A yellow bird with black wings is a beautiful sight – so special and so pretty, in fact, that you might think it is quite unique. But really there are several different birds that fit that same general description!
So in this article we’ll look at 10 different yellow birds with black wings, with a brief description of each, to help you precisely identify what you saw, and to learn a little more about the bird.
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10 Kinds of Yellow and Black Birds – An Identification Guide with Photos
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1. American Goldfinch
The American Goldfinch (scientific name Spinus tristis) is a very common bird in North America, and is seen all throughout the United States, though somewhat more in the central and northern regions. They can be seen individually or in large flocks – often while feeding.
The male American Goldfinch has a very bright yellow body and wings that are mostly black, but yellow at the very top and with some white striping. The female is duller brown-black, as are the males in the winter when not breeding.
Beautiful when flying and quite acrobatic and nimble on branches, they tend to nest in late summer, and can be seen in weedy, semi-open areas, and often even in suburban neighborhoods.
2. Lesser Goldfinch
Quite common in the southwest United States, Mexico and Central America, the Lesser Goldfinch (scientific name Spinus psaltria) is a small bird with a lovely, extended twittering call.
The male has a bright lemony yellow body with striking black wings and a black cap, while females and younger birds tend to be more olive green on their back and wings, with a duller yellow body and often no hood. Sometimes – especially in the western coastal regions – the male will have more of a green back.
The Lesser Goldfinch can be a delight to watch and hear, with its formalized mating ritual, its acrobatic foraging and its often imitative song. They tend to nest and breed from early spring through autumn, with nests in tall trees or sometimes in dense shrubs and bushes.
3. Western Tanager
If the bird you’ve seen has a distinctive tangerine / orange head, it is a male Western Tanager (scientific name Piranga ludoviciana), which can be found throughout western North America, even to the far north, and loves colder, higher elevations.
The male has that wonderful orange head, which goes yellow toward the back of the neck, and wings that are dull black, brown and yellow. The female has a lovely dull greenish body, with darker brownish wings and no distinct hood.
The Western Tanager nests in late spring and summer, usually high up in coniferous trees, and both parents will bring food for their young. Adult Western Tanagers will feed on insects, catching them mid-air, waiting in branches and even visiting flowers, where they also feed on nectar.
4. Scott’s Oriole
A desert bird, the Scott’s Oriole (scientific name Icterus parisorum) is most commonly seen in Arizona, southern California and western Mexico, including Baja California – especially high deserts and foothills.
The Scott’s Oriole is very yellow and very black – especially the male, whose coloration is highly saturated and intense. The female is more olive green, with similarly contrasting and white-striped wings, though in a darker green/brown that nicely complements her body.
Strongly associated with yuccas, the Scott’s Oriole will forage there for insects and nectar, and will build their nests on the underside of living yucca leaves. They will also eat fruit and are known to be a predator of the monarch butterfly.
5. Hooded Oriole
The Hooded Oriole (scientific name Icterus cucullatus) is another yellow bird with black wings – a slender and lovely bird with a long, slightly curved black beak and wonderfully orange-yellow plumage. The females will have a brown beak, brown wings and a slightly less intense orange hue in their body. In Texas and central Mexico Hooded Orioles can also have a flame orange body.
Found in the south west United States, Mexico and the Baja as well coastal California (where they are often called “palm-leaf oriole” for their tendency to build nests on the bottom of palm leaves), they have short migration, and ofen stick around all year long – especially if there is food available.
You can spot Hooded Orioles in suburban areas, especially around palm trees, as well as in desert oases and even wetlands where they can find insects. You might even be able to attract them to your back yard with fresh fruit or a hummingbird feeder, but be patient – they tend to stay hidden.
6. Yellow Headed Blackbird
A raucous noisy bird, the Yellow-headed Blackbird (scientific name Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus) can sometimes be seen – and heard! – in flocks of thousands, and even when nesting they tend to form very large groups.
They are common in the midwest and western United States, and like to nest in open cattail marshes, where they feed on the ground, walking along the edge of the water. The Yellow-headed Blackbird will fly south in the winter, and can be seen then in central Mexico.
The male is quite distinctive, with a very bright yellow head and shoulders, black wings and body and occasional patches of white. The female is more dark brown, which can look black against the sky, and has a more dullish and mottled yellow head.
7. Evening Grosbeak
A strikingly beautiful bird, the Evening Grosbeak (scientific name Coccothraustes vespertinus) is, for the most part, not as bright or vividly colored as others on our list of yellow birds with black wings, and in fact has black, yellow, white, brown and an almost orangish blend in various places, with a large light-hued bill and a brilliant yellow streak above the eyes.
The female is very different looking, and could be mistaken for a different bird, with light grayish color overall, black and white on the wings and only a bit of yellow at the shoulders – in her way, every bit as beautiful as the male.
The Evening Grosbeak can be seen year-round in Canada and around the Great Lakes, where they breed. They fly south in large flocks for the winter, and can be spotted all throughout the United States. They are becoming less common, but can still sometimes be attracted to yards using sunflower seeds.
