For bird watchers and nature lovers alike, Colorado provides a great diversity of bird species across various habitats. If you’re looking to identify black and white colored birds spotted around the state, this guide covers the top species to know.

Here’s a quick answer if you’re short on time – the most notable black and white birds found in Colorado include the Black-billed Magpie, Black-capped Chickadee, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, American Dipper, and Clark’s Nutcracker.

Black-billed Magpie

Identification Features

The Black-billed Magpie is a striking black and white bird commonly found in Colorado. It is easily recognizable due to its long tail, black body, and white markings on its wings and belly. The bird has a black bill, which gives it its name, and a distinctive crest on its head.

It is about the size of a crow, measuring around 18-24 inches in length.

Habitat and Range

The Black-billed Magpie is a highly adaptable bird that can be found in a variety of habitats throughout Colorado. It is commonly found in open areas such as farmlands, meadows, and grasslands. It is also frequently seen in urban and suburban areas, often nesting in trees near human dwellings.

This species is native to western North America and its range extends from Alaska and northern Canada down to Mexico. In Colorado, the Black-billed Magpie is a resident bird, meaning it can be found in the state year-round.

Diet and Behavior

The diet of the Black-billed Magpie is varied and includes both plant and animal matter. It feeds on insects, small mammals, eggs, berries, seeds, and carrion. It is known for its opportunistic feeding behavior, often scavenging for food in open areas and near roadsides.

The Black-billed Magpie is an intelligent and social bird. It is often seen in small groups or pairs, and it is known for its vocalizations, which include a variety of calls and mimicry of other bird species. It builds large nests made of twigs and branches, usually in trees or shrubs.

According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the Black-billed Magpie is highly adaptable to human presence and has even expanded its range due to the creation of agricultural fields and urban areas. It is considered a common and abundant species in Colorado.

Black-capped Chickadee

The Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus) is a small, distinctive bird commonly found in Colorado. It is a member of the titmouse family and is known for its black cap and bib, white cheeks, and grayish wings and back.

Let’s take a closer look at the identification features, habitat and range, as well as the diet and behavior of this fascinating bird.

Identification Features

The Black-capped Chickadee is easily recognizable due to its unique appearance. It measures about 4.7 to 5.9 inches in length and has a wingspan of approximately 6.3 to 8.3 inches. The bird’s black cap and bib contrast sharply with its white cheeks, making it stand out in any environment.

Its wings and back are grayish in color, while its underside is a pale gray. The chickadee also has a short, stubby bill and a relatively long tail.

Habitat and Range

The Black-capped Chickadee is a year-round resident in Colorado and can be found throughout the state. It prefers mixed and deciduous forests, as well as woodland edges and suburban gardens. This adaptable bird can also thrive in urban environments, parks, and backyard feeders.

It is known to be highly vocal and can often be heard chirping and singing its distinctive “chick-a-dee-dee-dee” call.

This species is native to North America and has a wide range that extends from Alaska and Canada down to the northern United States, including Colorado. It has also been introduced to parts of western Europe, where it has successfully established populations.

Diet and Behavior

The Black-capped Chickadee has a varied diet, consisting mainly of insects, seeds, berries, and small fruits. It is known for its acrobatic foraging skills, as it can hang upside down and sideways while searching for food.

In winter, when insects are scarce, the chickadee relies heavily on seeds and berries, often caching them in hidden locations to sustain itself during harsh weather conditions.

These birds are highly social and often form small flocks during the non-breeding season. They communicate using a variety of calls, each with a specific meaning. For example, the “chick-a-dee-dee-dee” call is used to alert others of potential predators, while a soft “fee-bee” call is used for communication within the flock.

Downy Woodpecker

Identification Features

The Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens) is a small black and white bird commonly found in Colorado. It is one of the smallest woodpecker species in North America, measuring about 6-7 inches in length.

The male and female Downy Woodpeckers are similar in appearance, with black wings marked by white spots and a white belly. The most distinguishing feature is their black and white striped head, with a small red patch on the back of the male’s head.

Habitat and Range

These birds are incredibly adaptable and can be found in a variety of habitats throughout Colorado. They are commonly seen in woodlands, parks, and even suburban areas with mature trees. Downy Woodpeckers are also known to visit backyard bird feeders, especially those stocked with suet or sunflower seeds.

While Downy Woodpeckers are found throughout North America, they are particularly abundant in Colorado due to the state’s diverse range of ecosystems and tree species. They can be spotted across the state, from the eastern plains to the Rocky Mountains.

Diet and Behavior

The diet of Downy Woodpeckers consists mainly of insects, including beetles, ants, and caterpillars. They use their strong beaks to drill into tree bark and extract their prey. In addition to insects, they also feed on seeds, berries, and tree sap.

These woodpeckers are known for their drumming behavior, which involves rapid tapping on tree trunks. This behavior is not only a means of communication but also a way to search for insects hiding beneath the bark. It is often used by males to establish territories and attract mates.

Downy Woodpeckers are fascinating birds to observe, with their acrobatic movements and distinctive calls. If you’re interested in learning more about these birds, you can visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s website, which provides detailed information and even audio recordings of their unique vocalizations.

