There are 10,000 bird species in the world, and there are 1,000 different species in the United States alone. The U.S. is also home to several yellow and black colored birds, which is a widespread color palette. Several finches, tanagers, orioles, meadowlarks, and warblers share this color pattern.
When you first notice a bird, it is usually the color that grabs your attention. But because so many birds have similar color patterns, understanding the size and the shape of a bird is far more helpful when narrowing down its identity. Especially the form of the bill, these features are essential when identifying various species.
There are 4 key distinctions that you can use to take some of the stress away from identification and quickly get you to the correct species. You can learn and build on those skills using the four keys to bird identification.
Although there are far more birds with a greenish color on the top half and a yellow underside with black feathers in their plumage, I will be showcasing birds with mostly yellow bodies, and they will have black wings and tails or have black on their head. These are the more common yellow and black birds in your backyard and out birding.
15 of the most common yellow and black birds in North America and Canada.
- American Goldfinch
- Lesser Goldfinch
- Evening Grosbeak
- Western Tanager
- Scarlet Tanager
- Orchard Oriole
- Scott’s Oriole
- Hooded Oriole
- Eastern Meadowlark
- Western Meadowlark
- Wilson’s Warbler
- Hooded Warbler
- Townsend’s Warbler
- Common Yellowthroat
- Yellow-headed Blackbird
If you are a more casual birdwatcher, my guess is you are curious about common birds you see in your backyard or feeder. These are birds like the Lesser Goldfinch, and I will start with these. Afterward, I will cover the birds more commonly found in the woods and countryside, like Townsend’s Warblers. We will focus on the four keys to visual identification, and keep in mind that I will only list the species found in the United States and Canada.
Let’s get started!
1. American Goldfinch
The American Goldfinch is a small finch. Comparatively, it is smaller than a Tufted Titmouse. Their bills are short, colorful, and cone-shaped, and they have long black and white wings and a short notched tail colored white underneath. The males are a much brighter yellow with a black crown.
- Length: 4.3-5.1 in (11-13 cm)
- Weight: 0.4-0.7 oz (11-20 g)
- Wingspan: 7.5-8.7 in (19-22 cm)
The American Goldfinch goes through the change known as molting during the wintertime. Molting happens with all birds; they have to grow new feathers once or twice a year to stay warm, dry, and airborne.
American Goldfinches follow this pattern. They will molt all of their plumage from the beginning of September and continue over the next six to eight weeks, and their colors will change to a dull brown as they head into winter, barely resembling their spring/summer radiance.
Where to Spot An American Goldfinch
Most of the year, you can find the American Goldfinch if you are backyard birdwatching, especially during winter. This finch species is widespread across the United States and is common in backyard feeders, and this is particularly true for thistle feeders.
Their primary habitat is weedy fields and floodplains, and you can also find them in more cultivated areas, amongst orchards, and along roadsides.
They are active little birds and often fly in an undulating pattern. Listen for the American Goldfinch call when out birding. You will hear a light but clear call that sounds like “po-ta-to-chip!”
2. Lesser Goldfinch
These tiny songbirds have short bills, long pointed wings, and short notched tails and are about the size of an American Goldfinch.
- Length: 3.5-4.3 in (9-11 cm)
- Weight: 0.3-0.4 oz (8-11.5 g)
- Wingspan: 5.9-7.9 in (15-20 cm)
Lesser Goldfinch has an overall length of 4.5 inches. They heavily favor the American Goldfinch but with a slight color variation. Male Lesser Goldfinches tend to have dull green or glossy black backs and tails with yellow undersides, and females will have olive backs and dull yellow underparts. Two white wing bars mark their wings.
Where to Spot the Lesser Goldfinch
Look for the Lesser Goldfinch in the western United States, particularly California and Texas. You will find them in the region’s scrubby oak, willow, and cottonwood habitats. Look for their all-black caps and bright yellow clinging to thistle plants.
Lesser Goldfinch diet is primarily seeds in the sunflower family, including the thin-hulled seeds from the nyjer thistle and black oil sunflower seeds. They are also not shy and will readily visit feeders, especially tube and hopper feeders.
When out and about, listen for their wheezy songs. The songs are composed of stutters, trills, and wheezes that go on for as long as 10 seconds.
3. Evening Grosbeak
Evening Grosbeaks are plump birds of the finch species located in the northern coniferous forests. They have colorful thick, powerful cone-shaped bills, full chests, and short tails.
