Laurie is an animal lover who enjoys observing, researching, and writing about both pets and wildlife.
Who's Got the Prettiest Plumage?
There are so many visually remarkable species of birds on our planet that it would take forever to list them all! That being said, the following 11 birds are some of the most colorful and visually striking avian head-turners around. Whether to blend in with their surroundings or attract a suitable mate, the birds listed here have all evolved to be bright and beautiful.
The World's 11 Most Beautiful Birds
- Mandarin Duck
- Green-Headed Tanager
- Victoria Crowned Pigeon
- Nicobar Pigeon
- Painted Bunting
- Lesser Bird-of-Paradise
- Long-Tailed Widowbird
- Red-Crested Turaco
- Golden Pheasant
These shiny-tailed trogons inhabit forests, woodlands, and humid highlands. They can be found in the southernmost U.S., Mexico, and parts of South America.
Most adult quetzals are over 13 inches in length.
Quetzals feed primarily on fruit, berries, and insects but may occasionally supplement their diet with the odd small reptile or amphibian.
Quetzals' toes exhibit heterodactyl arrangement—their first and second toes point backward while their third and fourth point forward! This helps them balance while gripping branches.
2. Mandarin Duck
These colorfully crested beauties exist in Japan and the easternmost portions of Russia and China. They prefer to remain near rivers and lakes—particularly those bordered by shrubs and forests.
Mandarin ducks are usually between 16 and 19 inches in length.
These darling ducks feed on plants, seeds, insects, freshwater mollusks, and small fish.
After mating, males moult and grow "eclipse plumage." This causes them to lose much of their color and closely resemble their female counterparts for most of the summer season.
3. Green-Headed Tanager
These tiny tanagers roam the humid canopies of forests in Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina.
Tanagers are tiny! Most reach between 5 and 6 inches in length.
While fruits and insects make up a large portion of their diet, green-headed tanagers also feed on small insects like ants and caterpillars.
These birds tend to hang out in flocks of up to 20 individuals. Sometimes several species of tanager may intermingle in the same flock.
These classic corvids can be observed in the central and eastern U.S. as well as eastern Canada and Newfoundland.
Adult Bluejays are usually between 9 and 12 inches in length.
Bluejays may feed on insects and other arthropods, soft fruits, nuts, seeds, and the occasional small lizard or frog.
These bright-minded birds have been observed hiding food for later consumption and have even been known to move hidden food to prevent it from being discovered by other nearby jays.
5. Victoria Crowned Pigeon
This regal-sounding pigeon is native to the low swamps and plains of northern New Guinea.
Averaging 29 to 30 inches long, this is the largest extant pigeon species in the world!
These colorful pigeons feed primarily on fallen fruit but may also consume seeds and the occasional insect or other arthropod.
This ornately decorated species was named in honor of the late Queen Victoria of Great Britain. Its delicate, white-tipped crests have been said to resemble a crown or tiara.
6. Nicobar Pigeon
Named for one of the islands they inhabit, Nicobar pigeons can be observed in India, the Solomons, Palau, and on Andaman and Nicobar islands.
While they don't quite measure up to the Victoria Crowned pigeon, members of this species may reach an impressive 15 to 17 inches in length.
The Nicobar pigeon consumes a variety of seeds, fruits, buds, and grains and possesses a "gizzard stone" to help grind up the harder-to-swallow elements of their diet.
Research conducted at Oxford University determined that the Nicobar is the closest living relative of the notoriously extinct dodo bird.
7. Painted Bunting
These migratory birds summer in the southeastern U.S. and winter in parts of Florida, Mexico, and Central America.
These petite relatives of the cardinal generally don't exceed 5.5 inches in length.
Generally, buntings consume a variety of grass seeds while hopping across the ground. During breeding season, however, they expand their diet to include spiders and other small arthropods.
While known for their eye-catching colors in adulthood, male buntings are actually nearly indistinguishable from their plainer female counterparts during their first year of life.
8. Lesser Bird-of-Paradise
This bushy-tailed bird inhabits forested areas in northern New Guinea, as well as the islands of Yapen and Misool.
Adult lesser birds-of-paradise may reach up to 12 or 13 inches in length.
Insects and fruit comprise the bulk of this medium-sized species' diet.
Male birds-of-paradise are polygamous and tend to perform leks. These are mating rituals in which large groups of males gather in the same area to perform competitive visual displays in hopes of attracting sexual partners.
9. Long-Tailed Widowbird
This hauntingly beautiful species inhabits multiple isolated zones across the southern portions of Africa. Populations exist in Angola, Botswana, the DRC, and many other countries.