Hairy Woodpecker

Identification Features

The Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus) is a black and white bird commonly found in Colorado. It is a medium-sized woodpecker with a length of about 7-10 inches. The male and female Hairy Woodpeckers have similar plumage, making it difficult to differentiate between the sexes.

They have black wings with white spots, a white belly, and a black tail. The most distinguishing feature of the Hairy Woodpecker is its long, sturdy bill, which it uses to drum on trees and extract insects from bark.

Habitat and Range

The Hairy Woodpecker is a year-round resident in Colorado and can be found in various habitats, including forests, woodlands, and even urban areas with mature trees. They are most commonly found in coniferous forests, but can also be seen in mixed forests and deciduous woodlands.

They prefer areas with abundant trees, as they rely on them for nesting and foraging.

In Colorado, the Hairy Woodpecker is distributed throughout the state, from the eastern plains to the western mountains. They are also found in other parts of North America, including Canada and the United States.

Diet and Behavior

The diet of the Hairy Woodpecker consists mainly of insects, particularly wood-boring beetles, ants, and caterpillars. They use their strong bills to chisel into bark and excavate tunnels in search of their prey.

They also feed on berries, nuts, and seeds, especially during the winter months when insects are scarce.

Hairy Woodpeckers are known for their drumming behavior, where they rhythmically tap on trees to communicate with other woodpeckers and establish territory. They also use drumming as a means of attracting a mate during breeding season.

These woodpeckers are generally solitary birds, but can be seen in pairs or small family groups.

If you want to learn more about the Hairy Woodpecker, you can visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website, which provides detailed information and photos of this fascinating bird.

American Dipper

The American Dipper, also known as the Water Ouzel, is a unique black and white bird commonly found in Colorado. This small, plump bird is known for its distinctive behavior and adaptability to aquatic environments. Here are some key facts about the American Dipper:

Identification Features

The American Dipper is easily recognized by its black and white plumage. It has a stocky body, short wings, and a short tail. The black feathers contrast sharply with the white feathers on its chest and underbelly. Its dark beak and legs are well adapted for foraging underwater.

This bird measures about 6.5 to 8 inches in length and weighs around 1.5 to 2.8 ounces.

Habitat and Range

The American Dipper is primarily found in mountainous regions of Colorado. It prefers fast-flowing streams and rivers with rocky bottoms, where it can dive and swim underwater in search of food. This bird is well adapted to cold temperatures and can be seen year-round in its preferred habitats.

It is also known to nest near waterfalls, using the spray and mist as natural protection from predators.

Diet and Behavior

The American Dipper has a unique feeding behavior. It dives into the water and uses its wings to swim and walk along the streambed in search of aquatic insects, small fish, and invertebrates. It can hold its breath for up to 30 seconds while underwater.

This bird is also known for its distinctive bobbing motion, which gives it its name. It bobs up and down on rocks near the water’s edge, a behavior believed to be a territorial display or a way to attract mates.

The American Dipper is a remarkable bird that has adapted to its aquatic environment in Colorado. Its ability to swim and feed underwater sets it apart from other birds, making it a fascinating species to observe in the wild.

Clark’s Nutcracker

Clark’s Nutcracker is a black and white bird commonly found in Colorado. This unique species belongs to the crow family, and it is known for its distinct features and interesting behaviors. Let’s take a closer look at the identification features, habitat and range, as well as the diet and behavior of the Clark’s Nutcracker.

Identification Features

The Clark’s Nutcracker is approximately 10-13 inches long and has a black body with white markings. It has a long, pointed bill and a short tail. The wings are black with white patches, and the underparts are mostly white.

One of the most noticeable features of this bird is the white patch on its wings, which is visible when it is in flight. The black and white coloration helps it blend in with its surroundings and provides excellent camouflage.

Habitat and Range

The Clark’s Nutcracker is primarily found in the mountainous regions of Colorado. It inhabits coniferous forests, including pine, spruce, and fir trees. These birds are well-adapted to high altitudes and are often seen in alpine areas.

They are known to nest in tree cavities or build their nests on tree branches. The range of the Clark’s Nutcracker extends beyond Colorado and includes other western states such as Wyoming, Montana, and Utah.

Diet and Behavior

The Clark’s Nutcracker has a unique diet that consists mainly of pine seeds. It has a specialized bill that allows it to extract seeds from pine cones. These birds are known for their remarkable memory and ability to cache food for the winter.

They have been observed hiding thousands of seeds in various locations, such as tree bark crevices and the ground. This caching behavior helps them survive during harsh winters when food is scarce.

Furthermore, the Clark’s Nutcracker plays an essential role in the ecosystem by dispersing seeds. They often forget some of the seeds they’ve hidden, which allows for new tree growth in different areas. This bird’s behavior is critical for the regeneration of coniferous forests.


With striking black and white plumage, these bird species provide an interesting sight across Colorado’s diverse ecosystems. Keep an eye out for them on your next hike or birdwatching adventure. Their unique behaviors and adaptations are fascinating to observe in the wild.

Whether perched amidst an aspen grove, foraging along a rushing stream, or caching pine seeds on a conifer-clad slope, Colorado’s black and white birds showcase the biodiversity of the state. Learning to identify them will open up a new world of nature discovery right in your own backyard.

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