Let’s face it, some animals have cooler names than others. For example, how could the blobfish ever hope to compete with the hellbender or the goblin shark? Typically, animals get their names from a combination of variables including their location, appearance, diet, or original discoverer. For taxonomic purposes, animals within the same family typically share the same surname. Among all animals, few animals sport such fanciful and imaginative names as birds. While some, such as the dodo, could hardly be considered cool, others go by truly epic names. What are some of the coolest bird names that you can think of? If you’re stuck, don’t worry, because we’re about to give you a list of 10 birds with the coolest names. Keep on reading to learn how these birds got their names, as well as what they look like and where they live.
#10: Emperor Bird-of-Paradise
No list of birds with the coolest names would be complete without mentioning this first bird. Also known as the emperor of Germany’s bird-of-paradise, the emperor bird-of-paradise belongs to the family Paradisaeidae. The ornithologist Carl Hunstein named it to honor Wilhelm II of Germany, the last German Emperor and King of Prussia. Emperor birds-of-paradise live only in Papua New Guinea, where they range throughout forests in hilly regions. On average, they measure 12.9 inches long and sport a hooked, blue-gray bill. Males feature bright plumage including dark green faces and throats, white flank plumes, and brown tails, wings, and underparts. Their diet mostly consists of fruits such as figs, as well as a wide variety of arthropods. Due to overhunting and habitat loss, the IUCN currently lists the emperor bird-of-paradise as a Near Threatened species.
#9: Fiery-Throated Metaltail
Also known as the fire-throated metaltail, the fiery-throated metaltail is a member of the hummingbird family Trochilidae. You can find these unique birds with the coolest names only in Peru, particularly near the Andes mountains. In that country, they most often spend their time in humid forests located along the slopes of mountains. While confined to a small range, they are an abundant species in their native habitat. As a result, the IUCN currently lists the fiery-throated metaltail as a species of Least Concern. Like other hummingbirds, its diet includes nectar from pollen, which it relies on to fuel its fast metabolism. In addition, they also eat small insects including beetles, mosquitos, and spiders. It gets its name from its unique plumage, which appears metallic green on the back, head, and tail, and dark red on the throat and the edges of the wings.
#8: Harpy Eagle
The next entry on our list of birds with the coolest names is also one of the most deadly. The harpy eagle, or American harpy eagle, is a large raptor in the family Accipitridae. Its name comes from the Ancient Greek legend of the harpies, who were half female, half vulture wind spirits. They range throughout Central America and South America, particularly in tropical rainforests. Harpy eagles are some of the largest raptors in the world, with females measuring between 2 feet, 10 inches to 3 feet, 6 inches long. In appearance, their upper plumage is slate-black, while their underparts look white and their heads are light gray. Their diet includes small mammals such as monkeys and sloths as well as domestic livestock and smaller birds. Due to habitat loss, the IUCN lists the harpy eagle as a Near Threatened species.
#7: Vampire Ground Finch
This next species on our list of birds with the coolest names is also one of the more disturbing entries. Despite its name, the vampire ground finch actually belongs to the tanager family Thraupidae. You can find this curious little bird only in the Galapagos Islands, where the IUCN lists it as a Vulnerable species. The other part of its name derives from its unusual diet. The vampire ground finch occasionally drinks the blood of other birds, particularly blue-footed and Nazca boobies. In addition, they also eat the eggs of other birds, guano, and carrion. That said, these unusual foods make up a small portion of the vampire ground finch’s diet, as it mostly eats seeds and insects. To top it all off, males feature almost completely black plumage, which only adds to their menacing description.
