When you think of a white bird, what comes to mind? A heron, a crane, or an owl?
Well, these are just a few white birds that are the most easily recognizable. Of course, completely white birds aren’t something you will see at your bird feeder, but there are many white birds in the wild! We’ve compiled a list of the most common white birds, their descriptions, frequently asked questions, and more!
So, sit back and enjoy!
On this page
- #25 Caspian Tern
- #24 Forster’s Tern
- #23 White-tailed Kite
- #22 Tundra Swan
- #21 American Herring Gull
- # 20 Juvenile Little Blue Heron
- # 19 Northern Gannet
- #18 Barn Owl
- #17 Masked Booby
- #16 Trumpeter Swan
- #15 Snow Goose
- #14 Great White Heron
- #13 Wood Stork
- #12 Mute Swan
- #11 Cattle Egret
- #10 – Whooping Crane
- #9 – Great Egret
- #8 – Snowy Egret
- #7 – American White Pelican
- #6 – Rock Ptarmigan
- #5 – Snowy Plover
- #4 – White Hawk
- #3 – American White Ibis
- #2 – Snowy Owl
- #1 – White Tern
- People Also Ask
#25 Caspian Tern
Caspian Terns are big, white terns with a hefty reddish beak, and a crested black cap. They also have black on the tips of their long, pointed wings, a short forked tail, and a small black tip on their beak.
They are about as big as a gull, have a similar steady flight style, and both sexes look the same. Young birds have more of an orange-colored beak and pale brown markings on their upperparts.
They breed in colonies on the ground, usually on islands. Small numbers of Caspian Terns dive for small fish in waters near the shoreline.
In summer, we see Caspian Terns on the Great Lakes, other large lakes, and coastal habitats in Canada and the northern USA. In winter, they migrate to southern California, the Gulf of Mexico, and Central America.
#24 Forster’s Tern
Forster’s Terns are elegant white birds with long, pointed wings, and a long, forked tail. They have frosty white upperwings with very little black in their wings, and red legs and feet.
In summer, Forster’s Terns also have a pointed, dark orange beak with a black tip, and a smart black cap. In winter, this species has a dark beak, and a short black mask. Both sexes look the same while young birds have some pale brown markings on their back and crown.
Forster’s Terns breed in colonies on the ground, in freshwater marshes. They forage for small fish by diving into shallow lakes, rivers, wetlands, and coastal waters.
In summer, we see Forster’s Terns on the Great Lakes, in west-central and western North America, and some coastal areas. In winter, they mostly frequent coastal habitats from New Jersey south to Panama.
#23 White-tailed Kite
White-tailed Kites are elegant white raptors with pale gray upperparts, long, pointed wings, and a long, rectangular tail.
They also have a bit of black around their red eyes, black shoulders, yellow, taloned feet, and a dark, sharp hooked beak. Both sexes look the same, while young birds have a narrow black mask, and some buff on their chest, crown, and back.
This species builds a bulky stick nest in a tall tree in open habitats. White-tailed Kites frequent fields and other open habitats where they hunt for mice and other small animals. They catch these prey items by hovering and then dropping to the ground to snatch them with their talons.
We see White-tailed Kites in Oregon, California, southern Florida, and southern Texas. They also live in Central and South America.
#22 Tundra Swan
Tundra Swans are huge white waterfowl species with long necks, long, broad wings, and a broad tail. They also have a small yellow spot on their big black beak, and black webbed legs and feet.
Both sexes of the Tundra Swan look the same while juveniles are more dusky pale gray. This species occurs in flocks, and flies with steady powerful wingbeats and its long neck stretched out.
Tundra Swans feed on tubers, aquatic vegetation, and some small aquatic creatures. They forage by dipping their heads below the surface and picking food from the ground.
This swan species nests on the ground in marshy tundra habitats in Alaska, northern Canada, and northern Russia. They winter on large bodies of water and bays in the USA, Europe, and eastern Asia.
#21 American Herring Gull
American Herring Gulls are large gulls with pale eyes, pinkish legs, and strong yellowish beaks with a red spot near the tip.
Adults are white with a pale gray back and upperwings, and a small black patch with a couple white spots on their wingtips. In winter, they have pale brown streaks on their heads.
Young gulls can have a black ring on their bills, and can be mostly gray-brown with a dark tail, and a square, pale patch near the tip of their open wing.
This species breeds in colonies on the ground, mostly on islands. Single and flocks of American Herring Gulls scavenge for fish and other bits of food on lakes, rivers, and coastal habitats.
We see this common species in much of North America. They also migrate to Central America.
