Extraordinary-Looking Birds
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10 Most Extraordinary-Looking Birds on Earth

These photos might emu-se you. Check out some of the strangest-looking birds on the planet.

Birds evolved from dinosaurs into all shapes, sizes and colors—some weirder than others. Most of the time flashy feathers are meant to attract mates, but other times colors help birds stay camouflaged and warn other animals.

But it's not just the feathers, it's the shape and size of these birds that help make them stand out. They may not look like a mallard duck or wild turkey, but they are certainly the kinds of birds that make you look twice.

There's something about these astonishing avians that just makes us want to laugh.


Extraordinary-Looking Birds

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The bird family Ciconiidae, which includes sleek species like the heron, flamingo, and stork, also includes this ugly duckling. If you're on an African safari, you can't miss the five-foot-tall goober with what looks like a clog on his face that it uses to snap up mucus-coated lungfish in the swamp. If that wasn't odd enough, the shoebill also poops on its legs, makes sounds like a Gatling gun, and inhales baby alligators and turtles by the dozen.

Pigmy Pouter

Now just who is this fancy boy? You might think of pigeons as common "city rats," but there are hundreds of so-called fancy pigeons that could race to the title of strangest-looking bird. Pigmy pouters are so bizarre, nobody wants to breed them and show birds of this type are hard to find in North America.

Andean Cock-of-the-Rock

Extraordinary-Looking Birds

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Peru's national bird is this brightly-colored fellow, the male of which fluffs out that astounding head crest in search of a mate. Imagine watching a courtship ritual in which these guys face off, grunting and squawking and snapping at each other? The ladies like it.

Tawny Frogmouth

This is not a Furby but instead an Australian bird that when calm, always looks like someone's ruffled his feathers. When alarmed, it sticks its head out, closes its eyes, and blends in with the trees. They are nearly indistinguishable from a dead branch. Though related to swifts and swallows, they're not nearly as elegant in the air, preferring to wait opportunistically for insects or small animals to come by.

Sage Grouse

Extraordinary-Looking Birds

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The male sage grouse puffs out two yellow air sacs in a bizarre mating routine that might make you want to shower after seeing it. Every spring, the males inflate their chest sacks, make a low drumming noise, and strut around like the bosses they are. The more exaggerated this appears, the better chance of finding a mate.


Extraordinary-Looking Birds

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On a quick glance you might mistake this derpy South American bird for a Muppet. Or Marty Feldman. Potoos, which are related to nightjars, are both feared and revered for their beady stare. In Mayan lore, looking into those giant eyes for too long would incur the wrath of the gods. During the day they perch and sleep, camouflaged to look like a tree branch. At night they're skittish, so catching them is a sport in certain regions.

Helmeted Hornbill

Extraordinary-Looking Birds

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How you doin'? This kooky bird found in Southeast Asia is believed to guard the river between life and death and really, who would dare cross it? The helmet on its head is called a casque and accounts for up to 10 percent of its body weight.


Extraordinary-Looking Birds

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The flightless kakapo of New Zealand is the heaviest of the parrot species. It uses big, goofy feet to walk the jungle floor and climb up trees. If you thought it looks a bit like the Lorax, it's fitting—the bird is critically endangered. Pictured here is Sirocco, a national treasure and media superstar who is also New Zealand's official conservation spokesbird.

Magnificent Frigatebill

Extraordinary-Looking Birds

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Like the sage grouse, the magnificent frigatebill inflates his red chest sac like a balloon and drums on it with his beak to attract the females. And while this behavior and appearance may be impressively attractive, less so is the fact that the frigatebird is known for eating the regurgitated food of other birds they harass.

Vulturine Guineafowl

Extraordinary-Looking Birds

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This big African bird is not a vulture, though its head looks like one. It's a species of guineafowl known for its cobalt-blue feathers, cool patterning, and those blood-red eyes. Pretty? Yes. Intimidating? For sure.

Have you seen a strange-looking bird that would fit in with this bunch? Check out Wide Open Spaces on Instagram for more awesome images!