#6: Greater Flameback
Also known as the greater goldenback, the greater flameback is a large species of woodpecker in the family Picidae. Regardless of which name you use, these brightly-colored birds make it onto our list of birds with the coolest names. These flashy woodpeckers live throughout South Asia, particularly in open forests near mountains or stands of mangroves. Like other woodpeckers, they use their bills to drill holes in trees to find food. Their diet mostly consists of insects and arthropods, although they also drink nectar from flowers. A large species, most specimens measure around 12.9 inches long, and males always feature a large red crest. As its name implies, the greater flameback sports a reddish-gold back and wings. Meanwhile, the rest of its plumage can vary depending on the sex and subspecies. Due to its abundance in its natural range, the IUCN lists it as a species of Least Concern.
#5: Invisible Rail
Among birds with the coolest names, this next one sounds like it could also serve as the name of a superhero. Also known as the drummer rail – which is also a cool name – the invisible rail belongs to the rail family Rallidae. These flightless ground birds live only in swamps on the Indonesian island of Halmahera in Northern Maluku. A reportedly shy species, few confirmed sightings exist, which explains the “invisible” part of their name. Meanwhile, they also go by the name drummer rail due to their unique call and wingbeats, which sound like the beating of a drum. From what little we know, most invisible rails measure 13 to 16 inches long and feature predominantly slate-gray plumage. According to records, their diet mostly includes the shoots of sago plants and insects. Due to habitat loss and its limited range, the IUCN lists the invisible rail as a Vulnerable species.
Not to be confused with a penguin, the razorbill or lesser auk is also one of the birds with the coolest names. A member of the auk family Alcidae, the razorbill is an agile seabird that lives in the subarctic regions of the Atlantic Ocean. Its name comes from its thick, black bill, which contains vertical grooves and a white line near the curved tip. Most razorbills measure 14.5 to 15.3 inches long and weigh between 1 to 2 pounds. Their backs and faces appear black while their bellies look white, which is why people often mistake them for penguins. They spend most of their time foraging for fish and crustaceans at sea and only return to land to breed. Razorbills continue to face threats due to the destruction of their breeding sites. As a result, the IUCN lists them as a Near Threatened species.
#3: King Vulture
Of all the birds with the coolest names, this next one sounds like the one most likely to be a video game villain. The king vulture is a large carrion eater in the New World vulture and condor family Cathartidae. It’s widely distributed in its natural range, which includes lowland forests throughout South America and Central America. On average, they measure 26 to 32 inches long and weigh between 6 and 10 pounds. Their plumage appears mostly white, although their wings and tails are black. That said, their most striking feature is their head, which is featherless and contains shades of red, orange, and yellow. King vultures predominantly eat carrion and will chase away other scavengers from a carcass, hence their name. They also featured prominently in Mayan legends, in which the king vulture delivers messages between people and the gods.
#2: Piratic Flycatcher
The piratic flycatcher is a member of the tyrant flycatcher family Tyrannidae. Depending on the time of year, some populations breed in Central America, while most live year-round in South America. Their preferred habitats include open forests and savannahs with plenty of available fruits, their favorite food. On average, they measure 5.9 inches long and sport brown backs, yellow crowns, and white underparts with brown streaks. Among birds with the coolest names, the piratic flycatcher engages in one of the most devious habits. These birds don’t build their own nests. Instead, they harass other birds until they vacate their nests. With the original rest gone, the piratic flycatcher then moves in and the female lays her own eggs. In this sense, the piratic flycatcher acts like a true pirate, as it uses force to steal that which doesn’t belong to it.
#1: Moustached Flowerpiercer
Our last entry in our list of birds with the coolest names also possess one of the cutest. The moustached flowerpiercer is a tiny flowerpiercer in the tanager family Thraupidae. This adorable bird can be found only in Peru and Bolivia, where it lives in tropical forests and grasslands. Like other flowerpiercers, it uses its long bill to pierce the base of flowers to get at the nectar inside. As for the rest of its name, the moustached flowerpiercer is named for its distinctive plumage. While the majority of its plumage appears black, it features a thick white mustache on its face. Despite its limited range, the IUCN lists the moustached flowerpiercer as a species of Least Concern.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © MarcusVDT/Shutterstock.com
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