While there are some incredibly beautiful birds in the wild, this article will discuss the not-so-pretty side of nature: ugly birds.
But by ugly birds, I mean really the ugliest birds alive! I know beauty is relative, but chances are you will agree with me once you have seen their photos.
These birds are ugly, for real! In fact, you might even consider them cute if you stare at their picture for long enough. Don’t believe me? Check it out then!
22 Ugly Birds You Need To See
Collective bird nouns: a flock of birds (generic noun for any type of bird) and a flight of birds (when in flight).
Native to New Zealand, kiwis (Apteryx rowi) are shy flightless birds with strong and muscular legs. These birds are tail-less and have grayish-brown hair-like feathers on their bodies, thus giving them an ugly appearance.
They are nocturnal birds who spend most of the day sleeping in burrows dug on the ground. They come out for foraging at night, feeding on a variety of berries, insects, and larvae.
Unlike other birds, kiwi chicks are fully feathered on hatching and can forage independently. Their lifespan usually varies between 25 to 50 years on average.
21. Long-Wattled Umbrellabird
Long-wattled umbrella birds (Cephalopterus penduliger) are endemic to the western slopes of Colombia and Ecuador.
Males are known for their crest of fine, hair-like feathers over their bill and the large throat wattle of feathers, giving them the ugly look of an umbrella, therefore the name.
Long-wattled umbrellabirds are hands-down some of the ugliest birds in the world due to their striking appearance!
Capuchinbirds (Perissocephalus tricolor) are bizarre birds found in tropical and subtropical lowland forests in parts of South America.
They have cinnamon-brown bodies with black tails and pale bluish-gray heads. The ugliest thing about these birds is the absence of feathers on the head which makes the head seem too small compared to the rest of the body—almost like a hunchbacked vulture.
They are also known as calf birds since their calls resemble that of a calf. The major part of their diet consists of fruits, although they are known to feed on large insects too.
19. Common Potoo
Endemic to Central and South America, common potoos (Nyctibius griseus) are solitary birds that typically live on trees but are hard to spot because they look like them.
These strange birds are nocturnal and feed on insects like grasshoppers, termites, and moths.
What makes them ugly birds is their camouflage-like appearance which makes it easy for them to “disappear” on the tree trunk; their bodies seem to be broken branches!
18. Helmeted Guineafowl
Native to Africa, the helmeted guineafowl (Numida meleagris) is next on the list of ugly birds. This strange-looking bird can be recognized easily due to its distinctive appearance.
It has a large round body with a comparatively small and featherless head that’s topped with a bony knob or helmet.
Their bodies are covered with grayish-black feathers that are dotted with speckles of white.
While these birds can fly, they prefer to stay on the ground and would rather run than fly when faced with a threat. They are highly social, often feeding and roosting in large flocks.
Next on our list of ugly birds is the primitive-looking hoatzin (Opisthocomus hoazin). These are colorful birds with dark brownish upper parts, a blue face, and a loose, spiky head crest.
These ugly birds are the only living species of an ancient avian lineage, which gives them a special status.
However, there are several other characteristics that set it apart from other birds. For instance, baby hoatzins have two claws on each wing which helps them climb up on trees in case they fall down from the nest.
Additionally, these are the only birds that are able to ruminate – they digest their food through bacterial fermentation.
16. King Vulture
Endemic to Southern Mexico and Southern Argentina, king vultures (Sarcoramphus papa) are large and have a 7-foot wingspan.
The males and females look almost similar, making them minimally sexually dimorphic.
However, the head and neck make them unique birds because they are naked, the head’s skin is red and purple while the neck is a vivid orange, and the throat is yellow.
On the head, the skin is wrinkled and folded, and there is a highly noticeable irregular golden crest attached to the cere above their orange and black bill.
King vultures are definitely one of the ugliest birds alive!
15. Muscovy Duck
Next on our list of ugly birds is the muscovy duck (Cairina moschata) – one of the oldest domesticated fowls in the world.
Native to North and South America, these large black and white ducks can reach around 30 inches in length and weigh about 15 pounds.
