Red and black plumage makes birds stand out. This contrasting color combination is characteristic of various species around the world.
Some birds are always black and red within a specific species while others change to black and red plumage during the breeding season.
One way birds change their colors in the breeding season is through their food. Certain foods are rich in carotenoids such as lutein helps them quickly change their plumage to red from colors such as orange or brown.
Many species have sexual dimorphism characterized by different plumage between males and females.
Male birds are dominantly black and red as opposed to dull-colored females. This is believed to be an evolutionary trait for breeding success.
On the other hand, there are at least a few black and red bird species where both males and females share the same contrasting color combination.
Abundant in their native range, the following birds show black and red plumage at least in the case of males and many of the species can also be black and red both between males and females.
1. Red-winged Blackbird
A mostly black and red appearance is specific to the male Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus).
This is a species where males and females have different morphological characteristics in terms of colors.
While females are dark and dark brown, males are mostly black with red bands and yellow bands on the upper wings.
Some males only exhibit red sections on the wings, lacking the yellow sections. It’s believed the Northern range males are mostly black and red.
Apart from the visual differences in some males, it’s believed otherwise territorial Red-winged Blackbird asserts dominance over other males the larger their red spots and potential yellow spots appear on their wings.
Distribution – Canada, United States, Mexico
2. Pileated Woodpecker
Woodpeckers are some of the most important large birds in North America.
Pileated Woodpeckers (Dryocopus pileatus) are also some of the most commonly red and black birds of the continent.
Males show a particularly red head with a black body. White sections are also seen along its head and neck.
The red nuance on its head is bright, allowing the species to attract the attention of the females.
Woodpeckers of this family also have a short red crest.
There are known for their slow-pace pecking and can play a vital role in the ecosystem of trees.
Distribution – United States, Canada
3. Acorn Woodpecker
Highly dependent on acorns, the similarly-named woodpeckers show a red and black contrasting appearance.
Unlike Pileated Woodpeckers, both male and female Acorn Woodpeckers (Melanerpes formicivorus) show red and black coloring.
The crest is mostly red with black and head colors. Its wings and body are mostly black.
Highly present in America, The Pileated Woodpecker is a species divided into 7 subspecies.
It grows to a size of just over 7 inches and it can be seen up on trees in areas where acorns are abundant.
Distribution – California, New Mexico, Mexico
4. Red-headed Woodpecker
Red-headed Woodpeckers (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) have uniform red heads and black wings. Their underbellies are white.
A species dominated by 3 colors, the Red-headed Woodpecker has a mostly red head, unlike other species of North America such as The Pileated Woodpecker or The Acorn Woodpecker.
Growing to a size of up to 9.8 inches, male and female Red-headed Woodpeckers aren’t sexually dimorphic as they look the same.
This species is known for its multiple broods per year where males and females may remain in the same nest to care for another brood.
Distribution – Southern Canada, Eastern United States
5. American Redstart
This species (Setophaga ruticilla) is one of the most common tricolored birds in North America.
Its shows mostly black plumage with additional orange and orange-red coloring. The name of the species is marked by the red tail nuance of its black and orange plumage.
Growing to a size of 2-3 inches, The American Redstart is a dimorphic species where females have completely different plumage.
They show a gray head with a white belly and dark gray wings.
Birds of this species live in a widespread habitat being one of the most common warblers in North America.
Distribution – United States, Canada, Mexico, Panama, Guatemala, Colombia, Ecuador, Cuba
6. Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Male grosbeaks of this family inspire the name of the species (Pheucticus ludovicianus). Vivid red chests contrast the white underbelly of the species and its black wings and black head.
A tricolored grosbeak, the Rose-breasted Grosbeak shows white and brown female plumage.
Surviving 1-2 decades, these small birds are widespread around North and South America.
They can live outside cities and in urban areas and die before reaching their maximum lifespan due to their erratic flight pattern which may make them collide with various objects.
