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

The Iowa landscape is full of waterways, flatlands, and gentle, rolling, forested plains that have many bird species. You might recognize some of these birds from backyard feeders, walks in the park, or visits to ponds or woods nearby.

Birds that you’re likely to spot in Iowa include several kinds of woodpeckers, Nuthatches, Grosbeaks, Warblers, Common Loons or Goldeneyes, Buntings, and more.

Next time you see a new Iowa bird, this list will enable you to tell the difference between similar colored birds

Popular Black and White Birds in Iowa

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1. Red-Bellied Woodpecker

  • Scientific name: Melanerpes carolinus
  • Diet: Primarily insectivore
  • Habitat: Dead pine, hickory, or oak trees
  • Lifespan: 4 years
  • Size: 9 inches
  • Weight: 3 ounces
  • Wingspan: 14 to 16 inches

This sharp-looking bird is a common visitor to backyard feeders. While they’re known as Red-Bellied Woodpeckers, this species has an eye-catching red stripe across their heads. Their white bellies have a pale red blush color which can be hard to see until you’re up close. The best way to identify a Red-Bellied Woodpecker is from the white and black bar pattern across their bodies.

These birds live year-round in Iowa, so be sure to set out suet or peanuts in feeders if you want to see more of them near your property.

2. Northern Flicker

  • Scientific name: Colaptes auratus
  • Diet: Mainly insectivore
  • Habitat: Woods, open rural areas, and suburban groves
  • Lifespan: 5 years
  • Size: 14 inches
  • Weight: 4 to 6 ounces
  • Wingspan: 18 to 20 inches 

This medium-sized bird has bright red streaks along its lower cheeks, a long, thick bill like a spike, and a black bib across its throat.

Close up, the top part of this bird’s body is speckled with brown, gray, and gold, but its chest and underbelly are spotted in contrasting feathers. Iowa has a kind of Northern Flicker species that has vivid yellow plumage beneath its tail feathers and wings.

Northern Flickers have some of the most interesting plumage in North America. They are also actually a kind of woodpecker. You are likely to see them pecking for insects on the ground rather than drilling for bugs in trees or visiting feeders like other woodpeckers. If you put out suet or have a birdbath in your garden, this tends to draw Northern Flickers to the area.

3. White-Breasted Nuthatch

  • Scientific name: Sitta carolinensis
  • Diet: Insectivorous
  • Habitat: Old stands of deciduous woods
  • Lifespan: 1 to 2 years
  • Size: 6 inches
  • Weight: 1 ounce
  • Wingspan: 10 inches

These tubby avians have white marks across their cheeks, a thick bill, short tails, and a black cap (males) above back feathers that are striped with gray and darker tones. 

White-Breasted Nuthatches are abundant in Iowa. You’re likely to see them out foraging for insects or seeds in local woods, parks, and shady yards that have lots of mature trees. They also enjoy hanging around backyard feeders filled with tasty treats like peanuts, sunflower or safflower seeds, mealworms, and peanuts.

4. Downy Woodpecker

  • Scientific name: Dryovates pubescens
  • Diet: Primarily insectivore
  • Habitat: Forests, orchards, and shady backyards
  • Lifespan: 2 years
  • Size: 6 or 7 inches
  • Weight: 1 ounce
  • Wingspan: 12 inches

A Downy Woodpecker is the second smallest kind of woodpecker that you’ll see in Iowa. This bird has a tiny beak and a scarlet spot on its head.

You’ll find them tapping away at trees to locate insects in many shaded areas such as local orchards or maybe even your backyard. One way to encourage them to come to your garden is to put out peanut butter, suet, or sunflower seeds or keep hummingbird nectar in feeders near your house.

5. Northern Mockingbird

  • Scientific name: Mimus polyglottos
  • Diet: Usually insectivore. Sometimes invertivores and herbivores
  • Habitat: Woods with open spaces and tall, old-growth trees
  • Lifespan: 5 years
  • Size: 9 inches
  • Weight: 2 ounces
  • Wingspan: 14 inches 

If you hear a bird singing nonstop from a tall tree, chances are that you heard a Northern Mockingbird. This dramatic bird shows off its distinct white marks along its wings and tail that go on bold display when in full flight mode.

