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Scary Birds That Will Come Back To Haunt You [Top 10]

Scary birds

Birds are beautiful but some birds are also scary! When I watch cute chickadees in the backyard, a scary bird seems simply impossible. However, the avian realm is huge and includes far more than chattering chickadees and cheerful Carolina Wrens.

Get a close look at a raptor’s sharp beak, and “cute” isn’t the word that comes to mind. Those sharp talons also look kind of scary. However, there are even scarier birds out there, much scarier!

See this article to learn about ten scary birds! Which is the scariest bird on the planet? Find out below!


#10 Hooded Pitohui

The Hooded Pitohui is a robin-sized, oriole-like bird that lives in the mountains of Papua New Guinea. Its dark orange plumage with a black hood, wings, and tail makes it a tempting subject for the camera.

However, the Halloween colors of the Hooded Pitohui hint at another, more disturbing aspect of this scary bird.

Those pretty colors are actually a warning to stay away because the Hooded Pitohui is poisonous!

This species is one of the few birds known to be toxic. The toxins are similar to those of Poison Dart Frogs and are mostly found in their skin and feathers.


#9 Great Potoo

Great Potoo on a tree

A lot of people feel that this odd-looking creature looks more like a puppet than a bird. However, despite appearances, the Great Potoo is indeed a bird, even if it is a scary one. These fluffy, two-foot long nocturnal birds haunt the rainforests of Central and South America.

During the day, their mottled pale camouflage helps hide them as they roost. When darkness falls, the Great Potoo becomes active and picks a perch where it can fly out and catch huge beetles and other big jungle bugs!

The scariest thing about this odd bird is its voice. It makes loud barking calls that carry through the jungle night!


#8 Muscovy Duck

Muscovy Duck

The Muscovy Duck might just be a duck, but it’s also kind of creepy. In fact, a lot of people feel like it’s the scariest-looking duck they have ever seen!

We see Muscovy Ducks on farms and in tropical wetlands from southern Texas to South America. From a distance, they just look like big, dark and clumsy ducks. Take a closer look at its face, though, and it turns into a scary bird!

With their odd, colorful, and bumpy bare skin, Muscovy Ducks can look like a bird straight out of a horror film.


#7 Vampire Ground-Finch

Can birds really be vampires? Although the Vampire Ground-Finch is not undead, and does not sleep in a coffin, it does indeed drink blood!

The males also have black, cloak-like plumage, while females are dingy brown with black streaks.

This small dark bird only occurs on Darwin and Wolf Islands, the two northernmost islands in the Galapagos archipelago. Maybe that’s a good thing because they use their sharp beaks to wound nesting seabirds and feed on their blood.

These unique, scary birds have evolved this adaptation to survive on the arid, resource-scarce islands they call home. Although they haven’t been known to feed on people, these little birds are pretty adaptable…


#6 California Condor

California Condor

Photograph USFWS

Some people find raptors to be creepy, scary birds. While most birders have a more appreciative view of vultures and eagles, their large size can certainly be intimidating. As for the California Condor, no other raptor in North America is as big as this massive bird!

California Condors are as large as a small child and soar with a 9-foot wingspan! As they glide overhead, imaginative minds might be reminded of prehistoric birds from other, more dangerous times. That actually isn’t that far from the truth. This scary bird is often called a “relict species” because it flourished before the last Ice Age.


#5 Turkey Vulture

Turkey Vulture

The Turkey Vulture is another bird with a creepy appearance. Its sooty, dark brown plumage and naked, wrinkled red head with a hooked beak don’t make it the winner of many beauty contests!

However, despite the way this scary bird looks, Turkey Vultures are completely harmless. These scavengers also play vital ecosystem roles by removing dead animals from roads and other places.

They are also pretty common, live in all sorts of natural places, and even migrate all the way to South America! When we see one glide overhead, yes, Turkey Vultures can look intimidating but these birds are actually very gentle creatures.


#4 Southern Cassowary

If there was one truly scary bird, this would be it. The Southern Cassowary is a flightless, bipedal bird from northern Australia and Papua New Guinea that can weigh more than 120 pounds. It can also be 5 or even 6 feet tall!

However, Southern Cassowaries aren’t just scary because of their size, horned head, black, hair-like feathers, and naked blue neck. These birds can actually be dangerous. When threatened or protecting their young, the Southern Cassowary can leap in the air and kick out with its strong legs.

Its strong, sharp claws can cause serious harm or even kill a person!


#3 Harpy Eagle

Eagles can look scary, and with good reason. They are powerful birds of prey naturally equipped with beaks and talons that tear into flesh.

However, some eagles are scarier than others. The Harpy Eagle is one of those scary birds. This huge, rare eagle sits right at the top of the rainforest food chain in Central and South America.

Although they don’t hunt people (thank goodness for that), Harpy Eagles are the living nightmares of monkeys, sloths, and other rainforest animals they prey on.

Despite being three feet long and having a six-foot wingspan, Harpy Eagles are surprisingly agile as they fly through and stalk the rainforest.


#2 Wood Stork

Wood Stork

The Wood Stork is a tall wading bird that frequents swamps and wetlands in Florida and other parts of the southern USA. It’s also a pretty scary bird!

Although their white plumage with black flight feathers doesn’t look so bad, the Wood Stork’s head and neck are another matter. From a human perspective, they have the neck and head of a prehistoric monster, or might be wearing a permanent Halloween mask.

Despite their frightening appearance, Wood Storks are just birds that spend most of their time feeding on aquatic creatures. They also spend a lot of time socializing and posing for the cameras of happy bird photographers.


#1 Shoebill

shoebill stork

At the top of our list, we have the Shoebill. We can’t blame people for feeling leery around this odd creature. Although it has the regular body of a big wading bird, it also has a massive head with a disconcerting hooked beak! Its pale, cold eyes don’t help either.

Shoebills are the only members of their family and with good reason. Nothing else on Earth looks like this scary bird.

To see one outside of a zoo, you have to go to eastern Africa and look for it in big papyrus swamps. This is where Shoebills use their frightening beaks to catch Lungfish, other fish, and water snakes.

About the Author

Sam Crowe

Sam is the founder of He has been birding for over 30 years and has a world list of over 2000 species. He has served as treasurer of the Texas Ornithological Society, Sanctuary Chair of Dallas Audubon, Editor of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's "All About Birds" web site and as a contributing editor for Birding Business magazine. Many of his photographs and videos can be found on the site.

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