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What kind of bird is GREY with a black head in Oklahoma?

There are a few different bird species that are primarily grey with a black head and can be found in the state of Oklahoma. Based on the description provided, the bird in question is most likely one of the following:

Western Kingbird

The Western Kingbird is a medium-sized songbird that is grey on the back and head with a black head and yellow chest. This bird measures approximately 8.3–9.4 in (21–24 cm) in length with a wingspan of 13.4–14.6 in (34–37 cm).

Some key identifying features of the Western Kingbird include:

  • Grey back and nape
  • Black head and bill
  • White throat
  • Yellow belly
  • White wingbars on dark grey wings
  • Notched grey tail with white outer feathers

The Western Kingbird breeds in open habitats across much of western North America, including Oklahoma. They nest in trees and shrubs and can often be found perching on wires, fence posts, or bare branches scanning for insect prey. These birds feed primarily on flying insects, but will also eat berries and fruits.

Western Kingbirds are migratory, wintering in Central and South America. In Oklahoma, they arrive to breed in late spring and are most common during summer months.

Eastern Kingbird

The Eastern Kingbird is another species that matches the grey and black description. This kingbird is slate-grey on the back with a black head and tail. The throat and chest are white, with a dark grey band across the upper breast.

Identification characteristics of the Eastern Kingbird include:

  • Slate-grey upperparts
  • Black head with concealed orange patch on crown
  • White throat and underparts
  • Black tail with white outer feathers
  • Short black bill
  • Reddish-orange or brown patch on inner wing visible in flight

The Eastern Kingbird is found in open habitats across eastern North America during the breeding season. In Oklahoma, it nests in orchards, along roadsides, forest edges, and open fields. These kingbirds aggressively defend their nesting territory against potential predators.

Like the Western Kingbird, the Eastern Kingbird feeds primarily on insects caught during aerial pursuits. They also eat some fruits and berries. These birds migrate to South America for the winter.

Loggerhead Shrike

The Loggerhead Shrike is a predatory songbird with grey upperparts, black wings and tail, and a black mask across the face. The underparts are pale grey and the hooked bill is black.

Key identification points for Loggerhead Shrikes include:

  • Grey back, wings, and tail
  • Black facial mask
  • Pale grey underparts
  • Black bill with a hook at the tip
  • Black wings with white patches
  • Black tail with white outer feathers

Loggerhead Shrikes perch conspicuously on wires, fence posts, and tree branches watching for prey. Despite their songbird classification, these aggressive predators hunt small birds, mammals, amphibians, reptiles, and large insects. They often impale prey on thorns or barbed wire before eating.

In Oklahoma, Loggerhead Shrikes can be found in open country with short vegetation, pastures, agricultural areas, and grasslands. They nest in thickets and trees in shrubby areas. These birds do not migrate and maintain year-round territories in the southern parts of their range, including Oklahoma.

Identifying the Grey and Black Bird

When trying to identify an unknown grey and black bird in Oklahoma, consider the following distinguishing characteristics of the potential species:

Species Size Beak Belly Tail Behavior
Western Kingbird Medium-sized Black Yellow Notched grey Perches on wires and branches
Eastern Kingbird Medium-sized Black White Black with white edges Aggressively defends territory
Loggerhead Shrike Medium-sized Black with hook Pale grey Black with white edges Impales prey on thorns and barbs

Look at the bird’s overall size and study the details of the beak shape and coloration, belly, tail pattern, and any distinctive behaviors like feeding on the wing or territorial defense. Use a field guide, app, or online bird identification resource if you need help separating similar species. Things like exact shades of grey, presence or absence of wingbars, tail length, and bill size can all help pinpoint the exact species.

Habitats for Grey and Black Birds in Oklahoma

Knowing where to search for grey and black birds in Oklahoma can improve your chances of sighting one. Here are some of the top habitats to look in:

  • Open country – Pastures, meadows, agricultural areas, grasslands, and prairies. Check fence posts and telephone wires.
  • Near water – Rivers, lakes, ponds, and wetlands. Scan exposed perches and the edges of the water.
  • Roadsides – Roadside trees, wires, and fences provide good perching and nesting spots.
  • Orchards and groves – Fruit trees attract insects that songbirds feed on.
  • Scrubby areas – Look for thickets, hedgerows, and shrubby field edges. These provide cover.
  • Forest clearings and edges – Transition zones between forest and open areas are productive bird areas.

In Oklahoma, focus your search efforts west of the eastern forests. The western two-thirds of the state offers the wide open spaces preferred by Western Kingbirds, Eastern Kingbirds, Loggerhead Shrikes, and other prairie-dwelling bird species.

Spotting Grey and Black Birds in Oklahoma

Here are some tips for increasing your chances of observing grey and black birds in Oklahoma:

  • Use bird calls and songs to attract species like kingbirds and shrikes into view.
  • Scan treetops, fence posts, utility lines, and other elevated perches.
  • Look for swooping aerial maneuvers to spot flycatching kingbirds.
  • Listen for the unmusical, trilling calls of Loggerhead Shrikes.
  • Try pishing sounds and squeaking noises to rouse curious birds.
  • A squeaking mouse mimic can attract predatory Loggerhead Shrikes.
  • Exercise patience and watch one area for an extended period of time.
  • Use binoculars to spot and identify distant, perched birds.
  • Photograph unknown birds and compare to guide photos for identification.

Early mornings and evenings tend to be the most active and productive times for spotting birds. Position yourself so the sun is at your back to get the best light on potential bird sightings.


Grey birds with black heads found in Oklahoma are most likely to be one of three similar-looking species – the Western Kingbird, Eastern Kingbird, or Loggerhead Shrike. Carefully studying the bird’s size, markings, behavior, preferred habitat, and other characteristics will help determine the exact species. Use field guides, bird song recognition, and an understanding of where to search to improve your chances of observing these distinctly-colored prairie birds in their Oklahoma breeding grounds.