Male is glossy black, with a chocolate-brown head and dark eye. Female is gray brown with few distinguishing marks. To identify the female, note the size, bill, and body shape, but the biggest clue is the association with the more easily identified males. The song is a gurgled series of notes. The call is a high-pitched, two-note whistle and a harsh, stuttering rattle.
Similar species: The bronzed cowbird has been an accidental winter visitor in the northwest part of the state. Primarily a southwestern species, it has red eyes and a larger bill, and the brown hood of the male extends farther onto the back. None of Missouri’s other blackbirds and grackles have males with black bodies and chocolate-brown heads.