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 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
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
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
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 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
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
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 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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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 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
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
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
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 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
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
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
|Asian glossy starling
|Male rosy-billed pochard
|Male cinnamon teal
|Male wood duck
|Great crested grebe
|Black-crowned night heron
|African black oystercatcher
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Krumpelman Photography/Shutterstock.com
Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.