While all birds are fun to see, there’s something special about seeing a colorful bird outside of the norm, especially those that are red, blue, green, and purple.
Purple birds aren’t the most common in the avian world, but there are still plenty of birds with heads that feature shades of purple, with habitats ranging from North America to Australia.
Let’s take a look at some birds with purple heads, starting with a couple of hummingbirds.
Costa’s hummingbird males have a purple head and gorget. They’re tiny desert hummingbirds of southern California, Nevada, Arizona, and southwestern Mexico.
Many hummingbirds have interesting mating displays, but Costa’s hummingbird males put on a truly dazzling display in pursuit of mates.
Other North American hummingbirds like the black-chinned hummingbird feature purple gorgets, but not purple heads. There are, however, some truly purple-headed hummers south of the United States.
Costa’s hummingbirds are not the only hummers with purple-hued heads. The violet sabrewing features brilliant colors including blues, greens, and magnificent purples on their chests, backs, and heads.
To see violet sabrewings, you’ll have to travel to Central America.
Male velvet-purple coronets have dark heads that may look an iridescent purple in certain lighting.
These hummingbirds have a small range across the Pacific side of the Andes Mountains in Colombia and Ecuador.
These three hummingbirds are certainly not the only ones with some purple color on their heads or gorgets.
But wait, aren’t mallard’s heads famously green? In certain lighting, male mallards’ heads may look purple due to their iridescent plumage.
Mallards are one of the most common species of ducks across the globe and in many cases may be very comfortable around humans, so the next few times you see an adult male, look at their head from a different angle and you might see purple.
Common Grackle and Other Blackbirds
Grackles are another bird with iridescent feathers that can make their bodies shiny bronze or dark black and their head look purple or blue.
Other North American grackles like the boat-tailed grackle and blackbirds like the shiny cowbird or Brewer’s blackbird may also appear to display a purple-ish sheen depending on lighting conditions.
Have you ever looked closely at a pigeon on a busy city sidewalk and thought, ‘You know, that bird is kind of cool looking?’ It’s really easy to overlook pigeons, often thought of as dirty city birds, but some of them do have interesting green and purple iridescent feathers near the neck and head.
Their actual heads are mostly gray, but you can often see some shiny color starting to reveal itself.
European starlings were introduced to North America in the 1800s. Since then, they’ve become unpopular residents from Alaska down to Florida, known as aggressive birds that directly compete with native cavity nesters.
While they’re unpopular, it’s hard to deny that they’re striking birds with their white speckling, yellow bills, and shiny heads that may look purple, black, or navy blue.
For a look at a truly purple starling, we turn to the male violet-backed starling. The male sports bright purple plumage on much of its body, including its head.
The only member of the Cinnyricinclus genus, violet-backed starlings reside in sub-Saharan Africa.
This resident North American swallow has the word purple in its name, but the males’ shade of purple is more of a violet blue against the rest of their black plumage than anything.
Females have some blueish-purple color on their heads and wings but are mostly brown and white.
Purple gallinules live mostly in the wetlands of South America, the Caribbean, and Central America, though their range includes parts of the southeastern United States as well.
The purple feathers of these birds stretch from their bellies up through their necks and heads, where they have bright yellow and red bills and a light blue forehead.
Little Blue Heron
Little blue herons have heads that are often a dull, purple-ish hue that doesn’t stand out much against their slate blue/gray bodies.
Little blue herons are spread across the southeastern United States, Mexico, the Caribbean, and parts of South America.
Purple honeycreeper females aren’t purple, but the males have purple bodies and heads with black masks and wings.
These tanagers have a wide range across the forests of South America. In addition to their striking colors, their long bills are also notable.
Sunbirds are brightly colored birds of the Old World. While they’re not closely related to hummingbirds, they feed on nectar and have color patterns that may remind some people of hummingbirds.
A resident of Asia, the black-throated sunbird has a purple head connected to a red neckline. They have long bills that curve downward, like most sunbirds.
Other sunbirds that feature purple somewhere on their bodies include the western violet-backed sunbird, the purple sunbird, the shining sunbird, the purple-rumped sunbird, and the Cameroon sunbird.
Unlike the bright, shiny purple of some other birds, the male varied bunting’s purple might appear in a more muted shade, flanked by red patches on their heads and throats.
Most of the varied bunting’s range is in Mexico, extending slightly into the Southwestern United States.
There are four subspecies that vary slightly in plumage and bill color, according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s All About Birds.
The purple finch’s head is probably considered more pink than purple, but it’s close enough to be included on this list.
Purple finches and house finches are often confused with one another in North America, but purple finches have more color, described by Roger Tory Peterson as a “sparrow dipped in raspberry juice,” via All About Birds.
Endemic to Australia, the purple-crowned fairywren has a bold purple cap and aquamarine tail.
It is one of 11 fairywren species, but it’s bounced around a few classifications over time, having previously been listed in flycatcher and warbler families. It’s also not to be confused with the purple-crowned fairy…
Purple-crowned fairies are hummingbirds native to southern Central America and parts of Colombia and Ecuador in northern South America.
Females lack the males’ purple crown, which isn’t actually the flashiest coloring on the males since they have snow-white undersides and mostly teal backs.
Found in Africa, the purple-crested turaco is a brilliant, colorful bird. As its name suggests, it has a bright purple crest, but it also has a green stripe along the face, a red eye ring, and a yellow throat.
The purple-crested turaco is found in South Africa and neighboring countries in southern Africa. It’s the national bird of the southeastern African Kingdom of Eswatini, formerly known as Swaziland.
The purple grenadier is not so much “purple-headed” as it is purple-faced. Both males and females of this African bird feature eye masks, but females’ are more blue, and males’ are more purpleish-blue.
Head to the tropical forests of northeastern South America for any hope of a glimpse of a purple-breasted cotinga.
Cotingas are a family of beautiful birds native to Central and South America that vary considerably, from small birds like fruiteaters up to larger umbrellabirds.