Sure, everyone loves to admire beautiful birds, but it’s the strange ones that stop you in your tracks and make you wonder, “What kind of bird is that?!“
17 of the Weirdest Birds in the World
Among the world’s ten thousand bird species, there are some with bizarre habits, odd diets, and downright scary features. Here are 17 of the planet’s weirdest birds.
1. Philippine Eagle a.k.a Haring Ibon
- Latin name: Pithecophaga jefferyi
- Unique weird feature: Spikey hair-do and eats monkeys
- Where they are found: Philippines
- Size: Length: 2.82 to 3.35 feet (86 to 102 cm); Weight: 10.4 to 17.6 pounds (4.7 to 8.0 kg); Wingspan: 6 to 7 feet (184 to 220 cm)
When it comes to the Philippine eagle, it’s a toss-up about what makes it one of the weirdest birds.
Is it the fact that this bird enjoys eating monkeys for dinner, or is it his shaggy brown hairdo that makes him look like he's been out partying way too much?
There’s one thing you need to know for sure about this national bird of the Philippines, and that is you can spend up to 12 years in a jail cell if you kill one of these endangered species.
You shouldn’t have any trouble spotting one because it’s one of the largest eagles in the world and features brown plumage and a cream-colored underbelly.
In addition to monkeys, this eagle dines on squirrels, reptiles, young pigs, and even small dogs.
Like most other eagles, this raptor mates for life and lays a single egg during breeding season but will produce another if something bad happens to the first.
- Latin name: Opisthocomus hoazin
- Unique weird feature: Mohawk crest, blue face, and foul odor
- Where they are found: Northern and Central South America
- Size: Length: 26 inches (65 cm); Weight: 2.2 pounds (0.99 kg)
Resembling a creature from the prehistoric era and tagged with unpleasant nicknames like reptile-bird, stinkbird, and skunk bird, the hoatzin may just be the weirdest bird of all because everything about it is bizarre.
Often found in groups in the swamps and mangroves of the Amazon basin, this strange pheasant-like bird is recognized not only by his brown mohawk crest feathers, blue face, and red eyes but his unpleasant odor as well.
The hoatzin feeds only on plant vegetation that ferments in its foregut which is what creates the bird’s stinky smell.
While hoatzins form monogamous pairs, several other individuals will chip in to help incubate and raise the chicks.
One more weird fact: hoatzin chicks feature creepy claws on their wings that enable them to climb trees for safety.
3. Greater Sage-Grouse
- Latin name: Centrocercus urophasianus
- Unique weird feature: Large, inflatable breast sacs
- Where they are found: North America
- Size: Length: 26 to 30 inches (66 to 76 cm ); Weight: 4 to 7 pounds (1.81 to 3.17 kg)
Be thankful you were not born a female greater sage-grouse.
Can you imagine gathering every spring at a lek to pick your mate from among dozens of males who spend hours showing off by thrusting their bulging, yellow air sacs in and out while making gurgling, popping sounds?
This strange mating feature is what puts this fellow on the weirdest bird list.
After watching the below video, you may feel like you've seen something you shouldn't have.
A lot of animals have some pretty strange techniques for attracting a mate but the greater sage-grouse definitely stands out.
Known for its round, chubby body, long tail and small head, the greater sage-grouse makes its home in the sage grass areas of the western United States and southwestern Canada.
Greater sage-grouses feed on grass, plant leaves, and succulents. After mating, the female goes on her merry way to raise her six to eight chicks by herself.
- Latin name: Strigops habroptilus
- Unique weird feature: Fat, flightless and nocturnal parrot
- Where they are found: New Zealand
- Size: Length: 23 to 25 inches (58 to 64 cm); Weight: 2 to 9 pounds (0.95 to 4 kg)
What’s not weird about the kakapo? From its appearance to its behavior and mating habits, the kakapo is one of the weirdest birds in the world.
It may be classified as a parrot, but it is a very unusual one. For one thing, it is fatter than most parrots and is considered one of the world’s heaviest birds. Also unlike other parrots, this New Zealand bird is flightless and nocturnal.
Featuring a yellowish, mossy-green plumage speckled with brown and gray, the kakapo is sometimes called the “owl parrot” due to its feathery facial disc that resembles an owl.
Topping all these odd traits is the fact that the kakapo only mates approximately three times per decade because its mating habits are linked to the cone cycle of the rimu tree.
5. Magnificent Frigatebird
- Latin name: Fregata magnificens
- Unique weird feature: Inflatable red throat pouch
- Where they are found: The Caribbean, Pacific and Atlantic Coasts of Americas
- Size: Length: 35 to 45 inches (89–114 cm); Weight: 2.4 to 3.5 pounds (1.1–1.59 kg); Wingspan: 7.5 feet (2.3 m)
One look at the magnificent frigatebird, and you probably won’t ever forget it.
