11 Black Birds With White Bellies (With Pictures)

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Birds are seen in a wide range of colors and patterns, but few are as visually appealing yet minimalistic as black birds with white bellies.

Black and white birds are a common sighting, but those with white bellies, in particular, are far more exclusive. The species with this coloration may not be as attractive as their brightly colored counterparts, but they are still beautiful in their own way, and their plumage pattern is vital for survival.

You’ll notice that most black and white birds have black uppersides and white undersides – particularly on the belly. There is a subtle science behind how they get such a contrast in colors.

Bird feathers are made from a protein called keratinKeratin is colorless, so birds use pigments to obtain their colors. One of the pigments they use is melanin. Melanin provides feathers with black coloration – as seen on the upper side of black and white birds.

On the other hand, white feathers lack melanin or other pigments and reflect all wavelengths of light. Therefore, they appear white, like those on the bellies of the birds mentioned in this article.

Melanin doesn’t only provide color, but it has essential functions too. Melanin binds with keratin to strengthen the feathers. The extra strength makes them more resilient to environmental conditions and wear and tear.

Melanin also protects birds from potentially harmful UV light from the sun. The upper side of birds generally faces the sun, whether on the ocean or land, which is why the upper side is black more often than not.

The black feathers also absorb heat and warm the birds up more quickly. That is particularly important for birds living in the ocean as they must dry their feathers before flying.

The lack of melanin on the white undersides of birds also has advantages. That is particularly the case for waterbirds as it decreases the risk of predation from below because the white underside blends in with the lightly-colored sky.

The camouflage of the white underside against the lightly-colored sky also benefits birds hunting from above, as their prey will notice them less efficiently.

Now that you know more about how and why black birds with white bellies have this plumage pattern, let’s explore the realm of these beautiful birds. The following article examines the characteristics, habitats, diet, and distribution of 11 black birds with white bellies.

The Black-billed Magpie is a large black bird with a white belly and a long tail. They have bold patterning formed by the primarily black body, contrasting with the white wing patches, flanks, belly, and stripes on the back. You’ll see a blue-green sheen on the wings and tail in good lighting.

They occur in open habitats, especially meadows, grasslands, fields, and urban environments. They are often seen near watercourses and woods where they can take cover from predators.

They are resident and have a large distribution in western North America from the central United States to Alaska.

They feed on fruits, grains, seeds, nuts, insects, small mammals, bird eggs, and carrion.

The Black Skimmer is a fascinating tern-like bird with black upperparts and white underparts. The upper wings have a white trailing edge, and the white tail has a black line down the center. They have a large, primarily black beak with an orange-red base. The upper mandible is shorter and more rounded than the lower mandible.

This species gets its name from its feeding behavior, which involves dipping the lower mandible into the water and skimming the surface to catch small fish and crustaceans.

The Black Skimmer occurs in the southern United States, the Caribbean, and South America. Northern birds migrate south for the winter months, but most are resident.

They typically live along coastlines and frequent open sandy beaches, sandbanks, and salt marshes. They are also found at large inland lakes. They forage over estuaries, lagoons, bays, rivers, and salt marsh pools.

The Black Phoebe is a little black bird with a white belly. They occur in the western United States, Mexico, Central America, and northern and western South America.

This species has a large amount of geographic variation in plumage. The birds found in North America have dull whitish wings and a plain white belly, while the rest of the body is sooty black.

In South America, they have almost entirely sooty black bodies with bright white edges to the wing feathers and some white on the belly.

They are frequently seen near water, particularly on riverbanks, coastal cliffs, lake shorelines, pond edges, and stream sides. They also occur in suburban parks and yards.

The Black Phoebe is resident all year round in most of its range, but some individuals migrate further south from the most northern regions of their range for winter.

Their diet consists mainly of insects, but they also eat small fish and occasionally berries.

The Black-necked Stilt is a shorebird with extremely long pink legs, a thin black beak, a white rump, tail, forehead, and mark above the eye. They have a glossy black upper side, hind neck, and cap, contrasting with the white underside. Females are browner than the glossy black males.

Geographic variation exists as birds in Hawaii have more black on the head, and those in South America have a white collar.

They are widespread from the western and southern United States through Central America and the Caribbean to southern South America. They also occur in Hawaii.

They typically remain all year round, but birds found in the north of their range, especially those inland, migrate as far south as southern Mexico for winter.

This species inhabits wetlands, shallow ponds, lagoons, mangrove swamps, salt marshes, mudflats, and other human-made flooded areas.

They feed on aquatic insects, crustaceans, small fish, snails, and amphibians.

The Razorbill is a sleek-looking seabird with black and white plumage. In breeding plumage, the head, throat, and upper side are black, the underside is white, and white lines are present in front of the eye and on the robust black beak.

In non-breeding plumage, the throat, cheeks, and the side of the face are white.

They are found in the North Atlantic Ocean from northeastern North America to Greenland and western Europe. They occur closer to or on land in summer when breeding and disperse south or further offshore in winter.

They breed on rocky islands and coastlines on cliff ledges in summer. In winter, they spend their time on the open ocean.

