When we talk about blackbirds in Ohio, we are not talking about birds with black feathers. We are talking about birds that belong in the Icteridae family, called new world blackbirds (along with one European, introduced species).
These birds are not always appreciated. Some blackbirds can be noisy, greedy, and sometimes even aggressive.
But look a little closer and these species have a lot to offer, and they are far more interesting than you might think.
If you are a keen birdwatcher in Ohio, here are some of the species to look out for. Read on to find out when you might spot them, and for some help in identifying the different species of blackbird that you might encounter in your state.
- Scientific Name: Agelaius phoeniceus
- Length: 6.7 – 9.1 in (17 – 23 cm)
- Weight: 1.1 – 2.7 oz (32 – 77 g)
- Wingspan: 12.2 – 15.8 in (31 – 40 cm)
The red-winged blackbird is the most common blackbird species spotted in Ohio—it’s an abundant bird! They sometimes remain in the state year-round and are occasionally spotted in winter.
However, they are usually present here from spring to fall, before migrating southwards for the coldest part of the year.
Male red-winged blackbirds are black, with red-orange flashes on their winds. The females have a streaky, brown color all over.
- Scientific Name: Sturnus vulgaris
- Length: 7.9 – 9.1 in (20 – 23 cm)
- Weight: 2.1 – 3.4 oz (60 – 96 g)
- Wingspan: 12.2 – 15.8 in (31 – 40 cm)
Though this is not a native species, it is another common bird in Ohio.
It can be seen here all year round and has been listed on over a third of birdwatchers’ lists in summer, and just under a third in the winter months.
These birds may look black from a distance, but up close you will see some purple, green, and blue tones. They often gather in massive flocks, and their giant murmurations, as they fly in concert with one another, can be an amazing thing to see.
- Scientific Name: Quiscalus quiscula
- Length: 11.0 – 13.4 in (28 – 34 cm)
- Weight: 2.6 – 5.0 oz (74 – 142 g)
- Wingspan: 14.2 – 18.1 in (36 – 46 cm)
The common grackle is considered to be a near-threatened species. However, this is still the second most common blackbird in Oklahoma in summer and the third most common over the winter months.
Most migrate south for winter, but some remain, so this species has been spotted in the state year-round. It has a large breeding population.
These are glossy birds, with black plumage. The females are slightly less shiny than the males. They are just a little taller and longer-tailed than other blackbirds.
- Scientific Name: Molothrus ater
- Length: 76.3 – 8.7 in (19 – 22 cm)
- Weight: 1.3 – 1.8 oz (42 – 50 g)
- Wingspan: 14.2 in (36 cm)
Brown-headed cowbirds arrive in Ohio in March. They breed in the state but do not make nests.
Brown-headed cowbirds don’t make their own nests at all—they lay in the nests of other birds. Then, in around mid-August, they will migrate south for the winter.
Males brown-headed cowbirds have black bodies and brown heads. Female cowbirds are streaky gray-brown, with smaller weight and stature.
- Scientific Name: Icterus galbula
- Length: 6.7 – 7.5 in (17 – 19 cm)
- Weight: 1.1 – 1.4 oz (30 – 40 g)
- Wingspan: 9.1 – 11.8 in (23 – 30 cm)
Baltimore orioles also spend the summer months in this state. These fascinating birds arrive from April, though mostly in May, and stay here until September before they migrate south.
They appear on around a third of checklists for summer birdwatchers in Ohio.
The adult males are bright orange, with black bodies and white wings, and black head markings. The females and juveniles are less striking, with gray-brown and yellow-brown coloration.
- Scientific Name: Sturnella magna
- Length: 7.5 – 10.2 in (19 – 26 cm)
- Weight: 3.2 – 5.3 oz (90 – 150 g)
- Wingspan: 13.8 – 15.8 in (35 – 40 cm)
Eastern meadowlarks are a near-threatened species in Ohio. However, they are relatively common here between March and July.
These medium-sized songbirds with black bodies have bright yellow bellies crossed by a black band and pale brown backs with black markings. Their songs are remarkably pleasing and varied.
- Scientific Name: Icterus spurius
- Length: 5.9 – 7.1 in (15 – 18 cm)
- Weight: 0.6 – 1.0 oz (16 – 28 g)
- Wingspan: 9.8 in (25 cm)
Orchard orioles are spotted in Ohio during the summer months and migrate south for the winter.
Look out for them between April and December, but especially between May and August when you are most likely to see them.
The males have black bodies and heads and are russet-red on their underside. The females are a green-yellow all over, darker above and on their wings with white wing bars, and paler beneath.
- Scientific Name: Euphagus carolinus
- Length: 8.3 – 9.8 in (21 – 25 cm)
- Weight: 1.7 – 2.8 oz (47 – 80 g)
- Wingspan: 14.6 in (37 cm)
The rusty blackbird is a vulnerable species. Its numbers, shockingly, have declined by up to 99% in the last 40 years or so.
However, you may spot these birds in Ohio during the winter months. They arrive in August and may remain until the following May.
But you stand the best chance of seeing them during the migration periods in October-November and March-April.
In summer, the males have glossy black plumage, but in winter they take on their rusty hues. The females are gray-brown, also with rusty tinges.
- Scientific Name: Dolichonyx oryzivorus
- Length: 5.9 – 8.3 in (15 – 21 cm)
- Weight: 1.0 – 2.0 oz (29 – 56 g)
- Wingspan: 10.6 in (27 cm)
Bobolinks can be seen here between April and December, but you are most likely to spot them in Oklahoma during the spring migration period in May and June.
Breeding males have striking yellow patches on their heads that look like hair, black bellies, and white backs.
The females and non-breeding males are streaky-brown, with black markings around their eyes and dark stripes on their crowns.
- Scientific Name: Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus
- Length: 8.3 – 10.2 in (21 – 26 cm)
- Weight: 1.6 – 3.5 oz (44 – 100 g)
- Wingspan: 16.5 – 17.3 in (42 – 44 cm)
Yellow-headed blackbirds are not spotted very frequently in Ohio, but they can be seen year-round. You stand the best chance of seeing these birds in May, during the spring migration.
The males have glossy black bodies, white patches on their wings, and bright yellow heads. The females are brown, and their heads are a less vibrant yellow.
- Scientific Name: Sturnella neglecta
- Length: 6.3 – 10.2 in (16 – 26 cm)
- Weight: 3.1 – 4.1 oz (89 – 115 g)
- Wingspan: 16.1 in (41 cm)
Another less frequent sighting, though regularly occurring, the western meadowlark is spotted only rarely here in Ohio, though it was seen in 2021.
This member of the blackbird family is around robin-sized. It has a bright yellow chest that turns gray in winter, marked with a black V-shape, and a brown and white back.
This species is a songbird known for its musical song.
- Scientific Name: Euphagus cyanocephalus
- Length: 7.9 – 9.8 in (20 – 25 cm)
- Weight: 1.8 – 3.0 oz (50 – 86 g)
- Wingspan: 14.6 in (37 cm)
Another rare sight in Ohio, but sometimes seen in winter, Brewer’s blackbird is recognized as regularly occurring in the state.
These medium-sized blackbirds have males with glossy black plumage, sheening purple on the head and green on the body, and females which are plain brown all over.
Occasionally, vagrant or accidental feathered visitors have also been spotted in Ohio, including the hooded oriole, bullock’s oriole, and great-tailed grackle. But the species on the list above are the main blackbirds you will encounter when birdwatching in this state.