Blackbird in USA with white tail feathers

Posted on January 28th, 2009 in white tailed blackbird by Trish

In December I was lucky enough to get this comment from the USA about a  black bird that had some white tail feathers.  

We have a blackbird with several white tail feathers visiting our feeder here in NJ today.  Regards Nelson

I emailed Nelson back to make sure NJ stood for New Jersey.  The reply was

NJ does stand for New Jersey. Today’s sighting is ther first time we’ve seen this particular bird with the the white tail feathers.

I think it’s interesting that white feathered blackbirds span the globe.

I’m interested in the blackbird I see so I decided  to have a category for my white tailed blackbird so I can keep tabs on when I see him.

I have not seen either of our blackbirds that have some white tail feathers for a few weeks.

I get about ten blackbirds a day now!  I think it’s because I put cheese out.  They are sometimes like a small flock flitting round.

The thrushes are always in the background as well.

58 Responses to 'Blackbird in USA with white tail feathers'

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  1. Thomas said,

    on March 3rd, 2009 at 8:32 am

    I saw a/the white-tailed blackbird yesterday at my birdfeeder in Burtonsville, MD. The bird was traveling with a flock of about 50.

  2. trish said,

    on March 4th, 2009 at 5:34 pm

    Hi Thomas, Thank you for getting in touch with me. That is really fascinating. There must be a worldwide reason why some blackbirds have white feathers.

    And the bird you saw was travelling with a flock.

    When I see the white tailed blackbird it is on a fence or on the ground feeding. I have never seen it flying past. I think once I decided to call it Bino (which was supposed to be short for Albino)

    They must have a few feeding grounds as I haven’t seen this British one lately. Thanks again for getting in touch. Good to hear from you. Whereabouts in the USA is Burtonsville? Trisha

  3. Jann said,

    on March 7th, 2009 at 4:38 am

    Today in Raleigh NC I saw a small bird that appeared to be black (it was in the shade so it was hard to see the exact color). When it flew away from my deck I could see two white stripes on its tail, one stripe on each side. Think I was mainly viewing the underside of it’s tail. The bird was much smaller than a robin. Any ideas about identity of this bird will be appreciated. I don’t know much about birds.

    Also, I’m wondering if the white tailed blackbird reported by the original poster was as small as the one I saw. The birds I usually call “blackbirds” are much larger than robins.

  4. Jann said,

    on March 7th, 2009 at 6:03 pm

    Since posting my comment I’ve done a little research on the internet and found that several small birds have white outer tail feathers, including the vesper sparrow and some warbles. I’ve looked at a lot of pictures of sparrows and warbles; the body type seems right but none have a body as dark as the one of my deck. I realize the time of year as well as age and sex of the bird may determine feather color, so this identification is turning out to be complex.

    Think the bird has come back to my deck a few times today but I have only caught fleeting glances. Usually I only have a bird bath available but for the last three days have put out a bird feeding mix of seeds. Got the seeds from two young girls who went door to door in our neighbor (under their grandmother’s supervision) giving out the mix when we had an unusual snow of about 3 inches (7.6cm) the other day. Great activity for children, don’t you think? This little bird seems to like the mix.

    BTW, forgot to say that NC stands for North Carolina which is a state on the east coast of the United States of America.

  5. trish said,

    on March 8th, 2009 at 12:11 pm

    Hi Jaan, I have been looking as well, but found it difficult to see what bird it could be, especially with it being in the USA. I will put your comment as an article in case anyone else can help. I think it would be great to find out.

    I don’t know all the british birds. For example when they flit about quickly I get confused between house sparrows, tree sparrows and dunnocks.

    I’m really pleased you got in touch with me and sorry I can’t give you a definite answer. Could you get a photo. You can take photos through glass sometimes and they come out OK. Am going to put a post in about your little bird.

    I have only been to America once in my life and that was to North Carolina and then Florida. In North Carolina we went to a small town called Elk Park to visit my friends penpal. It was really hot but it was great staying with a family and seeing that part of the USa.

  6. Jann said,

    on March 9th, 2009 at 12:08 am

    I got a kick out of your private email in which you suggested the dark-eyed junco as a candidate for the bird I saw on my deck in Raleigh, North Carolina, USA. I had been doing lots of research on the web and had just decided the best candidate is the slate-colored junco. You did a great job of suggesting a junco on the limited information I gave you.