8. Black-and-yellow Tanager
Another yellow bird with black wings – a small warbler native to the mountainous regions of mostly Costa Rica and Panama, the Black and Yellow Tanager (scientific name Chrysothlypis chrysomelas) is the first bird on our list that cannot be spotted in natural habitat anywhere in the United States.
With a strikingly clean and bright black and yellow coloring, the male Black and Yellow Tanager also has a black ring around his eyes. The female also has beautiful yellow around the throat and belly, but with more brownish-green wings and no ring around the eyes.
Breeding in small flocks, often with other species, the Black and Yellow Tanager likes high elevations – 400 to 1200 meters – and will nest in wet forests and tends to feed in clearings. Though they have a very limited range, they have a strong – if somewhat diminishing – population.
9. Yellow-rumped Flycatcher
The Yellow-rumped Flycatcher (scientific name Ficedula zanthopygia) is another bird we won’t find naturally in North America, as it is native to Asia. They breed in Korea, Japan and parts of southern China, and will migrate to Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and other parts of Southeast Asia in the winter, going as far as western India.
A striking bird, very different from other Asian species, the male Yellow-rumped Flycatcher has bright yellow plumage on its belly and throat, with a yellow patch also clearly visible on its back and a white slash above the eyes. The wings are glossy black to the point that they can look blue in some light. The female’s wings are more gray-green, with a very pale white belly, but still with the distinctive bright yellow rump.
Easy to see in eastern Asia when breeding, and a fairly rare sight in western Asia when they migrate, the Yellow-rumped Flycatcher is a common bird, and their population is, at this point, not threatened.
10. Eurasian Golden Oriole
Our last bird on this list of black and yellow birds is another that you won’t spot flying in North America – unless it is very, very lost or just escaped from a sanctuary! The Eurasian Golden Oriole is common throughout Europe and northwestern Asia – China and Russia – and winters in the southern half of the African continent.
The female Eurasian Golden Oriole will build their nest high in trees, but the male will help with gathering nesting materials, as well as incubating the eggs and feeding the young. Though they tend to stay hidden, these birds can sometimes be given away by their long, fluid songs, punctuated by harsh and raspy calls.
The male is very bright and easy to identify, with clearly defined black wings and a black streak along each eye, and lovely yellow everywhere else. The female is also quite beautiful, with a more muted coloring which is nonetheless very rich and elegant – reddish—brown wings, a soft yellow body and a light whitish belly.
Bonus Section: How Can You Attract More Birds to Your Yard?
One of the most frequently asked questions we get here at Seabirdsanctuary is how to attract more birds to your property.
If you have a yard which you love to spend time in, but birds – for some reason – don’t, there are lots of things you can do to attract and welcome them. And even if you already have a beautiful yard and/or garden, with plenty of life and plenty of birds, you can do a lot to increase the activity.
So in closing I thought it would be a great idea to mention some of the main things you can do to have, see and enjoy a lot more birds right where you live!
Always have water available
Place one or more birdbaths in places where birds can see and easily reach them, but where the birds might not feel threatened. Fountains, streams, ponds and other water features also make birds very happy, partially because they can also attract food.
Make sure the water supply is consistent and available all year long!
Plant lots of plants and trees, and let old trees stand
Do some research, and plant native and indigenous foliage, and especially plants and trees that will bear fruit, seeds, nuts and flower nectar birds can forage.
Thick bushes, tall trees and even dead trees can also provide a wonderful place for nesting and protecting young, and dead trees in particular can attract and produce insects for food.
Along these lines, lots of birds – and especially ones who hang out in suburban neighborhoods – prefer areas that are more wooded or shaded, and will tend to avoid open lawns. While you may not want to get rid of your lovely grass for birds’ sake, it will have that effect, and anyway less lawn means less energy and time mowing.
Don’t use chemicals
You may already be following organic and natural practices as much as possible, and the more you eliminate chemicals the more insects and other biodiversity your garden and yard will enjoy, which will always bring the birds.
Many birders claim that birds can even smell the chemicals in herbicides and pesticides, and will stay away.
Cats, dogs and other scary monsters
What may seem like loveable and gentle pets to us are in fact terrifying to most birds, who may never settle and nest in – or even visit – a yard with pets.
Cats in particular, as much as I love them, are especially threatening to birds – their presence is alarming to pretty much any bird, and even some house cats will do whatever is in their power to catch and kill our feathered friends.
We’ve already covered this with the idea of planting and growing the right kind of vegetation – fruits, seeds, nuts and nectar, and plants which will bring other insects – but also don’t forget the good old bird feeder!
Hummingbird feeders are also a great idea – in addition to normal feeders, not instead of – since many other kinds of birds also like and use them. Also nice and helpful are bird houses and bird baths.
Avoid noise and chaotic activity
Sure, you will need to mow and such, and you may have kids and grandkids who you want to play and enjoy themselves, but the less heavy, loud and harsh sounds there are in your yard and garden, and the less energetic and chaotic activity there is, the more birds will feel comfortable and relaxed, coming more frequently and staying longer.