Rare Types of Birds

Written by AZ Animals Staff
Published: January 13, 2022
Image Credit mooinblack/Shutterstock.com


By the way, there’s a difference between rare and endangered, though a creature can be both! Rare animals or plants live in regions that tend to be isolated, and they are hard to find. The IUCN classifies these animals and plants as “at risk.” Endangered animals can have large populations that are found in various locations but are under some ecological pressure such as habitat loss or poaching. Many beautiful rare birds are also endangered birds because of habitat fragmentation or destruction, pollution, and climate change. Here are 10 rare and unique bird species:

1. Vogelkop Superb Bird-of-Paradise

Some of the most magnificent types of rare birds are birds of paradise. One of the most extraordinary of these birds is the Vogelkop Superb Bird-of-Paradise. This 10-inch long bird is known for its mating ritual. In this ritual, the male throws up his black feathers in a semi-circle, highlighting his turquoise blue eyespots and breastplate and struts around the female. Found only on Vogelkop Island in New Guinea, this little bird was once thought of as a subspecies of the superb bird-of-paradise and became its own species, Lophorina niedda in 2018. Fortunately, this bird is not endangered, though its rarity puts it at risk.

Go here for more facts about birds-of-paradise.

2. Rufous-headed Hornbill

Rare types of birds - Rufous-headed Hornbill
The rufous hornbill (Buceros hydrocorax), also known as the Philippine hornbill. This rare type of bird holes up the female and eggs in a tree cavity. The male feeds the female and the chicks.

Image CreditKarel Bartik/Shutterstock.com

Though this hornbill can’t be called one of the more beautiful rare birds, it is both rare and endangered. Identification of this hornbill can be had because its bill, topped by a huge casque, is red, and the lower part of the bill is curiously wrinkled. This contrasts beautifully with the bird’s blue eyes and copper and black plumage. Like many hornbills, this large bird holes up the female and eggs in a tree cavity. The male feeds the female and the chicks, and the female removes waste from the cavity. When the chicks are old enough to fledge, the parents simply break them and their mother out of captivity. Also called Walden’s hornbill, dulungan and Visayan wrinkled hornbill, this bird is found in the rainforests of only two islands in the Philippines. It is critically endangered due to the intensive logging of the forests where it lives.

Read this article to learn more about hornbills.

3. Kakapo

Rarest animal - Kakapo
Also called an “owl parrot,” the Kakapo can live up to 100 years. However, there is only around 200 known of these rare type of birds that are currently living.

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This 25-inch long flightless parrot, the only one of its kind, is rare because it’s only found in New Zealand. Its mossy green and brown colors camouflage it as it creeps along the ground looking for pine cones, fruits, seeds, and flowers. Not only is this parrot flightless, but it’s also nocturnal. Males form leks during the breeding season, which is also unusual for birds. They gather in a certain area, dig hollows for themselves and call to females.

Being flightless should have been a wise decision on the part of evolution, as flying is expensive, and the kakapo has no natural predators. Then humans showed up with other invasive species such as rats, which decimated the easily caught parrot. Even though the survivors have been removed to certain islands for their protection, the kakapo is still endangered.

For more information about the kakapo, read this.

4. Imperial Amazon Parrot

Amazons are a large family of parrots, but some are more at risk than others. One of the more endangered birds is the imperial amazon. Also called the sisseroi, it is found only in Dominica, which is not the Dominican Republic! Indeed, it is Dominica’s national bird. It is so critically endangered that as of 2019 there were thought to be only 50 adults left in the wild. This devastation was blamed on habitat loss and exacerbated by Hurricane Maria.

The imperial amazon is a big parrot, about 19 inches long, with males weighing about 32 ounces and females about 23 ounces. The sensational purple, green, orange, black and red colors of its plumage make it one of the more beautiful of the amazons. Interestingly, the explosion of colors actually helps camouflage the bird in its forest habitat.

Read more about amazon parrots here.

5. Cebu Flowerpecker

The Cebu flowerpecker is one of those types of rare birds whose colors don’t seem quite real. Indeed, the scientific name of this little bird, Dicaeum quadricolor was inspired by the four colors found on the male. Those would be red, blue, black, and yellow, which discounts its bright white throat and belly. As with other types of rare birds, this one is endemic to a small area, in this case, the Philippines’ Cebu Island.