    Here is a picture.

    The breast of the pictured bird is much lighter than that of the bird I saw. Some internet pictures show slate-colored juncos with darker breasts. The light beak also fits with my bird.

    The slate-colored junco is suppose to be very common in my area at this time of year (I did not grow up here so didn’t know this – had never even heard of juncos). They like to visit bird feeders. They are known as snow birds and will soon move north.

    Sorry I don’t have a way to get a photo.

    Thanks so much for your interest and help.

  7. david said,

    on March 11th, 2009 at 1:49 am

    Wife called me to window.we watch birds at feeders Interesting there was a black bird with one white feather among all the other black birds.I am 61 and never seen one. Lascassas Tn.

  8. Heather said,

    on March 30th, 2009 at 2:38 pm

    I’ve noticed a medium sized black colored bird with a single white tail feather in my back garden. The tail feather seems to be completely white both from the top and the bottom. It has been around a few times this spring, I also noticed it last spring but never see it in the summer, fall or winter. Any idea what it is?

  9. Sherri said,

    on April 22nd, 2009 at 6:22 pm

    We live in East Central Iowa. I have seen, the past couple warm seasons, a similar bird. The one here seems to similar in size to a grackle. It also has the iredescent colors and black, but the tail feathers are completely white. I have been trying to photograph it but it disappears like a ghost. There is usually only one and it only appears in spring and summer. Must be a smart bird! Just saw it today 4/22/09 and am activly watching for it. We do have a wetland not more than 100 yards from our home, city habitat and farmland everywhere. If get any good photos I will try to post them somewhere.

  10. Forest Brooks Hall said,

    on May 3rd, 2009 at 11:14 pm

    On May 4th, 2009 at approximately 4:15 PM
    To all who have seen the Whitetailed Blackbird, he/she does seem to get around. My wife told me of seeing the bird in our small maple tree recently. Yesterday, while I sat looking through the websites for blackbirds with white tails, Carolyn, my wife, softly spoke my name several times. I got up and went to the front door and Carolyn said for me to look in the top of the tree. Excitely, I turned and made for the camera. I shot ten photos and all but one took well enough to show the white tail feather and several profiles appear to indicate it is a blackbird, i.e., head and beak shape and body color. It seemed excited that I wanted to take it’s picture and so it did several poses; opened it’s wings and changed from front to rear views allowing for great photos of the single cented white tail feather. This is the first of this breed I have seen in the south east or south west or mid west. Forest

  11. Trish said,

    on May 4th, 2009 at 6:16 pm

    Hi, How interesting. You paint a really good picture. I can see all that you explained. I’ve been finding out about blackbirds and white feathers.

    It seems that white feathers can mean something is lacking in their diet. There seem to be one or two white feathered blackbirds around. I don’t know why, unless their diet is lacking at the moment.

    So it seems that it may not be a new breed of bird. It is possible that all the white tailed blackbirds are lacking something in their diet. I’ll delve further. Can I ask what your opinion is. I would love to see the photos if you could send them. Best. Trisha. PS Fancy it ‘posing’ for the camera!

  12. RICK said,

    on May 14th, 2009 at 11:53 pm

    I live in Omaha,Ne and I see the same type of blackbird with the white tail feathers just about every day but cannot get a picture

  13. Wayne said,

    on May 15th, 2009 at 2:49 pm

    I live in Alvin, Tx and have seen a black bird in back yard everyday with 2 white tail feathers, I am 59 and this is my first

  14. Joel White said,

    on May 16th, 2009 at 3:25 pm

    I’m here in Manahawkin, NJ and have a Common Grackle with white tail feathers at my feeder right now. I’ve also spotted a Common Grackle with white tail feathers and a white band around the neck!

  15. RICK said,

    on May 17th, 2009 at 4:45 pm

    I found a bird on Flickr Photo Sharing that is like the one I am seeing.