They feed primarily on small fish but supplement them with small crustaceans and bristle worms in winter.

The Yellow-billed Magpie is a large black bird with a white belly and a yellow beak. Most of their body is black, except for the white flanks, belly, wing patches, and back stripes. Their very long tail and wings have a blue-green iridescence.

This species is endemic to California in the United States, where they inhabit open oak woodlands, savannas, grasslands, fields, pastures, and orchards.

They mainly feed on grains, acorns, seeds, nuts, fruit, insects, small mammals, and carrion. They also eat scraps, eggs, nestlings, spiders, and ticks.

The Spotted Towhee is a long-tailed black bird with a white belly and orange-brown sides. They have a black head and throat that matches the black upper side and contrasts with the white spotting on the wings and back.

They also have a white belly, orange-brown sides, white tail corners, red eyes, and a dark beak. Females are duller and grayer than males. Some birds in Mexico are olive on the upper side.

They live in western North America and Central America, from southwestern Canada to Guatemala.

Their preferred habitats are shrublands, forest edges, chaparral, tangled vegetation, thickets, and overgrown fields.

They mainly feed on insects, spiders, and millipedes in summer. They feed on various berries, acorns, seeds, and crops in winter.

The Spotted Towhee is resident in most of its range, but birds breeding in the northern inland regions migrate to the southern United States and northern Mexico for winter.

The Atlantic Puffin is a delightful dumpy seabird with a black head and top side and white bottom side. They have a grayish-white face and a large, thick red, yellow, orange, and gray beak. They also have a black collar and neat black patches around the eyes, which extend into a thin line behind each eye.

In non-breeding plumage, they become duller and more gray overall. In particular, they have darker faces, and their beaks are smaller with less color.

They are found in the North Atlantic Ocean. Their distribution is from the northeastern United States, eastern and northern Canada to Greenland and western and northern Europe.

They occur on rocky islands and cliffs along coastlines during summer when breeding. After the breeding season, they disperse and spend the winter on the open ocean.

Their diet comprises small fish almost exclusively, but also squid and crustaceans.

The Eastern Towhee is native to the eastern United States and southeastern Canada.

The males have a black head, throat, and upper parts, while the flanks are orange-brown, and the belly is white. They also have white wing patches, white tail corners, and a dark beak. Their eyes are white in the southern part of their range and red further north.

Females are similarly patterned to males but have a brown head, throat, and upperparts.

They live in scrublands, forest edges, woodlands, thickets, and overgrown fields with plenty of dense cover.

In terms of diet, they eat insects, seeds, fruits, millipedes, spiders, snails, reptiles, centipedes, and buds.

This species is partially migratory, with northern birds moving south for winter. In the southeastern United States, they remain all year round.

The Rose-breasted Grosbeak male is a black bird with a white belly and a red chest. They have a black head, a pinkish beak, and the black upperparts have white wing patches and a white rump. In non-breeding plumage, they are duller.

The females have streaking all over their bodies. They are dark brown above with white wing bars and whitish-buff below. They have a prominent eyebrow stripe, brown cheeks, and brownish-black sides of the whitish crown.

The Rose-breasted Grosbeak is migratory and occurs in southern and central Canada and the eastern United States in summer. They are found in Mexico, Central America, and northern South America during winter.

Their favorite habitats are open woodlands, forests, plantations, pastures, parks, and yards. They particularly enjoy areas near streams, marshes, and other water bodies.

They feed on insects, blossoms, seeds, fruit, and flowers.

The Ring-necked Duck is a small diving duck with a black head, neck, and upperparts in breeding males, which show a glossy sheen. They have gray flanks and a white shoulder patch. Their eyes are golden yellow, and their underparts are white, except for the black chest and throat.

They also have a white stripe near the black tip of the gray beak and another near the bill base. Males in non-breeding plumage have browner flanks, while the upperparts, neck, and head are darker, and the bill lacks white lines.

Females are brown overall, with a grayish-brown head, which is darker on the crown, and a white belly. They typically have a thick white stripe behind the bill base and white eye rings surrounding the brown eyes. Their beaks are gray, with a black tip and a white line near the end.

On both sexes, look out for a gray wing stripe on the upper wing in flight.

This species inhabits many water body types, including lakes, rivers, marshes, bays, reservoirs, and ponds. They favor shallow waters surrounded by aquatic vegetation.

They are distributed throughout most of North America but are highly migratory. They spend the summer breeding in northern parts of North America. In winter, they occur in western and southern North America, northern Central America, and the Caribbean.

They feed on aquatic plants, mollusks, snails, insects, earthworms, crustaceans, and leeches.

Black birds with white bellies are a sleek-looking group of birds. As you can see, the species on this list are found in various parts of the globe, from marine to terrestrial habitats.

The high contrast plumage has essential functions for these birds as the black and white coloration both serve their purposes in the survival of these species and others with the same type of plumage.

The black feathers on the upper side of these birds are strengthened with melanin and protect them from UV radiation while helping the birds warm up faster.

The white feathers on the underside are also important, as they camouflage birds to prevent predation from below and help with hunting from above.

Next time you’re in the wilderness, keep an eye out for these spectacular black and white birds.

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