25 Most Unusual Birds in the World
Birds are some of the most colorful and unique creatures on this planet. They come in every color and size imaginable, with some having some pretty unique characteristics. For example, did you know there is a bird that eats human waste? Yep. Or a bird that has a tail three times longer than its body? (No, it’s not a peacock!)
Check out the 25 most unusual birds in the world, and you may understand why birds of a feather flock together — these ones are just too weird to fit in anywhere else!
Weight: 2.2 pounds
Height/Length: 25.6 inches
Most commonly found in: South America
Bottom Line: Hoatzin
There are several things that make the Hoatzin an unusual bird. They are the only species that eats strictly leaves, no insects. Due to this diet, their digestive system is unique, too. They are the only bird with a multi-chamber stomach that actually ferments the leaves like a cow’s digestive system.
Unfortunately for the bird, this unique diet also gives them a terrible odor, earning it the nickname “skunk bird.”
Weight: 10-18 pounds
Height/Length: 2.5-3.3 feet
Most commonly found in: Philippines
Bottom Line: Philippine Eagle
The Philippine Eagle is a rare, critically endangered eagle found only in the Philippines. But that’s not the only thing that makes it unusual. This bird is the largest eagle in the world, and it eats monkeys!
In fact, they often eat monkeys as well as other bird species, including Macaques. They have several hunting styles, the most unusual being “pairs hunting” in which one distracts their prey while the other attacks from behind.
Weight: 2.2-8.8 pounds
Height/Length: 22-25 inches
Most commonly found in: New Zealand
Bottom Line: Kakapo
It should be no surprise that New Zealand is home to some strange birds. The Kakapo may be the cutest one we have on this list and the most unusual parrot you will ever see.
For a parrot, the Kakapo could easily be called “fat,” with a cute, round body. The Kakapo is also flightless and nocturnal, adding to their unusual characteristics for a parrot.
Weight: 5.3 ounces
Height/Length: 7.5-9.8 inches
Most commonly found in: Southwestern United States down to Central America
Bottom Line: Burrowing Owl
OK, maybe the Burrowing Owl is the cutest bird on this list. Related to the Great Horned Owl, along with other large cousins, this tiny owl species is just too adorable!
Unlike their relatives, however, these owls do not live in trees! They live on prairies and farmlands. As their name implies, they live in burrows instead of nests.
Weight: 5.75 ounces
Height/Length: Up to 12 inches, not including the male’s tail, which grows up to 3-feet long
Most commonly found in: Papua New Guinea
Bottom Line: Ribbon-Tailed Astrapia
The male Ribbon-Tailed Astrapias are what lands this bird on the list. While this bird is tiny, weighing less than half a pound, the males sport a tail that grows to approximately 3-feet long!
The two beautiful white feathers help him attract a mate, but they can also make it hard for the bird to get away when danger is near, as they often get caught in trees and branches.
Weight: 1.9-11 pounds (varies from species to species)
Height/Length: 14-25 inches (varies from species to species)
Most commonly found in: New Zealand
Bottom Line: Kiwi Bird
The Kiwi actually have five subspecies that range in size from the tiny Little Spotted Kiwi to the largest, the Brown Kiwi. They all have the same unusual look, however, and are flightless as well as nocturnal.
Another odd feature about the Kiwi is they have no tail, and their strong legs make up about a third of their body weight.
Weight: Less than 1 ounce
Height/Length: 2.5 inches
Most commonly found in: Cuba
Bottom Line: Bee Hummingbird
The Bee Hummingbird can only be found in Cuba and is the world’s smallest bird. This unusual hummingbird lays an egg the size of a quarter and weighs less than a dime.
They are also more round in shape than other Hummingbird species.
Weight: 9.9-18 pounds
Height/Length: 5 feet
Most commonly found in: Sub-SaharanAfrica
Bottom Line: Marabou Stork
The Marabou Stork is often called the “undertaker bird” for its weird looks, including the male’s large air sacs. Unusual traits include having hollow toe bones in addition to hollow leg bones.