Distribution – United States, Canada, West Indies, Central America
7. Spotted Towhee
Tricolored black, brown-red, and white plumage is specific to Spotted Towhees (Pipilo maculatus).
Both males and females share similar appearances. A black head is specific to these birds while the central underbelly is white.
Its lateral underbelly is brown to red while its wings and tail are also black.
Found in woodlands across Western North America, The Spotted Towhee may nest in a different location.
Its nest may be established on the ground or up on trees where it houses at least a couple of broods before being abandoned.
Distribution – Western North America, Northern and Western Mexico
8. Vermilion Flycatcher
While a sexually dimorphic species, the Vermilion Flycatcher (Pyrocephalus rubinus) is among the species which show highly contrasting red and black coloring in the case of males.
Males show an orange to red or red color on the head and the underbelly while their wings are brown and black.
Females have a bright appearance dominated by yellow, gray, and brown plumage.
Abundant in The Americas, Vermilion Flycatchers are often seen along roads in areas with plenty of seeds but they prefer the edges of woodlands.
Juveniles of the species show gray-brown and red plumage.
Distribution – United States, Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama, Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, Argentina
9. Scarlet Tanager
A songbird native to North America, Scarlet Tanagers (Piranga olivacea) show vivid red and black plumage on males.
A red head and a red underbelly are specific to this species, together with black wings, a black tail, and black eyes.
Females have a yellow or yellow-green base color with gray wings.
A type of singing bird, Scarlet Tanagers may be beneficial to some trees and shrubs as they eat small insects that infest them.
Plant lice and even termites are eaten by these birds.
These types of birds can also eat bees, which means they aren’t entirely beneficial as they can also impact the ecosystem by diminishing the number of pollinators.
Distribution – Eastern North America, Eastern Central America, Northwestern South America
10. Red-breasted Sapsucker
A type of woodpecker, The Red-breasted Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus ruber) is a species with a red head and black wings. Its belly shows white and black plumage.
A rusty red nuance is specific to its red head.
Both males and females work together to build a nest where one generation per year is cared for, typically for about 1 month.
Trees with falling leaves that aren’t perfectly healthy may be chosen by these woodpeckers over others.
As their name implies, they suck out whatever sap is left in these trees.
These birds are known for their distinct vocalizations that don’t sound like singing but like screaming sounds.
Distribution – Western Canada, Western United States
11. Red-crested Cardinal
Named after its red crest and head, this type of singing bird (Paroaria coronata) shows black wings with additional gray and white plumage.
Its distinct red head has a bright color with additional red plumage continuing down the central part of its white chest.
Their plumage isn’t always black, red, and white.
Juveniles of the species have a yellow-brown head and a yellow-to-white belly.
A common species in Brazil, this bird may also be known as The Brazilian Cardinal.
These types of cardinals are seen in areas with vegetation along streams, rivers, and lakes.
Distribution – Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay
12. Magnificent Frigatebird
The atypical appearance of the Magnificent Frigatebird (Fregata magnificens) inspires its name. This type of seabird can inflate its belly or gular sac considerably, making it similar to a balloon.
Apart from inflating its belly, this seabird also shows a vivid red belly contrasted with a black body and black wings. Its head is also black.
Reaching a size of over 2 feet, the large bird has a distinct appearance as a juvenile.
The young Magnificent Frigatebird resembles females with its white head and dark brown plumage.
Sexually dimorphic females are black and white.
A capable flier, this species can catch fish right out of the ocean.
Distribution – Central America, The Gulf Coast, Eastern South American Coast
13. Painted Redstart
Warblers are small, in general. Painted Redstarts (Myioborus pictus) are among the largest warblers in The Americas as they can reach a size of up to 6 inches.
These warblers further stand out with their black and red plumage.
Their heads are black, as are their wings while the underbelly is red.
A species found along deciduous woodlands, Painted Redstart warblers may also show partially migratory habits.