This songbird is about the size of a large thrush but has a long and slender tail in alternating black and white shades. They have a long, slim, curved beak and pipestem thin legs. Northern Mockingbirds like to dive at other birds and scare them away from bird feeders, but they don’t typically visit backyard feeders themselves.

6. Snow Bird

  • Scientific name: Junco hyemalis
  • Diet: Insects and herbs
  • Habitat: Fields, roads, yards, and parks
  • Lifespan: 3 years
  • Size: 7 inches
  • Weight: 1 ounce
  • Wingspan: 8 to 10 inches 

The Snow Bird has puffy charcoal plumage and a fluffy white belly. It’s common to see these active birds hopping around pine forests, backyards, and parks in the Midwest during the breeding season. Some of them may stick around for winter, where they forage for seeds in open fields, but most of them migrate south to warmer weather.

It’s best to scatter seed on the ground for Snow Birds instead of pouring it into feeders.

7. Hairy Woodpecker

  • Scientific name: Dryobates villosus
  • Diet: Primarily insectivore
  • Habitat: Woods, parks, and suburban backyards
  • Lifespan: 4 years
  • Size: 10 to 12 inches
  • Weight: 4 ounces
  • Wingspan: 14 inches

Since Iowa is home to three different kinds of native woodpeckers, it can be hard to tell them apart at first glance.

If you spot a giant woodpecker with a crimson cap on its head, a large, chisel-shaped beak, and white tail feathers, this is a Hairy Woodpecker. They don’t have a pink-red underbelly like the Red-Bellied Woodpecker or black spots on their tails like the Downy Woodpecker.

These birds spend their time climbing up and down mature or dead trees to peck for insects. Enjoy the sight of these interesting birds in your backyard by offering them a variety of suet and shelled peanuts near their habitat.

8. Common Loon

  • Scientific name: Gavia immer
  • Diet: Largely carnivore
  • Habitat: Lakes, coves, and wetlands
  • Lifespan: 28 years
  • Size: 28 to 30 inches
  • Weight: 12 pounds
  • Wingspan: 43 inches

Their eerie laughs, moans, and tremolo cries might startle you if you hear the sound echoing across a lake nearby. Loons live throughout the state of Iowa where they spend their time diving underwater to hunt and swallow their prey.  

You can recognize a Common Loon from its sleek, round black head, red eyes, thick beak used to jab fish, and white and black checker marks across its wings and back. It also has a checkered collar around its throat. Their legs are set far back at an angle on their bodies which makes them swift swimmers. During migration, Loons are known to fly over 70 miles per hour.

Often called a “northern spirit”, these birds prefer to live and fish on the water and usually only venture onto land to breed and hatch eggs.

9. Rose Breasted Grosbeak

  • Scientific name: Pheucticus ludovicianus
  • Diet: Usually insectivore and granivore
  • Habitat: Old fields, roadside thickets, parks, backyards, and gardens
  • Lifespan: 5 years
  • Size: 8 inches
  • Weight: 2 ounces
  • Wingspan: 12 inches 

Round as a Robin and with a wedge-shaped bill, this bird stands out due to the crimson splash across its white front. Males have these more dramatic colorations, while females have white eye bars and white and brown-streaked feathers.

While the species’ population has declined across the world, these birds aren’t rare or threatened. Since they do migrate south, you’re most likely to see them during breeding season or fall migrations in Iowa.

These colorful avians love tasty black sunflower seeds, so it’s a good way to get a better look at them up close. Try pouring the seeds into a platform feeder since these chubby birds have a hard time sitting on a tube feeder.

10. Loggerhead Shrike 


  • Scientific name: Lanius ludovicianus
  • Diet: Carnivore and invertivore
  • Habitat: Shrubby fields
  • Lifespan: 6 years
  • Size: 10 inches
  • Weight: 2 ounces
  • Wingspan: 5 inches

Contrasting wings against a gray body and a dark mask characterize the Loggerhead Shrike. While these birds are small, they are terrors of the air for insects, smaller birds, lizards, snakes, and tiny mammals such as mice.