Oh, and the poops on its own legs to cool itself down. Oh, and it eats human waste. Yeah, they’re weird.
Weight: 4.5-6 pounds
Height/Length: 31-35 inches
Most commonly found in: Malaysia and the islands of Sumatra, Java and Borneo
Bottom Line: Rhinoceros Hornbill
We all have that one friend or relative that gets a little loud at parties … the Rhinoceros Hornbill is the bird version. What makes them unusual (and all hornbills for that matter!) is the large piece, called a casque, protruding from their beaks.
Although mistaken for a second beak, it’s actually made of keratin and is used to project the voice of the male Rhinoceros Hornbill.
King of Saxony Bird-of-Paradise
Weight: 2-3 ounces
Height/Length: 7.5-8.5 inches
Most commonly found in: New Guinea
Bottom Line: King of Saxony Bird-of-Paradise
Another small bird with some impressive plumage, the tiny male King of Saxony Bird-of-Paradise sports two scalloped plumes that grow from his brow. These plumes can be up to 20 inches in length, which is more than double its body.
They use these long plumes to attract a mate.
Weight: 1.3 pounds
Height/Length: 19 inches
Most commonly found in: North America and Northern Europe
Bottom Line: Northern Shoveler
At first glance, you may think this is just a common Mallard, but take a second look. The Northern Shoveler, as the name implies, is unusual because of its large, flat beak that it uses like a shovel, filtering food through its mouth as it swims slowly through the water.
Unlike other ducks, they really dive or “up end” themselves.
Weight: 2.2-3.5 pounds
Height/Length: 20-24 inches
Most commonly found in: Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Tanzania
Bottom Line: Vulturine Guineafowl
The Vulturine Guineafowl has an unusual name to go with its distinct look. This Guineafowl has the bald head of a vulture, but what really sets them apart is the amazing black-and-white-striped plumage on their breast, surrounded by bright blue feathers.
They are fast and rarely fly.
Weight: 11-20 ounces
Height/Length: 15-20 inches
Most commonly found in: Southwestern Colombia and Ecuador
Bottom Line: Long-Wattled Umbrellabird
At first you may not be sure what you are looking at with the Long-Wattled Umbrellabird. It almost looks like someone left their feather boa out, and a bird picked it up to use as nesting materials. But it’s actually the Long-Wattled Umbrellabird’s long wattle, which is prominent on the males only. The wattle can be as long as 17 inches.
They can fly, but are not strong fliers and stay low to the ground. During flight, the wattle retracts.
Weight: 4-7 pounds
Height/Length: 26 to 30 inches
Most commonly found in: North America
Bottom Line: Greater Sage-Grouse
The Greater Sage-Grouse looks like it should come with a NSFW warning. The males of this unusual bird have large yellow airs sacs that they use during mating season to attract a female. The two sacs protrude from the breast of the bird.
It’s definitely something you can’t unsee once seen.
Weight: 11-12 pounds
Height/Length: 4-5 feet
Most commonly found in: Central and Eastern Africa
Bottom Line: Shoebill
Like a lot of birds on this list, the Shoebill stands out due to the shape of its beak, which looks like a shoe. They are also unusual in that their diet consists of some pretty large game, including Nile Monitors and baby crocodiles!
They hunt by standing as still as a statue until something wanders too close.
Weight: Approximately 2 pounds
Height/Length: 29-40 inches
Most commonly found in: Australia
Bottom Line: Lyrebird
The Lyrebird is unusual for its long plumage, sure, but more so for its ability to mimic sounds. A lovely singer, the Lyrebird is a one of the most skilled songbirds, being able to mimic even unnatural sounds such as fire trucks, chainsaws, car alarms, cellphone rings and camera shutters.
