Bird-watching is a common pass-time because birds are beautiful, colorful, majestic creatures that are wonderful to look at.
Well, most birds anyway. There are birds with bright plumage and beautiful wings, and then there are birds with ugly heads, warty faces, beady eyes, and dull feathers.
While these birds may not be as pleasing to the eye, they’re still part of the bird kingdom, and watching them is an entirely different experience! You won’t believe what some of these ugly dudes look like.
The Ugliest Birds Around
1. Helmeted Hornbill
Scientific Classification: Rhinoplax vigil
Appearance: These birds are 43-47 inches/110-120cm long and weigh between 6-6.8 pounds.
There is a myth that states this bird stands guard at a river that bridges life and death. With the way it looks, you may just be inclined to believe it.
Perhaps most startling about its appearance is the “casque,” which is partially where it gets its name. It has a helmet-like mass above its bill.
Unlike others with similar features, this casque is solid rather than hollow. This mass and the bill make up 10% of the bird’s weight!
This bird also sports a bold, red throat that permanently looks like angry, irritated skin that has been freshly plucked of feathers.
The rest of it is plain black and white. Females are mostly the same as males, but their throats are more of a pale blue or green color.
Food and Diet: They feed on fruits and insects. Figs are their favorite.
Habitat: They are found throughout the Malay Peninsula, Borneo, and Sumatra.
Behavior: If the bird’s creepy appearance wasn’t enough, it also makes a noise resembling an evil cackle.
It’s not pleasant to listen to, and it’s not pleasant to be around. It frequently uses the casque on its head to joust and head-butt others.
Scientific Classification: Balaeniceps rex
Appearance: These birds are 43-55 inches/110-140cm long, weigh 11-12 pounds, and have a wingspan of 7.7-8.6 feet, or 230-260cm.
Most unappealing about this bird is the large beak. It’s shaped a little like a shoe, and it not flattering. It’s round and chunky, resembling a blog shoe specifically. It has a flat head, beady yellow eyes, and is almost entirely slate-grey in color.
Their chunky beak also has a sharp, nail-like hook on end, making it not only ugly but potentially quite dangerous. They used to be classified as storks but are now their own family.
Food and Diet: Baby crocodiles, water snakes, lizards, waterfowl, rodents, and lungfish.
Habitat: They live in Central-Eastern Africa, residing mostly in swampy areas.
They form temporary monogamous partnerships during the breeding season. Both males and females share the incubation and rearing responsibilities, but they don’t stick together once the chicks are off on their own.
3. Northern Bald Ibis
Scientific Classification: Geronticus eremita
Appearance: These birds are 28-31 inches/70-80cm long, weigh 36-45 ounces, and have a wingspan of 49-53 inches/125-135cm.
They have a small, featherless head, beady eyes, and dark-colored plumage across the rest of its body.
What makes it particularly unattractive is the long, red, pointed beak that is reminiscent of a plague doctor’s iconic bird-like mask.
Food and Diet: Lizards, small mammals, beetles, caterpillars, invertebrates.
Habitat: They primarily live in Morocco and Syria, where only a limited population is left. They prefer to live in dry fields, and cliff tops.
Behavior: The birds are technically monogamous in that they will be dedicated to raising the chicks in the nest they’ve built, but they will branch out socially and mate with other birds sometimes.
4. King Vulture
Scientific Classification: Sarcoramphus papa
Appearance: These birds are about 2 feet tall, weigh 6-10 pounds, and have a wingspan of 4-5 feet/1.21-1.52 m.
What makes this bird so unsettling to look at is the large wattle hanging from its nose.
However, if you’re able to get past this, the rest of it can be quite striking. Its head features numerous different colors, which is quite unusual for a vulture.
Food and Diet: Carrion
Habitat: It lives in Central and South America, preferring to nest in enclosed spaces like a hollow log or tree stump.
Behavior: These birds do mate for life, and the parents both share the responsibility of incubating a single egg come mating season.
The bird is also a bit lazy as it tends to wait for other scavengers to kill and rip open animal hides before swooping in and feeding.
Scientific Classification: Meleagris gallopavo
Appearance: These birds are 30-49 inches/76-125cm long, weigh 5-24 pounds, and have an average wingspan of 4.5 feet or 1.37m.
Turkeys are notorious for being unattractive, largely due to their bright red wattle, snood, and caruncles.
They have round bodies with brownish-black plumage with hints of green, bronze, and gold. Their bodies are fairly normal, but their necks and faces is another story.
Food and Diet: insects, seeds, and sometimes frogs.
Habitat: They primarily live in North America, often forming colonies in the woodlands.
Behavior: During mating season, male turkeys attract and mate with a harem of females, each of which will incubate 8-15 eggs by herself.
