Discover 22 Birds with Red Eyes

Canvasback Duck Swimming
Krumpelman Photography/Shutterstock.com

Written by Sarah Psaradelis

Published: November 25, 2023

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Birds are amongst the most colorful animals in the world. Not only does their plumage come in vibrant shades, but their eyes can be a kaleidoscope of hues too. Their eye color is usually dependent on their species, age, and sex. Common eye colors for birds range from blue, green, red, yellow, and to black. Red is a striking eye color for many species of birds; the pigment of the bird’s iris is visible through light interactions. Let’s discover 22 birds with red eyes!

1. Horned Grebe

Horned Grebe

During the breeding season, Horned grebes’ sports striking red and black plumage and yellow horns.

Horned grebes are a type of water bird in Eurasia and North America. There are two subspecies of horned grebes –Podiceps auritus cornutus and P. a. auritus. They are small birds only 12 to 15 inches long. Unfortunately, both subspecies of horned grebe are vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.

You can spot a horned grebe by their distinctive blood-red eyes and surrounding orange plumage (in breeding adults). Their appearance can vary depending on their age and subspecies, but they all have characteristic red eyes.

2. Asian Glossy Starling

Beautiful birds, red-eyed

The Asian glossy starling’s plumage becomes iridescent in good lighting.

Asian glossy starlings (Aplonis panayensis) are small birds classified into several subspecies. These birds live throughout South Asia and inhabit mangrove and lowland forests. Asian glossy starlings stand out with their distinctive metallic black plumage and red eyes. Aside from their metallic feathers that often have a greenish-blue hue, their red eyes are one of their most striking features.

3. Red-Eyed Vireo

Red-eyed Vireo.

Red-eyed vireos migrate long distances twice a year.

The red-eyed vireo (Vireo olivaceus) is an American songbird from the Vireonidae family. Red-eyed vireos have red eyes that stand out against their olive-green plumage. Only adult, red-eyed vireo have red eyes, as juveniles have brown eyes. These birds are fairly small with adults only reaching a length of 4 to 5 inches. They are migratory birds that travel between North to South America about twice a year.

4. Spotted Towhee

Birds that look like robins: Spotted Towhee

The spotted towhee is a common towhee species.

The spotted towhee (Pipilo maculatus) is a type of large sparrow with a debated taxonomy. These birds are about the same size as a robin. They feature bright red eyes and a dark head. The rest of their plumage is white or an orangish brown. It is common to hear a spotted towhee before it is visible; they make unique cat-like sounds.

5. American Coot

American coot

The American coot has webbed toes, therefore make them excellent swimmers.

American coots (Fulica americana) are migratory birds in North America. Sometimes observers mistake them for ducks. These waterbirds grow about 17 inches long and have dark brown to black plumage. Their dark plumage allows their striking red eyes to stand out which creates a unique contrast with their snow-white bills.

6. Rainbow Lorikeet

Animal, Animal Body Part, Animal Head, Animal Themes, Animal Wildlife

Rainbow lorikeets have unique red eyes that stand out on blue head.

The brightly colored rainbow lorikeet (Trichoglossus moluccanus) is a parrot residing in Australia. Their habitat consists of woodlands, rainforests, and even urban areas. Rainbow lorikeets are named after their vibrant plumage that consists of reds, blues, greens, and yellow. The deep blue plumage on their heads allows their red eyes and orange beaks to stand out.

7. Male Rosy-Billed Pochard

Red billed duck on a pond

Male rosy-billed pochards have stunning red bills and crimson eyes.

Rosy-billed pochards (Netta peposaca) are a South American species that display clear sexual dimorphism. Only the male rosy-billed pochards have red eyes that contrast with their jet-black plumage. The females have brown plumage and dark brown or black eyes.

8. Male Cinnamon Teal

cinnamon teal walking in field

Although both the male and female cinnamon teal are brown, the male’s plumage has a reddish tint.

Cinnamon teals (Spatula cyanoptera) are ducks living in parts of North and South America. They are small ducks with distinctive cinnamon plumage, though females are a drab brown. Their bills are usually black, and males have deep red eyes. Female cinnamon teal ducks have brown eyes instead, making them a sexually dimorphic species.

9. Killdeer

Killdeer on nest with four eggs

The killdeer constructs nests on the ground using grass, twigs, and pebbles.

Killdeers (Charadrius vociferous) are unique birds known for their pitiful fake injuries that help distract predators. These small, tawny-colored birds are in North America. Their underside, head, and neck have zebra-like stripes which create an unusual appearance with their red-rimmed eyes.

10. Male Wood Duck

Closeup of the wood duck or Carolina duck. Aix sponsa.

The male wood duck has a striking appearance with distinctive red eyes.

Wood ducks (Aix sponsa) are vibrantly patterned perching waterfowl from North America. They grow to about 21 inches long and display sexual dimorphism. Male wood ducks have iridescent plumage while the females are less colorful. Only male wood ducks have red eyes, as the females’ eyes are dark brown and ringed with white.

11. White-Winged Dove

White-winged doves can fly long distances in search of water.

The white-winged dove (Zenaida asiatica) is a plump bird with crimson eyes. These birds are common in the United States and one of the 14 species of dove found in North America. Most of their plumage is brown and the underside of their wings are white. Juvenile white-winged doves have brown eyes that develop into red eyes as adults.

12. Clark’s Grebe

Clark’s grebe

Clark’s grebes closely resemble western grebes, and the two species often live in close proximity.