- Length: 6.3-7.1 in (16-18 cm)
- Weight: 1.9-2.6 oz (53-74 g)
- Wingspan: 11.8-14.2 in (30-36 cm)
Grosbeaks are about the size of a Northern Cardinal, measuring about six inches from tail to the bill. The adult male grosbeaks are yellow and black with a large white wing patch. Their heads are dark, with a bold yellow stripe over their eyes. Females are typically gray with white and black wings, and their necks and flanks will have a greenish-yellow shade.
Where to Find the Evening Grosbeak
Unfortunately, Evening Grosbeaks are declining in numbers, particularly in the eastern region of the United States. Canada and the mountains of the western U.S. are now home to this species. The Internation Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) ‘s Red List of Endangered species rate the Evening Grosbeak as vulnerable.
Evening Grosbeaks are very social birds and can become common at backyard feeders. Due to their large size, they prefer platform feeders vs. tube feeders. Evening Grosbeaks eat sunflower seeds, berries, tree buds, and maple.
You will find them in higher elevations during the winter, often in both deciduous and coniferous trees. When flying, their call sounds like “cleep-ip.”
Next, we have five more birds you can find in your backyard shade or fruit trees. These include several tanagers and orioles that you will see during spring migration, starting with the Western Tanager.
4. Western Tanager
Stocky and relatively small songbirds, the Western Tanager is larger and thicker than warblers. Adults have pale, short, stout bills and medium-length tails.
- Length: 6.3-7.5 in (16-19 cm)
- Weight: 0.8-1.3 oz (24-36 g)
- Wingspan: 11.5 in (29.21cm)
The adult male will have a bright red face with a yellow nape, shoulder, and rump. The underside is also yellow; their wings are black and have two bold wing bars. Adult females will have red on the front of their faces, and their bodies will be more yellow-green.
Where to Spot A Western Tanager
Western Tanagers eat insects and small fruits in the fall and winter primarily. They are common in western conifer forests in the upper parts of the trees, so it can be challenging to spot them out in the wild.
On the other hand, you can have them visit your backyard if you live in a wooded area within their range. Western Tanagers are attracted to moving water, so adding a birdbath to your yard may increase your chances of a visit. They typically don’t eat seeds; you can try using dried fruit or fresh cut oranges at bird feeders.
Listen closely while birdwatching; Western Tanagers have a distinctive call close to the Summer Tanager’s call. You will need to look up to the treetops and listen for their short rasping song, which can be heard here.
5. Scarlet Tanager
Until recently, this species was listed in the tanager family. Now the Scarlet Tanager and other members of its genus are classified as cardinals.
Scarlet Tanagers are medium-sized songbirds and are stocky in proportions. Their heads are pretty large, they have short, broad tails, and the bills are thick and rounded for catching insects and eating fruit.
- Length: 6.3-6.7 in (16-17 cm)
- Weight: 0.8-1.3 oz (23-38 g)
- Wingspan: 9.8-11.4 in (25-29 cm)
The Scarlet Tanager makes this list because the Female Scarlets have a dim yellow plumage with black/olive wings. Unlike its female counterpart, the male Scarlet Tanager is a bold, bright red with black wings during the spring and summer months; however, the feathers will molt into a yellowish color similar to females during autumn.
Where to Spot the Scarlet Tanager
Scarlet Tanagers are the Eastern counterpart of the Western Tanager. They visit and eat berry plants like blackberries, huckleberries, juneberries, and mulberries, to name a few.
The Scarlet Tanager will hide among the broad leaves of deciduous trees in forest canopies, making them difficult to see. The yellowish-green coat and dark-colored wings can make it even harder to get a look. Birders will have to remain patient and rely on listening for their “chick-burr” call note.
6. Orchard Oriole
Like the Scarlet Tanager, the female will have yellow and black plumage and two white wing bars. The males will have a black head and throat and a chestnut-colored breast and belly.
Orchards are slimmer songbirds; they are larger than the warbler and vireos. Their heads are round, and they have short straight bills.
- 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 fly at or below treetop level. During the breeding season, they will eat insects and spiders. When the season changes, so do their diets, including fruit, nectar, insects, and seeds.
Where to Spot the Orchard Oriole
Orchards do not visit seed feeders, although they may drink the nectar from hummingbird feeders. Despite being a widespread bird, they are difficult to spot. You can find them along river edges, nesting where favorable habitats are. Having a shrubby backyard may attract enough insects and spiders and, in return, draw them to your backyard.
They are most common during the peak of summer. You will have to listen for harsh churrs and chatters mixed with sweet notes to help distinguish them from other birds like robins or grosbeaks.
7. Scott’s Oriole
Scott’s Oriole is a slightly larger songbird than a Bullock’s Oriole but smaller than a Steller’s Jay. They have a long straight spike-shaped bill, a long tail, and strong legs and feet.
