The avian world is teeming with diversity, from the regal and elegant to the flamboyantly colorful and the intriguingly peculiar.
Among the many gorgeous bird species that live on our planet, some stand out for their flashy heads! Let’s take a closer look at a selection of these fascinating feathered creatures, exploring their characteristics, habitats, and the remarkable facts that make them special.
From the majestic Victoria Crowned Pigeon, with its striking steely-blue plumage and elaborate crests, to the elegant Great Crested Grebe, known for its intricate mating displays, and the enigmatic Philippine Eagle, a powerful apex predator, each bird on this list has its own captivating story to tell.
There is no end to the list of fascinating birds in the world, so let’s learn about 18 of them now.
Victoria Crowned Pigeon
- Scientific Name: Goura victoria
- Length: 73-75 in (185-190 cm)
- Weight: 56-77 oz (1,600-2,200 g)
- Wingspan: 29-31 in (74-79 cm)
What they look like: The Victoria Crowned Pigeon is a flashy and attention-grabbing bird with steely blue-gray plumage and a maroon chest. Both sexes have elaborate crests on top of their heads made of slender, blue-gray feathers tipped with white. These unique crests can be raised into fanlike displays. The eyes are bright red.
Where they live: Victoria Crowned Pigeons are found in the lowland rainforests of northern New Guinea and nearby islands like Yapen, Biak, and Supiori. They prefer swampy areas and sago palm forests at elevations up to 3,000 ft.
Interesting facts: The Victoria crowned pigeon is the largest surviving species of pigeon, though it is closely related to the extinct dodo. They are highly social birds who travel in small flocks, foraging on the forest floor for fallen fruit and seeds. They communicate with a variety of deep, resonant calls described as “whooping” or “hooting.”
- Scientific Name: Rollulus rouloul
- Length: 9.5-10 in (24-25 cm)
- Weight: 4.5-7.5 oz (130-215 g)
- Wingspan: approx 13 in (33 cm)
What they look like: These small, rotund birds have gray bodies with red and black heads. Males have a bright red Mohawk-like crest, while females have a jade-green crest. Females also have brown wings with white spots. Both sexes have a black band behind the crest and red legs.
Where they live: You will find the Crested Partridge in tropical forests and swamps of southeast Asia, including Malaysia, Indonesia, and parts of southern Thailand and Myanmar.
Interesting facts: Crested partridges travel in large groups of 12 or more birds while foraging on the forest floor. Additionally, they have a unique method of feeding their chicks. Parents pass food to chicks mouth-to-mouth rather than letting them pick food from the ground.
Western Crowned Pigeon
- Scientific Name: Goura cristata
- Length: 28-31 in (70-79 cm)
- Weight: 4.5-7.7 lb (2-3.5 kg)
- Wingspan: approx 55 in (140 cm)
What they look like: The Western Crowned Pigeon is a large, blue-gray pigeon with elaborate blue lace-like crests on the top of the head. Dark blue mask feathers around the eyes. They have iridescent purple and green scaling on their breast.
Where they live: These cool-looking birds are only found in the lowland rainforests of northwest New Guinea.
Interesting facts: Undoubtedly, this is one of the largest and most spectacular pigeons in the world. They are closely related to the extinct dodo bird! Both parents produce “crop milk” to feed newly hatched chicks. This is a secretion from the bird’s crop.
- Scientific Name: Upupa epops
- Length: 9.8-12.6 in (25-32 cm)
- Weight: 1.6-3.1 oz (46-89 g)
- Wingspan: 17-19 in (44-48 cm)
What they look like: The Eurasian Hoopoe is an unmistakable cinnamon-colored bird with a long downcurved bill. It has bold black-and-white striped wings. The fanned crest on its head has black tips.
Where they live: Widely distributed across Europe, Asia, and Africa, they are found in diverse habitats ranging from dense forests to open grasslands.
Interesting facts: The Hoopoe forages by probing soil for insects with its specialized bill. Sometimes catches insects in flight. They are known for many things including their fluttering display flight, their resonant “oop-oop-oop” call, and the way that they use foul-smelling secretions and directional feces ejection to deter predators from their nests!
- Scientific Name: Leptoptilos crumeniferus
- Length: 60-65 in (152-165 cm)
- Weight: 81-132 oz (2,300-3,750 g)
- Wingspan: 118-144 in (3-3.7 m)
What they look like: Wow. This is a massive stork with a featherless black head and neck and a large inflatable throat pouch. They are mostly dark grey with a white belly and a huge curved bill. They also have long pink legs.
Where they live: They are found in Africa, but only south of the Sahara desert. You will find them in wetlands, grasslands, and human settlements.
Interesting facts: Marabou storks are scavengers that feed mainly on carrion. They follow vultures to scavenge leftovers. They are known as the “undertaker bird” due to their somber appearance from behind.
