Birds are a well-studied group of animals. More than 95% of their global species diversity has been described. But there are still thousands of them.
Conservative estimates place the number of bird species at about 9,000. But research led by the American Museum of Natural History suggests that there may be about 18,000 bird species in the world.
No matter how you count them, it’s still a huge number. Unless you’re an ornithologist, you probably have no idea about the existence of some bizarre and exotic species.
Let’s help you a little:
1. Andean cock-of-the-rock
The Andean cock-of-the-rock is a large passerine bird native to Andean cloud forests in South America. It is widely regarded as the national bird of Peru. Juveniles and occasionally adults are kept as pets.
2. Bearded reedling
The bearded reedling is a wetland specialist, breeding colonially in large reedbeds by lakes or swamps. It eats reed aphids in summer and reed seeds in winter, its digestive system changing to cope with the very different seasonal diets. The bearded reedling is a species of temperate Europe and across the Palearctic.
3. Black-throated bushtit
The black-throated bushtit is only about 10.5 cm (4.1 in.) long. It ranges from the foothills of the Himalayas, stretching across northern India through northeastern Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, northern Myanmar, Vietnam, and Taiwan. These birds travel in large flocks of up to 40.
4. Bohemian waxwing
The Bohemian waxwing is a passerine bird that breeds in the northern forests of the Palearctic and North America. Some of its feather tips have the red waxy appearance that give this species its English name. Waxwings can be very tame in winter, entering towns and gardens in search of food, rowanberries being a particular favorite.
5. Crested guineafowl
The crested guineafowl is found in open forest, woodland and forest-savanna mosaics in Sub-Saharan Africa. It has a distinctive black crest on the top of its head, the form of which varies from small curly feathers to down depending upon subspecies. The species is monogamous, forming strong and long-lasting pair bonds.
6. Harpy eagle
The harpy eagle is the largest and most powerful raptor found in the rainforest, and among the largest extant species of eagles in the world. Females are larger than males and can weigh up to 10 kg (22 lb.). The harpy eagle is found from Mexico (where it is almost extinct) to as far south as Argentina. It is the national bird of Panama and is depicted on the Panamanian coat of arms.
7. Inca tern
This uniquely plumaged bird breeds on the coasts of Peru and Chile, and is restricted to the Humboldt Current. The Inca tern feeds primarily on small fish, such as anchovies, spotting its prey from the air and diving into the water to grab it with its pointed beak. Its call is a catlike mew.
8. Golden pheasant
This gamebird is native to forests in mountainous areas of western China, but feral populations have been established all around the world, from England to Mexico, New Zealand, and even Canada. The male’s deep-orange “cape” can be spread in display, appearing as an alternating black and orange fan that covers all of the face except its bright yellow eye with a pinpoint black pupil.
The grandala primarily inhabits low-to-mid altitudes of the Himalayas. It is found in Bhutan, India, Myanmar, and Nepal, as well as Tibet and other areas of China. The distinctively-colored bird is very common.
10. Lady Amherst’s pheasant
This bird’s name commemorates British naturalist Sarah Amherst, who was responsible for sending the first specimen of the bird to London in 1828. The species is native to southwestern China and far northern Myanmar, but has been introduced elsewhere. Lady Amherst first introduced the ornamental pheasant on her estates, where the birds were also shot for game and interbred.
11. Large frogmouth
The large frogmouth is found in Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand, in subtropical or tropical moist lowland forest. It grows to a length of about 42 cm (17 in.).
12. Long-tailed tit
The long-tailed tit is a common bird found throughout Europe and the Palearctic. Its nest is a globular masterpiece of careful construction, built from moss and lichen, animal wool, hair and fur, and silk from spiders’ webs.
13. Mandarin duck
The mandarin duck is a perching duck species native to the East Palearctic. Various mutations of the mandarin duck are found in captivity, the most common being the white mandarin duck. Specimens frequently escape from collections, and in the 20th century, a large feral population was established in Great Britain.
14. Mountain bluebird
Mountain bluebirds are common in North America. The mountain bluebird is the state bird of Idaho and Nevada. These birds hover over the ground and fly down to catch insects, also flying from a perch to catch them.
