With such a large abundance of bird species on the planet, it’s no surprise that even traits as specific as black plumage with orange bills/beaks can be shared by a large number of birds. Though the reason for this specific combination is up for debate, most scientists believe it is a result of either genetic differences or environmental factors.
In this article, we’ll be going over 17 bird species that have black plumage and orange bills/beaks.
1. Common Blackbird
|Europe, Central Asia, Southeastern Australia, New Zealand
The common blackbird is a true thrush that, for males, consists of glossy black plumage with a yellow-orange bill and eye rings. Females are dark brown overall and have a somewhat paler throat and breasts that often contain faint darker spots and streaks. Juveniles are lighter brown overall, with light spots on the back and spotted breasts.
The common blackbird can be found in most wooded habitats and in more urban areas such as parks, gardens, and farmland that contains hedges.
As omnivores, the common blackbird feeds mainly on berries, grains, seeds, and a variety of insects such as caterpillars and beetles. Other prey includes earthworms and spiders.
2. Grey-Winged Blackbird
|Nepal, India, Pakistan, Myanmar, Thailand, Central China
The grey-winged blackbird is a large forest thrush whose males consist of black plumage, bright orange bills, and orange eye rings. Females are brown in color, while both consist of flashy silvery wings.
They can be found in the understory of montane and sub-montane moist broadleaf evergreen forests. They may also visit bird feeders at hides.
The grey-winged blackbird feeds mainly on invertebrates, such as insects, their larvae, and caterpillars. Other prey includes slugs, snails, earthworms, and fruit.
3. Abyssinian Scimitarbill
|Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania
The Abyssinia scimitarbill is a medium-sized bird that is covered in black plumage, as well as having a long-curved orange bill and a rather long tail. Unlike southern birds, which all have completely black wings, birds in northern regions have white bars on their wings, which are visible in flight. Their bright orange bill separates them from other scimitarbills.
The Abyssinian scimitarbill inhabits light woodland, dry Acacia bushes, thorn scrub, and dry savanna habitats. This bird is considered an insectivore, eating mainly adults and the larvae of insects. This may include beetle larvae, caterpillars, ants, flies, and wasps. They may also consume some seeds and berries on occasion.
4. American Oystercatcher
|Eastern and southern coast of the United States, along the coasts of central and Southern America
The American oystercatcher is a large and heavy shorebird consisting of black upper parts, white under parts, and a long thick red-orange bill. Hybrids between the black oystercatcher, which consist of messy spotting where the black hood meets the white belly, sometimes occur in southern California and Baja.
The American oystercatcher is strictly coastal, and it tends to favor beaches more than rocky areas. They can be seen in intertidal areas and adjacent beaches, especially on barrier islands where there are few or no predators.
The American oystercatcher feeds almost exclusively on saltwater bivalve mollusks, including clams, oysters, and mussels. They may occasionally feed on other marine animals, such as limpets, jellyfish, starfish, sea urchins, marine worms, and crustaceans.
5. Toco Toucan
|Northern and Central South America
The toco toucan is a large and stunning toucan with black plumage throughout, a white throat, a white rump, a red vent, and an enormous orange bill with a black tip and base. Its dark eyes are surrounded by orange and blue skin.
The toco toucan is found in South America’s tropical forests. They are also found in savannas and open woodland. The typical diet of the toco toucan includes fruit, such as figs, oranges, guavas, insects, and the eggs and nestlings of young birds.
6. Atlantic Puffin
|Eastern coast of North America, around the coasts of Greenland, Iceland, and Scandinavia, in Svalbard and Great Britain
The Atlantic puffin is a stout seabird that somewhat resembles the shape of an American football. It consists of black plumage above and white plumage below, with a creamy-colored face and a thick bill with contrasting orange, grey, tan, and red colors. Its legs and feet are orange colored, with nonbreeding and juveniles having darker faces and duller colored bills.