This black seabird that lives along the coastlines of the Americas and the Caribbean is noted for its striking red throat pouch that inflates like a large red balloon during mating season.
However, the gular pouch is not the bird’s only odd feature. This seabird also boasts the largest ratio of wing area-to-body-weight of other bird species, allowing it to soar continuously for long periods.
Coincidentally, magnificent frigatebirds cannot swim or take off easily, so they fly over the ocean waters and swoop down to snatch fish and squid that swim near the surface with their long, hooked bill.
Otherwise, this odd bird obtains its food by stealing eggs from other birds or robbing regurgitated food from other birds by latching onto their tails and shaking them until their supper comes up.
Yet another peculiar trait about this bird is that it only mates every other year because this monogamous species prefer to spoil their youngsters, taking the longest time to care of their young than any other bird species.
6. Long-Wattled Umbrellabird
- Latin name: Cephalopterus penduliger
- Unique weird feature: Long, feathered wattle
- Where they are found: Columbia and Ecuador
- Size: Length: 20 inches (51 cm); Weight: 11 to 20 ounces (320 to 570 g); Wingspan: 26 to 28 inches ( 66 to 71 cm)
It’s called an umbrellabird due to the large crest that hangs down over its beak. But what really makes this strange black bird stand out is the long feathered wattle that hangs down from its chest. The wattle can extend up to 17 inches (45 cm) in length but is retracted during flight.
Feeding on nuts, insects, and lizards in the wet lowland forests of Columbia and Ecuador, this unique bird species attracts a mate by putting on a male dance show in a lek where females visit to watch the show and pick which one they like the best.
After mating, each female goes to her nest and raises one chick as a single mom.
7. Marabou Stork
- Latin name: Leptoptilos crumenifer
- Unique weird feature: Grim Reaper appearance
- Where they are found: Sub-Saharan Africa
- Size: Height: 5 feet (1.52 m); Weight: 20 pounds (9 kg); Wingspan: 11 feet (3.35 m)
The marabou stork doesn’t just look weird. It looks downright scary which is one of the reasons it is often called the “undertaker bird.”
Standing up to 5 feet high and weighing around 20 pounds with a wingspan of about 11 feet, this sub-Saharan African stork features a bald, rotting-looking head, a dangling pink wattle, long spindly legs, a white underbelly, and a black mantle of plumage that make it look like the Grim Reaper.
Appearance isn’t all that associates this bird with death. The marabou stork also lives by eating dead animals as well as human waste, and it also loves scavenging around in dumpsters and landfills.
You may think this is disgusting, but this stork plays an important role by cleaning up the local ecosystem.
Yet another fact that makes the marabou stork one of the weirdest birds is how it deliberately poops on its legs. It sounds gross, but this trait actually helps the bird cool down.
- Latin name: Balaeniceps rex
- Unique weird feature: Large, shoe-shaped beak
- Where they are found: Central-Eastern Africa
- Size: Height: 43-55 inches (110 to 140 cm); Weight: 11 to 12 lbs (4.9 to 5.4 kg); Wingspan: 7.7 to 8.6 ft (230 to 260 cm)
An endangered species, the shoebill is sought after by many bird enthusiasts on safari in Central-Eastern Africa.
Spotting one is not difficult because this large, stork-related bird is well-noted for its massive bill that is shaped like a shoe.
Watch on National Geographic
Measuring up to 9 inches (24 cm) long and 4 inches (10 cm) wide, this beak is the largest of all bird species.
Featuring a sharp, hook-shaped nail, the beak is used by the shoebill to catch fish, snakes, rodents, and lizards while it wades among swamps and wetlands.
9. California Condor
- Latin name: Gymnogyps californianus
- Unique weird feature: Extremely wide wingspan
- Where they are found: California, Arizona, Utah of USA
- Size: Length: 43 to 55 inches (109 to 140 cm); Weight: 18 to 20 pounds (8 to 9 kg); Wingspan: 10 feet (3.05 m)
In 1987, this large condor species became extinct in the wild but has since been reintroduced in the southwestern United States through a captive breeding program.
It boasts the largest wingspan of any other North American bird species which sometimes causes it to be confused with a small airplane.
Not a pretty a bird, this condor sports a naked, reddish-pink head, red eyes, and black plumage with a natural black feather boa around its neck.
A scavenger like a vulture, this bird feeds on the dead carcasses of large animals and nests in high trees and rock cliffs.