Males of this species are almost double the size of females. These birds are considered ugly due to the lumpy reddish skin or wattles on their faces.
Muscovy ducks are usually found near grasslands, streams, or freshwater swamps with plenty of food. Their diet consists of a variety of plant matter, insects, fish, amphibians, worms, and so on.
14. Eastern Wild Turkey
Eastern wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) are large birds commonly found in the eastern parts of the US.
They are the largest game birds in North America, reaching a length between 36 to 48 inches and weighing up to 25 pounds.
These ugly birds have small bald heads, and their faces are covered in blue and red wattles, which give them an ugly appearance. To top it off, they are considered dumb birds, too.
They are quite social and prefer to feed and travel in flocks consisting of several individuals. Their diet consists of a variety of berries, nuts, insects, and snails.
Did you know? The turkey was almost named the national bird of the USA.
13. Southern Cassowary
The southern cassowary (Casuarius casuarius) is a large flightless bird found in parts of Australia. They are among the largest birds found on Earth at present and usually lead a solitary lifestyle.
These birds are covered in glossy black feathers on the body and neck, along with a hard helmet-like structure or casque on their blue heads, which often have reddish or pinkish highlights.
They also have two brightly colored wattles on the necks, due to which they are also often referred to as the double-wattled cassowary.
12. Black Vulture
Black vultures (Coragyps atratus) are large birds of prey with largely black plumage. They are powerful birds that usually roam around and feed in groups.
Like other vultures, they have no feathers on the neck and head. However, the bare dark grayish skin is quite wrinkly, making it an ugly bird.
While they are mainly scavengers, these birds may also sometimes hunt newborn animals.
While they lack the keen sense of smell possessed by other vulture species, they have very well-developed eyesight, which helps them locate food.
11. White-Headed Vulture
White-headed vultures (Trigonoceps occipitalis) are medium-sized birds that are currently considered to be critically endangered.
These vultures are around 31 inches in length and have an enormous wingspan covering almost 6 feet.
Their bodies are covered with mostly brown or black features, while the underparts are white.
The plumage of male and female birds is different. They have bald heads with a soft tuft of down feathers on the crown and pale pinkish featherless necks.
They are the most solitary among all vulture species found in Africa. The white-headed vulture is widely spread throughout sub-Saharan Africa, occurring from Senegal and Gambia east to Somalia and south to South Africa and Eswatini.
10. Cinereous Vulture
Cinereous vultures (Aegypius monachus) are large birds of prey commonly found in parts of Eurasia. One of the heaviest flying birds on Earth, these vultures can weigh between 14 to 31 pounds.
Their bodies are covered with dark brown feathers, while the head and neck are considerably paler. Their heads are almost bald, making them appear rather ugly.
These vultures are usually found alone or in pairs, although they are observed in small groups while feeding.
Their diet consists mostly of dead animals – including the remains of both wild and domestic animals.
9. Andean Condor
Our list of ugly birds is sure to be incomplete without mentioning the weird-looking Andean condor (Vultur gryphus).
Commonly found in the Andes mountain ranges of South America, these giant vultures are among the largest flying birds in the world.
They have a wingspan of over 10 feet – the largest among all birds of prey globally. They are usually black in color with white ruffles on their necks.
Their necks and heads are almost featherless. Males have a dark reddish comb on the head and wattles on the neck, thus making them appear rather ugly. These birds may live over 70 years in the wild.
8. Roseate Spoonbill
Roseate spoonbills (Platalea ajaja) are the only spoonbill species found in America.
These birds have a rather striking appearance, and they wouldn’t be on our list of ugly birds if not for their strange spoon-shaped bill and bare heads.
However, the bills of chicks aren’t spoon-shaped when they hatch – the bills start flattening out as they grow older.
The birds have pink bodies with bright pinkish or scarlet patches on the wings and orangish tails.
Their striking coloration is a result of consuming crustaceans and other invertebrates that contain carotenoid pigments.
7. Wood Stork
Last on our list of ugly birds are the large, long-legged wood storks (Mycteria americana).
Native to the South United States, Central America, and South America.
