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20 Awesome Birds You've Never Heard Of

Jeremy explores many topics as he juggles his passion for writing with his career as a chemical analyst and campus manager.

Birds Throughout History

Today, the bird is the word. From America's own majestic bald eagle to the adorable penguins living in the frigid climate of Antarctica, birds have evolved in many sizes and shapes. Some species have endured millions of years, surviving ice ages and climate changes, and despite their mostly small sizes, a few display astonishing degrees of intelligence.

Whether you're a pet enthusiast or can't tell your pigeons from your magpies, all can appreciate the elegance and sky dominance of these creatures. Even avian enthusiasts may be surprised to discover some new faces as we count down 20 unknown yet impressive bird species!

20. Great Cormorant

Habitat: Several locations, especially Europe and North America's Atlantic Coast

Also known as the great black cormorant, this bird can be distinguished by its piercing green or blue eyes. Although most are unfamiliar with it, it's commonly found on many continents across the globe. Some Norwegian cultures view these sea-faring birds as signs of good fortune and hold them in a near-sacred regard; contrastingly, many British fishermen curse them for their fish-stealing ways.

19. Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher

Habitat: Asia

This specific species of the kingfisher family (remember, it goes kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, species) displays striking bright colors across its plumage. Found throughout Asia and India, these tiny critters prefer to nest in streams hidden deep within dense forests. They average just over five inches in size, meaning an American dollar bill is longer than them.

Although kingfishers in general are relatively obscure, you're probably acquainted with the more-renowned kookaburra, whose birdcall sounds remarkably like human laughter.

18. Greater Rhea

Habitat: South America

No, greater rhea isn't what happens when you eat too much Mexican food. These large flightless birds resemble emus and ostriches, but belongs to their own distinct genus. Still, just like other large birds, rheas are farmed for their meat and eggs, and they're sizable enough that only a few top carnivores, like cougars, can prey on them.

If you get annoyed by the squawking and chirping of noisy animals, try farming big bird here, whose species display unusual degrees of silence.

17. Blue Lorikeet

Habitat: French Polynesia

Lorikeets are a specific type of parrots by their small sizes and brush-tipped tongues. Just over seven inches long, blue lorikeets display brilliantly-blue feathers across tiny stature. Coupled with a white crest and orange beak, they're simply pretty birds.

Adding to their charm, this bluebird doesn't feed on other animals, preferring nectar, pollen, and seeds.

16. Jersey Giant Chicken

Habitat: North America

Sure, we're all familiar with chicken (especially my stomach), but have you ever seen a species this large? With their prominent black color and size rivaling that of a turkey, Jersey Giants are well-liked for the large amounts of meat that can be obtained per bird. They didn't really dwell in the wild; they were first domestically bred (by crossing other species) in New Jersey, hence the name.

Don't like the black feathers? White and blue variations of the Jersey Giant also exist, and of all today's entries, these are the easiest birds to find for sale. Fun to play with, even more fun to eat.

15. Pygmy Parrot

Habitat: Australia (New Guinea)

You've likely heard of pygmy owls, but probably haven't encountered their minuscule parrot counterparts. While not the most colorful of their kind, pygmy parrots' diminutive sizes belie quick flight speeds. As cute as they are, they have yet to be successfully domesticated, as any attempt to coup up these birds in cages results in a quick death. Because of this, they're poorly understood, and we could benefit from new methods of researching them from afar.

Still, sometimes we just have to sit back, enjoy nature, and let these energetic guys exist in their natural environment.

14. Roseate Spoonbill

Habitat: North and South America

By far my favorite species of spoonbill, roseates are easily distinguished by their gaudy red-pink-white gradients, resembling the most common shades of roses. Their distinctive beaks account for the "spoon" in their name and help them consume all sorts of fish.

Similarly to the flamingo, the intensity of their pink feathers depends on their diet and how much of the pigment canthaxanthin they ingest.

13. Tufted Puffin

Habitat: Various northern islands

Although we tend to forget about them, most of us have heard of puffins, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover this distinctive species who stand out with their unique yellow tufts and sharper beak (compared to the Atlantic puffin). They also make for good partners—mating pairs stay together for long periods of time, and both parents help raise their young. Unlike penguins, they have mastered both sky and sea, being capable of