Among all the enchanting animal species that make our planet a fine place to live in, birds are arguably the prettiest. With roughly 9,000 to 10,000 birds species found in every corner of the earth, it is likely that whether you are up a mountain, deep in the forest, in the city, or even in the desert, you will see or hear a bird sing. Each bird carries also a deeper meaning, but for now, let’s just enjoy this sheet of beauty. From those with amazingly long eyelashes to the cute tiny ones that look like furry cotton balls, here are the most beautiful birds in the world.
Why Are Birds So Beautiful?
Birds are essential indicators of a healthy environment that contributes largely to the survival of other species including us humans. They are a group of warm-blooded animals comprised of the Aves class and are defined by a lightweight but the strong skeletal system, toothless beaked jaws, a uniquely high metabolic rate, the laying of eggs, and feathers.
Perceived as direct descendants of dinosaurs, they first appeared about 160 million years ago and are known to be highly social creatures as they communicate through visual signals, songs, and bird calls. They often participate in manners such as hunting, flocking, setting upon predators, as well as cooperative breeding.
Our planet has an abundance of these fascinating animals and each of them plays an important role in the ecosystem, acting as pollinators as they have the ability to distribute seeds to a variety of environments. They provide biologists with the knowledge to predict seasonal weather changes through their migration patterns while engineers get inspiration from their wings and feathers for future flight innovations.
Birds shield crops from harmful insects and pests, providing a critical link on the food chain as predators. They also help create jobs and generate profit through ecotourism. All of these prove that birds truly are beautiful and wonderful creatures.
The Top 10 Most Beautiful Birds In The World
Birds are Mother Nature’s prettiest and most colorful creation. Each bird’s movement, every color, and every hue from its feathers are meant to protect, camouflage, or attract. On top of that birds are real geniuses! Here is a list of some of the world’s most fascinating birds:
1. Banded Kingfisher (Lacedo Pulchella)
This bright-colored kingfisher species is often found in the lowland tropical forests of Southeast Asia typically in Brunei, Cambodia, Java Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Sumatra, Thailand, and Vietnam. Banded Kingfishers perch themselves quietly at mid-height to low levels of the forest, sitting atop trees completely motionless, making them extremely difficult to detect.
Known as perennial fish eaters, they were discovered by American physician and naturalist Thomas Horsfield through his extensive work in Indonesia. This 7.9-inch bird boasts of a sturdy red bill and a short crest. It responds to imitations of its call, giving away its position with long loud whistles followed by a series of shorter, mellow shrill sounds.
Males sport bright blue feathers with striking orange faces, white chin, black and blue banded wings and tail, and a light orange breast, while females are striped like a tiger with black and orange patterns detailing their entire 20 cm body (read about the Kingfisher symbolism here).
2. Blue Jay (Cyanocitta Cristata)
Regarded as one of the loudest and most colorful birds, the blue jay makes a variety of musical sounds, including the raucous jay! jay! cries which made them extremely popular to scientists and bird watching enthusiasts. Notorious for robbing the nests of other birds, they are known to make a remarkable imitation of a red-shouldered hawk’s scream, utilizing it to scare away small birds, leaving and exposing their nests. Check here for the Blue Jay symbolism.
They are often spotted atop pine trees across the central and eastern forests of the US and in southern Canada. They breed mostly in deciduous or mixed woods but are quick in finding backyard bird feeders which makes them a familiar sight in parks and suburban residential areas.
Blue jays lay about 3-7 eggs which both the male and the female incubate for 16-18 days. Nests are built using twigs, grass, moss, and bark strips, and are sometimes held together with mud. Males feed their mates and they scare away potential threats and predators with loud haunting calls.
3. Atlantic Puffin (Fratercula Arctica)
Although this puffin can be friendly around its nesting sites, it often spends its winter in solitary. Atlantic Puffins favor living in coastal and offshore waters, far from land and out in the open sea where they breed in burrows and among rocks, probably for added protection as they typically only lay a single egg which they incubate for 36-42 weeks.
Their sightings are sought after by birdwatchers who trek to Maine or as far as Eastern Canada for a chance to spot these birds flying back to their nests carrying a bill full of a dozen small fish while holding on to two more.
Males typically find mates, which is the same bird each year, by repeatedly flicking their heads up and back until the bill points out. Pairs would then swing their bills sideways to clash them together, signaling to other puffins to keep off as this female is already in a relationship. They are known to breed in colonies, burrowing in natural crevices or rocks wherein one entrance can lead to multiple nests and side branches.
The might look a bit like clowns but do well deserve their rankings in the top 10 most beautiful birds of the world!
4. Birds Of Paradise (Paradisaeidae)
Highly esteemed for their vibrant and striking colors of red, yellow, blue, and green, their bright plumage distinguishes them as one of the most attractive and dramatic birds in the world. Males are often gifted with brilliant, feathered ruffs or elongated colorful feathers called wires or streamers which they use to attract potential mates and birdwatchers.
Generally found in New Guinea and its neighboring islands, birds of paradise perform elaborate dances and rituals that can last for hours to accentuate their already attractive appearance which showcases an amazing display that pleases both the female birds and any lucky humans.
There are several species of birds of paradise that vary in size and color. It includes birds with head, back, chest, and tail plumes, mountain and swamp birds, and even pole and branch dancers. Here are a few examples of them:
The Greater Birds of Paradise
They are the biggest members of this Avian group and is also regarded as “legless birds of paradise” as they were assumed to be visitors from the Garden of God and that their beautiful plumes kept them from touching the ground.