They are skilled at mimicking other animals, too, including human baby cries and dog barks. The Lyrebird is an expert at moving dirt with their talons, and one Lyrebird will move up to 11 dump trucks worth of dirt in one year, looking for insects.
Weight: 25-39 ounces
Height/Length: 22 inches
Most commonly found in: New Caledonia
Bottom Line: Kagu
While flightless birds are not necessarily unusual, the Kagu is an unusual flightless bird in that it still has huge wings.
Most flightless birds have small wings, but the Kagus have large wings to flap around and distract predators.
Weight: 1-2 ounces
Height/Length: 25 inches
Most commonly found in: China, India, Myanmar and Vietnam
Bottom Line: Temminck Tragopan
The Temminck Tragopan is a breed of pheasant with unusual plumage. While pheasants are known for being beautifully colored, the Temminck Tragopan goes above and beyond. The male sports bright blue around his face that seems to glow.
Adding to his unusual look, the male has this same bright blue on round plumage that stems from his head looking like an antenna on an insect. They lay flat against his head unless his wattle is inflated.
Weight: 2.4-3.5 pounds
Height/Length: 35-45 inches
Most commonly found in: Caribbean, Pacific and Atlantic coasts of the Americas
Bottom Line: Magnificent Frigatebird
The Magnificent Frigatebird has a name it lives up to, with the male displaying a large, bright-red air sac when looking for a mate.
Although a coastal bird, they don’t swim. Instead, they skim the water’s surface, picking up items that are on the top.
Weight: Approximately 3 pounds
Height/Length: 32-34 inches
Most commonly found in: Western coasts of Central and South America
Bottom Line: Blue-Footed Booby
The Blue-Footed Booby is infamous solely for its name that can cause even the most attentive classroom of children to giggle.
Their unusual trait is right in their name: They have blue feet and a blue-grey bill that’s unusual in the bird world.
Weight: Less than an ounce
Height/Length: 6 inches
Most commonly found in: Hawaiian Islands
Bottom Line: Scarlet ‘I’iwi
The Scarlet ‘I’iwi is a tiny bird that would be hard to miss. They are known for their incredibly bright-red plumage and unusual-shaped beak, which they use to get nectar from flowers, like a hummingbird.
However, they are actually finches and not related to hummingbirds.
Weight: 9.5-13 ounces
Height/Length: 16-25 inches
Most commonly found in: Sub-Saharan Africa
Bottom Line: Black Heron
The Black Heron, also called the Black Egret, definitely is unusual looking with its all-black plumage. However, it’s their hunting style, called canopy feeding, that really makes them stand out.
They stretch out their wings and make an “umbrella” in the water. This creates shade that attracts small fish, and then the Black Heron is able to snatch them out of the water.
Weight: 14 ounces
Height/Length: 12 inches
Most commonly found in: Samoa
Bottom Line: Tooth-Billed Pigeon
The Tooth-Billed Pigeon has a weird-looking, bright-red beak with tooth-like protrusions on the lower mandible.
Sometimes referred to as a Little Dodo, the Tooth-Billed Pigeon is near extinction, with less than 200 in the wild and no captive populations.
Weight: 7.3 pounds
Height/Length: 4 feet
Most commonly found in: Sub-Saharan Africa
Bottom Line: Secretary Bird
The Secretary Bird may be recognizable to you from the Disney movie “Bedknobs and Broomsticks,” in which an animated version played a “secretary” to the king.
In real life, these unusual birds of prey hunt from the ground, often stomping on their prey to kill them. They can fly, however, and usually sleep in trees at night.
Weight: Up to 1.5 pounds
Height/Length: 8-21 inches
Most commonly found in: Indian Subcontinent and Australia
Bottom Line: Frogmouth
While this unusual bird may look like an owl, it is not related to them at all! The Frogmouth is a nightjar relative and does not walk well on its weak legs.
Their large frogmouth gives them a grumpy expression. Another surprise awaits when they open their mouth, as they have a forked tongue!