Have you ever seen a bird that made you do a double take? Some birds out there have such unique and bizarre features that they seem almost unbelievable. From giant bills to fabulous feathers, get ready to discover some of the world’s weirdest birds.
With its big yellow eyes, wide frog-like mouth, and fluffy feathered body, the Tawny Frogmouth looks like some kind of muppet. But this googly-eyed oddball is a real bird native to Australia.
Tawny Frogmouths are masters of disguise. During the day, they sit perfectly still on tree branches, pretending to be broken stumps. At night, they hunt for insects, frogs, small mammals and more with their giant frog-like mouths.
To add to their weirdness, Tawny Frogmouths often sleep balanced on branches during the day. They tuck their face into their fluffy chest plumage and snooze away, barely moving an inch for hours.
While roosting and resting, they can elongate their bodies to look like a broken tree branch. When disturbed, they sway gently like a branch blowing in the wind! With their comical wide-eyed stare and excellent camouflage skills, the Tawny Frogmouth is one amusing oddball.
Long-wattled Umbrella Bird
One of the strangest-looking birds is the Long-wattled Umbrella bird. As its name suggests, this funky fellow has incredibly long wattles hanging from its neck. We’re talking wattles up to 7 inches long! Both males and females have these pendulous wattles, but the males are usually much longer.
When displaying for females, the male umbrella bird will raise and spread out these wattles to look like a big umbrella coming out of its chest. How weird is that? The wattles help amplify the male’s mating call, too. But those aren’t the bird’s only weird features. It also has a massive poofy crest on its head that looks like a crazy hairdo.
The Long-wattled Umbrella bird lives in the rainforests of Central and South America. It uses its giant bill to feed on fruit and small animals.
Standing over 4 feet tall with a massive shoe-shaped bill, the shoebill is one bizarre-looking bird. This giant stork-like bird lives in tropical swamps in central Africa. With its prehistoric appearance, it looks like something out of Jurassic Park!
The shoebill gets its name from its enormous bill, which looks like a big old shoe. The bill is shaped like this to help the bird catch its favourite food – lungfish. It wades through the swamp, waiting patiently for a lungfish to swim by, and then SNAP goes that giant shoebill down to grab its prey.
Another weird feature of the shoebill is its unique call. It makes a sound like a machine gun going off! Check out a video to hear its crazy mechanical-sounding vocalizations. Between its giant shoe-bill and machine gun call, this is one weird bird!
If you’re looking for a fat, flightless, nocturnal parrot, look no further than the Kakapo. Native to New Zealand, this oddball of a bird is the world’s only flightless and nocturnal parrot species. It’s also critically endangered.
So what makes the Kakapo so weird? For starters, it’s a giant cuddly parrot. It can grow up to 9 pounds, making it the world’s heaviest parrot and one of the heaviest birds. Its wings are tiny and useless for flight. Instead, it climbs trees using its big claws and beak.
The Kakapo is also nocturnal, sleeping during the day and active at night. That’s highly unusual for a bird! When not climbing trees, the Kakapo shuffles around the forest floor. To attract females, the male Kakapo puts on “concerts” at their mating grounds, using special sacs near their chests to amplify their deep booming calls.
From its tubby body, flightless wings, and night owl lifestyle, the Kakapo breaks all the bird rules – in a weird but wonderful way!
You probably have some questions about the Blue-footed Booby. First, yes, that’s really its name. Second, it gets that name from its bright blue feet. This goofy seabird is found in the Pacific Ocean and is famous for its brilliant blue webbed feet.
Males take great pride in their fabulous feet, using them to do lively mating dances for visiting females. They lift their feet high in the air, strut around, and whistle as if to say, “Check out my blues!” The bluer the feet, the more attractive the male.
Aside from their namesake blue feet, Blue-footed Boobies are also known for their clumsy landings. They crash down onto the ground because their bodies are meant for diving, not perching. And, of course, people love laughing at their silly names. For colorfully-footed diving birds, Blue-footed Boobies have made quite a name for themselves!
