10 Animals You've Never Heard of: Birds

Updated on November 8, 2016

Welcome to the first article in my "Animals You've Never Heard of" series. For the next six weeks, a hub showcasing 10 species within a subgroup of animals (i.e. mammals, birds, reptiles, etc) will be published every week. Get ready to learn about some rare, cool, fluffy, feathery, scaly, and slimy animals!

The kori bustard is the heaviest living bird species that is still able to fly.
The kori bustard is the heaviest living bird species that is still able to fly. | Source

This Week: Birds

Any animal which has feathers, a beak with no teeth, a lightweight skeleton, a four-chambered heart, and lays hard-shelled eggs is considered a bird. Surprisingly, even though most birds have wings, there are several extinct species who don't, so "having wings" is technically not a characteristic used to categorize an animal as a bird.

Based on our current knowledge of the fossil record, birds are living dinosaurs. Some species alive today even resemble their ancient, scaled cousins.

Quick Facts: The smallest living bird is the bee hummingbird (Mellisuga helenae), the largest is the ostrich, and the heaviest living bird which is still able to fly is the kori bustard (Ardeotis kori).

White-Headed Vulture, Trigonoceps occipitalis
White-Headed Vulture, Trigonoceps occipitalis | Source

1. White-Headed Vulture

  • Species Name: Trigonoceps occipitalis
  • Conservation Status: Critically Endangered
  • Range: sub-Saharan Africa

This vulture species is endangered due to habitat degradation and carcass poisoning. The all-too-common practice of poisoning the body of a dead animal as an attempt to control predator populations (like lions, hyenas, and leopards) unfortunately kills carrion-eaters too. And what's worse, poachers who don't want swarms of vultures bringing attention to illegally-killed rhino and elephant carcasses purposefully poison the birds. The IUCN Redlist officially updated this bird's status from threatened to critically endangered in 2015.

Cool Fact: The white-headed vulture only lays one egg per year.

More Info: Vultures in Crisis, Conservation Report

Hooded Grebe, Podiceps gallardoi
Hooded Grebe, Podiceps gallardoi | Source

2. Hooded Grebe

  • Species Name: Podiceps gallardoi
  • Conservation Status: Critically Endangered
  • Range: Argentina

These wetland birds are critically endangered due to two non-native species: the American mink and trout. The mink hunts all life stages of the hooded grebe, and in 2010-2011, a single mink killed half the adults located at a breeding site known as the Buenos Aires plateau. Trout (and other fish introduced into the lakes where hooded grebes nest) out-compete the birds for food. Their diet consists of aquatic invertebrates.

More Info: Youtube Video, Conservation Report

Regent Honeyeater, Xanthomyza phrygia
Regent Honeyeater, Xanthomyza phrygia | Source

3. Regent Honeyeater

  • Species Name: Xanthomyza phrygia
  • Conservation Status: Critically Endangered
  • Range: Australia

The regent honeyeater lives in wooded areas and is endangered due to habitat loss. In fact, 75% of its habitat has been lost to agriculture. Conservation efforts are underway, however, and the efforts are helping not only this species, but many other animals as well! It nests in the tops of trees (including the mistletoe plant) and eats nectar and insects.

More Info: Conservation Report

Mauritius Kestrel, Falco punctatus
Mauritius Kestrel, Falco punctatus | Source

4. Mauritius Kestrel

  • Species Name: Falco punctatus
  • Conservation Status: Endangered
  • Range: southwestern Mauritius

This endangered bird barely survived extinction and at one point, was considered the rarest bird species in the entire world. The species suffered due to deforestation and predation by non-native species, and by 1974, there were only four individuals left! The first rescue efforts of this species failed when captive breeding was unsuccessful. But somehow, the Mauritius kestrel hung on long enough, and in 1979, chicks were successfully raised in captivity. The wild population had grown enough by 1994 to have the species downlisted from "endangered" to "vulnerable." However, recent habitat conditions have negatively affected the Mauritius kestrel, and it has once again been listed as an endangered species (as of 2014).