  16. Trish said,

    on May 20th, 2009 at 9:21 pm

    Hi Rick, thanks for getting in touch. I have put the photo on birdtablenews. It’s a great photo. Wonder if it is the same bird others have seen. Have just started a forum where we can chat about birds like this and other things – http://birdtablenews.com/forums/

  17. Cheryl said,

    on June 24th, 2009 at 11:08 pm

    Just two days ago, I had a black bird with just one white feather and one black feather on each side out the back of this bird. Never seen it before. It was like someone took one white feather and stuck it in him. Bazarre

  18. Trish said,

    on June 27th, 2009 at 10:12 am

    Hi cheryl, It seems there are a few white tailed blackbirds. I have read that it is due to a lack of the pigment that makes the feathers stay black. Here is an article I wrote about it http://birdtablenews.com/2009/02/some-reasons-for-birds-with-white-feathers/

    Am reading and looking into seeing if I can find out more about this. Will try and keep you up to date with anything I find out
    If you are interested you could subscribe to birdtablenews via email – this way it comes direct to your computer and you don’t have to go looking for it. Thank you for taking the time to get in touch and ask the question.

    I did not realise there were so many black birds with partial feathers so find it all interesting. Trisha from Bird Table News

  19. Lela said,

    on July 2nd, 2009 at 12:23 am

    I am in TEXAS, hill country area. Today I saw a bird, rather large, dark possibly black, with white horizontal stripes on it’s tail. It was in flight so they were very noticable. Is this going to be a blackbird?

    Thanks for any help

  20. Ray said,

    on July 4th, 2009 at 2:46 pm

    I spotted 2 blackbirds with single white tailfeather in the center of the tail in Omaha NE on 7/2/09

  21. Trish said,

    on July 12th, 2009 at 8:47 pm

    Hi Ray and Lela. Thank you for contacting me. Good to about this from the USA.
    To try to answer your question –
    Reasons for White feathers. Here is an article I wrote –

    Below is another comment I received with a link which may help answer your question
    Hi – I have a pet european starling with one white feather on her breast. That prompted my search. My son & I also so a grackle last year with one white wing feather. Here’s what I’ve found: http://www.birds.cornell.edu/pfw/AboutBirdsandFeeding/Albinism_Leucism.htm

    Hi – I have a pet european starling with one white feather on her breast. That prompted my search. My son & I also so a grackle last year with one white wing feather. Here’s what I’ve found: http://www.birds.cornell.edu/pfw/AboutBirdsandFeeding/Albinism_Leucism.htm

    OR PERHAPS THIS LINK MAY HELP http://www.audubon.org/bird/boa/BOA_index.html

    It gives American bird information. Please let me know if any of this is of help to you.

  22. Don said,

    on July 21st, 2009 at 9:56 am

    I spotted a blackbird with a single white tail feather at our feeder. Never saw one before! Romeo, Michigan 7/20/09

  23. JoAnna said,

    on August 4th, 2009 at 7:21 pm

    While visiting Cambria CA, we saw a bird among a flock of blackbirds completely splotched with white feathers. I’ve read that it could be partial albino. Never saw anything like this before

  24. Trish said,

    on August 6th, 2009 at 3:39 pm

    Hi, It must have been strange to see a bird with some white feathers in amongst a flock of blackbirds. It can be called partial albino. There seem to be a lot of reasons. One is lack of certain vitamins in their food – a shortage of the correct food. Another reason is – white feathers come when the bird is getting old. Here is a post I have written about it – http://birdtablenews.com/2009/02/some-reasons-for-birds-with-white-feathers/
    Thanks for getting in touch. Good to hear from the USA.

  25. Julie said,

    on December 13th, 2009 at 6:01 pm

    Yesterday and today, at about 9:00am in Easten CT we had a flock of thousands of blackbirds/maybe starlings in our yard for a few minutes before swarming away. Today as I looked out, I noticed one bird with white feathers on each side of its tail. I did not notice any others.