The Lesser Birds of Paradise
These medium-sized birds can grow up to 32 cm long and boast of maroon plumes with what appears to be a yellow crown and a light brown upper back. The male’s sport an emerald-colored throat paired with elongated tail-wires and are adorned with vibrant flank plumes. Females are less brilliant than their males as it is the opposite sex that does all the flirting.
The King Birds of Paradise
Contrary to its name, this is the smallest but the most vividly colored among this species. Males are recognized by their bright red color and two long ornamental tail feathers. They often have a circular swirl of feathers of bright green and a green stripe across the chest. Both males and females have blue legs and feet, although females have less bright colored feathers.
Typically, birds of paradise can survive up to 30 years in captivity with proper care and up to 5-8 years in the wild due to at times, harsh environments and the dangers brought upon them by predators.
5. The Formosan Magpie (Urocissa Caerulea)
This charming bluebird which is endemic in Taiwan usually appears with 3 to 8 of its friends in broadleaf forests across the island but may sometimes come in flocks of up to 20 birds. Its loud cackling calls can be heard from miles away and though they don’t show signs of any fear of humans, they are extremely wary and are very difficult to approach.
Sadly, a whole flock raises only a single nest of young each year. These Magpies provide quite a sight when flying together due to their attractively long and segmented tails. Illegal captures and loss of habitat are currently the main threats to these graceful birds’ survival.
6. The Flamingo (Phoenicopteriformes)
Famous for their S-shaped neck, long stilt-like legs, and bright pink feathers, flamingos love feasting on snails, shrimps, and algae, plunging and twisting their heads into the water to shovel their meal with their upper beak. They have the ability to run on the water before taking flight, gaining speed before gliding beautifully into the sky.
These flamboyant birds’ name was derived from the Spanish word “flamenco” which translates to fire, referring to the bright pink or at times the orange color of their feathers which is caused by the carotenoid pigments found in crustaceans and algae that make up the flamingo’s diet. There’s also a strong meaning existing for Flamingos.
Flamingos are often spotted in the West Indies, the Galapagos Islands, and in the northern part of South America. A few species can be found in Africa, the Middle East, and India, mostly in alkaline or saline lakes or lagoons that appear to lack vegetation. Mangrove swamps, sandy islands, and lakes that are situated far inland or near the sea are considered flamingo havens.
7. The Keel-Billed Toucan (Ramphastos Sulfuratus)
These large birds with mostly black plumage sleep with their heads turned so that their huge multi-colored bills rest on their backs. They are typically defined as having red and white coverts on their tails, green skin around the eyes, a yellow face, and blue legs.
Their big but lightweight beak is hollow and is believed to be used as a protective tool which also plays an essential role in attracting potential mates. Certain religions in Central and South America believe that keel-billed toucans are evil spirits and are incarnations of a demon.
They are often found in Belize, Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, and Venezuela where they are seen hopping from one tree to another as they are extremely poor in flying.
8. Kingfisher (Alcedinidae)
This family of small to medium-sized birds is mostly found in tropical regions such as Africa, Oceania, and Asia. These brightly-colored birds have large heads, long, sharp, pointed bills, short legs, and stocky tails which they use to swoop down on unsuspecting animals a.k.a. dinner.
Initially thought to live near rivers, kingfishers prefer to live away from water, nesting in dug tunnels or artificial banks, eating small invertebrates which are obviously easier prey. They can be found mostly in forests or forested streams, high mountains, open woodlands, and even in the driest deserts, particularly in Australia.
9. The Painted Bunting (Passerina Ciris)
With the perfect blend of red, yellow, green, and blue feathers, painted buntings may seem to have flown straight out of an artist’s imagination. These songbirds are for sure among the top 10 most beautiful birds of the world and are familiar visitors of bird feeders particularly in the coastal southeast and the south-central US where they are often spotted brandishing their uniquely dazzling features.
They spend the majority of their days hidden in dense habitats, making them extremely difficult to spot. However, due to their charm and elegance, the sightings of these fine North American songbirds are well worth the wait.
10. The Mandarin Duck (Aix Galericulata)
These fine-looking ducks are mainly found in pairs, foraging at lakes and parks that are abundant with trees. They gather in larger flocks during the colder months. This pretty and distinctive waterbird oddly perches in trees above the water.
The Mandarin duck, with origins from the Far East specifically in China, Japan, Korea, and several parts of Russia, are known to be shy birds as they often hide beneath hanging willows with a small flock. They prefer wetlands and freshwater where they nest in holes in trees, laying eggs high up away from the water. After the ducklings hatch and leave the nest, the father protects them until they mature and are able to care for themselves. Learn more about duck symbolism here.
Honorable Mention: the Peacock
One of the most beautiful and exotic birds, the peacock has long attracted human attention with its magnificent meaningful feathers and graceful gait. In the history, myths, and legends of different cultures, peacock meaning is not only related to its beauty, but also its spirituality, vitality, nobility, protection, and immortality. This choice would be too obvious here, hence we skip it this time.
The Beauty of Birds
It is almost impossible to collectively pick which are the most beautiful birds in the world. These graceful winged creatures benefit, teach, and inspire us and for that, protecting them should be our utmost concern. With such distinct colors and features, birds are simply drop-dead gorgeous.