Their bodies are covered in white feathers with black tails and some black feathers on the wings.
The head and neck are gray in color and featherless – often having a scaly appearance. They have a long and thick curved bill that adds to their odd appearance.
Wood storks feed mainly on fish, although they may supplement their diet with insects, frogs, and crabs.
They are social birds that are found in large flocks throughout the year except in the breeding season when they prefer smaller groups.
6. Sri Lanka Frogmouth
One of the rarest birds in the world, the Sri Lanka frogmouth (Batrachostomus moniliger) might just be the weirdest bird you’ve ever seen.
They have wide hooked bills closely resembling a frog’s mouth, hence the name.
Found in Sri Lanka and the Western Ghats in India, these bizarre birds are difficult to spot due to their unique plumage – their feather patterns resemble dried leaves or branches, which helps in camouflage.
Due to their coloration, they can be easily mistaken as a part of the tree when they are sitting still.
5. Helmeted Hornbill
Helmeted hornbills (Rhinoplax vigil) are ugly-looking birds usually poached for the ivory-like material in their bill.
Their ugly feature is the wrinkled naked throat pouch, which resembles an undercooked steak.
The female pouch is pale blue to greenish, while the males are scarlet.
Also, the weird-looking casque goes from the base of the bill halfway to the tip, where it ends abruptly.
They are difficult to find, though sometimes you might hear their eerie laugh in deep forests.
4. Southern Bald Ibis
Next on our list of the ugliest birds on Earth is the southern bald ibis (Geronticus calvus).
These ugly African birds inhabit open grasslands and semi-arid regions. They have rather ugly featherless faces with bald red heads and long curved red bills.
Their bodies are covered with glossy blue-black feathers. These birds are highly social – often found feeding and roosting in large groups.
They follow a largely insectivorous diet, feeding on a variety of caterpillars, earthworms, beetles, and grasshoppers. They may occasionally consume frogs, snails, and other invertebrates.
Pssst: The northern bald ibis (Geronticus eremita) is also very ugly!
3. Shoebill Stork
The shoebill stork (Balaeniceps rex) is definitely a mean-looking bird native to Uganda, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Zambia. Their name derives from their enormous bills that closely resemble a shoe and can make a call reminiscent of a machine gun.
These prehistoric-looking storks have long legs and predominantly grayish bodies. Their bills are pale yellow with gray markings.
Adult birds can grow around 43 to 55 inches in height and weigh between 8.8 to 15.4 pounds. The males are usually larger than the females.
These birds are known to exhibit slow movements and are capable of staying still for long durations while waiting for their prey.
They follow a largely piscivorous diet, occasionally supplementing it with frogs, snakes, turtles, and other vertebrates.
2. Marabou Stork
Marabou Storks (Leptoptilos crumenifer) are long-legged, long-necked, wading birds that look weird due to their bare throat sacs, featherless heads, and hooked beaks.
These weird-looking birds hang out with vultures, who usually eat carrion and human waste.
The naked head and long neck are adaptations to their livelihood because a feathered head would become rapidly clotted with blood and other substances when eating large corpses.
Feeding on lizards, locusts, and frogs, they live as long as 20 years.
They are primarily found in the grasslands, shallow waters, river banks, and savannas of Sub-Saharan Africa.
1. California Condor – Ugliest Bird in the World
Californian condors (Gymnogyps californianus) are massive bird species that roam the skies, and in fact, these carrion eaters are in the top 10 of the largest flying birds in the world.
It’s a pleasure to see them glide elegantly over the deserts and canyons of Western USA. However, you cannot deny the gross feeling you get when seeing them up close.
What makes this ugly bird weird looking is the bald, wrinkled, multi-colored head, with no head feathers – closely resembling the vultures.
It’s worth mentioning that at one point in the 20th century, these ugly animals were on the verge of extinction, with just eight individuals alive, making them one of the rarest birds.
Thanks to various wildlife preservation initiatives, now their numbers are close to 200!
Hey you! Do you agree with my ranking, or would you arrange it differently? Let me know your top 3 ugliest birds in the comments! I would love to hear from you!