- Scientific Name: Balearica regulorum
- Length: 33-41 in (85-105 cm)
- Weight: 56-128 oz (1,600-3,600 g)
- Wingspan: 78-86 in (200-220 cm)
What they look like: The Grey-Crowned Crane is an elegant grey bird with a golden head crest and white cheeks. Its wings are predominantly white with ornamental black-tipped feathers. It also has a red inflatable throat pouch.
Where they live: They are found in wetlands across sub-Saharan Africa, with their largest populations in East African countries.
Interesting facts: These cranes perform spectacular mating dances. They are known for their graceful appearance and are the national bird of Uganda.
- Scientific Name: Anas platyrhynchos f. domestica
- Length: 17-20 in (43-51 cm)
- Weight: 35-60 oz (1,000-1,700 g)
- Wingspan: 26-30 in (65-75 cm)
What they look like: Also called “Cresteds,” Crested Ducks are stocky waterfowl with a pronounced puffy head crest. They can be various colors but black and white are most common. Both sexes have a crest.
Where they live: They originated in Asia but are now found worldwide as a domesticated duck breed. They need access to water.
Interesting facts: This duck breed has a genetic mutation that causes a fatty bulge on the skull, creating the head crest. The crest can negatively impact both the health and movement of the duck.
- Scientific Name: Grus virgo
- Length: 33.5-39.5 in (85-100 cm)
- Weight: 4.4-6.6 lb (2-3 kg)
- Wingspan: 61-71 in (155-180 cm)
What they look like: This is a small grey crane with black wings decorated by trailing plumes. It has a long white neck stripe and black breast plume.
Where they live: The Demoiselle Crane breeds in central Eurasia and then winters in Africa and the Indian subcontinent. Their habitat includes various grasslands and wetlands alike.
Interesting facts: They are known for their elaborate dancing displays. They also make one of the toughest migrations of any bird, flying over the Himalayas.
- Scientific Name: Tauraco erythrolophus
- Length: 18-20 in (45-50 cm)
- Weight: 7-11 oz (210-325 g)
- Wingspan: approx 20 in (50 cm)
What they look like: The Red-crested Turaco is a medium-sized green bird with a shaggy crest and red cap on its head. Its long tail feathers and yellow-green beak. It’s a really cute, colorful bird.
Where they live: You will only find wild Red-crested Turacos in the lowland tropical forests of western Angola. You can find some Red-crested Turacos in captivity, including at zoos in the US.
Interesting facts: This colorful fruit-eating bird is endemic to Angola and is the national bird. It has a loud jungle-like call that sounds like a monkey.
- Scientific Name: Dromaius novaehollandiae
- Length: 55-75 in (140-190 cm)
- Weight: 40-97 lb (18-44 kg)
- Wingspan: 63-79 in (160-200 cm)
What they look like: Emus are large, flightless birds with shaggy grey-brown plumage and small wings. Males and females look similar but males are slightly larger. They have a long neck with sparse bluish feathers and mostly bald head. They have some wispy feathers atop their head that give them a fuzzy look.
Where they live: In the wild, they are found across Australia in various habitats including woodlands, grasslands, and deserts. They are mostly absent from densely populated areas. You will also see Emus at farms around the world, kept either as pets or as a food source.
Interesting facts: Emus are the second largest living birds after ostriches. They can run up to 30 mph using their powerful legs! The male incubates and raises the young. He barely eats or drinks while brooding eggs and loses a third of his weight.
- Scientific Name: Aix sponsa
- Length: 17-20 in (43-51 cm)
- Weight: 16-30 oz (450-850 g)
- Wingspan: 26-30 in (66-76 cm)
What they look like: These small ducks have very colorful plumage. Males have iridescent greens, purples, and reds on their heads and wings. Females are more subdued brown, grey, and white. Both have crested heads, giving a fluffy appearance.
Where they live: Their wetland habitats are spread across North America as far south as Mexico. They are migratory in the northern parts of their range.
Interesting facts: They are uniquely adapted among ducks to nest in tree cavities. Ducklings can jump from nests up to 50 ft high shortly after hatching! They were nearly hunted to extinction in the 19th century before conservation efforts helped populations rebound.
- Scientific Name: Anas platyrhynchos f. domestica
- Length: approx 18 in (45 cm)
- Weight: 2-4 lb (1-1.8 kg)
- Wingspan: approx 26 in (65 cm)
What they look like: A crested breed of domestic chicken, Polish Chickens have a large puffy crest of feathers on their head which can cover their eyes. They come in several color varieties.
Where they live: They are a chicken breed that originated in Europe but is now kept worldwide. They need adequate space when raised in captivity.
Interesting facts: Their big head crest limits their vision and can impact temperament. They are considered an ornamental breed. Their label of “Polish” is probably because crested chickens appeared in 17th-century paintings from Poland.
