Each of us appreciates colors differently. In France, black is the color of mourning. It is often found associated with death and sadness. It is the color of the deep night, without a moon to illuminate it, which can be associated with the feeling of dread. The medieval Christian world made the crow an emblem of misfortune. But today, in the 21st century, superstitions are much less present and we can more easily marvel at the birds with the black plumage that we can observe in France. Here is our top 10, to go beyond mere fascination and develop your knowledge.
1 – the blackbird
The blackbird belongs to the Turdidae family. Its beak is yellow-orange, the circle surrounding the eye being the same color, and its legs are red-brown. Only the male is black, not the female. Researchers have identified that the bright color of the beak correlates with the bird’s physical condition, reproductive success, or the quality of its territory. With age, the circle of the eye and the beak become duller.
The intensity of the black of the plumage varies according to the subspecies and the time of year, whether it is the nuptial, postnuptial or late spring period. The one that can be observed in France, the Turdus merula merula, is the bird with the brightest black plumage.
2 – The moorhen
The moorhen belongs to the family of the rallidae. If it can be included in a list of black birds, its plumage is actually much more shade, coming in different shades ranging from dark blue to black, with brown wings and a white patch on either side of the rump. But it is true that at a distance and on the water, the bird appears black. Its red beak with a yellow tip is a fairly visible feature. She gladly seeks her food on the banks.
3 – The Eurasian coot
The Eurasian coot belongs to the same family as the moorhen and is often confused with it, especially since it frequents the same bodies of water. However, if one can identify its white bill with an equally white faceplate on it, there is little doubt. In addition, the coot is an excellent diver, when the moorhen is content to dive the head and neck, like ducks.
4 – The Yellow-billed Chough
With the yellow-billed Chough, we begin our discovery of the corvidae family. It belongs to the genre pyrrhocorax. It cannot be confused with the jackdaw, of the kind coleus, regular companion of the rook raven, because the yellow beak and the red legs distinguish the Choucard from the jackdaw from the towers whose legs and beak are gray. The eye of the chough is also quite black while the iris of the jackdaw is light blue.
The Yellow-billed Chough is a couple for life. These are high altitude birds that you will only observe in France in the mountains. It is particularly found at the top of the mont blanc, watching what he might get from the mountaineers. It is indeed omnivorous and does not disdain waste. But, like many birds, it does not digest wheat gluten; he must therefore not eat bread.
5 – the rook raven
With the rook, we remain in the family of corvids, but discover the genus corvus, the majority of which have black plumage. It differs from the black crow and the common raven by its ability to live in hundreds or even thousands of individuals.
Smaller than the common raven, it still measures between 45 and 50 cm long for a wingspan of 90 cm on average. Its beak is also strong but it is pointed and gray in color. Otherwise, plumage, eyes and legs are black.
In France, it is mainly present in the plains, and does not exceed 500 meters in altitude. It is often observed nesting in urban parks. It is less focused on corpses than the black crow and the common raven. Its diet is essentially vegetal and contains a lot of seeds, including sprouted seeds. At the beginning of autumn, we can observe it crack nuts, a fruit he particularly likes. When they reach maturity, he plucks them from the tree and then, his beak not being strong enough to open them, he drops them from a height on a hard surface, most often an asphalt road, starting again until that the fruit breaks and that it can finally access the kernels. He is patient because it can take a long time.
6 – the black woodpecker
Belonging to the picidae family, the black woodpecker is the biggest of peaks with its 46 to 51 cm in length in adulthood. Its plumage is all black, except for a red cap on the male and red feathers on the female’s neck.
Its food consists of xylophagous insects, it is in the forests that you will be most likely to meet it, probably first attracted by its very loud drumming on the trunks of beeches and conifers. It is also in the beech trunk that it digs a cavity up to 55 cm deep to install its nest. But in France, we can observe its expansion in the plains and towards the Atlantic regions. It has enjoyed total protection throughout France since 1981.
7 – the black crow
With the black crow, we find the corvidae family and the genus corvus. When the bird is adult, it measures between 48 and 56 cm long and everything is black in him, whether male or female, from tip of bill to tip of tail, including eyes and legs. The black crow can be confused with the common raven and the rook raven which we tell you about later.
Its usual call can be written “raaaah”. It is powerful, often emitted in series. The black crow can be seen easily. It is present in all open and semi-open environments, from sea level to mountains (in alpine lawns up to around 2,000 m in the Alps and even more than 3,000 m in the mountains of Central Asia). She also appreciates agricultural areas, as well as parks and gardens. On the other hand, you will not meet it in the forest: it stops at the edge. Because she needs to have access to the ground where she looks for her food. Omnivorous, it rejects rejection pellets, like raptors, which contain the non-digestible remains of the invertebrates and small vertebrates that made up its meals. Earthworms are very present. The carrion crow is also often found on the roads, feeding on a dead animal killed by a car. This makes it a bird helping to limit the spread of disease.
8 – The Raven
The raven is another corvid, the biggest. What distinguishes it from the crow is its black, strong, long and high beak, which makes its head appear very small in comparison. His eye is dark brown circled in gray. The legs are also black. Males and females look alike but the seconds are a bit smaller. Measuring between 56 and 78 cm, its wingspan is around 1.20 meters.
The common raven tends to live in groups of several dozen individuals, including at night to sleep, except adults during the breeding season during which they defend their territory. Like the crow, it is a sedentary person.
It is characterized by an incredible agility in flight: the bird can pass briefly on the back, the wings glued to the body, making half-rolls or even full rolls. He has long wings and a powerful musculature which also allows him to practice gliding as often as possible. In the presence of thermal updrafts, it can spiral very high, as do soaring raptors. Where you are most likely to see it is when it nests on rock faces or in tall trees.
9 – The great cormorant
The great cormorant belongs to the phalacrocoracidae family. It is a marine species that can be observed on the French marine coasts but also on rivers, rivers and bodies of water inland. He settled down in Sologne where he became invasive.
It measures up to 90 cm in length and its average wingspan is 1.50 m. The plumage of this piscivorous aquatic bird is generally completely black with some possible white spots on the cheeks, throat and chest. During the breeding season only, white spots may also appear on the top of each thigh or on the neck. The black of the plumage is animated with blue or green-bronze reflections. Its webbed legs are black. The great cormorant’s beak is creamy white or light gray, and its eyes are green.
Its cousin, the much smaller crested cormorant, is also black, but it is a strictly maritime species.
10 – The black stork
To end our top 10 black birds, we talk about the black stork which actually has the entire underside of the body. White. Its beak and legs are red. It measures one meter in height.
Appreciating the calm, she seeks areas far from man and his homes, such as large forests. It will not be easy to observe, especially since it is only passing through France. Each summer, only 60 to 80 pairs of black storks nest in French forests in the northeastern quarter of France. In the fall, they fly to Sahelian Africa.