  26. Jeff Sutton said,

    on December 22nd, 2009 at 8:51 am

    December 22nd 2009 07:45 GMT saw a Blackbird with a single white tail feather, second from the right as you look at it from the back. This was in Harborne, Birmingham Great Britain

  27. Trish said,

    on December 22nd, 2009 at 11:24 pm

    That is interesting. All I have ever found out about blackbirds that have white tail feathers is that – something is not right with the bird. It seems the white feather could be due to an injury, or due to old age, or due to lack of a pigment that makes the feathers black, or due to a bad diet (I suppose that means they do not get enough natural food). I bet you look for the blackbird again. Thanks for letting us know. Keep in touch. Trisha

  28. Walt said,

    on January 31st, 2010 at 12:28 pm

    I saw one today in the back yard of my house in Apollo Beach, FL. It was by itself and flew in for some crumbs my wife had thrown out.

    There are many large flocks in Florida during the winter but this one was a loner and at first I thought it was something hanging from its tail but it was real white tail feathers.

    Decided to look it up and found this site

  29. Michael Cook said,

    on February 13th, 2010 at 6:54 am

    I took a picture of a black bird in Houston Texas recently at the Hobby airport with a single white feather in its tail. It was very interesting looking. The feather appears to have no pigment at all.

  30. Trish said,

    on February 13th, 2010 at 11:11 pm

    Hi, It’s great that you managed to get a picture of this bird. I know how interesting they are to see. I wrote a short piece giving some facts about why blackbirds have white feathers – here is the link if you are interested –


    I used to see a blackbird with white feathers and I always looked for it. I haven’t seen one for ages now – but still get a lot in my garden at the feeders.

  31. sandy bailey said,

    on April 4th, 2010 at 2:07 pm

    hi there – we are from Canada- specifically Sudbury in the far north – we have seen 1 bird with white tail feathers – we though he fell into some paint last year hahahaha
    but he is back this year and the tail feathers are even more white – he is totally accepted by the flock – and seems to be prospering – he is a common grackle and has a blue head -just like the rest- only his tail feathers are different – and they are the same on both sides so when he is not flying they are not visable – they tuck in on the ground – in take off and flight they are totally symetrical – thanks

  32. Trish said,

    on April 5th, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    Hi there – It’s lovely to hear from you -from the far north of Canada to england. Amazing – birds with white tail feather in Canada. Glad the grackle is accepted by the flock

    We have a town called Sudbury in England. Years ago an old family friend used to live there.

    All I have read is that if there are white tail feathers it can be due to illness, injury, old age or a diet that is lacking in nutrient. If the grackle is feeding with the flock then maybe he is not lacking in any nutrients. If it had been injured the white tail feathers may not have been identical on both sides. I wonder if it is illness or old age. I suppose we will never know, but thanks for adding to this information that is turning into a very wide area where white feathers birds are. Trisha

  33. Emily said,

    on April 25th, 2010 at 5:22 am

    I live in central North Carolina and have seen a blackbird with two white stripes on the tail but it’s breast is the same color as a robin’s breast. And it doesn’t seem to be as skiddish as other birds. I’ve looked everywhere online and can’t find a pic that even comes close. It never seems to show up when i have the camera close by!

  34. Mary said,

    on April 25th, 2010 at 10:24 pm

    I live in Lawrence, Kansas, USA. My husband and I just saw a common grackle with about 4 or 5 white tail feathers at a feeder in our yard. The feathers are mostly on one side of the tail and most visible when the bird is in flight but can be seen when the bird has it’s tail folded and is perched.

  35. Mildred P of NC said,

    on August 8th, 2010 at 1:53 pm

    For several mornings (August 3-8 2010) I have awakened to a tap on my bedroom window and to my amazement there was a small black bird with white striped underfeathers. I was curious to know the species of the bird and the feeding habits. I have birdfeeders spread throughout my yard, but, he was not near the birdfeeders. He seems to be close to the ground and very content each time I have observed him. He does not seem to have an injury. However I have not seen him in flight. I live in Kernersville, NC.

  36. IowanHunter said,

    on August 25th, 2010 at 2:31 am

    I saw a flock of black birds this morning here Iowa.

  37. dave hamm said,

    on March 17th, 2011 at 1:37 pm

    hello.It is march 17,happy st pats day,and i was lookin up wut kind of bird i just saw and found this forum.It was a black bird descibed as the others and also had a white tail..I live in Eden ny.It was at my feeder eatin off my suet cage and it would move to the upper branch of the tree and flutter the tail in an up and down motion,it was cool but left just as fast as it came…pretty cool to see.