- Length: 9.1 in (23 cm)
- Weight: 1.1-1.4 oz (32-41 g)
- Wingspan: 12.6 in (32 cm)
The adult male has a bright yellow chest and underside. Their top side is black, and they have black throats. The oriole also has white wing bars, a yellow shoulder area, and yellow and black tails. Their female counterpart will be a dull yellow on the underside. Their top portion will be olive green in color, and they will have faint wing bars and some stippling on their head.
These orioles forage for food by searching through taller vegetation. They will also drink the nectar directly from inside flowers and occasionally eat fruit.
Where to find the Scott’s Oriole
This oriole searches for food and nests in the desert terrain in the Southwestern United States, mostly where yuccas are plentiful. They are pretty easy to find and can be heard singing well before sunrise and throughout the day, and they are one of the first birds to start singing each day.
Also, their bright-colored plumage makes them very easy to spot after coming up from foraging through yucca plants and other desert vegetation. You can also listen to their song, which is a sweet series of whistles similar to the song of the Western Meadowlark.
8. Hooded Oriole
The Hooded Oriole is a much larger songbird; they are larger than the house finch but smaller than the Western Kingbird. Their bills are a bit more curved and have long rounded tails.
Female Hooded Orioles are olive-yellow and have grayer backs. The males vary in color, ranging from a bright yellow to a rich orange. Their tails are black with black throats and wings. Their crowns, rumps, and bellies are yellow to orange.
- Length: 7.1-7.9 in (18-20 cm)
- Weight: 0.8 oz (24 g)
- Wingspan: 9.1-11.0 in (23-28 cm)
Where to Spot the Hooded Oriole
Although they have bright colors, the Hooded Oriole is another tough bird to find. You will have to listen for their singing. Look for tall cottonwoods or sycamores around a desert oasis of the Southwestern United States.
Try luring them to your backyard with oranges or sugar water. Just be careful to discard any moldy fruit. Hooded Orioles are also attracted to fruit feeders and hummingbird feeders.
Interesting fact: Brown-headed Cowbirds are known to lay their eggs in the nests of the Hooded Oriole. These birds are brood parasites, animals that rely on others to raise their young.
Next are the meadowlarks, birds found in the open fields. This species is common in short grassland areas and deserts. The tops of their bodies will be more blacks, browns, and whites, while their front and underside will be bright yellow. Let’s continue
9. Eastern Meadowlark
Comparative to the Western Meadowlark, Eastern Meadowlarks are medium-sized stocky songbirds. They have short tails and long spear-shaped bills.
- 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)
They have a bright-yellow underside and a black “V” across the chest, and they are primarily brown with black streaks and spots. The Eastern and Western Meadowlarks can be very difficult to tell apart, and they carry many of the same traits as the Western Meadowlark, but if you look closely, you will see subtle details.
The Eastern Meadowlark colors are richer. The Western Meadowlarks have a yellow malar region, while Eastern Meadowlarks have a whitish malar stripe. For a more detailed description of their differences, visit the differences between Eastern Meadowlark and Western Meadowlarks.
Where to Spot Eastern Meadowlarks
First, Eastern Meadowlarks are primarily found in eastern North America. In the winter, you can find up to 200 meadowlarks foraging in fields for seeds and grains. About three-quarters of their diet is from insect sources like beetles, grasshoppers, and crickets, but they eat grains and seeds.
Try and draw Eastern Meadowlarks to your backyard using hulled sunflower seeds and cracked corn. When out birding, listen for the sound of a flutelike whistle, especially late in the day.
They make their nests on the ground in pastures, meadows, hayfields, and at the edges of marshes.
10. Western Meadowlark
The Eastern and Western Meadowlarks are virtually identical. The Western Meadowlark is a bit chunkier than a robin with a flat head, long slim bill, and a short tail.
- Length: 6.3-10.2 in (16-26 cm)
- Weight: 3.1-4.1 oz (89-115 g)
- Wingspan: 16.1 in (41 cm)
Notice the yellow underparts underneath and the distinctive black “V” across the chest. They are also paler than their eastern counterpart. You can find more detail about the differences between Eastern and Western Meadowlark. Western Meadowlarks are streaked and speckled down in brown, black, and gray, and they sing in almost flutelike notes.
Where to Spot the Western Meadowlark
This species inhabits the midwest and Texas. Look for them foraging the ground in open grasslands and meadows alone or in small flocks during the wintertime. The males are heard a lot during the breeding season, singing on fence posts and powerlines.
Although they are not regular visitors, the Western Meadowlark may be tempted to come to backyard feeders.