# 20 Juvenile Little Blue Heron
The juvenile Little Blue Heron is an elegant, small or medium-sized heron with a long, pointed beak. Their beak is blue-gray with a dark tip, and they have long, greenish legs.
Juvenile Little Blue Herons can be all white or white with a few gray patches. They also typically have small gray tips on their long, broad wings.
This species breeds in colonies, usually with other wading birds. They use a bulky stick nest in a tree, often in swamps.
Little Blue Herons feed on fish, frogs, and various other small animals. They forage by waiting at or in the edge of water and quickly snatching prey with their sharp beak.
We see this species in a wide variety of wetland habitats in the eastern USA north to Ohio and Massachusetts and south to South America.
# 19 Northern Gannet
Northern Gannets are big, white seabirds with a longish, wedge-shaped tail, and a hefty, pointed gray beak. They have bold black tips on their long, pointed wings, and a pale blond wash on their heads.
The Northern Gannet also has pale eyes, and a narrow black line going back from their beak.
Both sexes look alike but young birds can be mottled black and white, or be mostly dark gray with some pale streaking and a bit of white on their rump.
This species occurs in flocks of birds that make spectacular dives into coastal waters for fish. They nest on cliffs and islands in eastern Canada and northern Europe. In winter, we can see Northern Gannets in coastal waters from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico and much of Europe.
#18 Barn Owl
Barn Owls are large, fluffy pale owls with a white, heart-shaped face and big dark eyes. They flap and glide through the night on long, broad wings, and have a broad tail.
The Barn Owl is white below with some speckling, and golden buffy brown above with some gray markings. Males are paler while female Barn Owls have more tawny colors on their underparts.
This species uses the long talons on its longish gray legs to catch rats and other small animals on the ground. They occur in fields and other open habitats and, in some places, can also live in towns and cities.
The Barn Owl nests in structures, tree cavities, and similar crevices. We see them in some parts of southern Canada, and most of the USA although they are rare or absent from regions with very cold winters.
#17 Masked Booby
Masked Boobies are big, black and white seabirds with a pointed black tail, and large, pointed, pale yellow beak. Adults are white with black flight feathers, and have pale eyes and black on their face.
Both sexes look the same, while young birds have a chocolate-brown head and upperparts with a white collar and a pale rump.
Masked Boobies breed in colonies on tropical islands. They nest on the ground and can forage in flocks or on their own.
See more: Black birds with white bellies
These seabirds dive for fish and squid in warm oceanic waters, usually far from shore. We see Masked Boobies around the Dry Tortugas off of southern Florida, in Hawaii, in the Gulf of Mexico and occasionally in other areas with warm pelagic waters.
They also live in tropical oceans in many other parts of the world.
#16 Trumpeter Swan
Trumpeter Swans are huge white waterfowl species with very long necks, and a large, sloped black beak. Adults are white, often show some blond wash on their heads, and have a narrow reddish line on their beaks.
Trumpeter Swans also have black, webbed legs and feet, broad tails, and long, broad wings.
Both sexes look alike while young swans are grayer and usually show dingy pink colors on their beaks.
Trumpeter Swans forage for aquatic plants and other bits of food by dipping their heads below the surface.
This species makes a low platform nest in marshy vegetation. They breed in marshes in Alaska, western and central Canada, around the Great Lakes, and in parts of the north-central USA. In winter, we can see Trumpeter Swans on lakes, coastal habitats, and other bodies of water in various parts of Canada and the USA.
#15 Snow Goose
The Snow Goose is a hefty white goose with a pink and gray beak. They have a thick neck, dark eyes, and usually show some pale yellow colors on their head. Snow Geese also have pink-orange legs, and bold black tips on their broad, pointed wings.
Both sexes of the Snow Goose look the same but young birds are grayer and have dark gray beaks. Dark morph birds, the “Blue Goose” are dark gray with white on their heads, undertail, belly, and underwings.
The Snow Goose occurs in big flocks that graze grass and eat tubers, berries, and other types of vegetation. They nest on the ground in Arctic tundra in northern Canada and Greenland, and winter in open wetlands and coastal habitats in various parts of the USA and Mexico.
#14 Great White Heron
Great White Herons are big white wading birds with long necks, long yellowish legs, and a heavy, pointed deep yellow beak. They also have a few short plumages on their head, long, broad wings, and a short broad tail.
Both sexes look the same while young birds aren’t as bright white, have grayer legs, and a more yellowish-gray beak. In flight, they tuck their necks in as they make steady, slow deep flaps.
This large bird is actually considered to be a big white morph of the Great Blue Heron.
They wait on shorelines to snatch fish and other small animals with their strong beak. We see Great White Herons in coastal habitats of southern Florida and the Caribbean.