15. Nicobar pigeon
The Nicobar pigeon is considered the closest living relative of the extinct dodo. It is mostly found on small islands and in coastal regions from the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, India, east through the Malay Archipelago, to the Solomon Islands and Palau. Nicobar pigeons are hunted in considerable numbers for food, and also for their gizzard stone which is used in jewelry.
16. Pesquet’s parrot
Also known as the Dracula parrot, this spectacular bird is endemic to hill and montane rainforest in New Guinea. The parrot is a highly specialized frugivore, feeding almost exclusively on a few species of figs. The feathers of the Pesquet’s parrot are highly prized, which is why its populations are dwindling.
17. Plate-billed mountain toucan
The plate-billed mountain toucan is native to the west slope of Ecuador and extreme southern Colombia, where it lives in the high-altitude humid montane forests of the Andes. This is the most vocal of the mountain toucans, and the sexes often duet. The bird utters rattles and clicks loud enough to be heard from over a kilometer away.
18. Plumbeous water redstart
The plumbeous water redstart is a passerine bird found in South Asia, Southeast Asia, and China. To catch flies in rivers, it flies vertically until it is at least 6.1 m (20 ft.) above the water, before gliding down in a spiral back to the same place. The plumbeous water redstart is very protective of its habitat and will be extremely confrontational to any trespasser on its territory.
19. Pygmy cupwing
The pygmy cupwing found in southern and eastern Asia. It’s been likened to “a tiny brown tennis ball supported by flesh-colored chopsticks.”
20. Rainbow-bearded thornbill
Another species of hummingbird from Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. Males have a narrow, multicolored throat patch that can appear dark until it catches the light just right.
21. Red avadavat
Also known as the strawberry finch, the red avadavat is found in the open fields and grasslands of tropical Asia. It’s popular as a cage bird due to the colorful plumage of the males in their breeding season. It breeds in the Indian Subcontinent in the monsoon season.
22. Resplendent quetzal
The resplendent quetzal is found from Chiapas, Mexico, to western Panama. The bird plays an important role in various types of Mesoamerican mythology. It is the national bird of Guatemala, and its image is found on the country’s flag and coat of arms. It also lends its name to the country’s currency, the Guatemalan quetzal.
23. Rufous-crested coquette
The rufous-crested coquette is a species of hummingbird found in Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, and Peru. The males are striking with fabulous spiky orange crest, each feather tipped in black.
The secretarybird is a large bird of prey. Endemic to Africa, it’s usually found in the open grasslands and savanna of the sub-Saharan region. The secretarybird appears on the coats of arms of Sudan and South Africa.
25. South Philippine dwarf kingfisher
In March of 2020 a fledgling of the South Philippine dwarf-kingfisher was photographed for the first time. After 10 years of searching in the field, Filipino biologist Miguel David De Leon photographed the bird. It is sometimes considered a subspecies of the Philippine dwarf kingfisher (Ceyx melanurus).
26. Sword-billed hummingbird
This species of hummingbird comes from the Andean regions of South America. Characterized by its unusually long bill, it is the only bird to have a beak longer than the rest of its body. The sword-billed hummingbird uses its bill to drink nectar from flowers with long corollas.
27. Taiwan blue magpie
This incredible bird, endemic to Taiwan, is known locally as the the long-tailed mountain lady. Taiwan blue magpies are not afraid of people and can be found near human residences in the mountains or newly cultivated lands. Sometimes they attack humans to protect their nests.
28. Victoria crowned pigeon
The Victoria crowned pigeon is a large, bluish-gray pigeon with elegant blue lacelike crests, maroon breast and red irises. Its name commemorates the British monarch Queen Victoria. It’s endemic to New Guinea.
29. Violet-tailed sylph
This species of hummingbird is found in Colombia and Ecuador. It’s named after sylphs, mythological air spirits. Violet-tailed sylphs are solitary and usually found among clumps of low flowers.
30. Western crowned pigeon
The western crowned pigeon is a large, blue-gray pigeon with blue lacy crests over the head and dark blue mask feathers around its eyes. It’s one of the largest and one of the most beautiful members of the pigeon family. Endemic to New Guinea, it’s the official provincial bird of West Papua and appears on its coat of arms.