Some of its populations may migrate to the Southern parts of Central America before returning to its breeding area.
A type of singing warbler, Painted Redstarts are also known as one of the few warblers where both males and females are capable of courtship singing.
Distribution – Mexico, Guatemala, Panama, Honduras
14. White-rumped Shama
A mostly black appearance with orange-red bellies is specific to the plumage of male White-rumped Shamas (Copsychus malabaricus).
This is a species with a long black tail which may be even longer than the bird itself.
Slightly different plumage is characteristic of female White-rumped Shamas. They show a gray head with orange-red bellies.
A common species in Asian woodlands, White-rumped Shamas are a common species in captivity around the world.
An appreciated species for its vocalizations and singing capacity, this is one of the oldest known birds to have an attractive singing pattern in the world.
Distribution – Southeast Asia, Hawaii
15. Yellow-billed Cardinal
A tricolored species, the Yellow-billed Cardinal (Paroaria capitata) has a vivid red head which is only brown in the juvenile days.
Its chest and belly are pure white while its wings and tail are black.
Young Yellow-billed Cardinals also have brown wings which slowly turn black as they mature.
These birds are specific to riparian areas around lakes, ponds, and rivers. South American natives, these birds are often seen in flocks of up to 20-30 individuals.
Distribution – Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay, Argentina
16. Elegant Trogon
Elegant Trogons (Trogon elegans) are a species of the trogon family, a widespread species where the dominant plumage is often reed.
A red belly is also seen on The Elegatn Trogon, a bird with a black head. Its wings show a combination of gray and black.
This species is seen in cavities up on trees. It often repurposes old cavities as it doesn’t build new ones.
A small group of up to 3 eggs is laid in these cavities high above the ground, away from most types of predators.
These types of birds are often found on trees close to urban and suburban areas.
Apart from its Central American presence, Elegant Trogons may sometimes be spotted in Southern New Mexico and Southern Texas.
Distribution – Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras
17. Chestnut Munia
Chestnut Munias (Lonchura atricapilla) are small passerines with a red lower back and a dominant chestnut color on the wings and belly.
The head of the species is black its eyes are also brown.
Native to South and Southeast Asia, Chestnus Munia is one of the most abundant species in inhabited areas.
Most importantly, this species can invade local crops where it can feed on crops causing significant economic losses to the local grains industry.
Distribution – China, India, Bangladesh, Malesia, Indonesia
18. Crimson-collared Grosbeak
A sexually dimorphic species, The Crimson-collared Grosbeak (Rhodothraupis celaeno) is a species with black and red plumage in the case of males.
The head and crest of the male are black, as are its wings.
Red plumage is seen on the chest, belly, and upper back of these birds.
Females have a yellow-green or olive-dominant plumage with a black head.
The young Crimson-collared Grosbeak is mostly yellow, with incipient black head plumage.
Growing to a size of up to 9 inches, these birds live in Mexican woodlands with rare sights in Southern US territories.
Distribution – Eastern Mexico, Southern Texas
19. Northern Red Bishop
Red and black plumage is seen on the breeding male Northern Red Bishop (Euplectes franciscanus).
While its color is orange and black in the non-breeding season, carotenoids in its diet help it turn vivid red and black in the breeding season to attract females.
The bird retains its black head but the orange sections of its body become red including its wings and its upper chest while its underbelly mostly remains black.
Females also show a contrasting appearance with brown and black plumage.
An African native, the male Northern Red Bishop is also larger than females apart from having different plumage.
Distribution – Congo, Cameroon, Kenya, Somalia, Sierra Leone, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Cuba, Texas, California
20. Slate-throated Redstart
Male Slate-throated Redstarts (Myioborus miniatus) have red underbellies and red crests while the rest of their plumage is black.
The red nuance of the species is bright on the belly, with slight orange undertones and dark red on the crest.
Females have yellow and black coloring and are generally smaller.
