear black cap on their heads.

They are usually seen among pine or mixed woods in the state during migration and breeding season before they fly to South America for the winter.

Try luring them to your backyard with local shrubs or trees that can offer a place to rest and hunt for insects on their flight.

10. Common Goldeneye

  • Scientific name: Bucephala clangula
  • Diet: Carnivore and invertivore
  • Habitat: Lakes, rivers, and shores
  • Lifespan: 11 years
  • Size: 20 inches
  • Weight: 2 pounds
  • Wingspan: 30 inches

If you’ve spotted a striking black and white duck, it’s possible that you’ve seen a Common Goldeneye. Males have a large, iridescent green head, white patches on their cheeks, and bright yellow eyes. While their body is almost entirely white, their back and rump are jet black. Females have much brown plumage and wear a white collar.

These unique birds are diving ducks that submerge for as long as a minute while they hunt for fish, underwater invertebrates, seeds, and vegetation.

One of the best ways to attract them is to create a friendly habitat by placing nesting boxes in breeding areas to give them safe spots to nest instead of dead tree cavities that are threatened by deforestation.

11. Eastern Kingbird

  • Scientific name: Tyrannus tyrannus
  • Diet: Insectivore
  • Habitat: Wetlands, fields, and backyards
  • Lifespan: 3 years
  • Size: 8 to 9 inches
  • Weight: 1 to 2 ounces
  • Wingspan: 14 to 15 inches 

An Eastern Kingbird is a distinctive avian visitor that doesn’t linger long in Illinois or even in North America. Once the summer breeding season ends, they migrate back to South America for the winter. With a black back and head, white belly, and tail tipped with white, Eastern Kingbirds are usually seen sitting on telephone wires, fence posts, or weeds waiting to snatch their prey out of the air.  

Since they are primarily insectivores, they aren’t typically attracted to backyard feeders, but may appear to drive off rivals or if you have a lot of indigenous plants that attract insects.

12. Loggerhead Shrike

  • Scientific name: Lanius ludovicianus
  • Diet: Carnivore  
  • Habitat: Fields, shrubs, and low, spiny vegetation
  • Lifespan: 7 years
  • Size: 9 to 10 inches
  • Weight: 1 to 2 ounces
  • Wingspan: 4 inches

A flash of white on black wings and a thick face mask against a gray body will alert you to the presence of the predatory Loggerhead Shrike. Despite their small size, these birds attack a wide variety of lizards, insects, birds, and small animals. They’re often spotted perching on posts or fences while they scan the grasslands for their next meal. Shrikes even eat the poisonous Monarch Butterfly.

They aren’t the type of birds to come to bird feeders. Instead, you might sense the presence of a Loggerhead Shrike on your property if you find a variety of small invertebrates impaled for later snacking on barbed wire fences or in thickets.

13. Black and White Warbler

  • Scientific name: Mniotilta varia
  • Diet:  Insectivore
  • Habitat: Mixed mature and young woods
  • Lifespan: 3 to 4 years
  • Size: 4 to 5 inches
  • Weight: 0.3 to 0.5 ounces
  • Wingspan: 7 to 9 inches 

Both males and females of this warbling bird species are easy to spot since their bodies are striped black and white like a zebra. Black wings with white wing-bars offset their white eyebrows framed by black bars above their eyes.

These smart little birds prefer to climb up and down trees, hunting for spiders and insects, instead of foraging among the leaves on the ground.

14. Snow Bunting

  • Scientific name: Plectrophenax nivalis
  • Diet: Herbivore and insectivore
  • Habitat: Grain fields, shores, and along roads
  • Lifespan: 3 years
  • Size: 6 inches
  • Weight: 1 to 1.5 ounces
  • Wingspan: 14 to 15 inches

While these beautiful black and white birds spend most of their time and breed in the bleak tundra conditions of the Arctic Circle, they head south to Illinois for the winter. They have chubby bodies and short, round, thick beaks. While females are white with brownish streaks and heads, male birds are nearly pure white with dramatic black plumage on their backs.

In Illinois, you’re most likely to see them scavenging for seeds or insects along roads or in fields. They prefer open spaces with access to insects, seeds, or berries to suburban yards.

15. Common Loon

  • Scientific name: Gavia immer
  • Diet: Carnivore and aquatic invertivore
  • Habitat: Sheltered lakes, bays, and coves
  • Lifespan: 14 to 30 years
  • Size: 27 to 32 inches
  • Weight: 10 to 12 pounds
  • Wingspan: 45 inches 

The Common Loon has a haunting, wailing cry that echoes across its aquatic habitat. Their long black bodies are topped with a black and white checkerboard pattern along the back and topped with a black head and thick beak shaped like a dagger.

These swift swimmers typically swallow fish and other invertebrates underwater before surfacing after their meal.

 These birds aren’t backyard visitors and tend to act territorial. Their wide range of eerie vocalizations help scare off threats or rivals and helpmates find each other.

Final Thoughts

Whether you live in Illinois or are passing through, there are many opportunities to spot interesting black and white birds, such as arctic Snow Buntings, that aren’t seen in warmer climates.

This guide will help you identify the next mysterious black and white bird that you spot during migration, breeding season, or year-round in the state. 

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