This condor has no sense of smell but finds food by observing the presence of vultures and eagles. It can live up to 60 years, fly 56 mph (90 km/h) and as far as 160 miles (250 km) at a time.
One more oddity: the bird’s naked face and head can flush to whatever color corresponds with its current emotion.
10. King of Saxony Bird-of-Paradise
- Latin name: Pteridophora alberti
- Unique weird feature: Alien-looking plumes
- Where they are found: New Guinea
- Size: Length: 8 inches (22 cm); Weight: 2.82 to 3.35 ounces (80 to 95 g)
Native to New Guinea, the male King of Saxony bird-of-paradise is a colorful bird of black and yellow with a blue-green gape but looks like it could be an alien from outer space with its extremely long plumes protruding from its head.
Reaching up to nearly 20 inches (50 cm) in length, these plumes are used by the male in an elaborate courtship display to attract a female by moving them in different directions and wrapping them around her.
This weird bird even makes an alien-sounding call that sounds like a radio-static screech. In case you're wondering, the grayish-brown female does not have these ornamental plumes and raises her offspring without the male’s participation after mating.
11. Rhinoceros Hornbill
- Latin name: Buceros rhinoceros
- Unique weird feature: Large horn on the head
- Where they are found: Southeast Asia
- Size: Length: 31 to 35 inches (80 to 90 cm); Weight: 4 to pounds (1.81 to 2.72 kg)
Living in the mountain rainforests of Southeast Asia (Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, and Sumatra) and feeding on fruit, insects, and small reptiles and rodents is one of the weirdest birds in the world.
The rhinoceros hornbill is a black bird with a large bill and a curled, reddish-orange horn above it that is used to amplify the bird’s call.
However, what makes this bird even more strange is its breeding habits. After the female lays her eggs in a tree trunk, the male will shut her up inside by packing the entryway with mud, manure, and food.
He will leave a hole just big enough through which he can feed the female and allow her to defecate.
Once the chicks are hatched and ready to leave the nest, both the parents will chip away at the walled entry until it breaks open.
12. Tawny Frogmouth
- Latin name: Podargus strigoides
- Unique weird feature: Frog-like mouth
- Where they are found: Australia
- Size: Length: 13 to 21 inches (34 to 53 cm); Weight: 5.5 to 19.6 ounces (157 to 555 g)
If you’re picnicking in a wooded park or hiking through a forest in Australia, you’re likely to come across the tawny frogmouth, but you may not detect it even if it’s looking right at you.
The reason for this is because the tawny frogmouth is the champion of camouflage. It’s feathers of mottled gray, black and white make it blend in perfectly with tree bark.
When you do spot one, you may think it's an owl because it does share many similarities with an owl such as its shape, stocky head, big yellow eyes, and the fact that it's nocturnal.
However, the tawny frogmouth doesn’t have talons like an owl. Rather, its feet are small and weak.
In fact, this bird has been described as walking like someone with gout (a disease which causes arthritis) which is what its Greek genus name means.
It also has a large, wide mouth resembling that of a frog (hence its name), surrounded by whiskers that help it to catch insects flying by.
Tawny frogmouths rarely leave their habitat, mate for life, and produce two to three eggs each breeding season (August to December). After the chicks hatch, the whole family will sit side by side on the same tree branch.
Another weird feature: the tawny frogmouth has a pretty amazing “resting stank face“.
13. Great Curassow
- Latin name: Crax rubra
- Unique weird feature: Curly crest and yellow inflated knob
- Where they are found: Mexico, Central America, Colombia, Ecuador
- Size: Length: 31 to 39 inches (78 to 100 cm): Weight: 6.8 to 10.6 pounds (3.1–4.8 kg)
A tour through the rainforests anywhere between Mexico and Ecuador may award you with a glimpse of this weird-looking bird but make sure you don’t approach it because it's highly territorial and aggressive.
The male is predominantly black with a bright yellow knob on its bill while the female is multicolored with a dark speckled head, reddish-brown body and barred tail.
What makes this species stand out is the funky-looking crest on both male and female that resembles a permed curly hair-do.
You most likely will see great curassows in groups as they forage together for fallen fruit on the ground as well as insects and leaves. They are monogamous and are known to feign injury to distract predators away from their chicks.
14. Great Potoo
- Latin name: Nyctibius grandis
- Unique weird feature: Yellow, bulging eyes
- Where they are found: Mexico, Central, and South America
- Size: Length: 19 to 24 inches (48.26 to 60.96 cm): Weight: 12.69 to 22.91 ounces (360 to 650g); Avg. Wingspan: 29 inches (73.66 cm)
If you’re not spooked by the great potoo's bulging yellow eyes glowing in the night, you’ll certainly be rattled by its creepy, mournful growl that sounds like the music in a horror movie.