#13 Wood Stork
Wood Storks are big wading birds with a naked, blackish head and neck, and a long, strong, dark gray, slightly curved beak. They are white with a short black tail, and have black flight feathers.
They also have long dark legs with yellow feet.
Both sexes look the same while young Wood Storks have less black on their necks, and have pale beaks.
Wood Storks usually occur in flocks that wade in shallow wetland habitats. They put their beaks in the water to snap up fish and other small aquatic creatures.
This species makes big bulky stick nests, and nests in colonies in cypress swamps. We mostly see them in Florida but they can also occur in southern California, along the Gulf of Mexico, and north to North Carolina.
#12 Mute Swan
Mute Swans are huge white waterfowl species with an orange beak and a pointed tail. They also have black legs and feet, and black where their beak meets their face.
Both sexes of the Mute Swan look alike while young birds are much grayer and have a pink-gray beak with a pale border. They are usually seen floating on the water but can also fly with deep, steady flaps of their big, broad wings.
These big swans feed on aquatic plants. They forage by dipping their long necks below the surface of the water in lakes, ponds, and shallow marshes.
Mute Swans make mound nests in marshy habitats and often live near people. We see pairs of these big birds on wetlands in the northeastern USA, around the Great Lakes region, and some other areas.
This species is native to Europe and parts of Asia.
#11 Cattle Egret
Cattle Egrets are small, chunky, white herons with medium-length black legs, and fairly short, yellow or reddish pointed beaks. In the breeding season, they also show pale orange colors on their head, chest, and back, and reddish legs.
Both sexes of the Cattle Egret look the same while young birds have black beaks.
This species typically occurs in flocks that move around with cows and other large mammals. They catch frogs, insects, and other small creatures that the big animals scare out of hiding.
When not feeding with cows, Cattle Egrets roost in swamps and other wetland habitats. They also nest in such places and build mossy sticks nests in colonies.
Cattle Egrets occur in the southeastern USA and the Dakotas but also occasionally occur north to the Great Lakes. They also live in Europe, Africa, and Central and South America.
#10 – Whooping Crane
Whooping Cranes are very tall, large birds. They have long legs and long necks. In fact, they’re the largest bird in North America. The bill is straight and strong, and the overall slender body widens at the tail.
In-flight Whooping Cranes fully extend their necks, and their wings are wide. Male and female whooping cranes look incredibly similar. They both are primarily bright white and have red on their heads. The wingtips, bill, and legs are black.
There’s not a large population of Whooping Cranes left. The remaining population in the North spends their winters on the Gulf Coast and breeds in Canada’s Northwestern territories.
Whooping Cranes in this territory nest in potholes that contain mostly bulrushes and other aquatic plants. On their wintering grounds, which are located in Texas, Whooping Cranes inhabit shallow bays, tidal flats, and estuarine marshes. They sometimes venture into nearby farmland as well.
#9 – Great Egret
Great Egrets (also known as Great White Herons) are long-legged, tall-wading birds. They have long bills, short tails, and S-curved necks. When flying, their long necks are tucked in, and their legs extend far past the end of their tails. Both male and female Great Egrets have pure white plumage. They have black legs and yellowish-orange bills.
Great Egrets live in marine, brackish, and freshwater wetlands. During their breeding season, they live in colonies in shrubs or trees with other wading birds. Said colonies are located on ponds, lakes, estuaries, marshes, islands, and impoundments.
Great Egrets use similar habitats on their wintering grounds and when migrating. They hunt for prey in swamps, marshes, streams, ponds, lagoons, lakes, impoundments, rivers, tidal flats, ditches, and canals.
#8 – Snowy Egret
The Snowy Egret is a medium-sized heron. They have slender, long bills, thin, long legs, small heads, and thin, long necks. Both male and female Snowy Egrets are bright white, have yellow feet, and black legs and bills. They also have a patch of yellow skin at the base of their bills.
Snowy Egrets nest in isolated places, thick vegetation, and colonies. They can be found in dredge-spoil islands, barrier islands, salt marsh islands, marshes, and swamps.
Snowy Egrets will change their locations often, and during their breeding season, these birds will feed in salt marshes, estuaries, shallow bays, mangroves, and tidal channels. Snowy Egrets winter in saltwater lagoons, mangroves, freshwater swamps, temporary pools, and grassy ponds. They’ll forage on shallow reefs, wet fields, and beaches.
#7 – American White Pelican
American White Pelicans are very large waterbirds. They have long necks, huge bills, wide wings, and uniquely shaped heads. They have short legs, square, short tails, and thick bodies. During their breeding season, adults grow a noticeable bump near the tip of their bill, also known as a horn.
Males and females look very similar. They’re snowy white, have yellow-orange legs and bills, and black flight feathers.