Clarks’s grebe (Aechmophorus clarkia) are water birds with an interesting appearance. These birds have long, slender necks with mottled white and brown plumage. One of their most distinctive features is their blood-red eyes that is visible on their white and black faces.

13. Phainopepla

This unique, red-eyed bird has a crest on their head that resembles a crown.

The phainopepla (Phainopepla nitens) is a small, jet-black bird found in tropical areas of Central America. These birds have several interesting behaviors and features that make them a unique species. Phainopepla birds have vibrant red eyes and can imitate about 12 different species of birds.

14. White-Tailed Kite

Very close view of a white-tailed kite flying in the wild

White-tailed kites share similar prey to owls, such as rodents.

Not to be mistaken for a type of gull, the white-tailed kite (Elanus leucurus) is a small raptor that inhabits grasslands and savannas in the Americas. White-tailed kites have a small to medium size with owl-like facial features.

They have predominantly white plumage aside from hints of grey and black along their wings. Amongst the black rings on their faces are large red eyes that have earned them a place on this list.

15. Common Loon

Baby Common Loon (Gavia immer) riding on mother’s back

Adult common loons carry their young on their backs.

Common loons (Gavia immer) belong to the Gaviidae family of aquatic birds in North America, Greenland, and Iceland. They grow about 28 to 35 inches long, making them larger than most lion species. Common loons have a fascinating appearance that varies depending on their breeding age and sex.

They usually have red eyes during the summer and not in winter, making them incredibly unique birds. Researchers are not sure why their eyes change color. The change may enhance underwater vision or attract mates.

16. Great Crested Grebe

Great crested grebe on a white background

Grebes are small to medium-sized aquatic birds that range in size.

Great crested grebes (Podiceps cristatus) are graceful water birds with a striking appearance. You can spot these birds by their large size, as they are the largest species of Old-World grebes. Great crested grebes have magnificent black crests on their heads with white and brown bodies. Their eyes are a dark red, but the intensity may be lighter in some great crested grebes.

17. Male Canvasback

Canvasback Duck Swimming

Canvasbacks are the largest diving ducks in North America.

The canvasback (Aythya valisineria) is an easily recognized diving duck and the largest one in North America. These male ducks have brown, white, and black plumage in an interesting pattern that is unique to their species. Their red eyes are perhaps their most striking feature, but it is only seen in males. Female canvasback ducks have brown plumage with dark brown to black eyes.

18. Asian Koel

Indian Koel sitting in a branch

The Asian koel is a member of the cuckoo order of birds,

Cuculiformes

.

Asian koels (Eudynamys scolopaceus) are a type of cuckoo bird found in Southeast Asia and China. Male and female Asian koels are easily identified as they are a sexually dimorphic species. The female Asian koel has spotted brown plumage, whereas the male has iridescent black plumage. Both sexes have one thing in common, and that is blood-red eyes.  

19. Snail Kite

Everglades Snail kite

Snail kites are endangered birds in Florida.

The snail kite (Rostrhamus sociabilis) is a bird of prey that is commonly found in South and Central America. These birds are carnivores and primarily eat apple snails from wetlands. Snail kites are a sexually dimorphic species, with males being darker than females. However, both male and female snail kites have red eyes. Their red eyes tend to stand out more against the male’s dark plumage.

20. Roseate Spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbill scratching under wing

The roseate spoonbill is one of the six species of spoonbills in the world.

Roseate spoonbills (Platalea ajaja) are vibrant, pink-colored wading birds with breeding populations in South and North America. These large birds have predominantly pink plumage because of their diet which is rich in carotenoids and canthaxanthin. Otherwise, juvenile roseate spoonbills have white plumage. Adult roseate spoonbills have red eyes that are visible against their white heads and bills.

21. Black-Crowned Night Heron

A night heron waiting for a fish to swim by

The black-crowned night heron is also known as the black-capped night heron.

Black-crowned night herons (Nycticorax nycticorax) are medium-sized birds from Eurasia, and North and South America. They are distinguished by their black and white plumage and striking crimson eyes. Black-crowned night herons also develop bright red legs during breeding season.

22. African Black Oystercatcher

A rare African black oystercatcher (Haematopus moquini) on a coastal rock, South Africa

African black oystercatchers are commonly found along the rocky shores of South

Africa

.

The African black oystercatcher (Haematopus moquini) is a species of bird from southern Africa. They are striking birds with jet-black plumage and red eyes, bills, and legs. Adult African black oystercatchers grow to about 18 inches long, with females being slightly larger.

Summary of the 22 Birds with Red Eyes

NumberRed-Eyed Birds
1Horned grebe
2Asian glossy starling
3Red-eyed vireo
4Spotted towhee
5American coot
6Rainbow lorikeet
7Male rosy-billed pochard
8Male cinnamon teal
9Killdeer
10Male wood duck
11White-winged dove
12Clark’s grebe
13Phainopepla
14White-tailed kite
15Common loon
16Great crested grebe
17Male canvasback
18Asian koel
19Snail kite
20Roseate spoonbill
21Black-crowned night heron
22African black oystercatcher


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About the Author

Sarah is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering aquatic pets, rodents, arachnids, and reptiles. Sarah has over 3 years of experience in writing and researching various animal topics. She is currently working towards furthering her studies in the animal field. A resident of South Africa, Sarah enjoys writing alongside her pets and almost always has her rats perched on her shoulders.

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