Lastly are the birds of the woodlands and marshlands areas. Now, you will barely see these birds visiting feeders, and as a matter of fact, you will need to provide the proper landscape for them if you want to see them in your backyard.
11. Wilson’s Warbler
This yellow and black bird is one of my favorites on the list. The Wilson’s Warbler is one of the smallest warblers in the U.S. and one of the most recognizable.
- Length: 3.9-4.7 in (10-12 cm)
- Weight: 0.2-0.3 oz (5-10 g)
- Wingspan: 5.5-6.7 in (14-17 cm)
Wilson’s Warblers have long thin tails and tiny thin bills. They have round bodies and black eyes, and the males have small black caps. From bill to tail, they measure about 5 inches.
Where to Spot the Wilson’s Warbler
The Wilson’s Warbler nest in Alaska, Canada, and the southern portion of the western mountains. They fly between perches and spend most of their time catching insects by hovering or picking them from foliage.
This warbler species do not visit feeders; however, you can provide them the landscape for visits by planting native trees and shrubs.
They breed mainly in the far north, so they are usually easier to find during migration in the spring. Wilson’s Warblers are active and don’t sit still long; you must remain ready and vigilant while birding.
12. Hooded Warbler
Compared to other birds, the Hooded Warbler has a thick neck and body, and they are small and have a straight sharp bill.
- Length: 5.1 in (13 cm)
- Weight: 0.3-0.4 oz (9-12 g)
- Wingspan: 6.9 in (17.5 cm)
The adult male is olive-green on the top and a bright yellow underneath. They also have a black hood and a yellow “mask” across the eyes. The Hooded Warbler also has white outer tail feathers, which can be seen below or when the tail is fanned.
Where to Spot the Hooded Warbler
Hooded Warblers are generally seen in forests’ understory, making them easier to spot. Look for this warbler in the eastern United States, especially in the southeastern wooded swamps. Shrubby areas in treefall gaps are good places to start. You can also listen for their loud “weeta wee-tee-o” call.
Interesting Fact: The Hooded Warbler learns to recognize their neighbor’s songs based on the proximity of the song and the song itself. By doing so, they can spend less time on territory defense.
Although they do not visit feeders, you can still create a habitat for them in your backyard using native trees and shrubs for support during their migration to and from breeding grounds.
13. Townsend’s Warble
The Townsend Warbler is a small songbird with a slender body. They have short, black bills and medium lengthen tails. The bird was named after the American ornithologist John Kirk Townsend.
- Length: 4.7-5.0 in (12-12.7 cm)
- Weight: 0.3-0.4 oz (7.3-10.4 g)
- Wingspan: 7.5-8.3 in (19-21 cm)
Look for the adult male to have a black head, cheeks, and throat. The wings are gray with white wing bars, and their chest is yellow and spotted with black. The female lacks the black throat crown and has more of an olive coloring.
Backyard tips for the Townsend’s Warbler
Look for Townsend’s Warblers in the western mountains from Alaska to Oregon. They are challenging to find, typically nesting and foraging high in the trees, and they sometimes will visit backyard feeders during the winter.
To help them along during these winter months and attract them to your feeder, use energy-rich foods like peanut butter, suet, and mealworms.
14. Common Yellowthroat
The adult Common Yellowthroat has a bright yellow throat and a black facemask. Their underside is olive, and they have a thin white line that separates the mask from the back of the head.
- Length: 4.3-5.1 in (11-13 cm)
- Weight: 0.3-0.3 oz (9-10 g)
- Wingspan: 5.9-7.5 in (15-19 cm)
The females do not have the mask and are plain olive-brown. Female Common Yellowthroats will also have a yellow throat area underneath the tail.
Where to Spot the Common Yellowthroat
Visit any open marsh, wetland edge, or bush field during the spring and summertime in North America, and you will find the Common Yellowthroat.
Look low in bushes and trees for a quick small bird when you hear their recognizable call. The male song is a very loud “witchety witchety witch.” The song is distinctive and frequent during the summer.
15. Yellow-headed Blackbird
Finally on the list is the noisy blackbird known as the Yellow-headed Blackbird. The Yellow-headed Blackbird is a large blackbird with a large head, and they have a long black cone-shaped beak and a stout body.
- 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)
The size of this blackbird species is between a Common Grackle and a Red-winged Blackbird. Their bodies are primarily black, with prominent white patches at the bend of the wings and yellow head and chest.
Where to Spot the Common Yellowthroat
Found in the West and Midwest, look for the Yellow-headed Blackbird in freshwater wetlands. Their songs are a “witchety-witchety-witchety” and spend their time perched out of view in reeds.
The Yellow-headed Blackbirds may visit your seed feeder for grains during migrations if you are lucky.