Secretarybirds
Mak Thorpe

7 (More) Scary Bird Species

7 (More) Scary Bird Species

Oct 29, 2020|Birding| by Holbrook Travel

You asked for it! Our original blog post on scary bird species has been a perennial favorite over the years, so we’re back with seven more scary birds to haunt your nightmares (or add to your life list, if you dare).

1. Horned Screamer (Anhima cornuta)

 Photo by Wagner Machado Carlos Lemes

The name alone is enough to suggest some sort of grotesque monster, and even eBird describes the Horned Screamer as an “enormous, ungainly ogre of a bird.” It earns its name from the cartilaginous appendage that sprouts up to six inches from its forehead, and from its loud call, which echoes through the Amazonian marshes and wetlands. If that weren’t scary enough, the Horned Screamer has two sharp, curved bone spurs protruding from its wings, which are used to battle each other for territory and mates.

2. Hoatzin (Opisthocomus hoazin)

Also found in the Amazon, the Hoatzin looks a little like a Jim Henson creation come to life, with its red eyes, blue facial skin, and punk-rock crest. Fermentation in its specialized digestive system gives the bird an odor described as being similar to cow manure; any bird nicknamed the “stinkbird” should be given a wide berth.

3. Acorn Woodpecker (Melanerpes formicivorus)

  Photo by Jake Scott

Acorn Woodpeckers look innocent enough, but when it comes to competing for highly prized territory, researchers say things take a violent turn. These socially complex birds form “coalitions” to fight 10 hours or more a day for several days at a time. Others fly in from miles around to watch. The resulting carnage can include broken wings, gouged eyes, and other, sometimes fatal, injuries.

4. Northern Jacana (Jacana spinosa)

 Photos by Sanford M. Sorkin

No, that’s not an eight-legged bird. Rather, when its chicks are in danger, the Northern Jacana will carry them under its wings, making it look disturbingly like a bird-spider hybrid. As a marsh-dwelling wader, its disproportionately long, slender toes are well-suited for walking on aquatic vegetation (but also for reaching into your nightmares).  

5. Secretarybird (Sagittarius serpentarius)

 Photo by Lou Newman

Standing nearly four feet tall, the Secretarybird is more than a little intimidating. When it’s not using its long, stately legs to strut around the sub-Saharan African savanna, it uses them for stomping on prey, including venomous snakes like cobras and mambas. The black head plumes, when extended, give it an extra menacing appearance.

6. Loggerhead Shrike (Lanius ludovicianus)

 Photo by Jake Scott

The Loggerhead Shrike is also known as the “butcher bird,” which should give you a hint as to its behavior. These birds prey on lizards, rodents, birds, and other small animals, first breaking their necks and then impaling them on fenceposts or barbed wire to store them for a later meal.

7. Vulturine Guineafowl (Acryllium vulturinum)

 Photo by derekkeats, CC BY-SA 2.0

The guineafowl's plumage—black, white, and a striking cobalt blue—is admittedly beautiful, but its vulture-like face and blood red eyes might be off-putting to some. Meanwhile, its bald head, paired with a patch of short brown feathers at the nape of the neck, give it a resemblance to Larry from the Three Stooges.

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