More Info: Conservation Report

Yellow-Eyed Penguin, Megadyptes antipodes
Yellow-Eyed Penguin, Megadyptes antipodes | Source

5. Yellow-Eyed Penguin

  • Species Name: Megadyptes antipodes
  • Conservation Status: Endangered
  • Range: New Zealand

The yellow-eyed penguin is the rarest penguin species in the world, and they're endangered due to predation from non-native species. These birds can dive to a depth of 160 meters (about 524 feet) and eat fish and squid. They live up to 20 years and they nest in coastal forestland. They're also called "hoiho," meaning "noise shouter." And yes, they really do have yellow eyes!

More Info: Penguins at MarineBio.org, Conservation Report

Yellow-billed Kingfisher, Syma torotoro
Yellow-billed Kingfisher, Syma torotoro | Source

6. Yellow-Billed Kingfisher

  • Species Name: Syma torotoro
  • Conservation Status: Least Concern
  • Range: New Guinea and Australia

This beautiful bird lives in the rainforest and eats primarily insects, earthworms, and lizards. It has a wingspan of 29cm (11.5 inches) and its long beak is used for impaling its prey. The yellow-billed kingfisher makes its home in excavated chambers of abandoned termite mounds.

Cool Fact: The kingfisher will bathe by diving into water and preening its feathers afterwards.

More Info: Sound recordings, Beauty of Birds

Purple Gallinule, Porphyrio martinica
Purple Gallinule, Porphyrio martinica | Source

7. Purple Gallinule

  • Species Name: Porphyrio martinica
  • Conservation Status: Least Concern
  • Range: southeastern U.S., northern South America, Central America

This wetlands species is able to walk on top of floating vegetation. Much of its body is a bright purple color, but it also has a green back and yellow legs. Its diet consists of seeds, flowers, fruits, invertebrates, fish, and frogs.

Cool Fact: The purple gallinule's nest floats on water and is built offshore.

More Info: All About Birds

Bare-Faced Go-Away-Bird, Corythaixoides personatus
Bare-Faced Go-Away-Bird, Corythaixoides personatus | Source

8. Bare-Faced Go-Away-Bird

  • Species Name: Corythaixoides personatus
  • Conservation Status: Least Concern
  • Range: Africa

Have you seen this bird's face? It looks like something out of Jurassic Park! They're harmless however: this bird eats fruits, leaf buds, and seeds. It may also eat snails and termites. They fly slowly but can cover long distances. And for some reason, even though this is a very common species within its range, there's little-to-no information about it on the internet!

More Info: Sound Recordings

Ornate Hawk Eagle, Spizaetus ornatus
Ornate Hawk Eagle, Spizaetus ornatus | Source

9. Ornate Hawk Eagle

  • Species Name: Spizaetus ornatus
  • Conservation Status: Near Threatened
  • Range: Central America through northern South America

This bird is known for its beautiful, colorful plumage and its long, black-feathered crest. Both the males and females have these crests, and they're quite the hairstyle! The ornate hawk eagle hunts other birds and mammals, such as parrots, toucans, macaws, rats, squirrels, kinkajous, opossums, and even small primates.

Cool Fact: The females are very protective mothers and they won't allow Dad to feed the chick. The male does the hunting, passes the food to the female, and then she feeds it to the baby. But once the chick grows its flight feathers, Mom leaves forever, so Dad stays behind to watch over it until it is completely grown. Sounds like lots of family drama!

More Info: Planet of Birds, The Peregrine Fund

Forest Owlet, Heteroglaux blewitti
Forest Owlet, Heteroglaux blewitti | Source

10. Forest Owlet

  • Species Name: Heteroglaux blewitti (previously known as Athene blewitti)
  • Conservation Status: Critically Endangered
  • Range: central India

This bird is so rare that, after being discovered in 1873, it wasn't seen again for 113 years! It inhabits dense forestland and eats mostly lizards, though it also hunts a variety of rodents, birds, amphibians, and invertebrates. When excited and hunting prey, these guys shake their tails back and forth. Unlike the majority of owls, the forest owlet is diurnal (active during the day).

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I appreciate you taking the time to read my article, and I would absolutely love to hear from you! Do you have any fun stories to share about your pets or encounters with wildlife? Are there any articles you'd like to see in the future? Please leave a comment. And if you have a moment, browse through my other articles.

Read Next - 10 Animals You've Never Heard Of: Reptiles (Week #2)


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      hi 2 months ago