Scientific Classification: Perissocephalus tricolor
Appearance: These birds are 15.75 inches/4cm long and weigh 12-15 ounces.
These tiny birds look like small, hunchbacked vultures. They have wide, round bodies with plenty of feathers and a small, bald head.
The body looks like it’s about to swallow the head and beak, making it look very disproportionate.
Food and Diet: insects and fruit.
Habitat: they live in North and Eastern South America, often found in rainforests.
Behavior: In addition, to look quite odd, they make a crazy, otherworldly noise to match their strange appearance. Some people describe it as the sound of a chainsaw in the distance.
Scientific Classification: Nyctibius
Appearance: These birds are 19-24 inches/48.26-60.96 cm long and weigh 12.69-22.91 ounces with an average wingspan of 29 inches/73.66cm.
They have large, distinct, bulging yellow eyes that many find disturbing and unsettling. The rest of its body blends well with its surroundings as it has brown, grey, and green plumage, much like tree bark.
Food and Diet: Large lying insects like grasshoppers and beetles.
Habitat: They live in Central and South America, hiding out in rainforests waiting to snatch up bugs that fly by.
Behavior: They are solitary birds most of the time, mating with one partner during the breeding season and sharing a single egg’s incubation. They make an eerie, haunting noise when they’re up at night.
8. Muscovy Duck
Scientific Classification: Carina moschata
Appearance: These birds are about 30 inches/76cm long and weigh between 10-15 pounds.
They have black and white feathers on their body and a bright red, bumpy, warty face that is most unsightly.
Food and Diet: Insects, fish, small reptiles.
Habitat: they live in New Zealand, Australia, Europe, and The Americas. Some have been domesticated while many remain wild. As they are a duck, they prefer to live and stay near water.
Behavior: Though they prefer the water, they don’t swim as well as other ducks. They are an aggressive and territorial bird, with males sometimes fighting other males and forcing themselves on females.
9. Featherless Chickens
Scientific Classification: Scientific name is unknown.
Appearance: They weigh about 4 pounds and are entirely naked – no feathers. It is this nakedness that makes them most unattractive. They appear very slim due to the lack of feathers, and every bone and crevice is noticeable.
Food and Diet: They are fed a special high protein diet for fast growth.
Habitat: They prefer hotter areas. Their lack of feathers is supposed to keep them cooler and healthier, but unfortunately, that is the least of their worries.
Behavior: These chickens were a concept conceived by man and created by man to try and breed chickens to survive in hotter climates. As a result, mating is difficult for them, and the males can barely flap their wings.
10. Long-Wattled Umbrellabird
Scientific Classification: Cephalopterus penduliger
Appearance: these birds are 20 inches/51cm long, weigh 11-20 ounces, and have a wingspan of 26-28 inches/66-71cm.
The bird’s plumage is entirely jet-black. They might be quite beautiful if they didn’t have the extra-long wattle hanging from the throat.
It’s a strange appendage that can sometimes be longer than the actual bird. Though unappealing to us, it’s quite exciting to the female birds.
Food and Diet: lizards, fruit, and insects.
Habitat: They live in Columbia and Ecuador, traveling around the lowlands.
Behavior: These birds are particularly important for seed dispersal as they consume a large amount of fruit. Males are polygamous and will mate with several females who will go on to build their nest and incubate a single egg.
11. Marabou Stork
Scientific Classification: Leptoptilos crumenifer
Appearance: These birds are about 5 feet tall, weigh 9.9-18 pounds, and have a wingspan of 7.4-9.4 feet/2.25-2.86m.
These birds are perhaps the ugliest of the bunch with their mostly bald head and neck that appear to be rotting with the color and texture combination.
Food and Diet: Carrion
Habitat: They live in Sub-Saharan, Africa.
Behavior: These birds are quite disgusting, routinely hanging out in landfills and trash dumpsters while deliberately pooping on their own legs.
They do this as a way to cool down and regulate their body temperature, but it’s super gross. They are monogamous and mate for life.
Frequently Asked Questions: Short Answers
What’s the ugliest bird?
This is somewhat up for debate as everyone has different opinions and tastes. That being said, the Marabou Stork is extremely unattractive with its naked head that appears to be rotting.
What’s the kindest bird?
Smaller breeds like canaries and budgies tend to be the most docile and friendly when it comes to birds. Any domesticated breed will naturally be kinder and calmer in general.
Out in the wild, it’s often survival of the fittest, so birds aren’t often kind to each other unless they’re mated.
Which is the cutest bird in the world?
This one is also subjective and will depend on your personal preferences and opinions.
However, tiny, soft, fluffy birds with beautiful colors tend to be considered the cutest. An example is the Eurasian Wrens with their tiny, soft faces and adorable little bodies.
Puffins are also very cute with their round, soft features and curious eyes.