  38. Trish said,

    on March 19th, 2011 at 7:46 pm

    Hi, Happy St Pats day to you too from Yorkshire , England.

    Bird feeding seems to go on all over the world. I’ve been putting bird food out today as well. It is a strange thing to see. When I saw my first white tailed blackbird in my garden I was so surprised.

    I wrote about some of the reasons why blackbirds have white tail feathers, but am getting so many people getting in touch from America that I wonder if there are other reasons.

    Here’s the link to the article. will see if I can find anything else out


    thanks for getting in touch. It’s good to hear about all these sightings

  39. char said,

    on April 17th, 2011 at 9:11 pm

    I just saw a white tailed blackbird here in Hebron, IL. The bird was all black and had the white tail everyone’s talking about. There seemed to be only one of his kind. It was difficult to see if there were others like him, however, as it was not in my yard.

  40. Trish said,

    on April 23rd, 2011 at 7:50 am

    Hi Char, I think that if a blackbird has white feathers it means it is not in tip top health. There could be other reasons as I get loads of people in America seeing blackbirds with white feathers

    But here is what I found out a while ago.


  41. Skye said,

    on May 22nd, 2012 at 8:44 pm

    i saw a black bird with white tail fethers it was so cool i havent saw that kind of bird before!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  42. Helene said,

    on May 24th, 2012 at 8:02 pm

    Hi, I live in Cornwall, Ontario, Canada and I have seen a blackbird with a with tail a few times this spring. We live on the St Lawrence River.

  43. Nancy Shuman. said,

    on May 25th, 2012 at 1:59 am

    Saw a blackbird with 2 white tail feathers on each side of tail May 2012 in Penna. was with a flock od blackbirds. Looked healthy enough to me.

  44. Jeanette Smith said,

    on June 25th, 2012 at 2:05 am

    I saw one in my bird bath today. I am 72and I have never seen a black bird with a white tail. I had my son in law look it up for me but he didn’t have any luck finding what it was. We ran across this post and thought we would post ours as well. I live in Granview Missouri USA (suburb of Kansas City).

  45. james powers said,

    on March 18th, 2013 at 11:15 pm

    today march 18,2013 i spotted a black bird on my patio with 2 white tail feathers.i am 69 and i have never seen a black bird with white tail feathers before.

  46. Christina said,

    on September 29th, 2013 at 6:05 pm

    I have seen many White tailed Blackbird’s since May 2013. I live 15 miles North of Liverpool, in England. In England nobody seems to know about them. Not even the Royal Society of the Protection of Birds (RSPB). Mum thinks its humourous because Ive recently developed Vertiligo and have a large white patch at the back of my head, where Ive lost Melanin pigment. Humour apart though, I think this may be a very similiar case with these birds.

  47. on October 5th, 2013 at 8:44 pm

    My first posting on May 4, 2009 was one of the earlier sightings, I guess. However, after seeing the updated information, I have to believe my sighting wasn’t of such a strange bird after all. It makes me curious if they are actually producing new babies with this trait? Afterall they appear to be in many parts of the world; only difference is the duel white on each verses the single or duel white in the middle.

    Nonetheless, they are showing up more as time go on…
    Keep watching, as time passes things change.


    Forest (Memphis, TN)

  48. Phil said,

    on November 21st, 2013 at 9:18 pm

    I took several pictures of a large black bird (larger then the all black crows in the area – Escondido CA) and I cannot find any information on this bird. It has specks of white on the sides of its head and two long all white tail feathers. Anyone?

  49. Terri said,

    on December 9th, 2013 at 9:14 pm

    I live in Jackson, mo and have seen a blackbird with white unde-tail, with white edges, black center on top of tail. Just a single bird but has been at my feeders the past several days. Recently had 8 inches of snow, is this a new breed?

  50. Clarice said,

    on July 10th, 2014 at 2:46 pm

    I live in northern Wisconsin and have seen a bird that is mostly black but the whole tip of its tail is white. I am not sure if there is another color on it. It is seen only as a single bird in our yard and just hops around to find insects. Our son is saying that he sees flocks of them while sitting in his bow hunting stand in the fall.

