National Wildlife Health Center

...advancing wildlife and ecosystem health

Wild Birds That Typically Host the West Nile Virus

Some Species of Wild Birds that host the West Nile virus (Wanted for West Nile Virus Surveillance)
Birds often confused as the Crow family (Please, do not submit or report)

American Crow

American Crow

Corvus brachyrhynchos

Identification Tips:

  • Length: 16-18"
  • Wingspan: 39"
  • Weight: 1 lb
  • Entirely black plumage
  • Squared-off tail
  • Short tail, broad wings
  • Very common in urban and agricultural area
Common Raven

Common Raven

Corvus corax

Identification Tips:

  • Length: 24"
  • Wingspan: 53"
  • Weight: 2.6 lb
  • Entirely black plumage
  • Long narrow wings, wedged shaped tail, heavy bill
  • Larger than crows
Blue Jay

Blue Jay

Cyanocitta cristata

Identification Tips:

  • Length: 11"
  • Wingspan: 16"
  • Weight: 3 oz
  • Black sturdy bill
  • Blue crest and upperparts
  • Black eyeline and breastband
  • Bright blue wings with black bars and white patches
  • Long blue tail with black bars and white corners
  • Migrates during the day in small flocks
Gray Jay

Gray Jay

Perisoreus canadensis

Identification Tips:

  • Length: 11.5"
  • Wingspan: 18"
  • Weight: 2.5 oz
  • Color: Gray with white and black markings
  • Short, sturdy, dark bill
  • Resembles an oversized chickadee
Black-billed Magpie

Black-billed Magpie

Pica pica

Identification Tips:

  • Length: 19"
  • Wingspan: 25"
  • Weight: 6 oz
  • Colour: White and black
  • Long, iridiscent tail
  • Iridiscent wings with white patches in flight
Broad-winged Hawk

Broad-winged hawk

Buteo platypterus

Identification Tips:

  • Length: 13"
  • Wingspan: 33"
  • Sexes similar
  • Short, dark, hooked beak
  • Medium-sized, broad-winged, broad-tailed hawk
  • Short, broad wings somewhat pointed at the tip
Red-tailed hawk

Red-tailed hawk

Buteo jamaicensis

Identification Tips:

  • Length: 18"
  • Wingspan: 48"
  • Short, dark, hooked beak
  • Large, broad-winged, broad-tailed hawk
  • Young birds have notably narrower wings and tail, and appear slimmer
  • Tail appears brick red above and pink below
  • Breast and back pattern vary, some birds being intermediate between light and dark brown
Red-winged Blackbird

Red-winged Blackbird

Agelaius phoeniceus

Identification Tips:

  • Length: 8.75"
  • Wingspan: 13"
  • Weight: 1.8 oz
  • Color: All black except for red and white wing patches
  • Sharply-pointed bill
  • Frequents marshy habitats in summer, open habitats at other times of year
  • Often flocks with other species of blackbirds
Brown-headed Cowbird

Brown headed Cowbird

Molothrus ater

Identification Tips:

  • Length: 7.5"
  • Wingspan: 12"
  • Weight: 1.5 oz
  • Color: Male-black body with brown head Female - all brown
Common Grackle

Common Grackle

Quiscalus quiscula

Identification Tips:

  • Length: 11 - 13.5"
  • Color: All black with bluish sheen to feathers
Europian Starling

European Starling

Sturnus vulgaris

Identification Tips:

  • Length: 8.5"
  • Wingspan: 16"
  • Weight: 2.9 oz
  • Color: Black to brown body with white markings
  • Pointed bill-yellow for most of year, dark in fall
  • Very common-frequently seen in large flocks

Birds often confused as the Crow family


(Please, do not submit or report these birds)

Rusty Blackbird

Rusty Blackbird

Euphagus carolinus

Identification Tips:

  • Length: 9"
  • Wingspan: 14"
  • Weight: 2.1 oz
  • Color: All black
Brewer's Blackbird

Brewer's Blackbird

Euphagus cyanocephalus

Identification Tips:

  • Length: 9"
  • Wingspan: 15.5"
  • Weight: 2.2 oz
  • Color: All black
Yellow-headed Blackbird

Yellow-headed Blackbird

Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus

Identification Tips:

  • Length: 9.5"
  • Wingspan: 15"
  • Weight: 2.3 oz
  • Colour: Black body with yellow head and white markings on wings
relative size of birds: small - large - very large

Relative size of birds


Left to right: Starling (small); Crow (large); Raven (very large).

This picture is to help in identification of bird species by providing a comparison of size.

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Page Last Modified: May 21, 2013