Some people think that the strange call of the potoo also sounds like an upset teenager growling at his mom. Can you hear it?
It may look and sound scary, but the great potoo really just likes to mind his own business hanging out on high perches in the woodlands and forests of Mexico, Central, and South America, feeding on insects and small bats.
With many owl-like similarities, this nocturnal bird’s bulging eyes make it look like it has had just a little too much caffeine.
During the day, the great potoo roosts while its mottled gray feathers keep it well camouflaged among the trees. This bird species mates for life and both male and female can be seen caring for the chicks and concealing them under their wings.
15. Inca Tern
- Latin name: Larosterna inca
- Unique weird feature: White mustache
- Where they are found: Peru and Chile
- Size: Length: 19 inches (40 cm); Weight: 6.3 ounces (178.6 g)
Must you flaunt that dashing mustache of yours? That may be what other bird species think about this unique seabird that lives along South America’s Pacific Coast from Peru to Chile in what was once the former territory of the ancient Inca Empire.
Mostly dark gray with a red beak and red feet, the Inca tern earns a spot on the weirdest birds list because of its white mustache that is worn by both males and females.
Inca terns like to hang out in colonies of thousands of their own peeps near the cold waters of the Humboldt Current where they can plunge dive for anchovies and other small fish.
If they don’t feel like catching their own dinner, they just steal it from the mouths of sea lions and dolphins.
Inca terns are monogamous, breeding twice a year and often nesting at the same site along rocky cliffs every year.
During courtship, both male and female will chase each other in elaborate flight displays with a fish in their mouths as love offerings.
16. Kiwi Birds
- Latin name: Apteryx australis
- Unique weird feature: fat, flightless, nocturnal, and dinosaur-looking
- Where they are found: New Zealand
- Size: Height: 18 inches (43 cm), Weight: 7.3 pounds (3.3 kg)
No, we aren't talking about that fuzzy brown fruit you can get at the supermarket. Although kiwi birds may look like kiwi fruit, they certainly aren't bright green, sweet, or tangy inside… not that we've tried one.
Kiwis are monogamous and their relationships can last for over 20 years. Female kiwis have one of the largest bird to egg size ratio of any bird.
The egg can weigh about 16 ounces (453 g). Because of the large egg size, the yolk is also bigger which means the kiwis can hatch covered in feathers and much more prepared for life than other baby birds.
These funny little birds can live for up to 50 years, which is good because chicks take up to 5 years to reach adult size.
Something else that makes this bird unique: they are the only known species of bird with nostrils at the end of the beak instead of the top.
This is a useful feature because they can stick their thin little beaks in holes and sniff out their prey, as seen in this video:
I love the shot of the kiwi running away at the end, so funny!
17. Oilbirds a.k.a Guacharo
- Latin name: Steatornis caripensis
- Unique weird feature: builds it's nest from its own barf and feces and is very oily and very batlike
- Where they are found: South American rainforests
- Size: Length: up to 19 inches (49 cm), Wingspan: 37 inches (95 cm), Weight: 16.8 ounces (475 g)
Oilbirds are very similar to bats, they use echolocation, roost in colonies up high in caves, and they are nocturnal.
These funny little birds have a limited of suitable nesting material so they make their own. Literally. They build their nests from their own fruit vomit and poop.
Oilbirds have the highest ratio per square millimeter of rods of any known vertebrate (rods in the retina are responsible for vision in low light).
This means that oilbirds have amazing night vision. They have 1 million rods per square meter of their retinas, compare that to humans who only have 150,000 rods per square millimeter.
Normally, we can't hear echolocation clicks from animals like bats. But we can hear the clicks of oilbirds so if you go to a cave full of oilbirds the sound could be quite overwhelming.
One more weird fact: the name “oilbirds” comes from their favorite food source: the fatty fruit of the oil palm.
The chicks get so plump from the fat-filled diet that they used to be collected and boiled down so the oil could be used as fuel.
So, what do you think of this list of the weirdest birds? We hope you've enjoyed it!
Want more? Check out our picks for the most colorful birds on the planet!
Are you familiar with all or most of them? Are you surprised, impressed, or revolted by some of them? Are there any species you think should be included on this list?
Let us know what you think by leaving us a comment, we love to hear from you!
Drew Haines is an animal enthusiast and travel writer. She loves to share her passion through her writing.
She lived in Ecuador for 6 years and explored the Galapagos Islands. Currently based in N.S., Canada.