- Scientific Name: Crax rubra
- Length: 31-39 in (78-100 cm)
- Weight: 6.8-10.6 lb (3.1-4.8 kg)
- Wingspan: approx 47 in (120 cm)
What they look like: The Great Curassow is a large, pheasant-like bird with black plumage and curly head crest. What a fun-looking bird! The male has a yellow knob atop his bill. Females have 3 color morphs: barred, rufous, and black.
Where they live: Great Curassows are found in lowland rainforests from Mexico to Colombia and Ecuador.
Interesting facts: They forage on the ground in small groups but nest and roost in trees. Their diet includes fruits, seeds, and arthropods. The male builds the nest and raises the chicks.
Great Crested Grebe
- Scientific Name: Podiceps cristatus
- Length: 18-20 in (46–51 cm)
- Weight: 32-53 oz (900–1500 g)
- Wingspan: 23–29 in (59–73 cm)
What they look like: This is a large grebe with ornate head plumes. In its breeding plumage, it has a black crest, white cheeks, and a striped neck. Its nonbreeding plumage is duller gray and white.
Where they live: Like other grebes, they are found in lakes and rivers across Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia. Northern populations migrate south for winter.
Interesting facts: The Great Crested Grebe is known for its elaborate mating display involving head-shaking, preening, and offering the mate weed or debris. They nearly went extinct in the 19th century due to the high demand for their head feathers as decorations.
- Scientific Name: Cacatua galerita
- Length: 17.5-21.5 in (44-55 cm)
- Weight: 15-24 oz (430-680 g)
- Wingspan: 26-29 in (66-73 cm)
What they look like: The Sulpher-crested Cockatoo is a large white cockatoo with an elegant backward curving yellow crest. It has distinctive yellow face patches, gray wings and a tail. Males are larger than females.
Where they live: They live in the forested areas of Australia and some islands of Indonesia. They have also been introduced to Singapore and parts of New Zealand. Sulpher-crested Cockatoos are popular pets for experienced bird owners.
Interesting facts: This is a highly intelligent and long-lived parrot. They can live for 60-70 years! They are known for their loud, raucous calls.
- Scientific Name: Pithecophaga jefferyi
- Length: 32-39 in (82-100 cm)
- Weight: 8.8-17.6 lb (4-8 kg)
- Wingspan: 72-84 in (184-220 cm)
What they look like: The Philippine Eagle is a huge, dark hawk-eagle with brown and white plumage. They are quite intimidating in their appearance! They have a shaggy mane-like crest on the nape and a large yellow bill. Females are slightly larger than males.
Where they live: They are found in the tropical rainforests of the Philippines.
Interesting facts: The Philippine Eagle is likely the world’s most powerful bird of prey, earning it the distinction of being the national bird of the Philippines. It hunts mammals, birds, reptiles, and monkeys. Pairs may cooperate to catch monkey prey. Nests in large trees.
- Scientific Name: Pelecanus crispus
- Length: 63-70 in (160-180 cm)
- Weight: 16-33 lb (7.3-15 kg)
- Wingspan: 96-118 in (245-300 cm)
What they look like: This huge pelican has curly nape feathers forming a mane. It has silvery-gray plumage with white underparts. Its visible facial skin is pinkish in color.
Where they live: Dalmatian Pelicans live in lakes and rivers from southeastern Europe to central Asia. They spend the winter in the Mediterranean region.
Interesting facts: The Dalmatian pelican is the largest of the pelican species. It soars gracefully on broad wings. Feeds on fish by plunging its huge bill into the water. Nests colonially on islands or in marsh vegetation.
- Scientific Name: Aix galericulata
- Length: 16-19 in (41-49 cm)
- Weight: 1.1-1.5 lb (490-680 g)
- Wingspan: 26-30 in (65-75 cm)
What they look like: These are small, brightly colored ducks. Males have ornate plumage with purple, orange, green, and white, whereas females are grey-brown with white eye rings.
Where they live: Mandarin Ducks are found in East Asia. They winter in lowland eastern China and Japan. There are also non-native populations in Europe and North America.
Interesting facts: Mandarin ducks nest in tree cavities. The female incubates eggs and cares for ducklings. Males go through eclipse plumage after mating season in which their color fades to less vibrant colors. They are a symbol of wedding bliss in Chinese culture, with pairs believed to mate for life.
Enjoy These Gorgeous, Attention-Grabbing Birds!
These remarkable birds serve as both a testament to the boundless creativity of evolution and a reminder of the delicate balance we must maintain to preserve their existence. Their unique features, behaviors, and adaptations are a source of inspiration and wonder!
Each of these extraordinary birds, with its unique appearance, habits, and survival needs, highlights the fragility of the ecosystems they inhabit. Their stories remind us of the need to protect these environments and the countless other species that rely on them.
In celebrating the beauty and diversity of the world’s most fascinating birds, let’s remember that the preservation of these remarkable creatures is not merely a matter of making bird lovers happy; it is a call to safeguard their natural environments and make the world a safe place for all birdlife.