The Atlantic puffin typically nests in burrows on rocky islands that contain short vegetation and on sea cliffs in the North Atlantic. Otherwise, it spends almost all of its time in the open ocean and is rarely ever seen from land.
The Atlantic puffin feeds mainly on small fish around 2 to 6 inches long, such as sandlance (sandeel), sprat, capelin, herring, hake, and cod. Besides fish, they may also feed occasionally on shrimp, other crustaceans, mollusks, and polychaete worms (bristle worms).
7. African Skimmer
The African skimmer is a bird resembling a tern, with long wings, a short tail, and a bright orange bill where the upper mandible is shorter than the lower mandible. During its flight, its contrasting colors are seen where its dorsal side is black, and its ventral side is white. It has bright white underwings and white stripes along the back of the upperwings.
Typical habitats of the African skimmer include lake shores, coastal lagoons, and large tropical rivers with sandbanks that allow for nesting and roosting.
African skimmers are piscivores, meaning they mainly feed on fish, especially small fish that they catch by scooping into their mouth with their bill. Some examples include menhaden, anchovy, bluefish, mullet, and killifish. They also eat other marine animals, such as squid, shrimp, insects, and crustaceans that they come across.
8. Dusky Lory
|Papua New Guinea
The dusky lory is a relatively large lory with dark brown and black plumage with yellow or red patches. It has two bands across the chest and an orange-red bill. Bright yellow patches in the wings are visible during flight.
The dusky lory can be found in lowlands and foothill forests, and forest edges. They typically inhabit subtropical and tropical rainforests, mangrove forests, montane forests, savannas, and shrublands.
The typical diet of the dusky lory includes fruits, seeds, buds, nectar, grain, and pollen. Flowers make up the majority of their diet, and they can sometimes feed on up to 640 different flowers a day.
9. Indian Blackbird
|India, Sri Lanka, Rarely in Nepal
The Indian blackbird is a thrush with dark brown or black plumage, a bright orange bill, and small teardrop-shaped patches of orange skin around the eyes. Males are somewhat darker than females. Plumage can slightly vary depending on the location; with Sri Lanka birds being a midnight-black color and central Indian “black-capped” birds being brown with a black head and wings.
The Indian blackbird is often heard from foothill forests, forest edges, and orchards, though they will descend to lower altitudes, closer to developed areas, during the winter.
The Indian blackbird is omnivorous and feeds on a wide variety of insects, earthworms, berries, and fruits. Fruits can include apples, pears, strawberries, cherries, and grapes.
10. Crested Auklet
|Bering Strait, Japan
The crested auklet is a stout, dark, and very small alcid with pale eyes and thin white “whiskers” that trail backward behind each eye. Breeding birds are dark gray-black in color, with a drooping forward-arching crest and a bright orange bill, which has an uptilted gape that makes it look as if they’re grinning menacingly. Nonbreeding birds and juveniles are duller and have smaller and darker bills.
Crested auklets are commonly found in the open sea when not breeding or in nests situated on sea cliffs. These nests are often on island coasts with an abundance of rocks and boulders.
The crested auklet feeds mainly on small crustaceans that are usually found in swarms, such as euphausiid shrimp and copepods. Other known prey includes a small minority of fish and squid.
11. Black Laughingthrush
The black laughingthrush is a bird characterized by solid black plumage separated by patches of bluish-gray skin behind the eyes and a bright orange-red bill.
The black laughingthrush prefers the lower foliage of foothill and sub-montane broadleaved forests, but have also been found in evergreen forests, disturbed forest, forest edges, and highland forests.
The black laughingthrush’s diet usually consists of insects, such as curculionid and other beetles, ants, grasshoppers, and crickets. They may also occasionally consume some berries, fruits, and other plant material.
12. Orange-Billed Sparrow
|Central America, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru
The orange-billed sparrow is a somewhat stout sparrow consisting of a contrasting black-and-white head pattern, a black chest, a white throat, and a seemingly iridescent and very bright orange bill.