  51. George said,

    on March 21st, 2015 at 7:13 pm

    Hi all, been looking for information on this black bird with a white center tail feather, orange colored beak, not sure the breast area is black. Solo bird when I have seen it. I have not seen it here before Lafayette Oregon. Thinking of size, think robin.

  52. Christina said,

    on April 15th, 2015 at 12:06 pm

    I live in the United Kingdom. I live in a semi rural village 10 miles from Liverpool city centre. For about 4 years I’ve seen many birds of the appearance and size of a blackbird (black with the exception of white feathers on the tail, and yellow beak) feeding for worms on the grass. I’ve never seen them fly or resting on a fence post, trampoline, or bird bath of which we have plenty in our garden. I’ve also never been able to photograph one, as even through a window they flee quickly once spotted, dashing across the ground between a ground level hedge.

    Around the same time, ironically my hairdresser identified my hair although very dark in colour, has developed a pure white streak of hairs at the centre bottom (honestly). Identical to the type of bird in question. Very amusing to my family, who now call me “birdie hair”. But on a more serious note it makes me wonder if it is something environmental which perhaps the birds are also exposed to?!?!

  53. Trish said,

    on April 16th, 2015 at 12:20 pm

    Hello Christina,
    Here is some information I discovered about blackbirds with white tail feathers. There isn’t much information regarding this.

    Reasons why blackbirds (and other birds ) have white feathers :

    Lack of a good diet
    Injury to the bird can cause a white feather to grow
    Circulary problems that the bird has had at the time that its feathers were developing.
    The bird is ageing and old.
    Some of the feathers do not have pigments such as melanins.

    The name for a bird with white feathers is ‘albino’. Partial albino means a bird has some white feathers on some portions of its body.

    Note: A bird that is naturally white such as a swan, is not classed as an albino bird

    Often other birds do not like birds that are different to them and birds will kill a bird like this (this could be why I never saw my white tailed blackbird in among a group of blackbirds)

    Hope this helps. So all in all white feathers seem to be a sign that the bird is not in tip top condition. This is another good reason to put bird food out for our feathered friends
    If anyone has any other information please let me know.
    Bird Table News

  54. Jessica said,

    on April 28th, 2015 at 12:55 pm

    Stumbled across this site while searching the internet for a black bird with a white tail. A small flock of black birds (flat black in color with a greenish-blue iridescence, mostly to the head, neck and chest, and bright white-ish eyes; your common black birds) of maybe seven to ten members visited our feeders this morning at about 7:40 AM. My mother pointed out a black bird with several stark white tail feathers, as well as a small dash of white on it’s left wing, much like that of a red-winged black bird’s wing markings. She and my father have previously seen this specimen many times, but I refused to believe it was a true black bird; I thought it may be a separate species. I came in for a closer look, and sure enough, it is most certainly your common black bird with an almost entirely white tail (just the center, the outside flanks of the tail feathers are black) and a small flicker of white on it’s left side. It was within a group, and seemed to be quite dominant and very bossy to the other black birds, as well as the other song birds visiting the feeders. I was able to get several clear photographs of the bird and it’s markings. I figured I would document my experience here, as this site seems to be the only solid information I could find on this anomaly. For the record, I’m located in Delaware, USA. Hope this helps any future sightings! :)

  55. Ray said,

    on April 29th, 2015 at 2:25 pm

    Hello, I also have a friend in Lower Delaware that has seen this black bird with white tail, does anyone know what species they are? I have never seen one and would love to get a pic of one up close LOL. thank you

  56. on May 23rd, 2015 at 12:26 am

    This afternoon I spoted 2 blackbirds with a single white feather center of the tail.They were picking at the fallen peaches on the ground.Flew away before I could snap a picture.

  57. Stephen Britto said,

    on May 26th, 2015 at 6:25 pm

    I live in Punta Gorda, FL. I have seen a Blackbird with a White Middle Tail Feather, for several weeks now. I read some of the previous post on this, furthest South I had seen someone respond, was Raliegh NC. I had never seen one before, different, I look all the time now.

  58. J. Zappini said,

    on July 13th, 2015 at 12:05 am

    Yep. Blackbird with white tail was in Jackson, NJ this afternoon, Sunday in July,

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