For a time, this little bird, which is only 4.3 to 4.7 inches long was thought to be extinct before it was found in 1992 in one of the island’s limestone forests. Still, it’s estimated that there are only 85 to 105 of these birds left as of 2022. It is unfortunately one of the critically endangered birds.

6. New Zealand Rock Wren

Rare types of birds - New Zealand Rock Wren
The New Zealand rock wren (Xenicus gilviventris) is a small New Zealand wren (family Acanthisittidae) endemic to the South Island of New Zealand. This rare type of bird’s Maori names include piwauwau.

Image CreditAndrej Chudy/Shutterstock.com

This tiny green and yellow bird of New Zealand’s South Island is not the showiest, but it is one of only two wrens native to New Zealand. The other one is the rifleman. One of the more unique bird species, the New Zealand rock wren is the only New Zealand bird with an alpine habitat, and it’s endangered thanks to the introduction of non-native animals. The rock wren seemed on its way to becoming flightless because its tail is stubby, and its wings are round and can barely get the bird off the ground. Instead, the rock wren prefers to run and hop. Females are a bit browner and heavier than males. Its three-note call, often shared by two birds, gave the wren the Maori name of pīwauwau, or “little complaining bird.”

7. Golden Pheasant

Rare types of birds - Golden Pheasant
A golden pheasant on green grass. This is one of the most beautiful of rare types of birds and is native to western China.

Image CreditMaksym Gorpenyuk/Shutterstock.com

One of the most beautiful of rare birds, the golden pheasant is native to western China, but there are feral populations around much of the world. It is prized for the breathtaking beauty of the male, who is between 35 and 41 inches long. Much of that length is made up of its beautifully mottled tail. Identification of this bird is unmistakable, as it also has a crest and rump that seem made of molten gold, a brilliant red body, and a tiger-striped cape. The female is so much duller that they don’t look like they belong to the same species. She’s a bit smaller than the male and her tail doesn’t take up as much of her overall length.

Golden pheasants are bred in captivity, and they have different color mutations that include peach, mahogany, silver, cinnamon, and splash. Though rare, this bird is not considered endangered, and its conservation status is least concern.

For more facts about pheasants, read this.

8. South Philippine Dwarf Kingfisher

First described in 1848, this little kingfisher with the red, orange, white, and lilac plumage was first photographed only in 2020. There are three subspecies, and all of them are found only in the Philippines. The bird prefers a rainy forest habitat and is endangered because of clear-cutting. Though the bird is protected in some areas, there is not a concerted conservation effort on behalf of the Philippine government as of 2022. This leaves the bird, whose entire population may be around 30,000 both rare and listed as vulnerable.

Read about kingfishers here.

9. Madagascar Pochard

Rare types of birds - Madagascar Pochard
A Madagascar pochard near a pond. These rare types of birds were once considered extinct.

Image CreditWirestock Creators/Shutterstock.com

This rather ordinary-looking brown diving duck was once in so much trouble that it was considered extinct until some were discovered swimming in Madagascar’s Lake Matsaborimena in 2006. A captive breeding program was established, and the resulting ducks started being released into the wild as of 2018. Still, the Madagascar pochard is considered critically endangered.

The duck is the only species in its genus and has no subspecies that scientists know of. Its between 16.5 and 22 inches long and is only found in the shallow waters of Madagascar’s wetlands. It mostly eats insects. The decline in the population of the Madagascar pochard is actually blamed on the introduction of fish that killed the chicks and destroyed the nests, as well as rats, hunting and converting the wetlands into rice paddies.

Read this for more facts more about ducks.

10. Blue-eyed Ground-Dove

Another unique bird species, this lovely dove is only found in Brazil’s Cerrado region. Above six inches long, the male has a magenta head, neck breast, and neck and wing coverts and is browner around the back of its body, though the coverts beneath the wing are white. Identification can be made through its sapphire blue eyes, which match the blue spots on the wings and give the bird its name. Like many colorful birds, the female is a little paler.

This dove prefers the grasslands and savanna of the Cerrado. It seems to have always been rare, and very little is known about how it breeds or even what it eats, though scientists assumed it eats seeds like other doves. It was thought to be extinct for many years until about a dozen birds were found in 2015. Now, habitat loss has rendered it critically endangered.

Next Up: Otter Teeth: Everything You Need to Know

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