Cock of the Rock
The brilliant orange Cock of the Rock bird earned its name from its funky crest of feathers fanning out from its head. When displaying for females, the male puffs up these fan-like plumes around his face, almost like an orange wig. Or maybe even a punk rocker’s mohawk!
Beyond its wild “hair,” the Cock of the Rock is also insanely acrobatic. It perches on boulders along riverbanks in the Amazon rainforest, where males gather to perform elaborate courtship rituals. They leap, dance, joust, and even headstand in order to impress visiting females.
Their performances are akin to jumping contests, with each male trying to out-jump the others. Their outrageous orange plumage and athleticism certainly make the Cock of the Rock one of the weirder birds found in South America’s jungles.
Let’s say the Hoatzin isn’t winning any bird beauty contests. Found in South America’s Amazon and Orinoco basins, this oddball has a wild, dishevelled appearance and lives a rather primitive lifestyle compared to other birds.
So what makes the Hoatzin so bizarre? Its chicks have claws on their wings to help them clamber around in trees before they can fly. No other bird has wing claws as chicks. Their wings also have a stench similar to manure due to their fermenting diet.
Speaking of diet, Hoatzins eat a tremendous amount of rainforest leaves – more than other plant-eating birds. They have specialized digestive systems, including foregut fermentation chambers where bacteria help break down the leaves.
The Hoatzin isn’t much of a flier, either. It spends most of its time clumsily climbing around in trees, stopping to rest after short bouts of flying. With its punk-rock style plumage, stinky odour, and lazy lifestyle, the Hoatzin marches to the beat of its own drum in South America’s rainforests.
The Magnificent Frigatebird is aptly named with its vast wingspan, bizarre inflated red throat pouch, and tendency to steal food from other birds. This is one weird seabird found along tropical and subtropical coasts.
Male Magnificent Frigatebirds have a giant red throat pouch that inflates like a balloon to attract females. It blows up to the size of their head! They also have unusually long wings and forked tails. Their skinny bodies and huge wings make them expert soarers.
Rather than diving for fish, frigatebirds steal food from other birds in an act called kleptoparasitism. They relentlessly chase seabirds like gulls, terns and boobies until they drop their prey, then swoop in for the stolen snack.
A lone frigatebird chasing a tern or gull looks like an unfair aerial battle. With its inflated red throat, pirate-like habits, and tremendous wings, the Magnificent Frigatebird is one of the most bizarre feathered fliers.
Found only on the island of New Caledonia, the Kagu has a look all its own. With pearl grey plumage, bright orange legs, a flood of feathers on its head, and a long dangling crest down its neck, this rare bird resembles no other.
The Kagu is the sole surviving member of an ancient bird family over 60 million years old. So it’s quite the evolutionary oddball. It’s also flightless, though its wings are still large enough to help it glide from tree to tree. On the ground, it strides around with purpose, looking like a feathered clown.
Its bizarre call sounds like a series of barks or croaks. And unlike most birds, the Kagu is monogamous, pairing up with a single mate for life. Add in its rare status – the Kagu is endangered due to predation and habitat loss – and you have a truly one-of-a-kind bird.
With its massive bill, shaggy neck feathers, and bald pink head and neck, the Marabou Stork looks like something straight out of a haunted fairy tale. Found in Africa south of the Sahara Desert, this gigantic bird stands nearly 5 feet tall with a 10-foot wingspan.
Not only does it look creepy, but it also has some gross habits. Marabous will eat virtually anything – dead or alive. These frequent scavengers use their long, sharp bill to pick apart carcasses and gobble up rotting flesh. They’ve been seen eating hyena leftovers and even human waste.
Another weird trait is that Marabous urinate on their legs to cool down their body temperature. This gives their legs a whitish, crusty appearance. Between its vulture-like diet and gross leg peeing habit, the Marabou Stork could make a run as Halloween’s freakiest bird.