15 Birds With Fancy Feathered Noggins
Special crests, crowns, and plumes can be found on birds all over the world, and can be used for anything from mating to intimidation.
1. Andean Cock of the Rock
The national bird of Peru is an interesting animal, known for its frog-like croaking and mud cup nests. The females are a dark orange, but the males display vibrant orange feathers and a disc-like puff of plumage on their heads. They spend most of the day croaking and displaying their unusual hairdos in hopes of attracting a female. As their name suggests, you can find these birds in the cloud mountains of the Andes.
2. Guinea turaco
This fun green bird—which is very social and lives in flocks with as many as 30 members—has a little fluffy crest that puffs up when it's excited. Guinea turaco birds are monogamous: During courtship, the male bird will feed the female, and then they build a nest together. When the eggs are laid, they each take turns watching the nest.
3. Wilson's Bird of Paradise
These strange birds look like they're wearing skull caps. The male Wilson's birds of paradise are exceptionally colorful, featuring bright yellow, red, and green plumage; the inside of their mouths is a light yellow, and their tails curl into loose ringlets. The females are much more modest; their feathers are shades of brown, and their tails are plain. Both sexes have a turquoise head, which is, surprisingly, bare skin. When trying to woo a prospective female, males will tidy up an "arena" to perform a dance in.
4. Royal Flycatcher
Royal flycatchers don't seem very interesting at first; their feathers are a drab light brown on top and light yellow on the underbelly. The bird's real beauty is in its crest, which normally lays flat on top of its head. When raised, it makes an impressive fan shape displaying either dark red for males or bright yellow for females. The fan is tipped with black and silver to further emphasize the pop of color.
It's believed the crest flies up when the bird is feeling stressed and threatened, as well as during courtship. They tend to move their heads back and forth in an almost hypnotic fashion, as seen above.
5. King of Saxony
Male King of Saxony birds look like they have some really intense eyebrows. They use these head wires to attract females, by bouncing and inflating their feathers. To lure females in to the display, males will perch above their territory and call out to potential mates. The call sounds less like a bird, and more like a futuristic call alarm:
The Hoopoe lacks the vibrant colors of the other birds on the this list, but its black and white striped feathers are certainly eye-popping. Named for the sound it makes—a low "hoop, hoop"—the Eurasian Hoopoe is the national bird of Israel. The birds are fond of dust baths and sunbathing by spreading out their feathers. The crested avians are very territorial, and make their nests in holes in trees or walls. For added safety, females and nestlings contain a gland that smells like rotting meat to ward off predators and parasites.
7. Wire-Crested Thorntail
Wire-crested thorntails are named for the tiny spike of feathers donned by the males of the species. Considered one of the smallest existing birds, they weigh in at 2.5g. Both sexes display iridescent coloring, but the males have crests and longer tails. Like most other hummingbirds, these tiny birds lead solitary lives and do not travel in flocks. Males and females will likely mate with several partners, and males have no involvement with nesting or raising the chicks.
8. Golden Pheasant
Golden pheasants are native to China, but can also be found in the United Kingdom. The males look like tiny avian pharaohs with their nemes-like striped feathers. They use their vibrant plumage to attract the brown-and-black-feathered females by fanning out their neck feathers. The game birds have the ability to fly, but aren't very good at it, so most of their lives are spent on the ground.
Males in the Parotia genus have brightly colored chests and distinctive blue eyes. Also known as the six-plumed bird of paradise, the bird has six plumes that emerge from the back of its head. When attracting a mate, the male will tidy up a space in the forest to set the stage. The bird will clear the floor of any debris, and will even use tools to scrub the branches. When everything is spick and span, the parotia will perform an impossibly silly dance that involves a lot of shaking and head bobbing.
10. Blue Crowned Pigeon
The blue crowned pigeon is the second largest type of pigeon in the world, and possibly one of the fanciest. The giant bird can weigh nearly five pounds. Its plumage is a nice toasty purplish blue with a fluffy crest on its head. Females are equally ornate to the males, but the males tend to be a little bit larger.
11. Black Crowned Crane
Black crowned cranes live in the savannahs of Africa. They are black with pops of white and red, and a gold crown of feathers. The red pouch that hangs below their beak is called a gular sac, which is inflated to allow for loud mating calls. The elegant birds nest in the wetlands and eat small animals and bugs. Due to their disappearing habitat, the cranes are unfortunately considered a vulnerable species.
12. Great Hornbill
The great hornbill is a big bird: they can be as tall as four feet and weigh as much as seven pounds. With a wingspan of five feet, its flapping can be heard from half a mile away. Their impressive beaks feature a fixture known as a casque, which is hollow; the rest of beak is also light, and filled with air pockets. The casque serves no known purpose, although some suspect it helps when finding a mate. Once courtship is completed, the female will imprison herself in a tree with a small opening for the male to bring her food. She will stay in the tree until her chicks grow feathers.
These prehistoric-looking birds stand at six and a half feet tall, weigh over 100 pounds, and can run over 30 miles per hour; they are the second largest bird in the world (ostriches being the first). Similar to the hornbill, they have an impressive casque on top of their heads. The giant dinosaur-birds are generally peaceful, but shouldn't be taken lightly: they have claws and powerful kicks, and have been known to kill dogs.
14. Red-whiskered bulbul
These punky birds sport tiny feathered mohawks. Both sexes have these black crests and will raise and lower them during courtship, like miniature curtsies. They originated from India, but have been established in Florida after some domestic bulbuls escaped a Miami aviary in 1960.
15. Hawk Headed Parrot
The charming hawk headed parrot comes from the Amazon Basin, but you can find one at your local pet store. Hawk-heads look like normal parrots, but they have colorful feathers that they can raise into a colorful mane to look more threatening.