Including their impressive tails, male widowbirds range between 20 and 27 inches in length by adulthood.
These darkly clad birds spend much of their feeding time foraging for seeds on the ground but occasionally consume insects and arthropods aerially.
Male widowbirds' long tails are a sexually selected evolutionary trait; females tend to prefer males with the longest tails.
10. Red-Crested Turaco
This mohawked bird is native to western Angola, where it prefers to reside in forested grasslands.
Adult red-crested turacos usually reach 17 to 20 inches in length.
This species is known for its frugivorous diet. Frugivores are animals that subsist almost exclusively on fruits, roots, shoots, and seeds.
These tree-dwelling turacos flock in groups of up to 30. When together, their unique calls are often mistaken for those of various monkeys.
11. Golden Pheasant
Although native to the forested mountains of western China, feral populations of these blond-headed game birds have now been established in a number of locations worldwide, including parts of Europe and North and South America.
Adult male golden pheasants reach 35 to 40 inches in length.
These boisterous birds generally forage on the ground for grains, leaves, and seeds but may also consume insects and other arthropods on occasion.
Unlike most of the birds on this list, golden pheasants rarely fly. While they do have the ability to become airborne for short periods of time, they generally prefer to walk or run from place to place.
Honorable Mention: Crimson-Horned Pheasant
© 2017 Laurie Bennett
Which of These Species Do You Think Is the Most Beautiful?
Dylan on July 23, 2020:
I’m really glad this showed lesser known birds, such as the birds-of-paradise and the quetzal which I honestly think are more beautiful than birds such as the toucan or hyacinth that all the other top tens show.
Kris Wu on April 19, 2020:
does anyone know a blue bird so small but bluish blue
Laurie Bennett (author) on September 22, 2019:
Absolutely! So glad you enjoyed it!
Junaid on September 20, 2019:
Beautiful collection ..
all praise to the creator of these.
Balan Elavathur Balan V on April 21, 2019:
Very Excellent Photos
Laurie Bennett (author) on April 12, 2019:
For those of you disappointed that I didn't feature the beautiful peacock, I was trying to feature lesser known birds. I've written a second article in which this favorite is featured!
Natureluv on April 09, 2019:
Can't believe you missed out so many beautiful birds like the peacock. Most beautiful bird in the world..
Andy on March 31, 2019:
El torogoz is a beautiful bird aswell
Laurie Bennett (author) on February 14, 2019:
Very true! I'll be writing and featuring more for sure. There are many more amazingly beautiful birds to see!
Laurie Bennett (author) on February 14, 2019:
I was going for lesser known birds. My next article will feature the beautiful peacock!
jayeshjose on February 11, 2019:
why this list is missing peacock?
Suyash Ranjan on February 04, 2019:
Earlier,I was too much scared of birds as I had ornithodphobia. But later I started to observe birds around me here in India, then I found them very innocent beings. I also never dared to see their pictures and scroll with my finger tips but today I was reading your fantastic blog. The world is itself very beautiful we need an unmisted eye to see.
Harsh on January 07, 2019:
I am surprised that you listed them .It's such a difficult task to pick a few .
OLA on December 23, 2018:
they a very beatiful
abc123 on November 15, 2018:
Clearly you haven't seen a peacock in your life
Laurie Bennett (author) on November 01, 2018:
Hi guys! Thanks so much for reading and leaving feedback! I'll be sure to write another article and include the beloved peacock. I was mainly focusing on introducing readers to birds they may not have been familiar with
Me on November 01, 2018:
why is the blue jay on this but not the famous male peacock?
Annonomus on October 17, 2018:
These are all beautiful birds, can you make another one? Because I would like to find some more Beautiful birds
Amelia on October 10, 2018:
Those birds are beautiful especially the Victoria crowned pigeon .I love them ! Thanks!
Glory on September 15, 2018:
Do you mean all these are more beatiful than the peacock
Biniya on May 21, 2018:
these are awesome never seen such beautiful creatures.
James on April 20, 2018:
Whu is there no Lilac Breaster Roller?
vivek on March 13, 2018:
Peacock in the best most beautiful bird in the world. No doubt.
Emery on December 02, 2017:
I think peacock is the best because it has been my favorite animals since I was 4
Laurie Bennett (author) on May 15, 2017:
I definitely agree Terry! So glad you've enjoyed this :)
Terry on May 12, 2017:
There's absolutely no way I can choose a favorite. They're all so beautiful. Thank you for this article and these gorgeous pictures.