Sometimes seen in Southern US territories, this is a type of bird that lives in The Americas with other species.
Its flocks are often seen with other birds, often moving South to overwinter.
Distribution – Southern Texas, Southern New Mexico, Mexico, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, Panama, Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia
21. Red Avadavat
Red and black plumage is seen on male Red Avadavat (Amandava amandava), a species mostly dominated by its bright red color.
Birds of the species have black wings, a red head, a red underbelly, and even a red beak.
Small white dots are seen across their bodies, mostly along the black wings. Males are also known for having black tails, one of the only physical traits they share with females.
Females are dimorphic and dominated by yellow and gray nuances.
Red Avadavats and their 3 subspecies can be dominant in many parts of their range but may be absent in some areas and even endangered in some countries.
Distribution – Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bangladesh, China, Cambodia, Vietnam, Bali
22. Eurasian Bullfinch
A pink-red belly is specific to the male Eurasian Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula). Males show contrasting black heads and wings with gray sections across the base of the wings.
Females are dull-colored and dominated by tan, gray, and black plumage. Both male and female Eurasian Bullfinches have blackheads.
There are at least 10 Eurasian Bullfinch subspecies given its widespread European and Asian distribution.
Across these subspecies, those living in cooler Northern climates may be seen migrating in large numbers.
Distribution – Europe, Central Asia, East Asia
23. Orchard Oriole
A red-brown belly is specific to male Orchard Orioles (Icterus spurius). Their bright bellies are contrasted by a black head and mostly black wings.
Females of the species lack black and red color combinations as they’re mostly yellow and gray.
A North American species, The Orchard Oriole is a bird that feeds on seeds, fruits, and other types of food along rivers, lakes, woodlands, and in gardens.
This species is often seen in inhabited areas and it may be seen in almost any habitat during its migration.
Northern Orchard Orioles move South to overwinter.
Distribution – Southern Canada, The United States, Central America, Northwestern South America
24. Wattled Jacana
A species found in America’s wetlands and around rivers, this (Jacana jacana) is a type of bird dominated by black and red colors.
Most of its plumage is black, including its wings and head. There’s a red crest on its head which, together with the yellow bill, contrast the dark appearance of the species.
Birds of this genus also show red plumage across the wings during the breeding season.
A red and black appearance is also specific to the juvenile Wattled Jacana which shows additional white sections on the chest.
Distribution – Panama and South America
25. Scarlet-rumped Tanager
Mostly black plumage with a red scarlet rump is specific to the larger male Scarlet-rumped Tanager (Ramphocelus passerinii).
A dark contrasting appearance is specific to the male as opposed to the brightly colored female. Dominated by yellow-green and gray nuances, the female of the species may also be olive.
Most Scarlet-rumped Tanagers are seen in male-female pairs. They inhabit vast territories at low altitudes and are native to Central America.
These birds grow up to a size of 6 inches.
Distribution – Mexico, Guatemala, Panama
26. Greater Coucal
Chestnut-red and black plumage is seen on male and female Greater Coucal (Centropus sinensis). These are birds with very similar appearances between the sexes.
One way to tell males from females apart is by size as females are considerably larger within the species.
Juveniles of the species are similar to adults but show pink-red plumage on the belly.
Both adults and juveniles eat varying types of insects and caterpillars.
Distribution – Eastern and Southeastern China
27. Crimson-backed Tanager
Various shades of red and black plumage are specific to the male Crimson-backed Tanager (Ramphocelus dimidiatus).
This is a species with a bright red belly and a dark red head and base wings. The dark red plumage is mixed with black sections.
The tips of its wings and its long tail are black.
The lower back marks the section on the male with the brightest red coloring.
Females have an orange-brown belly with chestnut heads and brown-black wings.
Growing up to a size of 7.1 inches, Crimson-backed Tanagers inhabit the Northwestern range of South America and the Southern parts of Central America.
Distribution – Panama, Colombia, Venezuela