Typical habitats for the orange-billed sparrow include humid subtropical evergreen forests and forest edges in tropical lowlands, where they can often be found on or near the ground under shady understory and thickets.
The diet of the orange-billed sparrow is not completely known but is believed to consist mainly of insects, spiders, seeds, and low-hanging or fallen fruits on the ground.
13. Black Oropendola
|Panama, Rarely in Colombia
The black oropendola is a large passerine bird with black plumage overall and dark brown plumage on the back and wings, an orange-tipped bill, and large patches of blue skin at the base. Both sexes appear similar. The bird is sometimes confused with the Baudo Oropendola, but the latter has pink, instead of blue, skin on the face.
The black oropendola is usually found in pairs or small groups in the canopy or sub-canopy of lowland forests and forest edges as high up as 800 meters, where they often build large hanging nests. They can also be found along rivers.
Considering the limited habitat of the black oropendola, its diet is not well known. They are believed to feed on insects, other arthropods, small vertebrates, fruits, and the nectar of large flowers.
14. Black-and-Gold Cotinga
|Near Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, Brazil
The black-and-gold cotinga is a large cotinga that, for males, consists of black plumage overall with a yellow patch on both wings. Females are a light green color throughout. Both sexes have short orange bills and dark red eyes.
Typical habitats for the black-and-gold cotinga include the sub-canopy of montane forests at relatively high elevations (from 1200 to 2050 meters). They overall tend to prefer more humid forests in the highlands.
The black-and-gold cotinga feeds mainly on fruits and berries, such as those from the E. edulis, R. umbellata, and R. gardeneriana plants. They may also consume some small insects on occasion.
15. Tufted Puffin
|Bering Strait, along the western coast of North America and the eastern coast of Siberia, Japan
The tufted puffin is the largest puffin specie, with an entirely black body, a white face, a thick orange bill, orange feet, and a tuft of pale-yellow feathers curling back towards its nape. Nonbreeding birds and juveniles have smaller tufts, gray faces, and smaller and duller colored bills. Juveniles are occasionally confused with the Rhinoceros Auklet, but the former’s bill is longer and thicker.
The tufted puffin spends most of its year living at sea, however, it will return to land at about 3 years old to breed on nesting cliffs and rocky islands. Juveniles spend their lives entirely on the open ocean.
Tufted puffins mainly eat small fish, as well as a range of other marine animals such as crustaceans, mollusks, jellyfish, and cephalopods like squids and octopuses.
16. Crested Caracara
|Southern United States, Central and South America
The crested caracara is a large raptor consisting of dark brown and black plumage throughout its body, a dark cap, a pale neck, and a bill that is half orange-red or pink and half pale gray. White flashes in the wings and tail are visible in flight.
The crested caracara inhabits a wide range of habitats, such as prairies, rangeland, grasslands, deserts, scrubby areas, beaches, open fields, and just about any other open or semi-open habitats.
As carnivores, the crested caracara feeds mainly on carrion (animal carcasses), amphibians, reptiles, mammals, insects, fish, other birds, and their eggs.
17. Rhinoceros Hornbill
|Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia
The rhinoceros hornbill is a large and stunning forest hornbill with black plumage throughout, a white tail with a single black bar, and a gigantic bright orange bill with a noticeable casque that is short and rectangular shaped in females and long and upward curved in males.
The rhinoceros hornbill inhabits mainly mature lowland, foothill forests, and tropical rainforests, where they can be found living in large tree cavities.
The rhinoceros hornbill’s diet usually consists of fruits, small rodents, small reptiles, insects, and other small birds. They are particularly fond of figs.
Though birds with orange bills/beaks are probably a rare sight to find in our backyards or gardens, it’s certainly not a unique feature in the wild. And luckily, most of the birds with these bright beaks are quite distinguishable in the wild; you just have to know where to look.