Loggerhead Shrikes spend their time sitting on fence posts or roadside wires in open spaces. They zero in on a rustle in the grass before pouncing on their prey. These birds don’t tend to visit backyard feeders, but they might leave unwelcome presents of dead prey speared on nearby thorns or fences.

11.Black ; White Warbler

  • Scientific name: Mniotilta varia
  • Diet: Usually insectivore
  • Habitat: Young saplings or older woods
  • Lifespan: 3 years
  • Size: 4 inches
  • Weight: Half an ounce
  • Wingspan: 8 inches 

This songbird has a streaky body that looks like zebra-colored stripes. 

Unlike other kinds of warblers who like to pick through fallen leaves on a forest floor, Black ; White Warblers take to the trees where they walk up and down the trunks to snap up the tastiest bugs straight from the bark.

12. Common Goldeneye

  • Scientific name: Bucephala clangula
  • Diet: Aquatic carnivore
  • Habitat: Rivers, ponds, and lakes
  • Lifespan: 10 years
  • Size: 19 inches
  • Weight: 1 or 2 pounds
  • Wingspan: 28 inches

Look for this dramatic diving duck around lakes and other bodies of water across the state. While their head is a shimmering green-black color, they have round white patches at their bill and stunning yellow eyes. Male birds have pale bodies and dark backs, while females have a mix of brownish and gray feathers.

They spend much of their time below the surface where they forage among aquatic vegetation for small fish and underwater invertebrates.

13. Blackpoll Warbler

  • Scientific name: Setophaga striata
  • Diet: Omnivore
  • Habitat: Coniferous woods and willow trees
  • Lifespan: 3 years
  • Size: 6 inches
  • Weight: Half an ounce
  • Wingspan: 9 inches 

Summer breeding seasons and fall migrations bring the chatty Blackpoll Warbler to the state. Their overall color is pale, jet, and gray with gray bars across the wings, white cheek patches, and a black cap. They have a high-pitched, sweet song that has a pulsing intonation.

While they only weigh around half a once most of the year, they put on a whopping amount of weight after breeding. They increase their weight in preparation for the long flight to South America where they spend the winter.

Unfortunately, the Blackpoll population has decreased in recent years, but it’s still possible to see them in Iowa during spring and summer before they leave in the autumn. Planting lots of trees, bushes, or plants in your yard can give these intrepid little aeronauts a sheltered place to take a rest.

14. Female Red Wing Blackbird

  • Scientific name: Agelaius phoeniceus
  • Diet: Herbivore and insectivore
  • Habitat: Fields, swamps, and brushy wetlands
  • Lifespan: 2 years
  • Size: 9 inches
  • Weight: 3 ounces
  • Wingspan: 15 inches 

Most birdwatchers recognize male Red-winged blackbirds’ bold dark bodies with red and yellow patches on the shoulders. A female bird won’t have such striking plumage. 

This popular and polygynous species stays in Iowa throughout the year. They often swoop down to backyard feeders and devour all the birdseed within minutes.

15. Male Lark Bunting

  • Scientific name: Calamospiza melanocorys
  • Diet: Insectivore, invertivore, and fructivore
  • Habitat: Open prairies
  • Lifespan: 4 years
  • Size: 7 inches
  • Weight: 2 ounces
  • Wingspan: 10 inches

This striking male bird has a dull black body, a broad, dark beak used for nut cracking, and distinct white wing feathers. The Lark Bunting is a type of sparrow. 

These buntings can run quickly when pursuing an insect and females can run even faster than male birds. They are territorial, so they can dominate bird feeders or chase other species out of their nesting area.

Final Thoughts

Iowa is a great state to see many unique kinds of dark and light birds. Due to its location, you can spot both transient migratory birds and year-round residents.

While it’s easier to tell a woodpecker apart from a loon, this article is a good way to tell the difference between songbirds with similar plumage or distinguish an unusual bird in the wild. 

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