American White Pelicans inhibit isolated islands in freshwater lakes during their breeding season. They’ll forage 30 miles or more from their nesting sites in shallow water locations. Some examples of places they’ll feed are river edges, island marshes, lake edges, and wetlands.
During migration, they’ll stop in similar habitats to rest and forage. They favor inlets, coastal bays, sloughs, and estuaries in the winter.
#6 – Rock Ptarmigan
Rock Ptarmigans are chickenlike birds. They’re plump, have short necks, small heads, large, feathered feet, and small bills. During the winter, Rock Ptarmigans are white and have dark bills, eyes, and tail feathers. Male Rock Ptarmigans have scarlet red patches above their eyes.
They’ll remain white into the middle of the summer and then molt into brown plumage. The legs and wings will remain mostly white even after this molt. Female Rock Ptarmigans are camouflaged well due to their intricate pale and dark brown mottling.
Rock Ptarmigan nest in the alpine and arctic tundra. They prefer drier and higher parts of the tundra with abundant mosses, rocks, and lichen. There are records of this species south of its breeding range. However, it’s very few. These birds can be found in Alaska, Canada, and Greenland.
#5 – Snowy Plover
Snowy Plovers are plump, small shorebirds. They have slender, short bills, large heads, and short tails. Male and Female Snowy Plovers look very similar. They’re a pale sandy brown on their upper parts and white on their underparts.
During the summer, males and females will have a black behind their eyes, on the tops of their heads, and across their breasts. Nonbreeding adults are a sandy gray color, don’t have the black behind their eyes, and have a partially brown collar. Their legs are gray, and the bills are black.
Snowy Plovers are usually found in sandy, open areas next to water. This could be barrier islands, barren shores of saline lakes inland, and ocean beaches.
They can also be found utilizing reservoir margins, wastewater ponds, dredge spoils, sand bars in rivers, parking lots, and salt evaporation ponds.
#4 – White Hawk
The White Hawk is an eagle-like bird. They’re big, have broad, long wings, and long legs. When resting, their wings extend past their tails. Both males and females are steel gray on top and have a brick-red color on the shoulders. They are snowy white on their underparts and have a black band on their white tails.
White Hawks can be found in Texas, Mexico, Central America, and South America. They live in southern Texas year-round, where they inhabit prairies, grasslands, pastures, and savannas.
These locations have some vegetation, like shrubs and trees. When prairie fires happen, White Hawks will gather together to hunt vertebrates like rodents that are running away from the flames.
These hawks are seldom unless there is a prairie fire.
#3 – American White Ibis
The American White Ibis are large wading birds. They have football-shaped bodies, long necks, long legs, and long, curved bills. These birds, both males and females, are mainly white.
They have reddish-pink bills and legs and black-tipped wings. Their eyes are a brilliant light blue.
White Ibises inhabit wetlands like mangroves, swamps, flooded pastures, shallow ponds, and freshwater marshes. They forage in areas that have less than 8 inches of water and short vegetation.
However, they can be seen feeding in parks and lawns in places like Florida. They nest in shrubs or trees in colonies. These colonies are located near salt, brackish, or fresh water.
#2 – Snowy Owl
Snowy Owls are large owls. They have smooth, round heads, rarely showing their ear tufts, bulky bodies, and legs with dense feathers.
These birds are primarily white and have various brown or black markings on their wings and bodies. Males tend to be whiter than females and turn whiter as they age. Females usually have a salt-and-pepper look. Both males and females have yellow eyes.
Snowy Owls are most often seen in wide-open spaces and areas without trees. This could be the Great Plains, beach dunes, an airport field, or the tundra. They prefer treeless, open spaces because they sit on the ground while hunting. Snowy Owls will find a vantage point that will allow them to survey the entire surrounding area.
When they reach their wintering grounds, they’ll perch on top of hay bales, fence posts, telephone poles, and buildings because they offer a good view.
#1 – White Tern
White Terns are medium-sized birds. They have slightly forked tails and dark eyes. In fact, their eyes look bigger than they are because of black eye rings. Their bills are mostly black but have dark blue at the base.
White terns can be seen both in small groups and by themselves. They breed in subtropical and tropical Pacific, Indian, and south Atlantic Oceans. These islands have some vegetation. In this vegetation, they’ll build nests during the breeding season.
People Also Ask
What does it mean when you see a white bird?
White birds are said to represent fresh starts and good fortune. In some cultures, they also represent purity and hope. If you see white birds often, the universe may be trying to tell you something!
Are white birds rare?
No, white birds in the wild are not rare. However, seeing a white bird at your bird feeders could be a rare occurrence. These birds could be albino or leucistic.